Maple bacon ice cream, bacon butter, bacon kraut, bacon pizza, bacon buns, tomato bacon gravy… Have we finally reached peak bacon? With bacon sales in the U.S. sizzling to an all-time high with 9.5 percent growth in 2013, is it possible the bacon market is saturated? Not yet. Industry experts and food connoisseurs alike predict that adding a little fatback to everything will continue to be a popular trend for many new food products and menu items this year.
Bacon: From Overlooked Diner Side Dish to Foodie Darling
Bacon has long been a staple of the American diet, but it was consumed in seasonal, predictable patterns for much of the twentieth century. Bacon consumption would spike in the summer in conjunction with tomato sales— BLT sandwich or cobb salad, anyone?— and return to their normal levels with the end of tomato season in October. The rest of the year, bacon was relegated to a greasy side dish at the diner, hardly a likely food fad for high-end, gourmet restaurants. Bacon’s prospects further dimmed with the saturated fat scare of the 1980s and the subsequent nitrate scare. Bacon, which was essentially two-thirds fat, seemed doomed.
The 80s fat scare coupled with deadly E. coli outbreaks in the early 1990s pushed the fast food industry to offer lean, well done hamburgers that essentially "tasted like cardboard," hardly a consumer favorite says Bloomberg News. Then, in 1992, Hardees debuted the “Frisco Burger”— a line of sandwiches featuring bacon— and Hardees’ sales shot through the roof. By 2000, bacon was a popular addition to burgers at Wendy’s, McDonalds and Burger King. It became the “third most popular condiment behind salt and pepper,” Paul Perfilio, the Pork Board’s national marketing manager, told Bloomberg News.
To capitalize on this popularity, the National Pork Board introduced the catchphrase, “Bacon Makes It Better.” And consumers clearly agreed.
By the mid-2000s, bacon mania was in full swing. Home chefs competed to see how many pounds of bacon they could wrap and stuff around the inside of another food. Websites sold “I Love Bacon” t-shirts. The cable TV show “United States of Bacon” premiered. And with bacon taking over everything from ice cream to butter, the number of new food products and culinary experiments that could incorporate this savory pig product seemed endless.
Candied Bacon: An Experiment We Do Encourage You to Try at Home
Love bacon but not quite ready to top your apple pie with bacon maple ice cream or slather your morning toast with bacon butter? There are still plenty of ways to experiment with bacon at home even if you’re not ready for one of the more innovative new food products. One of our favorite recipes is this classic candied bacon breakfast dish from Food Network star Alex Guarnaschelli. It’s the perfect pick-me-up for the winter months and is a great complement to pancakes or eggs. With simple prep and foolproof cooking, we’re sure you’ll love this crowd-pleasing recipe, too.
- 12 slices bacon about ¼-inch thick
- finely ground black pepper
- 1/3 cup light brown sugar
- Preheat oven to 325 degrees F
- Put bacon slices in the bowl; mix in pepper and light brown sugar
- Cover a baking sheet with parchment paper and arrange bacon in single layer over the sheet
- Place tray in the center of the oven and bake for 20 minutes; bacon will be golden brown and fairly crisp when it is done