Thursday, February 5, 2009

The Bacon List--Dutch Farms

One thing I'm learning with this exercise I'm calling The Bacon List is that cheap bacon often tastes as good--or better--than pricey bacon. A lot of it depends on where you buy it. Now, that being said, I've yet to review an artisanal bacon for The List (got one coming up for the next post, I promise), so once those reviews start coming down the pike, that observation may be refuted. We'll see. Suffice to say that in the world of grocery-store bacon, price and quality don't seem to be very closely related.

The bacon that I'm putting under the microscope for this entry is Dutch Farms brand "bacon". No embellishing adjectives. No mention of the wood used or the cure flavors. Nada. It's bacon. What more do you need to know? Nothing, I guess...

I picked up a pound of this at Lincolnwood Produce, which is quickly becoming my favorite grocery store (if you'll remember, that's also where I got the Andy's Deli slab bacon I reviewed). It cost $2.50 for a pound.

The package indicates that the bacon is "distributed by Dutch Farms, Chicago, Illinois". Which leads me to believe it's probably Oscar Mayer or Hormel bacon that's sold to a smaller company and then packaged under the Dutch Farms brand name. But that's just a guess. As far as I know, it could be the same stuff that's sold under Costco's Kirkland brand that I also already covered. It's possible. It's pretty similar. I need to keep this in mind for future purchases, since I really don't need to be wasting time reviewing the same bacon over and over again.

A quick google on Dutch Farms turned up a nice-looking website that tells me that the company is a pretty large distribution house serving most of the Midwest, that they're down on 107th street on the South Side, and that they've been around for about 80 years, but that they've just started carrying packaged meats like bacon in the last 10 years. I searched for some more specific info about their bacon, but although they have a pretty extensive online catalog, the listing doesn't give me any additional knowledge about the product.

Ok, so on to the review; how'd it taste? Pretty damn good. It's a quite serviceable inexpensive grocery-store bacon. For $2.50/pound, it's almost as good a deal as the Kirkland brand stuff, but you can buy this one pound at a time vs. the four pound minimum purchase at Costco. It also doesn't require making a special trip, which is probably worth the extra fifty cents. I'd say the bacon ranks right up there in all the categories. We liked it.

Here's the rundown:

Designation--Fancy or Grocery Store? Grocery Store.

Price--How much did I pay per pound for the bacon? $2.50/lb. purchased in a 1-pound pack.

Uncooked appearance--Color, texture, wet- or dry-ness, mushy or firm, etc... Nice looking slices, medium thickness. Nice fat/lean ratio. Nice color.

How it cooks--Tendency to curl, how much it shrinks, tendency to spatter... Some shrinkage, but not huge. An appealing amount of curl. Just enough to give it that nice, rippled bacon-y look and improve the texture and bit a little.

A note: I have officially changed the cooking technique that I'm using to cook bacon reviewed for The List. Using the rack just became too annoying because the bacon always stuck to it and it was really hard to get it off the rack without breaking it all to bits, since I cook my bacon crisp. I have now switched to a straight parchment paper method (which can be viewed in the two pictures in closest proximity), which consists of placing the raw bacon strips onto a piece of parchment paper (a much utilized product in restaurant kitchens that has recently surfaced amidst the plastic wrap and tin foil at the grocery store--it's about time!) on a sheet pan, placing in a cold oven and then turning on the oven to about 300-325ยบ. With this method, you don't need to flip the bacon strips over at any point, as the rendered fat will cook them on both sides evenly, but you do need to rotate the sheetpan to account for any uneven heating of your oven, and I actually move the strips in the center of the tray to the outside so that they cook evenly. This is now the new Official Cooking Method of all bacon reviewed for The Bacon List.

Cooked appearance--Color, shape, texture. It's fine. Attractive curl. Nice color. Some loss due to shrinkage, but nothing major.

How does it taste--Sweetness, saltiness, smokiness, texture (melting, chewy, flabby, spongy), "porkiness". Great texture. Salty. Salt is the first flavor you get and it's by far the strongest. There's some smoke flavor, and some sweetness, but not sugary cure sweetness, more porky sweetness. The fat is very melting and tender, which is lovely. The texture is great. Crisp, with a little chew, but not too much, and a luscious amount of melting fat that just disintegrates on the tongue. We enjoyed it very much with our breakfast, especially as a foil to sweet breakfast items, like the frangipan pancakes that we ate with maple syrup.

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. 6.0 Overall, this is a completely decent bacon for everyday use, especially considering the price. It's a good value. Nothing to go out of your way for, but if you see it in your store for the price I paid or less, pick up a few pounds and stow them in the freezer.


Tricia Grissom said...

I bet aliens would travel here from other plantets if they knew about bacon.

About how long does it take in the oven? I'd love to cook it in there; it takes so bloody long to do it in batches via skillet.

E L said...

it takes about 20 minutes or so. just enough time to make pancake batter, squeeze oranges for juice and set the table. with the added bonus of freeing up burner space and not having to clean up spatters.

Anonymous said...