Due to popular demand and the fact that we love trying weird foods and candies, The A.V. Club will now regularly feature "Taste Tests." Feel free to suggest disgusting and/or delicious new edibles for future installments: E-mail us at email@example.com.
Yoder's Canned Bacon and Oscar Mayer Fully Cooked Bacon
Bacon's always been a big motivator 'round Taste Test way, harkening back to our very first installment of the feature, Mo's Bacon Bar. Bacon lollypops, bacon salt, Bacon combos… If you can bacon it up, we'll force it down in the name of science. But the big daddy of bacon gastro-experimentation has eluded us, until today.
We'd been wanting to test Yoder's canned bacon since we heard about it months back, but it was only available to purchase in a case of 12. As much as we wanted to—and believe us, we considered it—we could not bring ourselves to purchase (for over $100) the equivalent of roughly 36 pounds of canned bacon, not when we hear there's some sort of economic crisis going on. (Then again, we could all be huddled in caves eating whatever food we can scrounge up soon enough. Perhaps this was a missed opportunity.) At any rate, an alert reader named Rick agreed to send us a can from his case in exchange for a quick plug for his website. Here ya go, Rick: Check out chefresource.com. (He also sent us canned cheese, canned Irish whiskey cake, and super-gigantic marshmallows, all of which we'll be taste testing at some point.)
If you're asking yourself "Why the hell would anyone feel the need to can bacon?" you obviously haven't been paying attention. This isn't about the why, or even the how. It's about the why-the-hell-not? And anyway, we're not here to question these products' existence; we're here to eat them and make witty bon mots for your amusement and derision.
Since apparently canned bacon isn't enough of a novelty on its own, we supplemented this Taste Test with another pseudo-bacon, Oscar Mayer's pre-cooked ready to serve bacon strips. (I would like to point out that I was a vocal opponent of this product's inclusion, as I have bought and used these for many years for quick BLTs and salads, and maintain that they are nowhere near "weird" enough to be included in the same league as canned meat. But I was overruled by a bunch of snobs who couldn't believe boxed bacon could be anything other than an abomination.)
Taste: It's hard to believe anyone could actually get a slice of Yoder's close enough to actually consume it without dry heaving. The process of opening and forcing the product out of the can is slightly traumatic: The stale-bacon smell, the soggy, grease-soaked paper, the gloopy white scabs of fat clinging to the gory roll of meat—budget-conscious independent filmmakers looking to make a gruesome horror flick, are you paying attention?
Once the little bundle of flesh was unrolled, it looked enough like bacon for us to peel off a piece and take a bite, though few got beyond that first nibble. Yes, it tastes kind of like bacon, the same way Purina Beggin' Strips might taste kind of like bacon. (Not that we'd know… really!) The essence of bacon was there, thanks to a healthy injection of "smoke flavor," but the texture was completely off—stringy and mealy and not at all meat-like.
The greasy sheen it left behind on our fingers didn't do much to endear it further. In the future, should any of us happen to wind up stranded in the wilderness in desperate need of bacon, chances are good that most of us will attempt to hunt down a wild pig with a sharpened stick and a rock rather than bust open a can of Yoder's again. It would probably be less messy.
The box bacon was the obvious winner in this match-up. Though it's still clearly inferior bacon, very lean and limp out of the box, at least it doesn't look like roadkill. Both products became markedly more palatable when heated up—imagine that!—but the Oscar Meyer stuff could almost be mistaken for the stuff you'd find next to your eggs at the neighborhood diner.
In fact, we strongly suspect that the deli around the corner that most of us eat lunch at uses this exact product in its sandwiches. However, when it takes four minutes to warm up a slice of either of these in a skillet, and maybe two minutes longer to fry up an actual slice of uncooked bacon that hasn't been preserved using God-only-knows-what, the convenience factor does little to mitigate the inferior taste. (Though the 20-second microwave time is admittedly pretty snappy.)
Extra Credit: Of course we put the bacon salt on the canned bacon! What do you take us for? Dave Chang files this report.
Yoder's Canned bacon
— "It's like bacon wrapped in lube."
— "This is stomach-revoltingly awful."
— "First appearances didn't help much. A wadded mass of very dark brown bacon packed tightly in a can. There's some congealed fat pockets mixed in and some very greasy paper holding it together."
—"It looks pretty awful coming out of the can, but you know what? Bacon is greasy. Bitching because it looks greasy coming out of the can is like whining about bread for being all bready."
—"I don't know how you'd ever enjoy the canned bacon if you actually opened the can yourself."
— "I took one small bite, and I could feel my insides cramp up to say 'No fucking way.'"
—"The main taste characteristic is that it's smoky, almost the only quality. Didn't taste like pork or much of anything."
—"It looks rancid in the can, but doesn't taste any different than what you would get in a Baconator from BK or a Wendy's Jr. Bacon Cheeseburger."
— "I looked at my hands after taking a piece and my fingers were extremely greasy. Had to wash up."
— "I think everybody had a sample of this and there was still a mound of bacon left on the plate. If nothing else, there's a lot of value in canned bacon."
—"If it's possible to get a headache from the smell of sub-par bacon, I have one."
— [One hour later.] "My mouth tastes like metal. It has a metallic sheen on it."
Oscar Meyer Ready To Eat bacon
— "It's a salt lick!"
— "You know, as much as it pains me to say it, I don't mind this."
—"I microwaved it and put it on a sandwich, it was completely tasty. No complaints. But I think I had 3,000 percent of my sodium intake for the day in about two bites."
—"It looks terrible—disturbingly precise and exact, like a child's plastic toy version of bacon, or like fruit roll-ups with bacon patterns printed on it. Unheated, it has almost no flavor. It's like cling-wrap with a little smoke scent on it."
—"Microwaved, it's pretty amazing. It has that horrible white sheen of grease until you pat it down and dry it, but then it's perfectly crisp and deliciously bacony. It's like a Platonic ideal of bacon. I'm seriously tempted to start buying this, as much as I've mocked it in the past."
—"The better of the two bacons. Evenly cooked, chewy, not too lean or fatty. Tasted fine cold. Meaty and not at all artificial tasting."
—"Nicely packaged container, though not a lot of bacon slices per box. Regular bacon shrinks when you cook it so you could argue that about half the grease is cooked away before it's packaged."
—"I'm pretty picky when it comes to bacon, and neither of those do it for me at all."
—"Maybe too convenient for bacon. I imagine intending to make 'healthy' BLT sandwiches, but instead eating the whole package of bacon slices like potato chips. Like keeping a loaded gun in your refrigerator."
Where to get it: Yoder's: Gather up 11 friends whom you despise and head over to mredepot.com for a case. Oscar Mayer: Most grocery stores carry it, though we inexplicably found ours in the produce section rather than the meat aisle.