Baconfest 2013, Taste Test

Of course, the main feature of baconfest is the annual taste test. We had a nice collection of bacons this year. We didn’t get as many sort of rare or local varieties as I would have liked (especially compared to last year), but overall I thought everything was really good. It was a pretty wide range of flavors and appearances.

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Nathan:

Brand Rating (1-10) Comments
Boar’s Head (Smoked)  5  Good crisp – Light
Sobie Meats  6  A lot more tasty fat (by tasty I mean full body) thicker cut but still a crunch.
Nueske’s (Wild Cherrywood Smoked)  4  All the fat was at the end instead of throughout
ThinkGeek Tactical Bacon  2  super thing – nice for crunch but lacked flavor
Trader Joe’s Black Forrest Bacon (dry rubbed)  5  very similar to #1. A good flavor, very light.

Amanda:

Brand Rating (1-10) Comments
Boar’s Head (Smoked)  7  Sweet. Thin. I liked the crispiness
Sobie Meats  2  Very meaty taste is strong. Like fish.
Nueske’s (Wild Cherrywood Smoked)  5  Smokey & salty
ThinkGeek Tactical Bacon  6  Not much flavor. A good breakfast bacon.
Trader Joe’s Black Forrest Bacon (dry rubbed)  7  Taste is very different in a good way. I like how thin it is.

Sara:

Brand Rating (1-10) Comments
Boar’s Head (Smoked)  8  thin (which is nice), no overpowering flavors which is also nice
Sobie Meats  5  blah. has sort of a stale flavor, a little chewy
Nueske’s (Wild Cherrywood Smoked)  7.5  a little sweet, a little salty, tastes liek a delicious campfire
ThinkGeek Tactical Bacon  4  I confess to recognizing this one. Honestly, it tastes like nothing, which is better than I expected. The texture is fine
Trader Joe’s Black Forrest Bacon (dry rubbed)  6  Has a subtly sweet flavor. Not bad, nothing fantastic either. Also, thin in a good way.

2013_04_06_9899Shane:

Brand Rating (1-10) Comments
Boar’s Head (Smoked)  5  average bacon, decent taste, bacon size was a little uneven
Sobie Meats  8  good appearance, just the right amount of fatty, good after taste, a little smokey
Nueske’s (Wild Cherrywood Smoked)  9  great flavor, salty, little fatty
ThinkGeek Tactical Bacon  2  blech
Trader Joe’s Black Forrest Bacon (dry rubbed)  8  good taste, a little different, more tough than I usually like, but it all came together for me

Evie:

Brand Rating (1-10) Comments
Boar’s Head (Smoked)  6  smiley face
Sobie Meats  1  frowny face
Nueske’s (Wild Cherrywood Smoked)  2  unsure face
ThinkGeek Tactical Bacon  10  smiley face
Trader Joe’s Black Forrest Bacon (dry rubbed)  8  smiley face

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Overall Results:

Brand Average Rating Average Rating (with Evie)
Boar’s Head (Smoked)  6.25  6.2
Sobie Meats  5.25  4.4
Nueske’s (Wild Cherrywood Smoked)  6.375  5.5
ThinkGeek Tactical Bacon  3.5  4.8
Trader Joe’s Black Forrest Bacon (dry rubbed)  6.5  6.8

Very, very close this year. I can’t believe that Trader Joe’s bacon has won 2 out of 3 years! That’s crazy. It’s also interesting that the winner didn’t change with the inclusion of Evie’s rankings.

Ollie’s ballot was exactly what you would think Ollie’s ballet would be, each one signed with an “O” to be sure there was no hanky panky.

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I would like to talk for a minute about the Tactical Bacon from ThinkGeek.

Even though it lost pretty badly, everyone was very impressed with the TacBac. This can of bacon has been sitting in my pantry for more than THREE YEARS. Sara was so disgusted by the idea of it, that she couldn’t even look at the can. And given all that, i would put it up against any of the “precooked” bacons on the market. It was remarkable, and certainly worth eating in the case of a zombie apocalypse. In fact, you’ll notice Evie gave it a full 10! I think this is probably because she doesn’t like strong tastes and it has a pretty muted flavor, but nonetheless, if anybody can give old bacon from a can a 10, I think we’ve got a winner. (Full disclosure, I did drop the slices in the bacon grease from one of the other bacons to better disguise it.)

Halbach Baconfest Part II – Taste Test

For the big bacon taste test, we had 5 competitors:

  1. Nueske’s – Applewood smoked, pepper coated
  2. Dreymiller and Kray – Hickory smoked
  3. Prairie Grove Farms – Applewood smoked, uncured
  4. Trader Joe’s – Apple smoked, uncured
  5. Moore Family Farm – Smoked and cured

I should add that the Moore Family Farm is not available in stores. We are part of a buying group that buys meat and eggs from a farm downstate. We’ve been out to visit the farm a few times, so I’ve probably actually met the pigs that went into that bacon!

So here is the list of our rankings, with the grand prize winners at the end. The winner may surprise you!

Shane:

Brand Type Rating (1-10) Comments
Nueske’s Applewood smoked, pepper coated 6 Dark edges due to pepper, not as salty, less flavor than I expected, little bit of pepper after-burn
Dreymiller and Kray Hickory smoked 7 wider strips, good texture, a little fattier, nice to have non-applewood, very salty
Prairie Grove Farms Applewood smoked, uncured 8 salty, nice appearance, very good flavor
Trader Joe’s Apple smoked, uncured 8 straightest, flattest bacon, sort of factory looking, salty, good flavor, lean
Moore Family Farm Smoked and cured 4 fattier, sort of chewy, not very seasoned or salty, most authentically pork tasting, maybe good for soup

Nathan:

Brand Type Rating (1-10) Comments
Nueske’s Applewood smoked, pepper coated 7 The after taste is where all the flavor is, most smokey flavor
Dreymiller and Kray Hickory smoked 8 Hickory: tasted a little more flavorful because of the fat
Prairie Grove Farms Applewood smoked, uncured 8 Seasoned well can’t taste the smokiness or apple wood.
Trader Joe’s Apple smoked, uncured 7 Lean, flat, good flavor – hint of apple wood but not too strong
Moore Family Farm Smoked and cured 5 Thicker cut, more fat, so not as crisp, but not as flavorful

Sara:

Brand Type Rating (1-10) Comments
Nueske’s Applewood smoked, pepper coated 7 light and peppery, good to try, but wouldn’t choose on a regular basis
Dreymiller and Kray Hickory smoked 6 a little saltier, would be a good topping for pizza
Prairie Grove Farms Applewood smoked, uncured 8 very salty but flavor is great – also pretty flat (think BLTs)
Trader Joe’s Apple smoked, uncured 10 good pig flavor, nice flat slice
Moore Family Farm Smoked and cured 4 stringy and chewy, flaovr is “piggy” but texture unappealing

Results:

Brand Average Rating
Trader Joe’s 8 1/3
Prairie Grove Farms 8
Dreymiller and Kray 7
Nueske’s 6 2/3
Moore Family Farm 4 1/3

I was downright stunned that the Trader Joe’s one won. First off, it was the least exotic of the bunch. Second off, it was one of the cheapest (I can’t remember if it was cheaper than Moore Family Farm or not). Third off, it was probably the least impressive looking. After these results are in, I have discovered that this particular kind of bacon from Trader Joe’s has a big following. So really, this was a fantastic result, because this is the one kind of bacon that we might reasonably buy on a regular basis.

The other interesting thing was that the Prairie Grove brand came in second. This was the one that was the “healthiest”. Of course it’s still bacon, but it was hormone free, antibiotic free, etc. So even though you still have to feel bad about it, I guess you don’t have to feel AS bad about it.

We let Evie fill an evaluation out as well, but we didn’t count her ratings into the final results. However, you’ll notice something interesting! Evie picked the same two we did.

Brand Type Rating (1-10) Comments
Nueske’s Applewood smoked, pepper coated 1 Might want to have it again, but not sure
Dreymiller and Kray Hickory smoked 1 I don’t want to have it again
Prairie Grove Farms Applewood smoked, uncured 10 That one was good too
Trader Joe’s Apple smoked, uncured 10 I liked it
Moore Family Farm Smoked and cured 1 Maybe I might have it again

So, while we dismissed her comments, she was actually just as good at taste testing as we were! (To be fair, she would rate something a 1 and say I don’t want to have it again, while simultaneously trying to wheedle an extra piece away from one of us).