When it comes to bacon in America, there’s certainly no shortage. Over the years, sales have skyrocketed. Bacon has become a multi-billion dollar industry. And you can find evidence of this strolling through the meat aisle of any grocery store. Companies are offering us tons of options to satisfy our appetite for that smoky, sizzling delight. At my own local grocery, I spotted a whopping 23 varieties of packaged bacon: hickory-smoked, maple-flavored, thick-sliced and precooked, to name a few. (Caught you drooling? Here are top 10 bacon recipes.)
Needless to say, these foods shed new light on the phrase bringing home the bacon. With so many options out there—how do you decide which bacon brand is best?
Along with a crew of Taste of Home staffers, I put this question to the test. We conducted a blind taste test to compare the most common brands of packaged bacon. Our Test Kitchen experts prepped the bacon in bulk, allowing us to compare the crispy slices side-by-side. Follow along to see which bacon brand we thought tasted best.
6. Great Value Naturally Hickory Smoked Original Bacon
Average score: 3.1/10
“I had to dab the grease off with a napkin.”
“So outrageously salty!”
“This disintegrated in my mouth.”
At the bottom of the pack was our most economical option, Walmart’s budget-friendly brand Great Value. The texture of this bacon was all out of whack as the slices were so fragile they crumbled to the touch. What’s more, the bacon actually dissolved in your mouth, tasting heavily of salt and grease. Even so, many of our panelists went back for seconds despite commenting that the quality was poor. (Perhaps no bacon is truly bad bacon!)
5. Hormel Black Label Original Bacon
Average score: 5.4/10
“The flavor is good but it’s so chewy.”
“I like it when it looks all scrunchy”
“The texture is throwing me off.”
Hormel Black Label was the next-to-bottom contender in our rankings, even though the bacon’s classic wavy look appealed to the group. We unanimously agreed that the flavor was spot-on—savory, salty and faintly smoky—but the texture was completely off. Instead of crisp and flaky, Hormel’s bacon was chewy and limp. This wouldn’t be my go-to if I were adding a side of bacon to my breakfast eggs, but I could see it working well when used in a recipe where the texture of the bacon didn’t matter as much. Try it chopped in our most-loved Bacon Cream Cheese Pinwheels.
Pro tip: Believe it or not, our favorite way to cook extra-crispy bacon is in the oven! Place bacon strips on a baking rack in the oven set to 400°. Bake for around 15-20 minutes or until the strips look brown and crispy.
4. Applegate Naturals Sunday Bacon
Average score: 5.6/10
“This reminds me of microwaved, precooked bacon.”
“I didn’t get a lot of smoke flavor.”
Applegate’s bacon was thin-sliced and slightly chewy. The panel appreciated the good ratio of meat to streaky fat in each slice. However, the bacon’s flavor didn’t impress. Tasters remarked that the bacon tasted “OK.” It was a little sweet and slightly salty. Not bad, but certainly not remarkable, either.
3. Wright Hickory Smoked Bacon
Average score: 6.4/10
“It’s thicker, yet it doesn’t have a strong flavor.”
“I can taste a little bit of the smoky flavor!”
“It has a strange maple aftertaste…”
This brand stood out from the bunch because of its hearty, thick slices. Additionally, it had a meaty flavor which was far juicier than competitors’. One taster said, “It tasted really porky,” while another blurted, “It’s almost like a hot dog from the grill.” The group was split 50/50 on whether they preferred this flavor, as some gave it top marks while others claimed it left a strange maplelike taste in their mouth.
2. Wellshire Classic Sliced Dry Rubbed Bacon
Average score: 7.2/10
“This is the kind of bacon you get from a butcher.”
“Bring on the big one!”
“I could taste the streaks of fat.”
Wellshire’s bacon had an appealing dark, golden brown color. It was cut thick and had crispy edges which I adored. The panel decided that this brand was the most like bacon you’d get from a deli counter. Unlike other brands, it had a strong smoky flavor. Tasters also appreciated that these slices tasted less salty than the others. It’s worth noting that compared to other brands with preservatives like sodium phosphates and nitrites, this bacon had a more natural ingredient list: pork, sea salt, raw sugar, celery powder and spice.
1. Oscar Meyer Naturally Hardwood Smoked Bacon
Average score: 8/10
“Flaky and crisp. I like this one!”
“Whoa—I can taste butter. And I like it?”
“I could eat a thousand pieces of that because it’s so thin.”
At the top of everyone’s list was Oscar Meyer. The thin-sliced bacon had a crispy-crunchy texture our gang of tasters couldn’t resist. Believe me, the whole plate of bacon vanished in moments! Aside from its crave-worthy texture, Oscar Meyer’s bacon distinguished itself with a unique flavor profile. What’d it taste like? Butter. Note: our Test Kitchen did not use any butter to prep any of the bacon. This brand is just inherently buttery. For that very reason, it was our group’s favorite. I’d readily serve this brand alongside my Sunday morning pancakes or on a BLT.
What You Should Take Away
Though we all love a good deal, the quality of bacon is mostly indicated by how much it costs. Toward the top of the list were bacon brands like Wright and Wellshire which cost around $9-10 per pack. More budget-friendly options, like Great Value and Applegate which cost around $5, fell to the bottom. Though our winner’s price point was right in the middle at about $7 per pack, it’s probably best to splurge a little on your bacon for the best quality.
Thin- Versus Thick-cut Is All about You
Our panel was divided when it came to the preferred thickness of their bacon slices. Some fawned over the thin-sliced brands like Oscar Meyer and Applegate because they were able to chow down on several pieces without feeling full. Others liked the heartiness of thick-cut bacon slices and commended brands like Wellshire and Wright.
When going out for your next bacon run, consider your preference and choose the bacon that’s right for you. And when you’re ready to fry it up, try our best bacon recipes.
Curious what brand we use in the Taste of Home Test Kitchen? Nueske’s is a locally owned, third-generation family business that provides Taste of Home (and lots of our favorite restaurants) with their best-quality bacon for our taste tests. Though we’re positive their meat would receive top marks, we excluded this brand from our test to prevent any biases. Click here to check out our favorite bacon varieties.