Going the whole hog

Jason Day, a barbecue fanatic from Kansas City, says he didn’t intend to set the internet aflame. But when he and fellow barbecuer Aaron Chronister came up with the Bacon Explosion, they did just that. “Apparently we hit on something that people are extremely passionate about,” says Day of their creation, which involves almost 10kg of bacon, almost 10kg of sausage and a lavish helping of barbecue sauce.

The recipe came about after a challenge from a bacon enthusiast—what could barbecuers do with the pork product?—and soon the pair were weaving raw rashers into a mat, covering this with a layer of sausage meat, piling on crispy fried bacon bits, adding barbecue sauce and fashioning the lot into the ultimate meat-lover’s version of a Swiss roll. Then they smoked it. At 5 000 calories and 500g of fat the result is, quite literally, not for the faint-hearted.

Since Day and Chronister posted the Bacon Explosion on their website, bbqaddicts.com, in December last year, it has attracted enormous attention, becoming one of the most popular recipes ever to appear online. Their website has had 1,5-million hits in the past month. There is a fan page on Facebook. YouTube features 135 home videos of people creating their own versions of the recipe—including one involving wagyu beef and a valiant vegetarian attempt, made from “fauxsage” (meatless sausage) and “facon” (meatless bacon).

Part of the Explosion’s popularity clearly lies in the fact that it’s so outrageous. As Sarah Karnasiewicz of the popular gastronomic website saveur.com says, the Bacon Explosion is the sort of dish that should really be preceded by a week-long juice fast because “it has this extreme eating element to it, which people really seem to like”. Rebecca Bauer, executive editor of the serious epicurean website foodandwine.com, agrees. “It’s just voyeurism on the one hand,” she says, “because it’s so crazy. And then I think it also taps into the tendency to think, ‘cholesterol be damned’. There’s all this concern and care about what we eat and where it’s grown and how healthy it is, and this is absolutely the opposite of that.”

Day and Chronister’s recipe also taps into another long-standing internet trend: bacon mania. Bacon isn’t the subject of the most searches on food websites—that garland goes to chicken—but along with keywords including salmon, chocolate and, bizarrely, passion fruit, bacon is certainly among the most searched-for ingredients online. And it attracts an unlikely level of fanaticism.

As Bauer says: “There’s a Facebook fan page for ‘I love bacon’. You can send bacon to your friends online. There are all kinds of bacon-themed products out there—bacon Band-Aids, bacon cups, trousers with bacon patterns.” The website chow.com has listed “Ten ways to eat more bacon”, including chocolate-covered bacon, bacon vodka and, rather counter-intuitively, bacon-wrapped tofu.

Two men called Justin and Dave have a webpage called Everything Should Taste Like Bacon, on which they hawk their bacon-flavoured salt, which can make everything from mashed potatoes to ice cream taste of smoky pork. And one of the most popular recipes on foodandwine.com is for a sandwich that combines fried egg, grilled cheese, lettuce, tomato and—you guessed it—bacon.

Sandwich recipes do surprisingly well online—saveur.com are scoring heavy traffic for their grilled-cheese sandwich with a twist—and this reflects another area where the Bacon Explosion comes up trumps. Because although, as Karnasiewicz says, the recipe “has an appealing sort of male, dorky project element to it”, it is also, as with sandwiches, fairly easy to construct and involves a limited number of ingredients.

The Bacon Explosion hits all the bases then. It is outrageous, comforting, easy to make and involves bacon - and, most importantly, claims Day, it is delicious. “It’s actually not as overwhelming as it looks,” he says. “The bacon kind of renders into the sausage, so that good bacon flavour is throughout the whole thing and when you barbecue it the smoke adds another subtle flavour.” Day and Chronister are now looking forward to building on their unlikely success. Would Day like to barbecue full-time? “Of course,” he says simply. “That would be living the dream.”—

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