The 7 Best Ways To Enjoy Bacon

Whether you like it chewy or crispy, thick-cut or thin, by the package or by the strip—there’s no food quite like bacon.

“But it’s fattening!” you say. Not true. One strip of bacon contains just 44 calories and nearly three grams of protein, according to the USDA. That doesn’t give you license to pig out, but you can still use bacon to add tons of flavor to a variety of foods.

Drooling yet? Scroll down, hungry bacon lover!

Build a Better Breakfast 

A side of bacon with eggs is a great way to start the day, but what about bacon wrapped around eggs, bell pepper, chicken, and spinach—all baked into portable breakfast bites and topped with avocado. Oh yeah, now we’re freakin’ talking.

Pump Up Your Chili 

There are plenty of ways to add depth and complexity to your secret chili recipe—chocolate, beer, smoked paprika, beans—but none are quite as tasty to bite into a cache of than thick-cut, cubed bacon. Cook this recipe for the best red chili. Never look back.

Make Salad Taste Good 

Screw croutons. Bacon is the ultimate crunchy topping for a salad and there’s no way to experience it better than by combining it with pumpkin seeds, mangos, avocados, and a crumbly Mexican cheese called queso fresco. Click here to discover the recipe.

Supplement Your Steak Sauce

Maybe you don’t need oysters, bacon, white wine, butter, and BBQ sauce to make your steaks taste incredible. Or maybe you do. That decision, fellow carnivore, is entirely up to you. But as you pour some brand-name steak sauce over your T-bone, the rest of us will be over here using this awesome DIY recipe.

Eat It With Watermelon 

Okay, yeah, this ones a little strange, but we swear that watermelon and bacon play really well together.

Think about it: Watermelon is just the right amount of sweet and bacon is just the right amount of salty. Do you like chocolate-covered pretzels? Hell yeah, you do. Same principle, healthier combo.

You know what else tastes good? Pineapple and blue cheese. Here are 20 Food Combos That Sound Gross but Are Actually Freaking Delicious.

Make It Yourself! 

Yes, you can make your own bacon. And the process isn’t all that complicated, really. All you need is a good butcher, a little patience, and enough of an appetite to handle having a few pounds of the stuff sitting around the house. You can take care of that last part, right? Click here to make the most delicious bacon you’ve ever tasted.

Indulge in Dessert

Ice cream and bacon? You have no idea. Click here to discover the recipe. Hurry. Your life can’t go on without it!

For even MORE bacon recipes, try our Guy Gourmet cookbook.

The Only 4 Things You Need to Know About Bacon and Cancer

When you take a food that billions of people eat regularly and deem it a carcinogen, you’re going to set off a panic.

So it’s not surprising that when the World Health Organization announced that processed meats cause cancer—and that red meats probably cause cancer—we wound up with headlines like “Bacon & Hot Dogs Are Just as Dangerous as Cigarettes.”

But before you break up with bacon, here’s what you need to know.

We’re talking about a minuscule risk

If meat does cause cancer (more on that later), the risk for any one person is tiny.

How tiny?

One key study cited by the WHO panel found that people who ate the least processed and red meat—less than 10 grams per day—had a 1.28 percent chance of developing colorectal cancer over the course of 10 years.

People who ate the most—more than 160 grams, which is the equivalent of eating three hot dogs or 5.6 ounces of steak every single day—had a 1.71 percent chance of getting colorectal cancer.

We’re talking about a difference of less than half a percent. Put another way, for every 1000 people who eat the least amount of these meats, about 13 will get cancer. For every 1000 who eat the most, about 17 will develop the disease.

This pales in comparison to the risk posed by cigarettes, says Robert Turesky, Ph.D., a biochemical toxicologist at the University of Minnesota and a member of the WHO panel.

Still, that doesn’t mean it’s not important, says Theresa Norat, Ph.D., a coauthor of the study that assessed risk. Because anyone who’s ever gotten colorectal cancer will probably tell you: Do whatever you can to avoid it.

The science isn’t definitive, anyway

The WHO panel wasn’t unanimous in its decision to deem meats carcinogenic.

The report even concedes that the research is mixed: 12 of 18 studies identified a link between processed meat and cancer, and seven of 15 studies found a connection between red meat and cancer.

MHealth nutrition advisors Michael Roussell, Ph.D., and Alan Aragon, M.S., are both skeptical.

Red meat may just be guilty by association, they say.

“It is very difficult to separate red meat intake from other adverse lifestyle habits that contribute to disease,” says Aragon.

People who eat lots of red and processed meat tend to also have unhealthy habits, Roussell says. They’re more likely to smoke, be sedentary, be overweight, and eat less fruits and vegetables.

Sure, researchers try to adjust for those factors.

“But I genuinely question how well this works,” says Roussell. “If you are a fat, sedentary, overeating person, can we really ‘control’ for those other factors and extract just the effect of the pepperoni on your pizza on your cancer risk?”

Plus, the definition of “red meat” is so broad that it’s hard to isolate what foods could really be guilty, says Roussell. Pork ribs and beef sirloin are grouped into the same category, but they’re very different foods.

It doesn’t mean meat is bad for you

Not even the WHO panel is saying that you should give up meat.

It’s one of the most nutrient-dense foods that exists, providing high-quality protein, iron, zinc, and vitamins B6 and B12, according to a paper by panel member David Klurfeld, Ph.D., a scientist for the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Researchers still don’t know what it is about red and processed meats that could be causing cancer.

The theory for red meat is that charring it produces carcinogenic chemicals—but that’s unconfirmed, says Turesky.

(And even if it is the culprit, the same chemicals can result from charring chicken, fish, and vegetables marinated in oil, Roussell says.)

As for processed meat—which includes hot dogs, sausage, smoked deli meats (even turkey), jerky, and bacon—it seems that something about the preservation process results in harmful chemicals, Turesky says.

Some research has identified nitrates and nitrites as possible scapegoats. But there’s no proof yet that nitrate- and nitrite-free products are safer, he says.

This changes nothing

All the WHO report does is re-emphasize what we already knew, says Turesky: Meat has important health benefits, but should be consumed in moderation as part of a balanced, diverse diet.

Want to minimize your already-minimal risk?

Trim the charred parts off your steaks, says Aragon. And don’t eat processed meats more than a few times per week.

But the oldest advice in the book still stands: “I choose to keep everything in moderation, including moderation, since you can meet your death any number of ways in this life,” says Aragon.

Bake Protein-Packed Bacon Omelet Bites

It was 11 a.m., and I was starving. I plowed my eager mitts into the trail mix buried in my office drawer. Just a handful, I told myself. Twenty handfuls later, and I tossed the empty bag in the trash. I was still hungry.

Something had to be done.

I’ve been training for triathlons this summer and fall, and thanks to the pool’s hours and the length of my workouts, I’ve been forced into exercising in the morning. But since I’m already crawling out of bed at 5:30 a.m., the last thing I want to do is wake up even earlier to scramble up some eggs. If I don’t, though, I tend to eat everything in sight—no matter how unhealthy the available food may be—later in the day.

As a fan of the inventive protein-packed recipes created by trainer and nutrition coach Jen Comas Keck, C.P.T., I thought Comas Keck might have a solution. (Her blog, Beauty Lies in Strength, posts gems like protein ice cream and almond flour banana bread.) Her task: Create a healthy breakfast with plenty of protein that you can make in 5 minutes or less.

She suggested these bacon-wrapped California omelet bites—which are delicious as they sound. Wrap a slice of bacon around the inside of a muffin tin and then pour in a mixture of eggs, diced chicken, and vegetables. When baked, the egg fluffs up and holds the bite together. “You don’t even need a plate or fork to eat them,” Comas Keck says. “Just heat, grab, and go.” Make a batch on the weekend and toss them in the fridge to reheat and eat all week.

Experiment with other fillings to suit your taste. I’m trying sausage, onions, mushrooms, and extra red and green pepper in next week’s batch. Comas Keck suggests adding ground beef or mushrooms, or topping them with Monterey Jack cheese.

Bacon Wrapped California Omelet Bites

Recipe by Jen Comas Keck

What you’ll need:
4 whole eggs
12 egg whites
2 cups diced cooked chicken
12 slices bacon
1/2 red pepper, chopped
1/2 green pepper, chopped
2 cups chopped fresh spinach
1 avocado, cubed (optional)
Salt and pepper
Nonstick cooking spray

How to make it:
1. Preheat the oven to 350°F.

  1. Cook the bacon in a pan over medium heat only until it’s cooked through, but not crispy, about 5 minutes

  2. Spray a muffin tin with non-stick cooking spray and place one piece of the bacon in each tin, wrapping it around the outer edges

  3. In a medium bowl, scramble the whole eggs along with the egg whites. Add a dash of salt and pepper. Add the chopped red and green peppers, spinach, and diced chicken. Combine thoroughly and then pour the mixture into each of the muffin tins lined with bacon. (Tip: A soup ladle will transfer the mixture without spilling.)

  4. Bake until the eggs are fluffy and slightly browned on top, 30 to 35 minutes,

  5. Top with diced avocado and eat or refrigerate. Makes 12 omelet bites.

Cook The Ultimate Red Chili

Bears hibernate. Geese fly south. Sharks swim to warmer waters.

If you want to survive a long winter, you have to adapt. That goes for your cooking, too. Gone are the days of quick-seared meals on your grill. A slapped-together lunchmeat sandwich doesn’t have the heft to fortify yourself against the cold. You need heartier meals—heartier meals like Texas red chili.

Take a long weeknight or lazy Sunday to simmer a batch of the stuff and you’ll make a treat you can reheat for lunches to come.

This recipe builds its base with beer, bacon, beef, and dark chocolate.

Sure beats migration.

Red Texas Chile

Recipe by Michael Sindoni, executive chef of CBD Provisions in Dallas, TX

What you’ll need:
½ lb. mixed dried chilies (ancho, pasilla, guajillo), trimmed and seeded
2 12-oz. Mexican beers, such as Negro Modelo
3 Tbsp dark chili powder
2 Tbsp smoked paprika
2 Tbsp mustard powder
½ tsp cayenne
1 tsp ground black pepper
1 Tbsp granulated onion
1 Tbsp granulated garlic
2 Tbsp cumin seeds, toasted, then ground in a spice grinder
1 Tbsp vegetable oil
2 lbs. ground beef chuck
2 lbs. beef chuck, ¼”-dice
½ lb. slab bacon, ¼”-dice
3 white onions, small dice
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 cups red wine
1 ½ qt. whole peeled tomatoes, hand-crushed
1 ½ qt. beef or chicken stock
½ cup dark chocolate chips
Kosher salt, to taste

How to make it:

  1. Preheat your oven to 350°F. Spread the chilies on a baking sheet and toast them in the oven until aromatic, 3 to 5 minutes.

  2. Dump the chilies into a medium pot and add the beer. Turn the heat to medium and simmer until the chilies are tender, about 30 minutes.

  3. As the chilies simmer, make the spice rub. In a medium bowl, combine the dark chili powder, smoked paprika, mustard powder, cayenne, ground black pepper, granulated onion, granulated garlic, and cumin. Set aside.

  4. Transfer the chilies and beer to a blender or food processor and blend until smooth. Set aside.

  5. In a large pot, heat the vegetable oil over medium-high heat. Add the diced beef and cook until browned on all sides, 5 to 7 minutes. Transfer the beef to a plate lined with paper towels. Next, add the ground beef and cook until browned, about 5 minutes. Transfer the beef to a separate plate lined with paper towels. Reduce the heat to medium-low, add the bacon, and cook until the fat begins to render and the bacon is slightly crispy. Add 2/3 cup of the spice mix and stir to combine. Cook until aromatic, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft, 3 to 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook until aromatic, about 1 minute. Add 2 cups of the pureed chilies, stir, and cook until well incorporated, about 2 minutes. Add the wine, increase the heat to medium, and simmer until the wine is nearly evaporated, about 10 minutes.

  6. Add the tomatoes, stock, and the reserved beef. Bring the mixture to a simmer and then reduce the heat to low. Cover and cook until the diced beef is tender, 2 to 3 hours.

  7. Add the chocolate and braise until the meat is nearly falling apart, about 1 hour more. Taste for seasoning and serve. Makes 8 to 10 servings.

Make a Bacon-Infused Salad for Dinner

While salads are the cornerstone of a healthy diet, they present a challenge that I never experience with any of my other favorite foods. I call it “salad rut.” It’s what happens when you’ve identified a tasty and easy-to-construct combination of greens, toppings, and dressing, and then any time you don’t know what to make for dinner, you whip up the same old plate.

For me, my standby salad is sliced oranges and avocados on a bed of frisee, topped with white wine vinegar and olive oil. It’s delicious, but I’m tired of it.

The only solution: stepping up my game. If you need to add some new salads to your lineup, this one will definitely do the trick.

Rick Bayless, chef of Frontera Grill in Chicago, recently shared with us with a salad recipe that pairs sweet mango, creamy avocado, salty bacon (shocker: under 50 calories per slice), nutty toasted pumpkin seeds and creamy fresh cheese on a bed of Boston lettuce. (I also made Marcela Valladolid’s homemade queso fresco for this, sans the cilantro and jalapeno).

The salad is topped off with a tangy dressing that blows my standard oil and vinegar mix out of the water. In fact, in the few hours after I made this dish, I made regular visits to the refrigerator, spoon in hand, for more tastes of the leftover dressing. Gluttonous? Perhaps. But after you make this salad, you’ll see why I couldn’t resist.

Avocado-Mango Salad with Cheese, Bacon and Toasted Pumpkin Seeds Recipe by Rick Bayless, chef of Frontera Grill in Chicago

What you’ll need:

4 slices bacon ½ cup hulled

toasted pumpkin seeds* 1/3 cup fresh lime juice 1/3 cup

vegetable or olive oil 2 garlic cloves

peeled 1 jalapeno

halved (optional) 1 Tbsp honey Salt

to taste 1 large head Boston lettuce

leaves separated 2 avocados

diced 2  mangoes, diced ¾ cup coarsely crumbled Mexican queso fresco

mild blue cheese, or goat cheese

How to make it:

  1. Arrange the bacon slices between a double layer of paper towels on a microwavable plate. Microwave on high until crispy, about 2 ½ to 3 ½ minutes.
  2. Arrange the bacon slices between a double layer of paper towels on a microwavable plate. Microwave on high until crispy, about 2 ½ to 3 ½ minutes.
  3. Dump the oil into a small skillet and set over medium heat. Add the garlic and jalapeno (if using). Cook, stirring regularly, until the garlic is soft and lightly browned, about five minutes.
  4. Remove the jalapeno and pour the oil and garlic into the blender. Add the honey and ½ teaspoon salt. Process until smooth, then taste and add more salt if needed.
  5. Divide the lettuce between four plates. Arrange the avocado and mango in the center of the lettuce. Drizzle everything with the dressing, and then sprinkle with the cheese and toasted pumpkin seeds. Crumble the bacon and sprinkle it over the top. Serves 4.

*If you can’t find toasted pumpkin seeds at your local supermarket, buy them raw and toast them yourself. Here’s how: Set a nonstick sauté pan over medium-low heat and toast the seeds until they begin to release their aroma and look slightly browned on the outsides, about 10 to 15 minutes.

Steak With BBQ Bacon Oyster Butter!

Once, during a particularly bleak period of my young adulthood, I was a vegetarian.

My self-imposed dietary restrictions were for health concerns, not humane ones. After finding relief for my ailment that didn’t include refraining from meat, I ate a steak.

I still remember that steak. If I close my eyes, I’m chewing it. If I concentrate, I can feel that carnal, soul-satisfying feeling of being restored as a meat-eater.

Steak possesses a flavor that is unlike any other food. Steak is primal—issuing drug-like waves of pleasure to the eater as the char, fat, and flesh meld and mingle. It’s hedonism, served medium rare.

You don’t have to enter a period of temporary meat abstinence to make steak taste even better. You can accentuate that unique flavor by adding ingredients that up steak’s unctuousness.

At BRC Gastropub in Houston, TX, chef Lance Fegen does this with bacon, BBQ sauce, and shucked oysters. His steak sauce recipe is rich—as it should be—but not so potent that it overpowers the pleasure of the steak.

This one’s for you, former vegetarians.

Grilled Hanger Steak with BBQ’d Bacon-Oyster Butter

What you’ll need:
1 to 1 ½ lbs. hanger steak, trimmed, or flank steak
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 Tbsp water
2 Tbsp kosher salt
2 Tbsp cracked black pepper
1 Tbsp coconut oil
2 scallions, minced
2 to 3 strips bacon, cooked and crumbled
8 to 10 shucked oysters
¼ cup white wine
1/3 cup vinegar-based BBQ sauce
3 Tbsp cold butter

How to make it:
1. In a large zip-top bag, combine the steak, olive oil, water, salt, and pepper. Seal the bag, pushing out any excess air, and turn repeatedly until the steak is well coated. Refrigerate for at least 24 hours.

  1. Preheat your grill to direct high heat or heat coals until white and ashy. Preheat your oven to 450°F. Grill the steak until well-seared, 2 to 3 minutes on each side for medium rare. Transfer the steak to the oven to finish, 7 to 9 minutes.

  2. As the steak finishes, make the sauce. In a small saucepan, heat the coconut oil over medium high heat. Add the shallots and scallions and sauté until aromatic, about 30 seconds. Add the bacon and oysters and sauté until the oysters firm up, about 1 minute. Add the white wine and simmer until the liquid reduces by half, 3 to 5 minutes. Add the BBQ sauce and simmer until the mixture thickens slightly. Add the butter, remove from the heat, and swirl until all the butter is melted. Spoon the sauce onto a plate.

  3. Allow the steak to rest for at least 5 minutes. Slice it against the grain on a slight angle and arrange the steak on top of the sauce. Makes 6 to 8 servings.

Upgrade Watermelon With Bacon!

Every year, my friends throw an “Aporkalypse” party, in which the hosts require guests to bring dishes inspired by all things pig. Porcine edibles have included, but are not limited to: bacon cupcakes, the Bacon Explosion, BLT salad, pork meatloaf wrapped in bacon, scrapple layer cake, pork belly sliders, pork roll infused tequila, bacon infused vodka, thinly sliced home-cured pancetta, and bacon wrapped in bacon wrapped in turkey bacon.  I’ve still yet to puzzle out whether the name “Aporkalypse” comes from the idea that, should the world end that night, we’d all go pleasantly sated on pork, or, whether it warns of the gastrointestinal distress that usually follows the evening.

Given the richness of most dishes—and the inevitable post-Aporkalypse dehydration—I decided to go lighter this year, offering a dish that still showcases pork, but didn’t pummel your taste buds with it. Because, honestly, there is such as thing as too much bacon.

After sending out a call for recipes, Chef Michael Fiorelli from mar’sel at Terrnea Resort in Rancho Palos Verdes submitted the winner. Fiorelli takes a ripe seedless watermelmon, dices it up, and then marinates it in salt, pepper, olive oil, and rice wine vinegar. To up the flavor and texture, he tosses the marinated watermelon with salty feta cheese, crunchy seeds, fresh basil, and, of course, savory bacon crumbles. The sweet-salty-floral-crunchy combo will make you rethink straight-up watermelon and maybe even teach you that, sometimes, with bacon less can taste so much more.

Summer watermelon salad with crispy bacon, feta cheese, torn basil, and toasted pumpkin seeds

Recipe by Chef Michael Fiorelli from mar’sel at Terranea Resort in Rancho Palos Verdes

What you’ll need:
1 medium seedless watermelon, peeled and diced (about 8 cups)
8 ounces feta cheese, crumbled
12 bacon strips, small diced
1 cup pumpkin seeds, toasted and lightly salted*
1 small bunch basil, leaves picked and roughly torn
3 ounces rice wine vinegar
1 ounce extra virgin olive oil
2 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp finely cracked black pepper

How to make it:
1. After dicing the watermelon, place the cubes a colander over a large bowl and set in the refrigerator to drain while preparing the rest of the salad.

  1. In a large pan, slowly render the diced bacon until crispy. Discard bacon fat and set bacon aside on a paper towel to cool.

  2. When ready to serve toss the watermelon with the salt, pepper, oil, and vinegar and allow to marinate for 10 minutes. Pull the watermelon out of the oil and vinegar marinade leaving the excess liquid behind. Transfer to a 9 x 9 casserole dish or a large shallow bowl. Top with torn basil, toasted pumpkin seeds, feta and bacon. Serves 10.

*I used hulled sunflower seeds—tasted great.

20 Food Combos That Sound Gross but Are Actually Freaking Delicious

Some foods are made for each other: peanut butter and jelly, peas and carrots, bacon and eggs.

But what about soy sauce and chocolate or pizza and tuna? Turns out, there are a bunch of odd food pairings that will drive your taste buds absolutely wild (in a good way, of course). Here are 20 crazy combinations that are actually perfect for one another.

1. Peanut Butter and Curry 

This concoction is similar to the curry gravies made throughout Thailand and India, says certified food scientist Kantha Shelke, Ph.D., a spokesperson with the Institute of Food Technologists.

In those countries, peanut flours and grounds are often used to thicken sauces and give them a creamy consistency. Try spooning some peanut butter into your curry dishes. It will not only make them richer, but it can take the edge off of the spiciness. You can also sprinkle a little bit of curry powder on a peanut butter sandwich or crackers as a quick meal or snack.

2. Pineapple and Blue Cheese 

Pineapple and cheese actually share many compounds, Shelke says. When paired, these compounds interact and heighten both flavors.

Opt for blue cheese, recommends FoodPairing.com’s co-founder and science director, Bernard Lahousse. The tartness in the cheese complements the pineapple’s sweet notes. Try adding both to your next cheese plate.

3. Hot Chocolate and Avocado 

Add avocado to your hot chocolate for extra flavor and a velvety smoothness, recommends Shelke.

“It feels like you’re drinking a truffle,” she says. “The avocado lends a slight flavor, but it’s still mild and creamy.” Blend an avocado, and then add it to your mug of hot cocoa and milk. (You can also add protein to your hot chocolate.

4. Strawberries and Parmesan Cheese 

Parm-dusted strawberries are the new chocolate-covered strawberries. The butyric acid in Parmesan—which is also found in chocolate—reacts with the flavonoids in strawberry for a heightened sweet and savory combo, Shelke says.

5. Pizza and Tuna 

Tuna’s umami flavor—a savory taste from the salt of the amino acid glutamate—makes pizza more hearty and satisfying, Shelke explains. And since umami is a bold, intense flavor, you won’t be tempted to mow through an entire pizza in a single sitting, she says.

Try searing the tuna into strips and adding it to the top of your pizza. Raw, grilled, or canned tuna works, too.

6. Dark Chocolate and Beets 

Beets are a root vegetable that have a distinct earthy aroma and taste caused by the compounds geosim and pyrazine, Shelke says.

Dark chocolate contains pyrazines, too. So when you combine it with beets, you get a robust earthiness with a hint of sweetness and bitterness that will talk to your taste buds. Try topping a beet salad with dark chocolate crumbles.

7. Mashed Potatoes and Ketchup 

In India, McDonalds serves a potato-patty sandwich that people douse with ketchup, according to Shelke.

“Potatoes are bland. Ketchup livens them up,” she says. “The glutamate in tomato gives an umami flavor to make the potato taste more satisfying.” It’s not all that different from fries with ketchup.

8. Margherita Pizza and Strawberries 

Tomato, basil, and mozzarella make a great bed for strawberries, Lahousse says.

A strawberry’s flavor isn’t that different from a tomato’s, so they complement one another. The berries also bring out the various bright, earthy notes in the cheese and greens. (Want to make your own margherita pie?

9. Chocolate and Soy Sauce 

“This is a great combination from a chemistry point of view,” Lahousse says. The soy sauce’s saltiness heightens the chocolate’s flavor. (That’s why salt in chocolate chip cookies tastes so good.)

Plus, both foods contain roasted, woody, floral, and fruity components that bring out the best in one another.

Try dipping your next chocolate bar into soy sauce or drizzling it on a chocolate cake or dessert.

10. Ketchup and Dark Chocolate 

You probably squirt ketchup on a ton of different things, but we bet you never tried it on dark chocolate.

Dark chocolate has tomato notes in it, so putting ketchup on it enhances those flavors and makes it even tastier, says Lahousse. Both foods also share coriander-ish aromas, thanks to a molecule called linalool. When paired, that yummy smell becomes even stronger.

11. Rhubarb and Avocado 

This vegetable and fruit combo is sweet, sour, and creamy all at once, Lahousse says.

Try this new spin on salad: Coat rhubarb with sugar and roast it in the oven for about 15 to 20 minutes. Cool, and then lay it over avocado slices.

12. Pickles and Ice Cream

Pregnant women might be onto something: The combination of pickles and ice cream may trigger a reward response in our brains, says Smaro Kokkinidou, Ph.D., assistant director at the University of Minnesota Flavor Research and Education Center.

Here’s why: The salt in a pickle is necessary for blood circulation and cellular metabolism, while the sugar and fat in ice cream provide quick energy, Kokkinidou explains. Your body needs all of those nutritional items to survive. Because of that, our brains tend to crave food pairings that contain them—no matter how gross they seem.

13. Gin and Raspberries 

The herby qualities in gin go great with the woody notes in raspberry, says food scientist Christopher R. Warsow, executive corporate chef at Bell Flavors & Fragrances.

Muddle just a few raspberries into a gin and tonic to liven up the flavors but keep it from tasting too fruity.

14. Bacon and Jam

This combination has the sweet-and-salty allure, but also has a ton of texture, Kokkinidou says. Your mouth will thank you.

Try this: Cook up some bacon slices, and then place them between two slices of bread. Spread on your favorite jam. Or, go sans bread, and dip a slice of bacon straight into the jam.

15. Coffee and Orange 

Usually you drink your orange juice and coffee separate at breakfast. But adding an orange wedge or pouring a bit of OJ into your brew is a staple at Chicago’s go-to brunch spot, Orange.

Orange takes the edge off of java’s bitterness, but it doesn’t weigh the beverage down like milk or cream, says Lahousse. It also adds a tiny bit of sweetness, without having to add straight sugar granules, he says.

16. Caviar and White Chocolate 

English celebrity chef Heston Blumenthal knew a bit of salt on white chocolate would enhance its flavor and soften the sweetness. So he started experimenting pairing white chocolate with salty ingredients, and eventually found that caviar resulted in a delicious combination.

17. Pickles and Cheddar Cheese 

A favorite food combo among Brits, pickle-and-cheddar sandwiches can be found on pub menus across England. The trick is to use an aged cheddar that will cut the bitterness and saltiness of the pickles, Shelke says.

Put them on bread for a sandwich or just stack the cheese with a pickle for a quick snack.

18. Pizza and Ranch Dressing 

A dollop of ranch goes great with raw vegetable. But with a slice of pizza?

The dressing’s slight tartiness makes the pizza’s savory ingredients—like tomato sauce—pop, Lahousse says. And the dairy, garlic, salt, onion, and herbs in ranch match up with those exact ingredients in your slice.

19. Nutella and French Fries 

Salt is a taste enhancer, and it can bring out the perception of sweetness in a food.

One of Warsow’s favorite sweet-and-salty pairings: Nutella hazelnut spread and French fries. The starch of the potato doesn’t carry much flavor, so it’s really just a vessel for the salt. Think of the combo as a fun, dunkable version of the popular combo of chocolate and sea salt. You can also sub the Nutella for a chocolate milkshake.

20. Chili Powder and Fruit 

This sweet-and-spicy combo is popular in Latin America. The chili’s spice and heat increases the fruit’s sweetness. “It’s delicious,” says Warsow.

You can try this with a variety of fruits like watermelon, mango, pineapple, coconut, papaya, orange, and cantaloupe. Test different types of powders like cayenne, ancho chili, and chipotle chili on different fruits to find your favorite pairings.

Make the Best Bacon You’ve Ever Tasted

Maybe you think you’ve already eaten your transcendental slice. It’s served up at so-and-so diner or made by something-or-other brand. To you, this post’s title is nothing more than classic Internet hyperbole. I’m here to assure you: If you make this recipe, you will forever change the way you look at bacon.

Once you taste just one slice, your palate will be indelibly changed. It. Is. That. Good. I was skeptical too, at first, considering that the entire process takes about one week, plus the time it takes to cook the bacon, but the recipe is simpler than it looks.

Buy a hunk of pork belly, coat that belly in a curing mixture, let it sit for a week, and then either smoke your cured belly in your smoker or roast it in your oven until done. Nate Anda, the chef of Red Apron Butchery in Washington, D.C., who provided the technique, assured me: If you can stand the wait, you will be rewarded. Slice the bacon and you’ll see: The rich, yellowed fat takes on a glorious sheen. Fry the bacon and you’ll notice: The fat renders out clearer and silkier than packaged bacon (save the superior fat and use it to sautee Brussels sprouts, spinach, or diced potatoes).

Then, taste it, and you’ll be blown away. It’s bacon squared. It’s bacon perfection. It’s bacon as if it were Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, a 1962 Ferrari 250 GTO, or 1995 to 1998 Chicago Bulls. Hyperbolic? I’m telling you. Just one taste.

Homemade Bacon

What you’ll need:

1 7- to 9-lb whole, skinless pork belly, divided into 2 or 3 equal pieces*
2 ½ pounds kosher salt
2 ½ pounds brown sugar
1 ¼ Tbsp ground black pepper
2 ½ Tbsp cayenne pepper
2 ½ Tbsp ground allspice
2 ½ Tbsp ground ginger
2 ½ Tbsp juniper berries (optional)
2 bay leaves, pulverized in a spice grinder or clean coffee grinder
2 Tbsp curing salt, to help preserve the bacon, found here (optional)

How to make it:

  1. In a large bowl, combine the salt, sugar, and spices.

  2. Place the pork belly on a large baking sheet or high-sided pan. Liberally rub each piece of pork belly with the curing mixture. Place each piece of rubbed pork belly into its own zip-top bag, squeezing out the air, and sealing tight. Discard the remaining curing mixture.

  3. Place the bags in the refrigerator and allow the pork to sit for 2 days. After 2 days, open the bags and pour out the liquid. Squeeze out the air, reseal each bag, flip the bags so the other side of the belly is now on the bottom, and then return the bags to the refrigerator for 2 more days.

  4. Remove the bellies from the bags, rinse off the cure, and pat dry.
    If you’re using your oven… 5. Preheat your oven to 200°F. Place the pork belly in a roasting pan or on a baking sheet, preferably on a rack for more even cooking, and cook the pork belly until the belly is firm to the touch, well-browned, and reaches an internal temperature of 145°F.

If you’re using your smoker…

  1. Prepare your smoker and bring the internal temperature to 115°F. Place the pork belly on the top rack in the smoker and cook until the bellies have firmed and begin to take on a browned exterior, about 3 hours (or 2 hours if your smoker is running a few degrees hotter than 115*F). Then, increase the smoker’s temperature to 155°F by adding a few more coals. Smoke the bellies until they reach an internal temperature of 145°F. Note: Due to the conditions and the type of smoker you have, the bellies may need more or less time to cook. If you’re having trouble bringing the bellies to doneness, you can always finish them in a 200°F oven. You’ll still end up tasting the great smoked flavor from the smoker.

  2. Allow the bellies to rest for an hour at room temperature. Once cool, wrap well and refrigerate before using. This will make slicing easier. The bacon will keep for up to 2 weeks in the refrigerator or up to 3 months in the freezer. Eat inside a BLT, as pictured above, make spaghetti carbonara, or toss the bacon on the grill for an incredible snack.

*Yes, this makes a lot of bacon, but if you’re going to make the effort, you might as well make enough for your friends and family, too.

**This will only take a few coals. For that reason, opt for soaked wood chips, not hunks, to prevent suffocating the coals. I used applewood chips and poured some apple cider into the drip pan, which produced a mellow apple flavor. Want more ways to test out your butchery mettle at home?