An unassuming building along the side of the road has a direct link to some of the finest restaurants in the country. Benton’s Smoky Mountain Country Hams is arguably more famous for their bacon than for their hams.
A recent issue of Metro Pulse inspired me to plan a field trip to Benton’s with my bacon-loving son. They had articles about a hipster event called Baconfest founded by an ex-vegetarian. Meat-master Allan Benton was there when we arrived at the shop in Madisonville. His gracious and helpful employees showed us around and answered all the questions we had.
The raw hams and pork bellies arrive from Kansas City in big cardboard crates. The staff rubs them with salt on the curing table and allows them to age. They eventually get hung on racks and sent to the smoker.
My son and I bought some bacon to have for dinner that night and some for him to take back to school. On the way home, we picked up a head of lettuce, a tomato and some soft kaiser rolls at the supermarket. I fried some bacon and baked some, according to directions I found online. We preferred the bacon that was cooked at 400° on a cookie sheet lined with parchment. The first recipe called for nine minutes on each side but it did not need that much time, as posted elsewhere. It was the best BLT ever.