Saturday, September 14, 2013

September 14, 2013 - Usinger's vs. Oscar

MY LIFE WITH BACON continues with wonderful Chicago weather and the BMW Championship here in Lake Forest.

Today will be a simpler post: Usinger's Applewood Smoked and Oscar Mayer Thick-Cut Butcher Hickory Smoked.

First, I cooked up the Oscar THICK CUT bacon.  The packaging really stands out - THICK CUT is really screaming at you.  I like the marketing of this product - old school fonts, stark black and red on a white background.  It highlights the new-age "sea salt" ingredient.  They are shooting for the best of the old and new schools.

Plus, the material used for the packaging is paper-like.  Very thin but strong.  Reminiscent of butcher paper (of course).

Usinger's is my old standby best bacon ever.  Outstanding flavor from this midwestern meat packer.

I like the way in which you can see the bacon through the clear packaging.  Notice the stark color contrasts and the way the bacon glistens through the package.  What's cool about these smaller meat companies is that the bacon isn't of uniform size - these were narrow on one end and thick on the other. 

LET'S START WITH OSCAR.  The package lists a net weight of one pound six ounces.  It actually weighed 1lb 5.8 ounces - I was gypped out of .2 ounces of bacon!  After cooking it was 5.9 ounces and produced a whopping 225 ml of rendered fat.

Opening the package was a non-event except for the uniqueness of the material.  Very thin.  It's supposedly hickory smoked, but it was completely odorless; strange.  The package screams 'thick', and it certainly was.  It started on the pan, once warmed up, with a milky-white color.  However, upon completion, its appearance was CLASSIC bacon.

I always start with a cold pan and lay the bacon out close together, as you can see.

The result was a complete surprise: spectacular.  This is classic, real bacon.  Fully cooked, the bacon was VERY crispy, and VERY succulent.  You can see the fat curls on some of the end pieces. 

Very nice, outstanding bacon in every way.  Classic crispness - you hear an audible 'snap' when breaking the pieces.  HIGHLY RECOMMENDED. 

ON TO THE USINGERS.   This is a completely different experience.  Upon opening, the applewood smokey scent is powerful.  You know you're in for something special.  The package said it was 12 ounces but weighed in at 12.8 ounces - nearly a full ounce bonus!  Post cooking, it was 4.5 ounces.

I let the pan cool after the Oscar, and placed the bacon thusly on the grill.  I take the grates off the grill and cook directly on the flame diffusers of the grill on medium/medium low.  As the bacon cooks, I pull the rendered fat out with a baster (metal baster, silicone bulb).  For this bacon, it produced a scant 90ml of rendered fat.

It didn't 'crisp up' in the pan as much as laid there and weeped.  But the scent was awesome.  Very high protein content, which you can see from the picture to the right.

In the end, Usinger's was extremely flavorful - high smoke content, and almost sweet.  It wasn't pure crispy as much as 'crumbly crisp'.  No real succulence, but that didn't matter!  Outstanding bacon, but a completely different experience than the Oscar. 

I don't want to score these bacons against each other - they are both outstanding in their own way.  It's like comparing a good Cabernet to an excellent Pinot Noir - or an apple to an orange.  You won't be disappointed with either!  ENJOY!