Trader Joe’s Fully Cooked Uncured Bacon
The packaging is unlike most of the other high-end packages that you see bacon in. I normally expect to see a clear plastic package, where the bacon inside is on full display. There are a very few brands which keep their bacon in a sort of slab formation after cutting, and sell them in a thick sliced chunk. But most brands spread their slices out, not just displaying the bacon, but showing each slice. I’m not sure what the ultimate goal of this is from a marketing perspective. Regardless, since that seems to be the standard, it’s always interesting to note when something sticks out. And bacon packages that are not displaying their bacon definitely stick out.
In this case, though, I can understand. This is a fully-cooked package, where presumably part of the appeal is that it will take less time to prepare and eat. In fact, it says right on the package that, should you choose to, you can eat it cold, directly out of the package. Obviously I tried that – and you’ll see more about that in the review. So, the packaging makes sense, since they’re not really competing with most of the bacon that I buy – they’re pre-cooked. It’s a totally different product! Sort of. Bacon is still bacon. And when I buy bacon, I’m choosing one or the other. Ok, well, lately it’s been “both” because of my The Bacon Project posts… But typically it’s a competitive market, right?
Opening The Package:
Pulling open the cardboard package, the plastic package inside shows why they have it hidden. Now we finally understand. See, with the uncooked bacon, it sticks together like it was glued. The meat and fat just adhere to each other, and you have to pull them apart carefully before cooking. But this is pre-cooked. The pieces slide around inside the package, with only some wax paper to keep them where the belong. It’s not clearly not as pretty as a vacuum sealed package of uncooked bacon; though since it can be eaten immediately, it is more appetizing. At this point, I was starting to salivate – I wanted a taste of this bacon!
The plastic sheath is a convenient pull-apart sheath. I suppose it is resealable as well, so that IF you don’t finish the entire package in one sitting, you’ll be able to come back to the bacon afterwards. But let’s be honest here… I didn’t bother to find out if the package would be able to be closed again.
I pulled one slice of the bacon out to try it before cooking. It was chewy, which is how I normally prefer my bacon. But it felt more like it was cooked to crispy in a convection oven (I love baked bacon, by the way!) and then packaged immediately, so that it would re-absorb some of the oils and moisture cooked out of it. I can’t be sure, of course, but it wasn’t the same kind of chewy that I make when I cook my bacon.
The flavor was chemical-y… Of course that’s not a word, but it had that plastic flavor that foods which have been stored in plastic for too long tend to take on. It was not pleasant. Needless to say: I do not recommend buying this to consume cold. We haven’t gotten to the warm flavor yet, but if it’s not better cooked, we’re going to have a problem…
There’s really no “Slow” or “Fast” with a pre-cooked product. I heated it up in a pan (I rarely use my microwave) for several minutes, flipping and moving the slices of bacon almost constantly with tongs. As soon as it was all evenly hot, and slightly sizzling, I took it off the heat and served it. I was surprised by how quickly it was finished – though I shouldn’t have been, since it is a pre-cooked product. I guess I’m just not used to that these days. I cook everything my self, so eating a pre-cooked product is definitely outside the norm.
The smell was mildly smoky, nothing overwhelming. I have to remember, though, that smell is released during cooking, and it didn’t cook for long. I would be interested to try this bacon as an uncooked product; it might fill the house with a delightful aroma!
There was a strong smokiness to the bacon. It was a delight! This is exactly the sort of flavor that I look for in bacon – the powerful aroma of the pork, and the heady smoke filling up the little bits of space left over in my taste awareness. It was truly excellent! This is not the best bacon flavor I’ve had (this spot is still being reserved for Vermont Smoke and Cure) but this is definitely worthy of the “Premium Review” that I’ve tried to confine my Bacon Project posts to.
With the excellent taste in my mouth from the first bite, I called my wife over to let her get a smell and taste. Her initial reactions to the smell were similar to mine: she was underwhelmed. I let her take her time, trying to really wrap her nose around the wafting smells that were mildly filling the air and she eventually nodded, satisfied that she had captured the essence of the smell. Again, I believe this has more to do with the fact that the cooking time was so short, since this is a pre-cooked product. My guess is that it would have been much more aromatic if it had been an uncooked product.
When my wife tasted the bacon, again, her reaction was very much like mine: she loved it! In fact, she ended up eating more of it than I did! I saved her from tasting the bacon before cooking it. We’ve since had another package, and she is more than satisfied to wait for the few minutes of cook-time to complete before chowing down on her bacon.
All in all: this was a hit. Trader Joe’s did a good job putting this product together, and it’s a great fall-back to have in the fridge for when you don’t have the time to cook up an uncooked batch. Also, my guess is that you’ll get a bit more out of this product, since they add a bit of extra bacon in to “make up for” the lost weight of the uncooked bacon water and fat lost during cooking.
For more thoughts on Bacon, and further Bacon Project posts, keep an eye out for Urban Paleo Chef posts! Also, comment in with thoughts, suggestions, and questions for all things Bacon related!
The critique over with, here is what I use as a base for evaluation of my bacon.
- √ No nitrates or nitrites added (except those occurring in sea salt and celery)
- √ Minimal processing, no artificial ingredients
- √ Pork raised without antibiotics
- Sustainable farm raised
This one gets a check-mark for the first three categories. Unfortunately, the package isn’t clear on whether the pork is sustainably farm raised, and my guess is that it is not. Trader Joe’s does a good job with food quality; but my experience is that they don’t pay any attention at all to farm quality. It’s a good first step, I suppose… And better than most of the other mass-groceries out there.