Bacon’s grip on the American psyche is so powerful that Etsy has been 95% bacon–related novelties for as long as anyone can remember. Which is understandable; it’s not only a rich, indulgent meat product that pairs well with both carbs and sweets, but it’s also been the decades-long focus of a massive marketing campaign by the American pork industry. Those efforts by the National Pork Board to sell more pork belly were hugely successful; personally, I am surrounded by much, much more bacon as an adult than I ever was as a child, and anyone over the age of 25 or so could probably clock that same phenomenon in their own lives. And since we’re blessedly past the low-fat boom of the ’80s and ’90s, the quality of the bacon has only improved, with fattier, thicker cuts becoming the norm. Be gone, you paper-thin Oscar Mayer microwave salad-topper slices! No one ever wanted you in the first place!
When it comes to bacon in the culinary world, this century has seen a few wild swings of the pendulum. Some of the most delicious innovations have become downright standard, such as bacon maple cupcakes, pancakes cooked in bacon grease, and peanut butter bacon burgers. (If you don’t see the latter on the menu at least once a month, you’re not visiting the right restaurants.) But some other bacony dishes I’ve tried over the years only serve to remind us that just because a chef can doesn’t mean a chef should. Examples include chocolate-dipped bacon, which dulls two good things by mashing them together, and the Guy Fieri Apple Pie Hot Dog, where bacon bits only distract from the main event. (To be clear, I’m only talking about the use of bacon here. All other aspects of the Apple Pie Hot Dog are perfect.) Sometimes bacon is simply too much, and it’s best to only use it when it will have maximal impact in your dish.
Have you found any uses for bacon that fly under the culinary radar? Is there a way in which you hope to see bacon used more often? For example, I’ve always loved peanut butter and bacon on toast, and I’m amazed that’s not a combination I see on more restaurant breakfast menus. Maybe you have a really great BLT hack, or a recipe for jalapeno bacon that ought to be enjoyed far and wide. Bacon lovers, tear yourselves away from the endless internet memes and assemble, here and now, to share your porkiest insights.