The sign on his Web site makes it painfully clear: Allan Benton, the owner of Benton’s Smoky Mountain Country Hams and maker of the nation’s best bacon, is in absolutely no rush.
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When I met Benton for breakfast in Memphis last week during Cochon — sticks of his East Tennessee bacon, barbecued oysters and spicy Bloody Marys were the morning’s special — Benton explained to me that good bacon takes time to cure. To do it right, it can’t be rushed, and you can’t cut corners when it comes to quality. Here’s some of what Benton told me:
I’ve been making bacon for 35 years. I try to make as good a bacon as you’ll find anywhere in Europe. There aren’t a lot of secrets to it
It takes me five weeks to produce bacon. A big commercial operator can make bacon in just 24 hours
You can’t make good bacon without good hogs
Sure, I could produce a lot more bacon, but I can’t buy enough good pork
I wont sell to chain restaurants and I wont sell to big grocery stores. I’ve turned down a lot of offers because that’s not how we do business. We’re about supporting the small guy and the independent chef
Good bacon is sweet, salty, smokey and tastes like pig
The key to cooking bacon is to cook it in a skillet until it’s soft and chewy. You have to play with it as it cooks. When it’s done, it can’t be crisp. It has to bend. Crispy bacon has only half the flavor
My favorite way to eat bacon is on a BLT made with three strips of bacon, cut in half to make six strips, with a fresh tomato and good mayonnaise