Trader Joe’s Uncured Turkey Bacon
This is getting to be a challenge! I started up this project series with the idea that I would root out all of the different varieties of high-quality bacon available in grocery stores, try them out, and share my thoughts with all of you. Obviously, the “try them out” part is what I’m most looking forward to… But I’ve nearly completely run out of options! I have some next-step ideas which I’ll share here and let you all vote on. Fortunately, though, I actually did find something new on the shelves to test, try, and share! So enjoy my thoughts on Niman Ranch’s Uncured Canadian Bacon.
Here are my thoughts on what I can do to continue to share my bacon thoughts with you all. My next steps at this point are:
- I could go to the internet and start to test out some of the more popular internet brands which don’t appear on your grocery store shelves.
- I could make some of my own. That’s obviously been done by some of the best food-bloggers out there, including one of my all-time favorite bloggers (who is, sadly, retired): 365daysofbacon
- I could start to look at some of the hyper-local options, where the farmers are making and curing their own bacon (and other meat products) and selling them at farmers’ markets, and the like. This last option will likely be educational on what kinds of things you can expect, if you go looking for it; but unless you’re local to the NYC area, it’s unlikely that you’ll be able to act on my findings.
So, let me know in the comments which of these you’d like to see me do. Or all of them!
And now, back to Niman Ranch.
Opening The Package:
First things first: I always take a moment to smell the bacon as I open it up. As I’ve mentioned previously, this is something that I consider to be very important to fully appreciating your food. Take the time to smell the food as you’re opening it, cooking it, and serving it. Smell is a key ingredient in our enjoyment of our environment, and especially our food!
There was a soft salty flavor as the overtone for the Canadian Bacon. It’s about what I would expect, so I was happy that it was there. I didn’t smell much smokiness, but that’s not much of a surprise in a Canadian Bacon; I don’t usually expect that kind of smell. The meat smelled fresh, more or less. Which is also a generally good thing. It tells me that the bacon hasn’t been sitting on my shelves for too long.
I pulled out one slice to get a look at it. When I inspect Canadian Bacon, I’m looking at a few different things. First, I need to know how thick the slices are. Not only does that have a bearing on how I will cook the bacon, it also bears on how I will serve it. Thinner slices of meat will cook faster, and will be much more susceptible to sticking to the pan.
The next thing I will look at is how well marbled the meat is. Again, this will affect both the cooking and the serving. The better-marbled bacon has plenty of grease; it will be able to grease the pan as it heats up. If anything add a bit of water to the pan as you’re heating it up and that will help to get the grease mobilized to coat the pan. But really lean bacon, which is quite typical of Canadian Bacon, will often need something extra to make sure that it doesn’t stick to the pan.
Taken together, the thickness and the amount of fat on the bacon will inform your cooking strategy, and then how best to serve it.
This bacon was about a medium thickness. I wasn’t too worried that it would stick to the pan too quickly and similarly, I didn’t think it would be an issue that the cook-time would be too long. I actually really like the thick-cut Canadian Bacon out there, but it’s important to choose the right bacon for the meal that you’re trying to make; or to change your presentation to match the food that you’ve selected.
I cooked this at a moderate pace, taking about 15 minutes of total cook time. Since the slices were thin enough to cook quickly, I put just a little bit of water in the pan to keep the pan surface temperature down, and cooked on high heat. I had to replenish the water once. They browned up nicely, and the smell was starting to fill the kitchen.
As expected, there was a certain amount of salty flavor to this bacon. This is, as I mentioned above, a fairly normal flavoring for Canadian Bacon, so I was expecting it. I don’t cook with salt very often, so I’m quite sensitive to the salt flavor; I am reasonably certain that this level of saltiness won’t be an issue for anyone! Similar to the salt, there was almost no sweetness to the bacon, and again, like I mentioned above with the smell, it didn’t have much of a “smoky” flavor to it. I really like the smoke, so I look out for it wherever I can get it; but I don’t really expect much smokiness in Canadian Bacon, so it’s certainly not a disappointment that it wasn’t there.
The flavor of the bacon was surprisingly smooth and clean. It tasted a lot like I would expect from a premium farm. The meat held the subtle salty flavor, but there was just a hint of the smoke used in curing the meat. As a side note: despite that they call it “Uncured” – they still cure it. The “Uncured” labelling is FDA required for the level of smoke, and the composition and amounts of curing ingredients used. Most of the bacon that I buy, including this Canadian Bacon, is made with less than the FDA required amount to be called “Cured”. So, a little tip: start with bacon bearing the “Uncured” label. Of course, follow my guidelines at the end of this post as well for the best stuff; but “Uncured” is definitely a good starting point!
There was a faint fruity aftertaste to the bacon, surprisingly. I’m sure that has more to do with the way that the saliva in my mouth was breaking down the fats, but it was certainly pleasant. Like I said, the flavor was very clean and smooth; just the right kind of flavor for a dinner-bacon!
It was exactly what I was hoping for in a Canadian Bacon. The slices were thin enough to cook quickly, but not so thin as to require special treatment. The coloring and presentation were what you would expect from a top-quality Canadian Bacon. And the flavor was smooth, clean, and just right for any meal!
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.