Grocery Store Bacon Ranked Worst To Best

For centuries, bacon has coaxed us out of bed with an intoxicating aroma and a symphony of snaps, hisses, and pops. And in the early-to-mid 2000s, this wonderful food sizzled its way from simple breakfast side dish to unequaled culinary craze. Strips of unctuous pork belly wrapped and weaved around an ever-expanding menu of foods, while bits of the stuff were crumbled into desserts, and bacon flavoring was infused into all manner of inedible items.

Fast food eateries churned out bacon ice cream sundaes. A pork-based abomination known as the Bacon Explosion greased the pages of The New York Times. Bacon coffee helped swine-obsessed foodies face their day. Bacon lubricant brought salty lovers closer together. A bacon-themed coffin cradled fat-loving freaks as they exited this mortal plane.

Admittedly, we might've crossed the line. Our infatuation with bacon outshined bacon itself, turning the cured meat into fashion instead of food. However, bacon survived the fad, and from the overcooked ashes of that decade-old craze rose bacon in its purest form — strips of fatty, meaty, smoky decadence sold by the pack in your local grocery store.

Indeed, Americans still love bacon. But which store-bought brands deserve your business? Here's our guide to grocery store bacon, ranked worst to best. Oh, and we've chosen to leave turkey bacon and vegetarian bacon products off of this list, as those would automatically shuffle to the bottom of the list of any pork-based bacon ranking.

10. Jamestown Brand Sliced Bacon

Jamestown Brand lets you know immediately that you're about to purchase not-so-stellar bacon. First, the packaging. Instead of a see-through plastic package that allows the shopper to visually inspect the thickness, fat-to-meat ratio, and overall quality of each one, Jamestown sports only a small window in the center of an otherwise fully enclosed box. Clearly, Jamestown is hiding something about its bacon—and that something is not good. And once inside, you'll notice a few other egregious bacon sins.

Jamestown Brand bacon is sliced into ridiculously thin strips, causing it to burn shortly after being put to heat. Then there are the strips that aren't really strips at all. Portions of the bacon consist of small pieces of varying thickness that are all smashed together, forming a gooey slab that's not easy to peel apart. Once you've successfully separated the "strips"—and cut away the mysterious gray spots dotting the meat—you're left with a pile of pure carnage. It all equals an unpleasant eating experience that's somehow both charred and chewy. Jamestown Brand bacon should've stayed in the pig pen.

9. Smithfield Hometown Original Bacon

Smithfield is one of most legendary purveyors of pork products in the entire world, processing more pigs and producing more hogs than any other company on the planet — which makes their bacon placement on this ranking all the more demoralizing. Smithfield's Hometown Bacon is extremely thin right out of the package, and the strips shrink considerably when cooked. When you plate your Smithfield Hometown Bacon, you're left with a wispy, chip-like wafer of salty meat. If you're into crispy bacon, you might be satisfied with this product, but then again, you could just find better bacon and cook it to your liking.

Although the fat content is comparable to most other bacon brands, Smithfield Hometown Bacon seems to fill the pan with an absurd amount of grease. This essentially fries the bacon in its own oil, which is not nearly as good as it sounds. Ultimately, Smithfield leaves you wanting more — but not more Smithfield. This bacon was such a misstep that all other Smithfield bacon varieties were purposely left off of this list.

8. Hormel Black Label Original Bacon

While not nearly as enraging as our previous two subpar bacon offenders, Hormel doesn't exactly light up the senses either with its original bacon. In fact, one gets the sense that Hormel slapped the moniker "Black Label” onto its bacon because the branding sounds deluxe and fancy. In truth, Hormel Black Label Original Bacon is unspectacular in almost every way, except for the saltiness which is the most prominent, up-front flavor. There's also some inconsistency in size and thickness, causing some uneven cooking.

The texture is decent enough, with an even distribution of fatty and lean streaks in the strips. It certainly doesn't feel cheap on the palate, but this bacon isn't going to inspire you to buy shares in pork belly futures or cause you to daydream about raising your own hogs. The taste is pleasing enough, thanks to the natural hardwood smoke preparation. At its best, Hormel Black Label Original Bacon is a fully utilitarian brand of bacon — it gets the job done. Thankfully, Hormel boasts another bacon product that's far better.

7. Boar's Head Traditional Bacon

With a prestigious reputation in the deli section and hot dog selection of every supermarket, Boar's Head bacon should be a no-brainer. At first glance, that's exactly what it is. That iconic logo looks back at you and seems to oink the words, "I'm Boar's Head. I symbolize the very essence of meat. You just know I produce incredible bacon." In truth, that talking swine might be a tad full of itself. Boar's Head Traditional bacon is by no means bad, but it isn't going to change the bacon landscape either.

This is why this particular bacon fits near the middle of our ranking. The flavor of the bacon is well-balanced, with a keen saltiness and an overall flavor that can only be described as "bacon-y." The problem with Boar's Head bacon is the texture. It's tough and chewy and, for some reason, the strips burn easier than most other brands. While perfectly serviceable for breakfast, BLTs, and other bacon applications, Boar's Head won't expand your bacon horizons beyond your wildest expectations.

6. Hormel Black Label Thick Cut Applewood Bacon

Here's the thing about Hormel: The company sells a lot of different varieties of bacon. There's Black Label Original and Black Label Thick Cut, along with other offerings like Cherrywood, Applewood, Maple Black Pepper, Brown Sugar, Jalapeño, Country Style, Ranch Style, and Center Cut. Sampling every variety of Hormel would do serious damage to one's wallet — not to mention one's arteries. Not only that, but grocery stores don't typically sell every single bacon under the Hormel name.

Out of the Hormel varieties, we were able to sample, Black Label Thick Cut Applewood stood out enough to earn a spot on this list. Hormel's Applewood bacon is like the tuxedo version of its "original style" cousin. The thick slabs, in general, overshadow the brand's original variety thanks to its robustness and pure heft, while the addition of applewood propels this Hormel product to the better-than-average category of bacon. The applewood smoke results in a mild bite with a slight, natural sweetness that permeates the bacon, while the thick and meaty chew brings a hearty dimension to the bacon experience.

5. Market Pantry Hardwood Smoked Thick Cut Bacon

In bacon, as in life, everyone loves an underdog. The fighter that gets into the ring with zero expectations, then absolutely stuns the crowd with their grit and determination. Now, we're not suggesting that retail mega-chain Target is an underdog, but its in-house brand Market Pantry delivers a bacon that is impossible to root against. As soon as you open the package, you know you're dealing with some serious bacon. Thick, hearty, and stunningly marbled, Market Pantry unpacks a gorgeous sight to behold, while the flavor and texture seriously grabs your attention.

Cooking up perfectly in the pan or in the oven on a baking sheet, Market Pantry Hardwood Smoked Thick Cut edges out a large chunk of the competition thanks to the expertly balanced salty and smoky aroma, and a meaty bite that's the exact savoriness you want in bacon. It's not that it's markedly better than some of the previous brands on this list, but there's something to be said for exceeding expectations.

4. Kirkland Signature Thick Sliced Center Cut Bacon

Costco's immensely popular private label brand Kirkland Signature stocks shelves with at least two varieties of bacon, the Original Sliced, and the far grander Thick Sliced Center Cut. Our focus lies squarely on the Thick Sliced Center Cut, as it stands head and pork shoulders above its porcine counterpart. Available in bulk and standard-sized packages, Kirkland Signature Thick Sliced Center Cut Bacon hits the mark in terms of fat-to-meat distribution, resulting in a pleasingly marbled profile.

The thicker cut equals far less shrinkage during the cooking process, whether that's in the pan or in the oven. Simply put, there's more Costco bacon to bite when the time comes to consume. As for taste, the packaging on this Costco bacon says it's "hickory smoked" and this does seem to enhance the bacon's best qualities. It imparts a sweet, yet strong flavor that starts pungent, but finishes smooth. The hickory does tend to linger on the palate a tad longer than one might prefer, but this doesn't really detract from the overall pleasant bacon embrace.

3. Applegate Naturals Uncured Sunday Bacon

Based on the packaging, Applegate's biggest bacon selling points are "No Antibiotics Ever" and "Humanely Raised." While these are absolutely great reasons to purchase this particular brand of bacon, one crucial characteristic should not be overlooked: Taste. Allow us to assuage any fears you might have about a lack of flavor destroying all the goodwill built up by Applegate's adherence to positive pork practices. Applegate Naturals Uncured Sunday Bacon is one of the most deeply flavored, richly textured bacon products on the market.

And this amazing flavor and hearty texture shines through, even though Applewood's bacon is one of the thinnest on the list. Somehow, someway, those skinny strips pack a big, fat punch right to the palate. It cooks up crispy, but doesn't lose any character to those evil little char marks that tend to defeat lesser bacon. Meanwhile, the salt factor is supremely pleasant. Applewood Naturals Hickory Uncured Sunday Bacon will make you feel good about eating it no matter the day of the week.

2. Oscar Mayer Naturally Hardwood Smoked Bacon

Finally, one of the classic, well-known brands makes us proud with a dominant entry in our bacon ranking. Oscar Mayer, arguably more recognizable and ubiquitous in the bacon game than any other company, doesn't rely on name recognition alone to move product. Instead, they present a bacon that's impressive, surprising, and downright delicious. Oscar Mayer Naturally Hardwood Smoked Bacon hits with just the right amount of salt up front, delivered with a bite that's the perfect textural combination of crispy and chewy.

Along with a near-flawless texture, the flavor of the bacon is superb on all accounts. It's rich and luxurious, coating the tongue in that velvety bacon essence that keeps us all coming back for more. Overall, Oscar Mayer goes well beyond expectations with its Naturally Hardwood Smoked variety. It's truly all-American, supermarket-staple bacon. And in case Instagramming food is kind of your thing, this particular variety of Oscar Mayer bacon truly shines in terms of visual appeal — both inside and outside of the package.

1. Peter Luger Extra Thick Cut Bacon

Prior to appearing on the restaurant's appetizer menu in the late 1990s, obscenely thick-cut bacon was reserved as a secret snack of the Peter Luger kitchen crew. Then, many years later, the meat masters at the gritty, yet buttoned-up Brooklyn steakhouse decided to make the very same bacon available to consumers in a retail setting. It was a decision that we can safely say has altered the story of store-bought bacon forever. Peter Luger's Extra Thick Cut is the bacon lover's bacon — the purest expression of pork belly, it continues to glide in and out of the eater's mind long after the plate's been cleaned.

Peter Luger's bacon presents itself in thick, hulking slabs of pork. Even if you crisp it to oblivion on the stovetop or in the oven, it miraculously remains tender and supple, dripping with golden grease that travels to your brain in fatty flecks of delectable luxury. Smoky like a healthy campfire and just as comforting, Peter Luger Extra Thick Cut Bacon will change you, whether presented with eggs, piled high in a BLT, or served alone in all its naked splendor.