Between July and August, the average price of bacon soared almost 11 percent, to $5.62 per pound. Even adjusted for inflation, that's the highest it's ever been by a significant margin. So now more than ever, when you buy bacon, you want to be sure you're getting your money's worth.
That's where trustworthy Consumer Reports comes in. For their November 2013 issue, the magazine's staff took on the extremely enviable task of cooking up 15 packs of widely-available brands of bacon to find out which ones taste the best.
(A quick disclaimer: it's entirely possible that the best bacon out there is made by some boutique smokehouses like Benton's or Nodine's, but those aren't usually available at normal supermarkets.)
The Consumer Reports tasters tried all sorts of bacon in their quest for breakfast perfection: traditional, thick-cut, low-sodium, natural, pre-cooked, turkey. They actually liked most of what they ate, rating 12 of the 15 types at least a "Very Good." Even the two pre-cooked options, by Hormel and Oscar Mayer, merited the Consumer Reports check mark of approval.
The three highest- and lowest-rated bacon brands in the Consumer Reports article are below. If you're looking for another one of your favorites, the tasters also liked Hormel Original, Trader Joe's, Smithfield and Niman Ranch, albeit a little less than the top three contenders.
Kirkland Signature was the only brand Consumer Reports rated "Excellent." It's available only at Costco, and was in the midrange of price at 47 cents for each 2-slice serving. There's a catch, though, even if you already have a Costco membership: it's sold only in increments of four 1-pound packages.
Oscar Mayer's Thick Cut came in second in the Consumer Reports test, with a "Very Good" rating. It's a bit cheaper (at 42 cents a serving) and slightly lower in calories than the Kirkland.
Walmart's in-house brand, Great Value, came in third. It had lower sodium than all brands rated "Very Good" in the Consumer Reports taste test except Niman Ranch Maple Uncured, which costs nearly twice as much.
Oscar Mayer's turkey bacon got the highest ratings of the three in the Consumer Reports article, but it also had the most calories and sodium of the bunch.
Jennie-O Turkey bacon got the second-lowest ratings of all bacons tested.
Here's the good news: Butterball Turkey Bacon is the cheapest and least caloric bacon tested by Consumer Reports, with just 25 calories in each 11-cent slice. The bad news? It tasted the worst.