Confused by the ever-growing options at the supermarket? Here’s a cheat sheet.
Ah, bacon. Sweet, salty, savory, smoky, beautiful bacon. Bacon is a Southern cooking staple, but choosing the right bacon at the supermarket can be a bit overwhelming. Standing in front of a refrigerator full of seemingly identical packages of bacon that have all sorts of different labels is intimidating. What’s the difference in natural and organic? Is double smoked better than smoked? What in the world is a center cut? You could spend a lot of time mulling over your choices, so to save some of it for you, we’ve rounded up few mainstay types of bacon you might see at the store and explained them for you. From thick cut to uncured and dry rubbed, here’s your guide to the different types of bacon at the supermarket.
What It Means: Hefty, meaty slices. The thickness varies depending on the brand.
Best For: Sprinkling on soups and salads
Our Pick: Hormel Black Label Original Thick Cut Bacon
What It Means: This type of bacon has been preserved with nitrites or nitrates from natural (not artificial) sources, such as celery.
Best For: Serving with eggs and pancakes
Our Pick: Smithfield All Natural Uncured Bacon
What It Means: This bacon comes from the middle portion of the pork belly. The fatty ends of the bacon have been trimmed, making leaner (and smaller) slices.
Best For: Topping hamburgers and BLTs
Our Pick: Oscar Mayer Center Cut Bacon
What It Means: Deeper, richer flavor. Look for “naturally smoked” on the label, indicating that the bacon spent time in an actual smoker.
Best For: Adding to recipes like spaghetti carbonara
Our Pick: Wright Brand Double Smoked Bacon, an SL Test Kitchen favorite
“Something” Smoked (Hardwood, Hickory, Applewood, Mesquite, etc.)
What It Means: This lets you know what kind of wood generated the smoke, which can lend different flavors to the bacon. Reminder: Don’t forget to look for the word “naturally.”
Best For: Any bacon needs—all-purpose
Our Pick: Farmland Naturally Hickory Smoked Bacon
What It Means: As you can assume, dry rubbed, sometimes called dry cured, bacon is rubbed with a blend of spices, rather than smoked, to harvest flavor.
Best For: Barbecue lovers
Our Pick: Wellshire Black Forest All Natural Thick Sliced Dry Rubbed Uncured Bacon
What It Means: Yes, bacon can be organic. According to the USDA, if the bacon is made from certified organic meat or poultry (they’ve been fed certified organic feed and haven’t been given antibiotics or growth hormones), then the bacon itself is organic.
Best For: Adding bacon flavor to healthy dishes without (as much) guilt
Our Pick: Applegate Organics Hickory Smoked Uncured Sunday Bacon
What It Means: Maple bacon means that maple syrup was used during the curing process. This type of bacon will have a sweeter side to it, which can balance out smoky and salty flavors.
Best For: Serving with savory breakfast dishes
Our Pick: Niman Ranch Uncured Center-Cut Maple Bacon