It was our meatiest taste test yet.

By Stephanie Gravalese
January 27, 2021
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Credit: zeljkosantrac via Getty Images

From classic American sidekick to sometimes sandwich staple, bacon has gone from an occasional treat to a lifestyle. The pork product is a popular addition to any meal of the day, including dessert and even cocktails. While bacon would be considered a staple by Americans (with 17.9 pounds per person consumed each year according to the National Pork Board), it may be surprising to hear that bacon has roots in other parts of the world. While earlier versions of bacon date back to 15,000 BC, sliced bacon as we know it in the United States was invented in 1924 by food manufacturer Oscar Meyer. We tried seven varieties of refrigerated bacon, all available online or in stores, to investigate which are worth buying. Here are our rankings from best to worst.

Best Bacon At a Glance

What We Looked for When Ranking Bacon

Taste: Bacon as we know it has expanded beyond pork bacon and also includes a significant plant-based category, but for this test, we focused on bacon made from pork. Each bacon brand was evaluated on the amount of fat on each to see if any promises of smoked flavor come through, as well as the balance between saltiness and sweetness. 

Texture: Whether you prefer crispy or chewy strips, texture is an important part of eating bacon. Pork bacon comes in multiple thicknesses in grocery stores, which can impact the texture of cooked bacon. To evaluate the best breakfast sidekick, we stuck to classic style bacon which is typically 1/16 of an inch thick and usually comes with 16 to 20 slices per pound. 

Sodium Count: Bacon is known to have a higher sodium content which can be a concern to consumers. According to the FDA, a diet high in sodium is "associated with an increased risk of developing high blood pressure, which is a major cause of stroke and heart disease." For this reason we made it a point to factor in the amount of sodium per serving, and try bacon at a range of levels.  

Best Overall: Applegate Uncured Sunday Bacon

Credit: Target

Applegate's Uncured Sunday Bacon is good, old-fashioned hardwood smoked bacon. Enjoy it on Sunday or any other day for that matter. Applegate's Sunday Bacon had a nice texture and crust and complex flavors, securing its spot at the top. Coming in at 70 calories for two slices, it's in the middle of the pack regarding calorie count. The cost per ounce is higher, but the taste, texture, and calorie count more than make up for the price. 

Buy it: $5.39, Target 

Best Smoked Bacon: North Country Smokehouse Fruitwood Smoked Uncured Bacon

Credit: Whole Foods

North Country smokehouse bacon is described as classic cut bacon made from antibiotic-free pork and comes at the highest price per packet. This bacon looked and smelled like it came from a smokehouse: complex smoky flavors, just the right amount of salt, and a little bit of crust made it one of our favorites. This bacon would be great on a sandwich with the heft needed to hold up the other ingredients. Coming in at 60 calories for two slices, it's one of the least caloric options in the group. 

Buy it: $6.99, Amazon

Best Texture: Smithfield Hometown Original Bacon

Credit: Walmart

Smithfield's bacon had a crispiness that I really enjoyed and seemed relatively thin compared to the other contenders. Of all of the brands tested, Smithfield's two slices come in at 80 calories, and 310 mgs of sodium, putting the brand in the middle of the pack nutritionally. Combine that with Smithfield's lower price point and you've got a solid choice.

Buy it: $4.98, Walmart

Other Favorites

Hatfield Original Hardwood Smoked Bacon

Credit: Walmart

If you decide to go with Hatfield's Smoked Bacon, you'll find it to be a good option for your breakfast. Two slices come in at 80 calories, with 380mgs of sodium for two pieces. There was a nice balance of salty and sweet, making Hatfield a serious contender. That being said, the higher price point, calorie count, and sodium means it's not at the top on my list. 

Buy it: $5.12, Walmart

Jimmy Dean Thick Sliced Premium Bacon

Credit: Jimmy Dean

Coming in at 140 calories for two strips, Jimmy Dean Thick Sliced Premium Bacon is one the highest-calorie options of the group, and the highest in sodium at 430 mgs. I found Jimmy Dean's bacon to be the saltiest in the group, with a nice crisp. It tastes great, but there are other options out there with a lower sodium and calorie count.

Not Our Favorites

Oscar Mayer Center Cut Original Bacon

Credit: Walmart

While Oscar Mayer has played a significant role in what we know as bacon in the US, it didn't do it for me when it came to flavor. While it was one of the options with the most consistent marbling, you could tell that was merely by design. The overall taste was rather bland, with no smokiness, sweetness, or even a pronounced bacon flavor.

Buy it: $5.98, Walmart

Jones Dairy Farm No Sugar Uncured Bacon

Credit: Walmart

Jones Dairy Farm touts this offering as Gluten-Free, Certified Paleo, and Sugar-free. While this is an option for those looking for paleo-friendly strips, I found the bacon to be bland in flavor and the texture less crispy than the others on this list. Coming in at one of the highest in calories at 50 calories per slice, it's not the choice for me.