This Woman Created a Bacon Lab to Conduct Flavor Experiments
It’s no surprise that people in the Boston area take their bacon obsessions very seriously.
When tickets to the 2013 Bacon and Beer Festival went on sale a few months ago, they sold out in one day. Restaurants are also always trying new concoctions that bring the salty food into the mix, from bacon-covered doughnuts to bacon-infused chocolates.
Recently, local chef Kimberly Courtney and friends ventured on a quest to create the “perfect slice” of crispy bacon by manipulating different flavor combinations and researching the science behind why people like the taste on their palates.
After spending time in what they call the “Bacon Lab,” Courtney says they created four unique bacon recipes, and now, they want to share those flavors with the community. Courtney and her bacon recipe co-creators launched a Kickstarter campaign to help fund their kitchen expenses and labeling costs, so they can ship out the specialized, cured meats that they devised in their spare time. Ahead, a Q&A with Courtney on what she’s cooking up.
So what made you want to create a bacon laboratory?
The Bacon Lab was started rather organically. I brainstormed products to work on and bacon just seemed like an obvious one. I had already experimented with bacon quite a bit, including grilling thick-cut slices whenever I get the chance. The question I had was whether I could make super crispy bacon that was shelf-stable. That experiment led to trying different flavors, and the project just took off.
Tell me what your project is about.
We spent two months working in the Bacon Lab. We took a scientific approach by first researching the nutritional content of bacon and the properties that are impacted by cooking it. We made a spreadsheet of different times, temperatures, ingredients, marinades, and other techniques and recorded the results for each batch, including the weight (which impacts shelf stability). We made many batches, and gave samples away to our friends to get a feeling for which recipes worked best. We had unanimous approval of the four flavors that we are making for our Kickstarter!
There is bacon in everything now. Why are people so obsessed with bacon?
It is really incredible how obsessed people are with bacon. In my opinion, it is the perfect food. You could add bacon to almost anything and make it better. One reason for the obsession is actually a chemical reaction called the Maillard Reaction, which I talk about in detail on my Kickstarter page. This reaction occurs because of the interaction between the amino acids and proteins in the bacon, and results in that incredible dark, crispy color and irresistible smell of cooked bacon. The Maillard Reaction convinces us to love bacon by making it so amazing.
Wow. Science and bacon. Do you think aside from the chemical reaction, peoples’ love for bacon is increasing?
I think that the bacon trend may be increasing because people are becoming generally more interested in cooking at home due to the increased popularity of cooking shows and chefs. This is a really fantastic phenomenon because it’s getting people excited about food and helps the local food movement. People are also becoming more aware of the importance of avoiding factory-farmed animals and supporting farm raised and grass fed farmers.
What makes your bacon products different from say, the store bought kind?
I have never seen my product in a store, so it is definitely unique. Our bacon is already cooked and ready to eat, and comes in four incredible flavors (with more to come shortly), including Candied Maple & Brown Sugar, Bourbon, Sriracha, and Chocolate & Almond Candied Bacon.
Why bacon, and not some other food or meat to do experiments with in the lab?
I can’t think of a more worthy subject to experiment with. How could I not choose bacon?
Be honest. Testing the bacon is your favorite part, isn’t it?
Absolutely! It isn’t a bad job being required to taste test so many batches of amazing bacon.