Bacon Taste Test (Bacon Challenge Report)
Bacon Taste Test - "Bacon Challenge" report (http://www.chowhound.com/topics/475218)
Thanks to those of you who responded to my original request with suggestions. Here is the report you all have been waiting for!
The following brands are the ones that made to our finalist list.
- Broadbent http://www.broadbenthams.com/
- Benton's https://bentonshams.com/order/index.php
- Oscar http://www.oscarssmokedmeats.com/
- Nueske http://www.nueskes.com/
- Farmland (store brand) http://www.farmlandfoods.com/
Taste wise, what are we looking for? A bacon that is mildly smoked, not overly salted, with a hint of sweetness and well-balanced fat to lean ratio (50:50).
Smokiness: both Broadbent and Neuske have a good amount of smokiness that is not overpowering or unpleasant. Oscar's smokiness is mild. Farmland could use a bit more smokiness, while Benton is way too smoky for us.
Fat/Lean ratio: Broadbent's is qualified to be the "Picture Perfect" bacon, or "Bradford's Bacon" if there's such a thing as "Bradford's wife" - the bacon is perfectly shaped, with perfect fat to lean ratio as well as the "perfect" color (which makes it look like the real-life food replica made in Japan than the real bacon which should has its imperfections just like we human beings.) The fat to lean ratio of Benton's and Neuske's is both right. Oscar's, while having the right amount of fat to lean meat, does not even try to look good (to be specific, it does not appeal to the eye and is oddly shaped, even the packaging is "unpretentious".) Farmland has slightly more fat than all the rest.
Saltiness/sweetness: to our disappointment, Broadbent as multi-award winner has a dull salty taste and is lacking sweetness in its flavor. Benton's is just too salty for us (even with the addition of brown sugar). On the other hand, Oscars, the ugly-duckling, has just the right bacon flavor - a good solid meaty flavor that is adequately salted with a subtle sweet finish to it. Nueske's is also good with a smoky, meaty and salty flavor that is not overly done. It would be even better if the sweetness can be a bit more apparent. Finally, Farmland, at its value, is considered to have a decent bacon flavor.
The "unpretentious" Oscar turned out to be our favorite in the taste test. Nueske's took second place, followed by Farmland (it could be 2nd place if value is taken into account). Broadbent is okay, but we expect it to be a lot better seeing how many awards it has won. The big disappointment is Benton's. The disclaimer on Benton's website that due a delay of 6 to 7 weeks may be expected due to back order (caused by a magazine's article) had led us to expect more from it. Unfortunately, nothing we ordered from Benton, including bacon, ham and prosciutto, worked out for us. I guess it's meant for those who prefer a much saltier and smokier taste.
Our updated "Bacon Hall of Fame": Swiss Meat & Sausage Company's "Hickory Smoked Sugar Cured Bacon" and Oscar's Smoked Bacon.
If you know of any bacon that can make it to our bacon hall of fame, do let me know! :)
(pic1: Before pics from left to right: first 6 perfect looking Broadbent bacon, followed by 4 benton's bacon, followed by 4 "unpretentious" Oscar's bacon)
(pic2: Before pics from left to right: 6 Farmland bacon, followed by 4 Nueske's bacon)
(pic3&4: After pics)
Thanks so much for reporting back. I particularly liked all the detail about what your criteria were and why you did or didn't like the various bacons -- that way I can judge for myself whether they would be to my taste.
I'm going to have to try Oscar's!
Great report! I have been eagerly awaiting your results...
"which makes it look like the real-life food replica made in Japan than the real bacon which should has its imperfections just like we human beings"
I actually like the visual appeal of the Oscar's bacon the best. It looks like real bacon, with imperfections,just as you say. The other bacons (with the exception of the Nueske's) look too "cookie cutter" to seem real. If it looks fake, I have to wonder about the taste as well. Still, one can't go too wrong with bacon...
Will probably have to have bacon tomorrow! Thanks for the excuse!
Fascinating results! I just posted results from a blind bacon tasting and they were very different from your results. Bi-Rite, Broadbent, and Benton's were at the top. Niman's was near the bottom. I can't wait to try the Swiss M&S bacon you all had.
I personally agree with your results in terms of the Broadbent. It has a great flavor but is too salty. I found Benton's unremarkable. I recommend you try Nodine's & Bi-Rite next time.
Benton's is just down the road a few miles from me, and must say that I agree 100% with you that it is oversmoked and oversalted. It's dry cured, so it's going to be more salty than brine cured, but there are dry cured bacons that aren't as salty (like Burger's). Actually, I think the reason Benton's has become the darling of certain chefs is precisely that it is oversmoked and oversalted, because they're using it as a condiment and not in its pure form. I don't get that -- it seems like a rather pedestrian attempt to distinguish your dish from the competition, but that's the market they're in. For what it's worth, their country ham slices are just delicious.
Did you consider cob and maple smoked bacon from northern New England, such as:
For a palate that is overworked on hickory and apple smoke, this stuff is the cure.
I directly compared Nueske's and Broadbent's recently.
Really loved Nueske's. Felt Broadbent's was much, much too salty (intolerably so) - had to rinse it off to eat it, which unfortunately removed some of the smoke flavor. Broadbent's slices were also a lot narrower, with a higher percentage of fat relative to meat.