This weekend’s experiment in duck bacon was not nearly the monumental experience I had hoped for, after over a month of agonizing over the difficulties of obtaining the ingredient. It was like losing my virginity, but only after receiving a numbing shot of Novocain straight to my penis. (Yikes, probably best to just stop reading here, Grandma.) I couldn’t even be sure I knew what duck bacon tasted like, as the only sample I got was mixed in with a pot of other ingredients.
So a bacon taste-test was in order! This stuff is so expensive and hard-to-find? Let’s see how it matches up to other kinds of bacon, more readily accessible but therefore less special. To see how it stacked up, read on.
There would be four competitors: Turkey bacon from Whole Foods, thick-cut pork bacon from the meat counter at Fred Meyer, thick-cut pepper bacon from the same meat counter, and, of course, D’Artagnan’s duck bacon.
Multiple frying pans were heated, a multitude of bacon was fried, the house smelled like Homer Simpson’s heaven, and the dogs were rabid with meatlust. Let’s do this.
First up: Regular Bacon
There’s no need to describe regular pork bacon. We all know it, probably intimately. Bacon is one of those unique ingredients Americans will attempt to work into every single possible meal, no matter how ridiculous in concept. And it usually works, too. Bacon can be — and has been — turned into everything from salad dressing to ice cream.
I went pricey and got the thick-cut stuff from behind the counter at Fred Meyer, thinking I needed the best bacon on hand. None of that plastic-wrapped “meat” lining the refrigerated shelves along the wall.
Well, fuck that. This bacon was terrible. It looked like bacon and it smelled like bacon, but it did not taste like bacon. It didn’t even taste like anything. In my notes (yes, I took notes while eating bacon. If nothing else, I am a professional), I just wrote, “Tasteless,” and I mean that in every sense of the word. It was weird, and incredibly disappointing. There’s nothing worse than bacon that doesn’t taste like bacon. Nothing.
Next: Pepper Bacon
How strange that something so delicious could come from the same counter as something so bland as the regular bacon. The pepper bacon was great. Thick, juicy, with just the right amount of pepper. This was the kind of bacon you want with your breakfast, or on your cheeseburger, or in your ice cream, or whatever the hell you kids are doing with bacon these days (injecting it?). This would be hard to beat, I thought.
Third: Turkey Bacon
God, no. Just look at that picture. What is that crap? Whole Foods’s turkey bacon has the consistency of human skin, to put it bluntly. It’s thin, it’s rubbery, and it resembles a lot of things, none of which you want to fry up and eat. And the taste isn’t much better. What IS this stuff? Danny B. pointed out that, since it’s Whole Foods, they probably didn’t fill it with sodium and other unhealthy (yet delicious!) flavorings to get that mock-bacon taste other turkey bacon varieties tend to have. And to that, I say: Never again, Whole Foods. Never again will I willingly ingest this monstrosity. But still, at least it had a taste at all. I’m looking at you, REGULAR BACON.
Finally: Duck Bacon
This stuff is just weird looking. It doesn’t look natural, it doesn’t smell natural, and there’s just an absurd amount of grease coming off of this stuff. Plus, each slice of duck bacon is more or less six inches thick. The sight of duck bacon frying in a pool of its own fat is enough to make anyone nervous.
But, it turns out, it’s delicious! And it actually tastes a lot like classic bacon, which was not at all expected. As it cooks, it does shrink considerably more than regular bacon — the slices were less than half their original sizes when all was said and done — but the flavor is great. Just the right amount of salt, fat, and meat to really leave you satisfied.
So, for those keeping track, here are the rankings, from worst to best:
4. Regular Bacon (for the crime of Not Tasting Like Bacon, Let Alone Anything At All)
3. Turkey Bacon (at least it had flavor, but looked and felt too much like chewing on a human ear)
2. Pepper Bacon
1. Duck Bacon
Now, can this be taken as an endorsement of D’Artagnan’s duck bacon? I guess so, but with a few conditions. If you’ve got tons of disposable income like Gwyneth, by all means, order this duck bacon to your heart’s content. It is very, very good. You will not be disappointed. And it’s probably much healthier (or at least less full of chemical slurry) as regular store-bought pork bacon. But let’s be realistic: A good majority of us will never order this duck bacon. I certainly won’t be purchasing it once the day arrives where I no longer have to.
But until then, I guess I’ll enjoy the duck bacon, because it really is delicious. After the taste-test, we even took things a step further and made BLTs. Lots of fresh vegetables, duck bacon, and we even used Vegenaise, which also turned out to be surprisingly delicious. It was a BLT Gwyneth would be proud of, and truly one of the best (maybe the best) BLTs of my life. Which brings me to this conclusion: you know what? If I had millions of dollars, I’d eat like this, too.