Summer salads are a staple in my house — a great break from the hot oven, stove or even the barbecue grill. But, if a meal doesn't include meat, my family members think it's an appetizer. So I am always looking for a way to incorporate protein in every entree. Our judges have the same philosophy. For some dishes, bacon bits are a great option. They add a touch of salty, meaty flavor without overpowering a bowl of greens, vegetables or starches. We found four brands of real bacon bits (not the hard, imitation variety) and compared each for appearance, texture and flavor. In the end, most judges said they likely would take the time to fry up a few strips of bacon when they need a little extra flavor for a dish, although a couple of these packaged options might work in a pinch.
Kathy Saunders, Times correspondent
(out of 100)
|Hormel 64||Publix 50||Great Value 41||Oscar Mayer 41|
|Judges preferred these bacon pieces for their nice chop and "genuinely smoky meatiness." One panelist said he appreciated the smaller cut of the pieces and the mildness of the flavor. "They would be good as a salad topper or on a main dish because they wouldn't overpower the flavor," he said. "These don't have an overwhelmingly bacon taste." ||The store brand was the favorite of a couple of panelists because they liked the leanness of the meat and the not-too-salty flavor. "These are the best of the bunch," said one judge. Another said they looked and tasted homemade. "They have a nice overall appeal," he added. One said they would be a nice addition to deviled eggs. "This could dress up a lot of things from appetizers to dessert," said another.||These bits looked like real bacon, according to our tasters. "They are slightly smoky and a bit on the fatty side — in a good way," said one judge. Another liked the larger size of the pieces and the pleasing smokiness. These were heavy on salty flavor, warned a couple of judges. "I like the smoky notes and would sprinkle these on salads or an omelet, perhaps," said a panelist who would buy the brand.||The bacon bits from this familiar hot dog maker didn't impress judges as much as they had hoped. The meat bits were fatty and a little too chewy for a couple of panelists. One judge appreciated the mild saltiness and the finely chopped size of the pieces. "These would be good in an omelet strata or as a garnish for chili," she said.|
|All four judges said yes.||Three of the four judges said yes.||Two of the four judges said yes.||Two of the four judges said yes.|
|Shopping information||$4.58 for a 6-ounce pouch from Walmart.||$2 for a 3-ounce pouch.||$1 for a 2.5-ounce pouch from Walmart.||$2.48 for a 3-ounce pouch from Walmart.|
Jeff Jensen, public information officer for the city of Treasure Island; Wayne Conery, retired restaurant manager; Mary Jane Park, executive director of the St. Petersburg Warehouse Arts District; and Janet Keeler, assistant professor of journalism at the University of South Florida St. Petersburg. All foods were tasted blind.
Send suggestions for product testing to: Taste section, Tampa Bay Times, P.O. Box 1121, St. Petersburg, FL 33731 or email them to email@example.com. Please put TEST SUGGESTION in the subject line. To read past Taster's Choice columns, go to
|Serving size||1 tablespoon||1 tablespoon||1 tablespoon||1 tablespoon|
|Fat/Fiber||1.5g / 0g||1.5g / 0g||2g / 0g||2g / 0g|
|Sugars/Sodium||0g / 200mg||0g / 220mg||0g / 190mg||0g / 160mg|
|Carbs/Protein||0g / 3g||0g / 3g||0g / 3g||0g / 3g|