By Greg B. That’s right. I said it. Duck Bacon. I’ll give you a minute to let that sink in and process. Sure, you’ll have a series of questions, just like I did. I mean, …bacon, from ducks? How is that even possible? We know regular, normal bacon begins in the deliciously tender and fatty underbelly of a pig. Many of us have eaten bacon as well as pork belly in some form at a nice restaurant. But duck? Sure, they’re fatty animals, but just off the top of my head, they lack the normal striations and interwoven texture of fat and muscle tissue that pigs have. So when I was walking through the Wegman’s meat section and took a minute to investigate the D’artagnan stand they have… and saw duck bacon, I had to buy it ($7.99/lb, not cheap). If not to write about for you all, simple to satisfy my own curiosity!
After returning from a morning 3.5 mile run, it goes without saying that I was hungry. And this morning a fried egg with two extra yolks and a piece of toast just wasn’t going to cut it. However, a fried egg with two extra yolks inside a tortilla with sun dried tomatoes, some mozarella cheese on toast with a side of duck bacon, now that sounds more like the meal I was looking for! It’s quick and easy, and let me check out the bacon!
I opened the package and was curious as to what I’d find: lots of fat? Greasy duck meat? Lean bacon of some sort? The package identified it as Uncured duck bacon, and their website claims is has 1/2 the fat of regular pork bacon (will this mean it is 1/2 as delicious?). So I figured I’d treat it basically the same, using my cast iron skillet that Mike had generously given me for my birthday to cook up the experimental bacon.
The meat is dark, so it definitely seems to be normal duck (the moulard duck, a Peking-Muscovy hybrid) style, and it looks like a directly slice through the breast. There is a fatty layer at the top, but it actually seems like it is what you might expect… a slice of duck ‘belly’! Otherwise the meat looks rather lean. So, I warmed up the cast iron skillet and began cookin’!
It’s important with meats like this, that the pan be warm enough to ‘sizzle’ when you add the meat, but also not be too hot. With bacon, you you don’t want to burn it and having such a large amount of fat on heat provides easy opportunity to mess up your bacon. So a medium heat for such a low fat piece of bacon seemed appropriate. After about 4 minutes, I flipped the bacon slides and saw some very nice sear marks on the bottom (my cast iron skillet has raised ridges). Another 4 minutes, and I flipped it again. It was a little difficult to tell when the duck was cooked, given how dim the lighting in my kitchen was and dark the meat was, but I went with the fork-poke test and decided the texture was appropriate for cooked duck. I plated the meat, and relocated to better lighting!
So there I was, about to enjoy a very interesting meal. I took a piece of duck bacon (the strands are about 2 inches shorter than a normal pig bacon slice) and ate it. Not bad! The texture was spot on for bacon, a lot of the fat had rendered off the bacon and into my pan (which is good, as I have to re-season it soon anyway). It had a slight bit of gamy flavor, but not really as much as I might have suspected. The level of smoke was good, but there was a flaw: too much salt. I know this is not a usual complaint of mine, and I am a lover of salt but this just had too much of it. Eating a piece of the bacon straight up left me wanting a glass of water per slice, and that just wasn’t pleasant. So, in order to eat the last two pieces, I put them into the tortilla with the eggs and sun dried tomatoes and used it as a breakfast burrito of sorts, but even here the overly salty nature came through.
Overall, this is a really neat idea, but in actual execution, this wasn’t good. It was good, right up until I head to eat it… which, lets face it, is the main thing about bacon that all of us want to do. Maybe in the future I’ll check back and see if other packages of D’Artagnan duck bacon are less salty, but for now, it’s not really a viable (or edible) alternative to pork bacon, 1/2 the fat or not!