Sunday, January 4, 2009

The Bacon List--Cudahy Signature Applewood Smoked

For the second entry in my sweeping odyssey of a project known as The Bacon List, I splurged on that fancy-looking pack of pork seen in the picture above. I purchased a 20 oz. package of Patrick Cudahy Thick Sliced Signature Smoke Bacon, which the package touted to be "naturally smoked with sweet apple wood".

I paid $7.49 for the 20 oz. package. That's pretty expensive for a grocery-store bacon.

Now, granted, part of the expense may have gone towards paying for the container, which the packaging seemed to be trying to tell me was one of the more appealing aspects of this product. On the front of the label, right above the name of the product, was another logo reading "FreshLock Containers" Reusable Container.

Further, on the side of the label there's more about the container:

*Disposable*Reusable*Dishwasher, Microwave, Freezer Safe*
CAUTION: Do not cook bacon in this container (follow cooking instructions). * Wash container before reusing * Vent while microwaving * Container might be hot when used in microwave * Use for microwave reheating only * Do NOT use in conventional ovens, under browning elements or stove tops.

Whoa. That is a lot of information to remember about this friggin' plastic box that my bacon comes in. Honestly, I think I'd be happier if they just wrapped it in plastic like all the other bacons and called it a day. They could've saved the money they spent on the team of lawyers who came up with all those disclaimers too. Sheesh. Can't a guy just get some bacon?

Anyway, enough about the damn wrapper. Let's talk about the bacon.

It sucked.

Ok, well to be honest, it didn't totally suck. It was ok. But for what I paid for it, and all the hype on the box screaming at me about natural sweet applewood and "signature smoke", I was expecting something pretty darn good. And this wasn't it. Not even close.

It was average. Or below average, even. Since this is only entry #2 on the list, it's hard to know what average is going to look like. But I think it's a safe bet that this bacon will occupy a slot in the area below whatever average turns out to be. The bottom line is, the stuff has very little flavor at all. No taste. It's not salty. It's not smoky. It's not porky or meaty. And it's not sweet. It was simply lacking in any prominent flavor whatsoever.

Which, given the fact that it's bacon, is kind of amazing in and of itself, if you think about it.

But not the good kind of amazing. The sucky kind.

Ok, on to the rundown:

Designation--Fancy or Grocery Store? Grocery Store This is clearly a mass-produced wet-cured product, despite the fancied-up packaging. One tip-off is that sodium phosphate and sodium erythorbate are listed among the ingredients. These are indicative of a short-term wet-cure. Fancy or artisanal bacons usually don't have any ingredients besides salt, sugar and sodium nitrate. An even better tip-off is the fact that I bought it in a grocery store. DUH!

Price--How much did I pay per pound for the bacon? $5.99/pound. Sold in a 20 oz. package for $7.49 at my local Jewel.

Uncooked appearance--Color, texture, wet- or dry-ness, mushy or firm, etc... Take a look:

I actually had very high hopes for this stuff when I was taking it out of the package and laying it out to cook. It looks fabulous. Seriously, click on the picture above to view the full size shot. It's gorgeous. It's got a nice color, not too wet, a firm texture, and a great-looking fat-to-meat ratio and distribution. They sourced a really nice pork belly to make this stuff. Too bad they screwed it up.

How it cooks--Tendency to curl, how much it shrinks, tendency to spatter... It cooks fine. Very little shrinkage. It stayed nice and thick after cooking, it curled enough to be appealing, but not so much that it caused any problems with cooking it. I need to remember to oil my rack before I cook bacon on it--the stuff keeps sticking to it. You'd think bacon would never stick to pans, wouldn't you? Considering the fat content? But it does.

Cooked appearance--Color, shape, texture. Nice color... Everything looks good. What can I say? See for yourself.

How does it taste--Sweetness, saltiness, smokiness, texture (melting, chewy, flabby, spongy), "porkiness". Zip. Zilch. Nada. I'm trying to think of funny stuff to say here, but I'm disappointed. It's hard to be funny when you're disappointed. This stuff is nothing that bacon is supposed to be. It's not even fair to call it bacon. It's facon. It makes me sad that I wasted the calories on it, and I'm annoyed that I ate it when I could've eaten actual bacon.

Overall rating--All bacons reviewed will be given an overall rating from 1-10, with 1 being practically inedible (I say "practically" since, you know, it's bacon--how bad can it be?), 5 being a perfectly serviceable bacon for use in cooking or on a sandwich, and 10 being....well, let's be honest; there won't be a 10. Overall Rating: 3.0
I'm not even sure why I'm giving this stuff that high of a rating, other than the fact that it looks so damn good cooked and uncooked (not to mention the impressive high-tech packaging). has a good chew, maybe? I don't know, whatever. I picked a number.

Let us take a lesson from this. This is a perfect example of the type of product that is being put out by huge agribusiness firms like Smithfield (which owns Cudahy) which utilize industrially-produced, pumped-full-of-hormones hogs, rush through the curing/"smoking" process as quickly and cheaply as possible, and then rely on fancy packaging and labeling hype to try and overcome the fact that their mass-produced product has no flavor.

The real kick of it is that they have the gall to charge six bucks a pound when you can get real, artisanally-produced stuff for almost that same price.

Of course, it won't come in a FreshLock™ container.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thanks for saving me some money. Just discovered your blog. I'm likin' what I'm readin'. By the by I came over on a link from the Craig Gernhardt's "The Broken Heart of Rogers Park" blog. If you live in Rogers Park, I highly reocmmend it. Anyway, thanks again for sharing your thoughts. I look forward to catching up on some of your archives now. I'll be back to see what you have to offer in the future.