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Chili's Bacon Burger

by Michael Chu
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For the last several days (if not weeks), I feel like I've been bombarded by these advertisements from Chili's (an international bar and grill chain that serves Tex-Mex inspired food) featuring their new Smokehouse Bacon Burgers. They claim to have "the thickest bacon you've ever seen". With a statement like that (How do they know? I've seen a lot of bacon!) I knew I had to go and take a look and see for myself (which is playing right into Chili's hands, but what can you do?).

Cliff (fellow developer at Fanpop and vegetarian) has been forced to watch their commercials over and over during a two day period where he was working on code supporting Hulu videos. Several times, he pointed the ad out to me, but every time he did it, I looked over too late and was wondering what he was pointing at - an SNL skit? The Office? A tiny banner ad in the corner?

Screenshot of Chili's Smokehouse Bacon Ad on Hulu.com
Two days later, he explained to me that he'd been seeing a lot of these Chili's ads with "the thickest bacon you've ever seen" (he was quoting the ad). So, we sat down and loaded a few Hulu pages until we got the ad. He grabbed a screenshot for me. The bacon DOES look rather thick as it spins through the air in closeup on a black background. Now a new problem arose - I couldn't get away from the ad! I was starting to see it everywhere online and on television! All the time!


What one of the television ads actually says is:
Welcome to Chili's! Pepper in some triple thick bacon with Chili's new Smokehouse Bacon Burgers. They're mammoth size burgers with the thickest bacon you've ever seen. Like the Southern Smokehouse Burger with bacon seasoned with brown sugar and chili pepper then grilled. Come in now and try them all. Only at Chili's. Pepper in some Bacon; Pepper in some Fun.
(A little explanation for those who are not familiar with Chili's is probably helpful here. Chili's logo is a red chili pepper and their slogan is currently "Pepper in some Fun".) Having seen a lot of bacon (as well as uncut bacon slabs - which I would think will beat any bacon Chili's could possibly serve in thickness), I couldn't help smirking every time I heard that claim. It was time to go see for myself.


On Friday night, Tina and I went to Chili's and I looked at the menu for their Smokehouse Bacon Burgers - apparently there were three different burgers. Even though I had seen the commercials a bunch of times, it hadn't gotten into my head that there was more than one burger. I asked the waiter if they all used the same thick cut bacon and he confirmed that they did - so I ordered a Jalapeno Smokehouse Bacon Cheeseburger as well as an extra order of bacon on the side. After the food arrived 30 minutes after ordering, I received a mess of a burger with the patty sitting 40% off of the bun and much of my lettuce under the fries instead of in the burger. Undeterred (for I had not come to Chili's to critique their food but to confirm they had the thickest bacon that I had ever seen), I examined the bacon that I received on the side and the two strips on the burger and determined that they were similar enough.


From my pocket, I produced calipers with which I proceeded to measure the thickness of the bacon (one of the strips I had ordered on the side for this specific purpose - if I was going to contaminate some bacon, I wasn't going to sacrifice one of the ones on my burger!). Having done the measurements, I can now report that (on Friday, April 13, 2008 at the Chili's in Santa Clara, California) they served bacon that was (to an accuracy of 1/128th of an inch) 3/16 in. thick (4.75 mm ± 0.2mm) after cooking. In my experience, that's really thick bacon.



I have to hand it to Chili's the bacon truly is thick. In fact, I'll even call it extra thick. (They called it "triple thick", I'm not sure what that means unless there's a standard bacon thickness of 1/16 in. that I don't know about.) Does it truly hold up to its claim that it's the "thickest bacon you've ever seen"? My guess is that for most people that's true, but for me it was most definitely not the case.

As a comparison point, I'll have to bring up Peter Luger Steakhouse which serves the thickest slice of bacon that I have ever seen. I reviewed the restaurant earlier this year on Orthogonal Thought and had made sure that I had ordered their bacon. Peter Luger's bacon was about 2 times thicker than Chili's. Granted, I did not bring calipers on my trip to New York, so the 1 cm thickness of the bacon was estimated, but there is a clear difference in thickness. Of course, Peter Luger's bacon is $4 a slice while Chili's is 70 cents (I paid $1.40 for an extra two slices).


How did the bacon taste? It was well flavored (nice amount of smoke, but not overdone and not reliant on gimmicks like insane amounts of coarsely ground pepper) and had a good mix of fat and meat. Unfortunately, it was also barely warm and extremely chewy. Extremely chewy - there were some bites of the burger where I had to keep chewing for several ten or more seconds AFTER the burger had disintegrated. However, I did enjoy the flavor quite a bit and as I'm writing this, there's a part of me that wants to go back and try Southern Smokehouse Bacon Cheeseburger. (Personally, I wouldn't order the Jalapeno one again - the marinated jalapenos tasted a little odd in combination with everything. I couldn't quite put my finger on it, but I didn't enjoy the combination as much as my previous history with hamburgers would have led me to believe.)

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Written by Michael Chu
Published on April 13, 2008 at 09:00 PM
15 comments on Chili's Bacon Burger:(Post a comment)

On April 14, 2008 at 11:13 AM, navtejkohli (guest) said...
Subject: chilli's
I have been to chilli's and its a very good restaurant. Though over priced but the food quality is good.


On April 16, 2008 at 12:31 AM, Jeremy (guest) said...
Subject: mmm.... Bacon....
Recently I ordered a pig belly from Niman Ranch (http://www.nimanranch.com/control/product/~category_id=pork-specialty-cuts/~product_id=2005) which, when cured/smoked/grilled would put any other bacon to shame. This particular belly at it's widest point was 3 inches wide when sliced. I sliced it as thin as i could reliably with a chefs knife, and it was probably between four and five mm. I can't measure the thickness as it has passed through my digestive track.

I too have been subjected to the Hulu/Chilis/Bacon commercials, and have a wry smile on my face every time I see them :)


On April 16, 2008 at 04:37 AM, Guest (guest) said...
Subject: Brown sugar bacon
I've never made it, but...
http://www.pbs.org/everydayfood/recipes/brownsugar_bacon.html


On April 18, 2008 at 11:32 PM, CJAY (guest) said...
Subject: BACON!!!!!
Guys just love bacon!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e4Ts4TtEwDc


On April 18, 2008 at 11:37 PM, Cjay (guest) said...
Subject: Oh yeah I forgot something...
Try this Link! B)

Bacon-flavored Vodka


On April 21, 2008 at 11:42 AM, Mark (guest) said...
Subject: Bacon candy?
http://www.vosgeschocolate.com/product/bacon_exotic_candy_bar/exotic_candy_bars

Anyone?


On April 21, 2008 at 06:43 PM, CW Guy (guest) said...
Subject: a stand on bacon
Very nice post, and way to have the motivation to actually hold chili's to their word. False advertisement is extraordinarily easy, and most of the time no one bothers to check on these claims. While Chili's may not literally have the thickest bacon ever created by man, at least they put in some good faith effort.

I hate it when no effort is put into the preparation and presentation of the food though. Come on Chili's, this is a sit-down restaurant, not Mcdonalds.

CW Guy
<a href = "http://www.classicwines.com">Wine Reviews</a>


On May 14, 2008 at 01:34 PM, Cousin Crispy (guest) said...
Subject: Too much pork for just one fork
I was wondering about their claim. Thanks for doing the heavy lifting for us. My calipers are currently in the shop, so measuring the thickness would have been difficult. However, I recently bought some bacon (forgot the brand, but was in the bacon section of the supermarket) and cooked a few slices. I measured them and they were 1/16 inch thick, thus the triple thick claim. Anyway, i wondered what would happen to the thickness if i fileted the newly acquired bacon. I carefully fileted a few pieces and cooked them, then measured them (as you probably guessed, they cooked in less time). They were slightly less than 1/32 inch thick each. I would have expected the sum of the widths to be 1/16 inch. This was confusing. But, upon further investigation, i noticed some residue on my knife. While i made no attempt to determine if the residue was in fact equal to the missing bacon, I was content with my assumption it was. Oh, and the cooked bacon was unfreakingbelievably delicious. Now, on to preparations for the bacon vodka.


On May 15, 2008 at 11:00 PM, squirrel (guest) said...
Subject: I got your thick bacon right here
I lived in Japan for a while and I could go to the supermarket and buy "bacon steak", a single 1/2" thick slab of bacon. Really it's meant to be cubed and mixed into something else (bacon and pork are very popular flavorings there) but I suppose there's nothing stopping you from cooking the whole slab and putting it on a burger. In fact, forget the burger!

So how do you like that, Chili's? Put that in your smokehouse and uh... smoke it. Yeah.


On August 10, 2008 at 12:15 AM, LAN3 said...
The two common bacon thicknesses, you may know, are 12 or 16 to the pound. If you take a package of bacon in America, it's generally one pound and you can tell by looking that the total thickness of 1 pound is about 1 inch-- how close exactly, I dunno, and of course thickness changes with cooking. I'd say 3/16" cooked thickness is pretty amazingly thick.

I've gotten 1/4" bacon cut, as someone mentioned in Japan-- it's indeed a great way to flavor something with smokey salty bacon flavor. Cube it and you've got "lardons," which are the first ingredient to hit the pot in both coq au vin and virtually any chowder-- you render the fat from them to cook anything else.

There's also a restaurant out here that'll take a thick "steak" of bacon, probably 1/4" or more, and deep-fry the sucker. I don't know if my heart can take it, but I'd be willing to try it!

As for bacon vodka, I've had it, and it's great-- it also really elevates a screwdriver. Search around for the Bacon Old Fashioned, which uses Grade B maple syrup and bacon-infused bourbon; instead of infusing with all the bacon, it just uses the bacon fat, and apparently infuses in hours, not weeks!


On November 13, 2008 at 05:39 PM, guest (guest) said...
Subject: Chili's Bacon
I have been looking everywhere for this fabulous bacon Chili's uses and i just can't find it! Any idea where one can procure this delicious bacon to make at home?


On December 30, 2008 at 05:17 AM, NoOneShouldEatThat (guest) said...
Subject: It's really bad for you
I know we sacrifice health for good food, but there's nothing right about the number of calories in one of those Bacon Big Mouth burgers.

Smokehouse Bacon Triple-The-Cheese Big Mouth BurgerŪ
w/ out side of Jalapeņo-Ranch Dressing
-----
1840

Southern Smokehouse Bacon Big Mouth BurgerŪ
w/ out side of Ancho-Chile BBQ Sauce
----------------
1560


My source is their website.


On February 27, 2009 at 12:45 AM, AnnaZed said...
Subject: That Bacon is Deep Fried
Just so you know.

There is no other way to cook it (in a restaurant anyway) or so they say. I n any case, that's what they do at Chili's.

:P


On April 01, 2009 at 07:25 PM, Steeler (guest) said...
Subject: It is cooked on a grill
The bacon is cooked on the flattop grill using a sheet pan so it doesnt curl up. If you were to fry it, then it would be nice and curly which is not the case.


On January 11, 2010 at 04:53 PM, Rogar (guest) said...
Subject: Engineering bacon thickness
In the glass business thickness units are called strength:
Single strength = 1/16"
Double strentgth = 1/8"
etc.
So triple thick bacon would then be 3/16", confimed by field measurement.

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