Ranking Brands Of Bacon From Worst To Best

Uncured, applewood, non-GMO, or thick cut, we've all got beef with packaged meat. But which bacon brand is worth adding to your cart? Luckily, we've cooked up one spectacularly seasoned ranking. Spoiler alert: It's pure bac-o-rama.

Love it smoky and sweet? Straight outta the Black Forest? And from the happiest pigs on earth? Pull on your cured meat-eatin' pants — we've got something for you. (Psst, it's all cured, even when the package says it isn't. Just a little peek into the sleight of hand behind "uncured" bacon labels.)

We can probably agree on what typically makes a good slice: not too fatty, not too salty, nice and crispy, and also tender. To keep things fair, I cooked each brand in a stovetop skillet. Then, I burned a few ends, spilled some drippings, and chewed the fat (more on this later). But, salty meat lovers, I bravely nailed down the ultimate guide to store-brand bacon, ranked worst to awesomely greasy first.

8. Jones Dairy Farm hickory smoked Canadian bacon

(OMG, Canadian bacon doesn't count!) Alright, listen, no bacon rundown worth its celery salt would be complete without the Canada-style kind. Jones Dairy Farm hickory smoked Canadian bacon might be coming in last, but it wins the easiest bacon of this entire list. This smart, disc-shaped pork was such a pleasure to cook after having wrangled the long, sometimes uneven slices of the other brands that were tested. It gets extra points for being cute as a button.

Center-cut pork loin with pure meat means you won't find trimmings or fillers here. That's great because this bacon reads like a little slice of country ham. There's barely any fat (1.5 g for three slices), so peep those cooking instructions before throwing anything in the pan so it doesn't dry out. This savory treat demands a pre-heated griddle and a super fast 1-minute sear, flipping at least once during those quick 60 seconds.

This one's last on this list because it doesn't pack the punch that American-style strip bacon does. Still, it's delicious. It's lightly hickory-smoked, textural, and hammy to chew. But it's definitely living in a different dimension compared to other brands on this list. It's screaming to be added to a biscuit egg sandwich or to a classic Canadian bacon eggs benedict, but we dare you to name one thing that this bacon wouldn't go with.

7. Hormel Black Label pecanwood thick cut bacon

First things first, props for a resealable package with a sturdy zip top. (Thanks, Hormel!) Clearly, Hormel Black Label pecanwood thick-cut bacon is one brand that knows its demo: Bacon fans who go all out and who also maybe save some for the weekend.

Hormel Black Label sounds like the VIP of bacon brands. But with water listed as the first ingredient in the cure, I wasn't expecting fireworks in the flavor department. With this brand repping the only pecanwood-smoked bacon on the list, I found myself jonesing for a nutty, hardwood-smoked flavor. Instead, it tasted smoked but without an actual fully-dimensional flavor — kind of like it went to a bonfire last night, and now its jacket smells like wood smoke. This certainly wasn't the best flavor of the bunch.

Along with the thick cut slices, the cooked fatty bits were jiggling on the ends, even after resting on a paper towel to dry. Some people might like that; others do not. I didn't want to insert things to influence the competition, but for the crispiest bacon, you can actually add flour to the strips, which helps preserve flavor while soaking up any extra moisture. It's kind of like a deep fry, minus the giant vat of oil. You can also unlock the secret to thwarting rubbery bacon by pre-cooking the bacon in water.

6. Hempler's Original center cut bacon

Hempler's Original center-cut bacon came highly recommended by the stocker in the bacon section of the grocery store when I asked him to pick the best bacon from the available bunch. Of course, he probably also based his suggestion on my shopping basket which was already full of bacon.

Hempler's Original is proudly small-batch and uses no antibiotics other than for the treatment of illness in animals. If you like a lean, mean bacon machine, the brand boasts less fat than other brands. Here, you'll get 5 g of fat per two slices, versus, say, the 9 g of fat per serving of the Jimmy Dean bacon on this list.

This brand definitely has a good thing going with the shorter-length slices, which are easy to manage from package to plate. The taste is pleasantly savory and not too salty. There's a pleasant chew, a rich, appetizing color, no googly bits of fat, and it's easy to get a consistent cook with no super thin parts. This is really pretty bacon. It's meaty and substantial, but it lands at No. 6 because it's missing a little of that fat-driven flavor.

5. Jimmy Dean hickory smoked premium bacon

It's almost as if the staff at Jimmy Dean were like, "Let's try running the factory with the lights off," and then shipped out a bunch of boxes of hickory smoked premium bacon in the oddest-shaped slices ever. The ugly cousin of the picture on the label, this bacon becomes a conversation piece for all the wrong reasons.

Seasoning features water, salt, sugar, and the usual scientifically "cured" lineup of sodium phosphate, sodium erythorbate, and sodium nitrate. (In other obvious news, adding all those preservatives ends up packing a whopping 320 mg of sodium per serving.)

Back to the front of the package, what the actual heck is with the slices, though? Thick, wide parts bottleneck into thin, fragile strips, like Canadian bacon with a rattail. I'm actually shocked I didn't burn the bejesus out of the innocent ends while trying to cook the fattier bits of the larger part. Maybe you're supposed to cut the tail off and insert these into a round breakfast sandwich? The flavor is smoky, middle-of-the-road-style hickory flavor. Nothing to write home about. Filing this one under "It'll do" at No. 5.

4. Wright Brand applewood thick-cut bacon

This one doesn't make the greatest first impression. Wright Brand applewood thick-cut bacon nearly shredded when I gingerly removed it from the package. Watching my quasi "pulled" bacon try to link arms with its stringy, strand-like brethren in the skillet, my tiny flame for this brand was all but extinguished.

Having been real wood-smoked, the first aromas give all applewood right when you first start cooking it. Then, it weirdly crosses the line into rubber-like aromatics. It still smelled kind of rubbery right before I bit into it. (And yet, I pressed on.) But that's exactly where I caught feelings for Wright Brand.

The flavor of this one is everything yummy. Smooth, caramel-like applewood flavor lends a smoky sweetness to every tender bite, with the fatty parts melting in your mouth. It's one of those universally pleasing seasoning profiles — paired with slightly ugly duckling looks. But, just like a supermodel who used to be such a nerd, you guys, this bacon becomes a swan when it hits your plate. (Not really, because that would be weird.)

3. Tender Belly savory recipe uncured bacon

In contrast to the cured varieties on this list, Tender Belly savory recipe uncured bacon skirts the USDA regulations on no added nitrates, to still cure its bacon, but with naturally derived nitrates. Like the ones found in veggies like celery, for example. 

There's zero water in this recipe, so all that slow-smoked cherrywood flavor meets a dry-aged and dry spice-rubbed pork belly like it was made in heaven. Not that I automatically believe what I read, but the taste-o-meter on the back of the package maxes this one out at "Crazy Tasty" which is just above "Very Tasty." Maybe it all comes down to the tender, flavorful, Old World heritage hogs that make this Tender Belly bacon possible. Hold it, piggies. I'll be the judge.

The taste is savory, salty, and smoky. But the best part is the lingering flavor of the gorgeously sweet, slightly fruity cherrywood. If you're familiar with applewood, these hardwoods are very similar in taste, except you might notice a hint of vanilla here. It goes gangbusters with pork, which just so happens to work out really well for a bacon company.

2. Trader Joe's uncured Black Forest bacon

Taste the fattest, thickest preserved meat in the fridge section with Trader Joe's uncured Black Forest bacon. These hefty, American-style slices make you feel like you're eating the biggest, baddest pig in the world.

Speaking of, these pigs are crate-free during gestation and farrowing (when the piglets arrive). The animals also enjoy a vegetarian diet (probably because they've never tasted their own bacon), and receive zero antibiotics. The meat is dry-rubbed with the signature spices of a Black Forest blend; think peppercorns, juniper berries, cardamom seed, and coriander, with nutmeg and sugar or honey. It all comes together to nab the second-best spot on our list.

In a stovetop situation, this one releases a lot of drippings, almost frying itself in its own fat. All that sugar and fat creates a burn scenario if you look away for an instant. (It's cool — I scorched my first batch. Those signature dark edges play tricks on the mind.) Drain the drippings, or keep a watchful eye on your pan because this bacon is too good to miss. It's extremely flavorful, rich, savory, sweet without cloying, and definitely forest-y. Black Forest-y. (As if the trees were made of bacon — their bark seasoned with mossy smoke — ready just in time for breakfast.)

1. True Story uncured applewood smoked bacon

Sound the bacon alarm. We've officially landed at the top of the heap with True Story uncured applewood smoked bacon coming in at No. 1. And, for the record, there's no bourbon in it even though it totally tastes like it.

Humanely raised heirloom hogs that have been free to roam around the countryside get a natural cure from simple ingredients like turbinado sugar, celery powder, water, and salt. It's slow-smoked over real applewood, with a Wes Anderson-like pink hue straight out of the box. Like bright yellow egg yolks from happy chickens, these pigs lived it up on their free-range farm.

I'm not even joking that I double-checked the label, certain that I missed bourbon in the description. (Nope. No bourbon). It would have made sense since bourbon and pork often team up for dishes like pork tenderloin with blackberry bourbon sauce, or BBQ pulled pork nachos. Could I have cooked it a little longer for a crispier bite? Yes. Did I eat it too fast to care? You know it. Without the bitter taste of heavy seasoning or any synthetic ingredients, you'll be left with that smooth, sweet, and smoky applewood flavor lingering on your tongue.

How we ranked the best bacon brands

Temporarily putting aside the "All Bacon Is Delicious" motto I usually live by, I took one for the team and tasted everything myself. (I can almost hear the world's tiniest violin playing a sarcastically sad song in my honor.) 

I cooked each brand in a skillet by itself, watching over it with eagle vision, then plated, tasted, wrote, and tasted again like it was my job. (At the moment, my job is, in fact, official bacon taste-tester.) Then, I tried my best to be an impartial critic when it came to flavor, texture, and ingredients, with a soft focus on ethics. In other news, I now have enough bacon in my fridge to last the rest of my life.

Rest assured, this ranking won't lead you astray. But it's up to you to learn how to cook bacon the way you like it best. Oven, skillet, microwave, air fryer, or take-out, there's no wrong way to bacon.