Taste Test: J&D's Bacon Salt

Due to popular demand and the fact that we love
trying weird foods and candies, The A.V. Club will now regularly
feature "Taste Tests." Feel free to suggest disgusting and/or
delicious new edibles for future installments: E-mail us at
tastetest@theonion.com.

J&D;'s Bacon Salt Sampler Pack

Somewhere along the line, it became a running
Internet meme that bacon improves any and every food flavor. While A.V. Club
taste
tests have generally suggested that this isn't actually the case—we were
kind of indifferent to bacon
chocolate
, we loathed bacon
mints
, we were pretty mixed on Bacon
Maple Lollipops
, and we thought Bacon, Egg
And Cheese Combos
tasted like cat vomit smells. Granted, some of that
is the fault of inferior fake bacon, or attempts to mix bacon with inferior
ingredients that probably wouldn't have been tolerable without bacon, either, but
when you start out with a broad, sweeping statement like "Bacon makes
everything better," you have a lot to prove.

Which means that "bacontrepreneurs"
(yes, they call themselves that) Justin and Dave of J&D;'s have a heavy
burden of proof when it comes to the company tagline, "Everything should taste
like bacon." Should everything really taste like bacon? Wouldn't that get
boring? And more importantly, should everything really taste like J&D;'s
artificial approximation of bacon? Because, see, J&D;'s Bacon Salt isn't
made with real pig product—it's kosher and vegetarian, created with
spices and artificial flavoring. Which is good for observant Jews and
meat-craving but staunch ethical vegetarians, but is bad for people who like
bacon largely because it tastes like delicious, delicious actual bacon, and not
because it tastes like bacony chemicals.

Still, bacon salt is far more portable and
convenient than real bacon, and far less messy, greasy, fattening, and packed
with cholesterol. We figured that might even up the score quite a bit. Bacon
salt also seemed like a good, low-fat way to lay the initial groundwork for our
eventual "Should Everything Taste Like Bacon?" junior-high science-fair
project. So Josh Modell and I hied ourselves hence to the local grocery store
and came back with a pile of non-bacon-flavored foods to test with bacon salt.
We started with mild, bland-ish foods that seemed to lend themselves well to a
bacony upgrade: mashed potatoes, macaroni and cheese, muenster cheese, hummus.
We added a few things that go well with ordinary salt, and might be interesting
with bacon salt: popcorn, French fries, and—for the Southerners in the
audience—watermelon. Finally, we bought some things that we figured would
really strain the "everything should taste like bacon" rubric: vanilla ice
cream, fresh pineapple chunks, strawberries, melon slices, and—because
Josh is a big ol' joker—a slice of ham.

So should everything taste like bacon? The tasting
chaos that followed suggested otherwise, but we understand if J&D;'s doesn't
feel like "Some fairly specific things should taste like bacon" isn't a
sufficiently enthusiastic slogan.

Taste: The J&D;'s Bacon Salt variety pack comes in
three varieties: Original, Hickory, and Peppered. (They also currently market a
"natural" flavor, which is low-sodium and gluten-free.) All three are extremely
coarse and variegated in texture, like Mrs. Dash, a good barbecue rub, or other
mixed-spice treatments, not fine and regular like table salt. This results in
some inconsistency of flavor from use to use. The Peppered in particular is
never the same twice: Sometimes it tastes like the Original, while sometimes
it's like a mouthful of crushed peppercorns with a vague bacon aroma. The
Hickory tastes much like the bacon products we've tried in the past: like sour
liquid smoke, overwhelmingly artificial and more like very old cured game meat
than like bacon; tasters either loved it or hated it. Original tastes much like
bacon bits: that sort of surprisingly regular, meaty but not exactly bacony
flavor. None of the three have a significant salt flavor, even though the first
ingredient is sea salt. (Which helps explain the rough-grained texture.) The
overall effect is more bacon-bits dust than bacon or salt.

Office reactions:

"Is someone geared up to say 'I can't believe it's
not bacon?'" "I believe that someone is you."

— "The salt is sticking in my throat."

— "How do you spell 'Ullllk?' Because that's what this
tastes like."

— "Mashed potatoes and
bacon salt pair well together. Much better than bacon salt with macaroni and
cheese, which is already nature's perfect food."

— "Mashed potatoes and bacon salt for
the win. I wish the bacon salt was more like bacon and less like Bac-Os,
though. This doesn't make me want to buy bacon salt and put it on potatoes, it
makes me want to go home and make mashed potatoes with real bacon. Mmmm."

— "The original on the popcorn is definitely
tasty. Bacon-corn!"

— "Bacon salt and popcorn isn't bad, but
because the bacon-salt particles are so big, I can imagine working my way
through a bowl of popcorn and finding a pool of bacon salt at the bottom. This
leads to a dilemma. Do I toss it, eat it, or save it for another popcorn
session? Maybe I feed it to my cats."

— "Salt is good on everything. Bacon salt on
everything is not good."

— "Original is clearly just obliterated bacon
bits, right? It doesn't taste like real bacon, but it's kind of bacony."

— "Ritz crackers plus hummus plus bacon salt
equals bacon-flavored cardboard. Without the bacon salt, that's just nasty."

— "Most of these pairings don't work for
me. I think pairing bacon salt with anything really sweet like fruit or ice
cream is just asking for trouble. And the hummus is overpowered by the
bacon-ness."

— "It's good on the pineapple. It just tastes
smoky. It's like when you get some kind of wacky breakfast and mix everything
together."

— "As expected, the muenster combo works fine. The
cheese absorbs a lot of the bacon, though. It brings out the fakeiness of the flavor."

— "I hate Hickory on everything." "Really? I
love Hickory on everything."

— "Hickory just strikes me as wrong on
everything. I like Peppered best, though it doesn't seem that far off from
Original."

— "Original flavor is the best of the
three. Hickory is too smoky, and Peppered is just unnecessary. It's like
bringing mustard to a ketchup party."

— "The flavors only taste mildly
different to me. I'd have to really spend some time trying them by themselves
to suss out their differences, and really, that much sodium isn't gonna do me
any favors."

— "I think mac and cheese plus the regular
bacon salt is the winner. This is absolutely something that should taste more
like bacon."

— "The cantaloupe with bacon salt is not a winner. It's totally
disgusting."

— "It's actually pretty tasty on the ice cream.
It's like a smoky ice cream with salted peanuts on top."

— "No. Absolutely not. Bacon salt and ice cream do
not go together at all." "Why are you so prejudiced against flavor?" "I'm
prejudiced against shitty flavor."

— "I think my experimentation with
Original and cantaloupe was the worst. Those flavors definitely don't belong
together. The semi-mushy cantaloupe texture didn't help, either."

— "Doesn't really work on the strawberries,
either. The fakeness of the bacon really comes out when compared with the
sweetness of the strawberry. And the salt feels extra-chunky when compared to
how smooth fruit is."

— "It's really grainy, gritty salt. It's not
something where you'll only notice the taste; you're going to notice the
texture going down, too. It's about as thick as beach sand."

— "The ham completely cancels out the bacon and
leaves no flavor, just grit."

— "The hickory tastes like that nasty liquid
smoke. It's disgustingly artificial, as opposed to the other flavors, which are
about normal levels of artificial."

— "Even after a glass of
water, my mouth and throat still feel coated in a disturbing artificial bacon-y
flavor."

— [An hour later, via e-mail.] "I've
got a piece of spearmint-flavored Trident White gum in my mouth, but it seems
powerless against the faux bacon that has coated my tastebuds. This is one
battle that may be unwinnable for a lone piece of spearmint gum."

— [Also later, via e-mail.] "My hands
smell funny after that tasting. It's like standing in my chimney flue."

Bonus level: Hearkening back to our first Taste Test,
the Vosges Bacon Chocolate Bar (linked in the first paragraph up top), we
bought a random bar of dark chocolate and tried it with bacon salt. While at
least one Tester found it repulsive, it turned out to be a surprise hit with
almost everyone else:

— "That is not bad! That is not bad!"

— "Yeah, I think we got a winner right here."

— "It comes out like a spicy chocolate that you'd
only have a little of, like a hot chili-pepper bar, but it's really shockingly
good."

— "This is a
left-field winner for me. I couldn't have much of this, but it works in small
doses."

— "I think the chocolate really overpowered it. It
doesn't taste like bacon so much as spice and pepper."

— "With a cheaper chocolate, like Hershey's, it'd
probably be terrible, but a good dark chocolate makes this a really tasty
combination."

— "I like it on the
chocolate and ice cream best, probably because I like chocolate and ice cream."

— "This is an unexpected
treat."

Double bonus level: Inevitably, former
financial analyst Dave Chang (who's been promoted to business
development—mark your scorecards, all you Dave fans) was challenged to
try all three flavors simultaneously. He tasted them on some Goober (a fairly
unpalatable peanut-butter-and-jelly-in-a-jar combo) that's been sitting around
the office kitchen unopened for a year now. We'll let his reaction speak for
itself:

Where to get 'em: Baconsalt.com
does online orders and has a store locator for local-area purchases.

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