Trader Joe’s Uncured Turkey Bacon
Being perfectly honest, I simply don’t find the idea of turkey bacon to be terribly appetizing. There are officially three kinds of bacon: Pork, Beef, and Turkey. Despite that turkey bacon is officially a bacon, I’ve always been turned off by the labels that call it “90+% Fat Free”, as though being fat free is a good thing. I mean, seriously, does anyone really believe that bacon should be a low-fat product? Never mind, don’t answer that. If you’re reading my posts, you’re obviously not one of those people.
With the above in mind, I was tooling along the shelves of my two favorite grocery stores, looking for my next Bacon Project post. I picked up product after product, thinking to myself “Nope, did that one already.” I know you’ve all been there; you’re looking for something new, and you’re just finding more of the same! It was at that moment when I stumbled across this Turkey Bacon, and thought to myself “Well, it’s not pork; but it IS something different.” The old addage “ask and ye shall receive” comes to mind. This time I was listening (I wonder how many other times I was not…).
Opening The Package:
First things first: I smelled the freshly opened package. This is a habit for me, not just with bacon but with all food. I think that smell is a very important part of the experience of the food, and as the chef, I am experiencing the food several times and in several ways before I finish eating. Smelling, therefore, is at the least, an observance of that experience, and sometimes it’s quite a bit more.
The smell was pleasant; almost like an oven-baked ham. There was none of the usual smokiness wafting up from the slices of bacon, nor was there the sense that this was going to be a juicy, delectable indulgence. I reminded myself again that this is the something different that I had asked for. The smell was slightly salty, again like a baked ham, and had the meatiness to it that you expect from an oven-baked meal. Definitely different.
Pulling the first slice out to look at it, I noticed that it was a satisfactorily thick slice. These turkey bacon slices were going to feel good in my mouth – they’ll feel like a bite of meat. This will not be a thin strip of bacon, where I have to take two or three bites to get a good mouth full to chew on, these should each hold their own as a full bite of meat. That’s the difference, I guess, between 40% meat and 94% meat. I had already checked the ingredients in the store to ensure that there were no unnecessary ingredients; but at this point I was curious as to how the manufacturers planned on making this a satisfying experience like bacon typically is. Different, yes, but it still needs to be satisfying.
I put the slices in my pan to start cooking.
I cooked this fairly fast, taking about 10 minutes of total cook time. Typically, I cook for a good long time, attempting to ensure that the bacon reaches that perfectly chewy state. But this bacon is different, so I reasoned that cooking it should be different as well.
I added some coconut oil to grease the pan, reasoning that a low-fat product wouldn’t have enough internal fat or juice to do the job itself. Then I cooked it on high, stirring regularly.
The color of the bacon while it was cooking was very interesting. I got to watch it lighten significantly as it started to heat up. In the package, it was a deep red color, like red meats. Then as it cooked, it got lighter, more like a brown color, again mimicking the behavior of red meat while it’s being cooked; but not the way bacon typically cooks. I was interested to see what the final product would look like, since the cooking process seemed to be browning, not deepening the reds of the meat.
I was pleasantly surprised that the color began to deepen and redden as the meat was more thoroughly cooked. It started to look more like bacon, which was what I wanted. Different, perhaps, but still bacon.
The smell and the taste were an almost perfect match. This turkey bacon came out just about perfectly, cooked at a high temperature for a short period of time with a bit of added fats. The color, smell, even the way it felt were just about what you would expect from a bacon made from a different animal. It was similar, close, yet different and distinct in it’s own right.
Tasting the bacon was a treat. The smell of the baked meat carried over in the flavor of the meal, but it was altered, somehow different. This was more like the flavor that you might get if you baked a turkey wrapped in bacon. The bacon flavor was there, but it was subtle, almost like it was soaked in a bit over time. This makes perfect sense, given that this was a higher concentration of meat, and lower concentration of fat than normal bacon. It’s the fat that picks up and carries the smoked flavor in a bacon, or any smoked dish; then that fat starts to permeate the meat with the flavors. In a low-fat product like this turkey bacon, the smoked flavor will be much more subtle, leaving room for the meat itself to express itself.
All told: I was pleased by the flavor of the bacon. It did end up having the bacon flavor, while it carried it’s own distinct character. It was different, but definitely still good.
This is definitely worth eating. It’s different, so don’t buy it thinking that it can be used instead of pork bacon. They’re different foods, with a totally different experience. But because it’s different, it can be used in places that a pork bacon may not fit so well. I know, that seems like a completely inappropriate statement, right? Well, there are times when pork bacon is simply too strong for the overall flavor of the meal, so using something that is quite a bit more subtle will work better. This turkey bacon will fill that need perfectly.
It’s bacon, but subtle.
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
- √ Turkey raised without antibiotics
- Sustainable farm raised
This one gets a check-mark for the first three categories. I did my research on the fourth category, and I can’t find information on Trader Joe’s website about where these turkeys are sourced from, and so I don’t know if they are sustainable. As I’ve mentioned before: I like Trader Joe’s, and I generally approve of their organic products. But “Conventional” is conventional, and this package does not promise anything but.