Musings on Benton’s Bacon

I don’t normally do product reviews but I had let quite a few people on Facebook (chatting on direct messenger) know that I was trying out a new brand of bacon and they wanted feedback on it, and figured what the heck, why not do a blog post about it.

I admit it, I’m a baconholic (and so is my husband). If there is bacon in the house, it doesn’t last long. If it’s cooked bacon for a recipe, Beef Stew, Risotto, Roasted Brussel Sprouts (with bacon) or pretty much any recipe calling for good diced bacon, it’s a guarantee, that ¼ of it will actually end up in the recipe and the rest is snacked on significantly prior.

It’s in my top 3 things of if I was given a choice of three foods and only three foods to live on forever, good bacon is right up there.

We have always been a fan of Nueske’s Bacon, I do have to say either what we used to get wholesale in restaurants is a different quality or the amount of time they smoke has been decreased. It’s not a knock of Nueske’s by any means, we still pay the outrageous shipping costs to get some periodically. We just happen to really like smokey bacon and it seems a bit different in the last few years.

Our other recent favorite is North Country Smoke House’s Bacon, it doesn’t hold a candle quite to Nueske’s but it’s much better than the average bacon available in the supermarkets. And it is available in our local Market Basket store, which makes me a very happy camper.

I’ve also been a long time fan of Smoke House of the Catskills (formerly Veteran Meats) their double-smoked bacon is awesome and they always seem to have sold out of it when I take a jaunt back to NY.

So being bacon lovers, I fell down the bacon rabbit hole last week after watching “How Benton’s Turns 12,000 Pounds of Pork Belly into Bacon Every Week” led there by the Eater newsletter I subscribe to.

You know you are in bacon withdrawal when you start drooling after watching a video about making bacon. Yup, sad I know. Rave reviews on the bacon and a large following online. What the heck right?

I, of course, proceeded to go order some and was told after ordering it would be 5+ days before I got my shipment. Oakkayyy. Bacon was cheaper than Nueske’s, Shipping was cheaper (but actually not much when you factor in that it came unrefrigerated in a plain box). Nueske’s usually ships within a day or so, is shipped in a Styrofoam container loaded with ice packs so it’s guaranteed to be within food safety temps on delivery.

I honestly don’t think I would have ordered Benton’s if I knew upfront how it would be delivered. In their defense, they did have this on the product page, “As it is dry-cured, smoked, and vacuum sealed, it is a very flavorful and shelf-stable product that ships unrefrigerated to all US destinations, all year round. We hope you enjoy it!”

I’m just apparently one of those people that saw on the order page below the photo of lovely bacon “One order contains four one-pound packs of Hickory Smoked Country Bacon from our smokehouse and plant in Madisonville, TN. This bacon is dry-cured by hand with salt, brown sugar, and black pepper. After about three weeks curing and drying in refrigeration, it is thoroughly smoked in our wood stove smokehouse for two to three days continuously. Finally, it is packed by hand, mere feet from the smokehouse, and boxed to ship. “ And I didn’t bother to scroll down below the fold (where the notice about shipping was) and I was fixated on bacon. So I admit I missed the part about it being shipped unrefrigerated. My bad, not theirs.

The box arrived on Tuesday. The box smelled delightfully smokey, and there was a slip of paper in there talking about how because of the curing process it could be unrefrigerated. So no styro, no ice packs. $27.55 for shipping an unrefrigerated 4 lb box of bacon with ground shipping. Ouch. Not really cheaper then Nueske’s.

I don’t do overcooked bacon, and please note their note about overcooking it, Well done bacon is a crime against humanity and doesn’t happen in my house.

The bacon itself while cooking did not have a significant smokey odor to it which surprised me. A lot of fat rendering and the taste itself was more similar to back bacon then regular thick-sliced bacon. A kick of smokiness at the end. And quite salty.(see above note and also my note about overcooking bacon is a crime,). The muscle portion of the bacon (ie the meat) was tender and not chewy, but the fat portion was a tad chewy, a result of being salt and sugar cured.

This is not the eating alone type of bacon, whether snacking or to serve standalone as a side for breakfast. I would hesitantly (and only because I have not yet cooked with it as a complimentary ingredient to a dish) recommend it for things like frittatas, quiches or anything where the pretty decent flavor but saltiness would be tempered. We did have some on  burgers last night and it was a nice match with grilled portabellas, ciabatta, and cheddar cheese. The bacon did indeed compliment the burger quite nicely.

I doubt I’ll be ordering it again though as still have 2 lbs of it which have been relegated to the freezer for the next time I make risotto and it’s nothing against Benton’s but I like my bacon snackable. After wolfing down four slices this morning which I oven baked with demerara sugar, roasted garlic and chipotle to cut the saltiness, it tasted quite delish but I’m now on my 3rd qt of water. So definitely not snackable. Have no fear Nueske’s your still #1 in my book.