The secret ingredient your bacon is missing

It's almost too easy to add an extra layer of chew and flavor

By Michael La Corte

Deputy Food Editor

Published January 21, 2023 5:30PM (EST)

Bacon and Maple Syrup (Photo illustration by Salon/Getty Images)
Bacon and Maple Syrup (Photo illustration by Salon/Getty Images)

Bacon, at its core, is deeply smoky, pork-y, savory and inherently salty. Regardless of the animal or plant it's made from or how it's cooked, bacon is a handheld joy that can be either chewy or impossibly crisp.

Few foods are as iconic as bacon, with a flavor that is so widely recognizable. You may wonder, then, if adding additional flavorings, seasonings, spices and/or syrups to bacon is actually nothing more than gilding the lily or perhaps even ruining a good thing.

As Kelly Clarkson famously said (way back in Season 1 of "American Idol"), "If it ain't broke, why fix it?"

Well, there are two ingredients that truly elevate bacon to another stratosphere: maple syrup and white miso. Supplying a sweet-and-savory interplay (with a bit of richness and salinity from the miso), this combination emboldens the bacon, deepening its already rich flavor and turning it into something else altogether. It even shifts the texture a bit, as the caramelized syrup helps add an extra layer of crunch, chew and bite. It's a really sensational flavor profile — especially if you're using thick-cut bacon.

It's a really sensational flavor profile — especially if you're using thick-cut bacon.

I advise using high-grade, pure maple syrup. If you're trying to make better bacon, you definitely don't want to reach for anything labeled "pancake syrup," which is typically just an amalgamation of high fructose corn syrup and artificial ingredients. High-grade maple can be a bit expensive, but it should last you for quite some time.

When it comes to the miso, I'd wager that you'd want to pick white over red (or any other color), for a subtle salinity and savory note that will be both satisfying and beguiling. If you haven't cooked with miso before, I can't recommend it enough. Nowadays, it's not too tough to find this ingredient in most grocery stores or supermarkets, and it isn't exorbitantly priced either. Miso is essentially a pure distillation of umami, which bolsters the flavor of bacon exponentially, especially when used in conjunction with maple.

In addition to the maple and/or miso, some may like to harness a little heat or spice (but it's not necessary if you like to keep things on the mild side). There's a deep complexity that comes through when you're tasting smoke, pork, sweetness, saltiness, umami and spice all at once. Your taste buds are experiencing everything simultaneously — and it's quite a remarkable taste sensation.

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You could throw your maple-miso bacon on a BLT; serve it with scrambled eggs and toast; enjoy it on a bacon, egg and cheese; or add it to a cheesy dip or beefy burger. However, the nuances and complexities of this flavor upgrade deserve to be enjoyed on their own volition.

One final thought: I'm a heavy salter, but do not season your bacon with salt, especially if you're using the miso. You'll end up with a real salt lick. (I'm not a black pepper guy, but if you like a few grinds, go wild.)

Flavor aside, when making bacon at home, there's truly only one method to use. Click here for our recipe for the crispiest, easiest and most delicious bacon ever.

By Michael La Corte

Michael is a food writer, recipe editor and educator based in his beloved New Jersey. After graduating from the Institute of Culinary Education in New York City, he worked in restaurants, catering and supper clubs before pivoting to food journalism and recipe development. He also holds a BA in psychology and literature from Pace University.

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Related Topics ------------------------------------------

Bacon Food Maple Syrup Miso Umami