27 August, 2008

Seasonings Part Two: Bacon Salt Without The Hype

You're reading this page because you have internet access. And because you have internet access, you have almost certainly heard of Bacon Salt, the relatively new variety of seasoning salt that has been all the rage virtually from the moment it was released.

Yes, Bacon Salt. To read the reviews, one would think that this is the most significant culinary development since the discovery of fire. But is it really? Could any flavored salt be worthy of the amount of praise that Bacon Salt has garnered? Or is it just a case of The Emperor's New Salt?

At the risk of incurring the wrath of the Internet, I will tell you this: Bacon Salt is good, but it ain't All That.

I bought all three varieties of Bacon Salt to taste and compare. I tried them on vegetables, meat, and potatoes, and here are my impressions:
  • Original Bacon Salt - The Original flavor is not very good. It tastes mostly like putting a drop of salty Liquid Smoke on the food, though there are "bacony" undertones (which are most likely provided by the "natural and artificial flavors" listed on the label.) If only it tasted more like bacon and less like really cheap barbecue-flavor potato chips. I am not impressed.
  • Peppered - Peppery overtones are spicy but lack the fruity character of freshly ground black pepper. Thankfully, the pepper dominates the obnoxious "bottled smoke" flavor, making this variety of Bacon Salt somewhat better than "Original."
  • Hickory - An authentic but quite mild hickory smoke flavor combined with a dose of sweetness in the salt. Of all three varieties, I find this one to taste the least like an old ashtray and most like bacon (which is to say, "Still not really like bacon at all.")
For the most part, Bacon Salt is a middle-of-the-road smoke-flavored seasoning salt. The makers achieve the illusion of bacon flavor through the heavy use of natural and artificial smoke flavorings along with other ingredients such as whey, garlic powder, and glutamates (not necessarily in MSG, but in hydrolyzed proteins.) I believe it owes its success primarily due to the current popularity of the internet bacon meme and not because the product itself is of particularly high quality.

In my own kitchen, Bacon Salt is going to find rather limited use. I use my smoker quite a bit, and I enjoy the flavors and characteristics that real, burning-wood smoke gives to food, but I really dislike the nasty bong-water taste of Liquid Smoke and other shake-it-out-of-a-bottle "smoke" products. Bacon Salt does not taste like "bacon" to me, it just tastes like artificially-flavored salt, because the flavor of well-crafted bacon is more than just salt and smoke and lactose and garlic powder. It's an amusing curiosity, useful in a limited way when I want a kind of smoky flavor in something without firing up the grill, but when these bottles are finally used up I doubt I'll be buying them again.

Still, I can understand the appeal of a seasoning that promises to make "everything taste like bacon" and while I don't think the promise was intentionally broken, I think it is just too big a pledge to be successfully delivered.


4 comments:

Alex Rushmer said...

Consider yourself tagged and awarded:

http://justcookit.blogspot.com/2008/08/tag-youre-it.html

Michele said...

I agree with you on the bacon salt...it tastes nothing like bacon. I've always put hickory salt in my potato salad and tried to replace it with bacon salt one time. Yuck...is all that I can say...and I lost a batch of potato salad. I think that seeing the words artificially flavored should have been my first clue.

TastyNewEngland said...

This kinda was my suspicion. When I saw this stuff I figured it would tasty like smoky salt with some other flavorings. I just couldn't imagine a way for them to really capture that true "bacon"-y something in a seasoning.

Anonymous said...

Wish this post had come up last week when I did my search for Bacon Salt after reading something else extolling the virtues of this product which lead me out to buy the stuff.

I so wanted to like it but my impressions were exactly like yours. It tastes like BBQ potato chip powder and nothing more, which is to say zero like bacon.

It's a great idea and a great name, now all it needs is to taste like bacon. Is that too much to ask?