Even before its 21st-century upgrade, bacon was a food so fundamentally tasty that it could enhance both garlic and chocolate (though not necessarily at the same time). It was so primally satisfying — almost the dictionary definition of what tastes great to the human mouth — that legions of vegetarians are known to honor the Bacon Doesn't Count rule, allowing themselves not just the odd bacon bit, but fat slabs snatched right off your breakfast plate. Now, though, we've got so many boutique smokehouses around the country turning out such a range of great bacons from first-rate pork that it's high time we started thinking of bacon as we've come to think of microbrews — one of the richest homegrown American food traditions. Here are our picks for some of the best bacon being smoked today.
Burgers' Smokehouse Bacon
Meat: So-called "commodity pork" (industrial pork from large-scale hog farms that use both antibiotics and growth promotants) from large-scale producers
Taste: Cracked peppercorn, just like on a pepper steak
Use: Powerful pepper notes create a spicy-sweet contrast when paired with pancakes and maple syrup.
[$32 for a 2 lb package; smokehouse.com]
Credit: Photograph by Dan Saelinger