The Bacon Beat / smoked

Nolechek Family Grilling: Favorite Dishes, Favorite Stories

Nolechek Family Grilling: Favorite Dishes, Favorite Stories

Looking out the window, it’s difficult to believe that grilling season is right around the corner, but if you’re from Wisconsin, you probably don’t let the pesky cold weather stop you from living up to your Grill Master status. Grilling is in our blood at Nolechek’s and, while everyone has their favorite way to cook outdoors, the results are the same. Delicious, home-cooked food that brings everyone together to laugh, reminisce, and enjoy the fellowship that only a full table of food can bring.
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Burger Time! Nolechek’s Top 5 Best Bacon Cheeseburger Ideas

Burger Time! Nolechek’s Top 5 Best Bacon Cheeseburger Ideas

Bacon Cheeseburgers = Greatness

When was the last time you made burgers on the grill? Did you add bacon? If it's been awhile since you made a BCB - and even if it hasn't - this weekend is a golden opportunity to whip up some big, beefy burgers covered in melty Wisconsin Cheddar and topped with crispy strips of Nolechek's Bacon. Want to try some twists on your next Bacon Cheeseburger? We're sharing our Top 5 Best Bacon Cheeseburger Ideas right here, right now!

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Easter Sides: Just Add Bacon!

Easter Sides: Just Add Bacon!

We've got a list of some of our favorite holiday ham sides (like a smoky Cobb Salad and Bacon Mac N' Cheese), all made with our smokehouse meats:


Bacon Mac N' Cheese
Macaroni and cheese is the ultimate comfort food. So, how could it get any better, you might ask? …with bacon, of course! Bacon Mac N' Cheese is a crowd-pleasing side that is sure to satisfy even the pickiest of eaters. Even better, with just six ingredients, it's a quick dish to throw together and toss in the oven.

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Bacon Facts: Boost Your Bacon Knowledge!

Bacon Facts: Boost Your Bacon Knowledge!

Whaddya know about bacon? You know you love it. You know it's smoky, salty, sweet, and so full of flavor that most other foods can't hold a candle to it, but we're here to share some fun bacon facts that you might not have heard of before!
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National Cold Cut Day: What's In Nolechek's Deli Case?

National Cold Cut Day: What's In Nolechek's Deli Case?

Cold cuts have an impressive history, dating back to around 500 B.C. when Ancient Romans and Etruscan populations found that salting and smoking meats, such as ham and prosciutto, helped to preserve them longer. However, we can thank the Earl of Sandwich for popularizing cold cuts as we know and love them today. Back in the eighteenth century, he famously asked for slices of bread to surround his meat so that he could continue his gambling game.
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70 Years & Beyond: Nolechek Family History

70 Years & Beyond: Nolechek Family History

...but what came before all of that? How did a Bohemian like Doc Nolechek end up in Thorp, Wisconsin, and come to purchase the Locker plant, which 70 years later still exists as Nolechek’s Meats? Sit back my friends, and let me tell you a story...
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Bacon Lovers' Opinion: Thick-Sliced Bacon vs. Thin-Sliced Bacon

Bacon Lovers' Opinion: Thick-Sliced Bacon vs. Thin-Sliced Bacon

Friendly arguments between people who are passionate about great foods are nothing new. For example, folks have been heatedly debating for decades whether pineapple on pizza is scrumptious or sacrilegious. We'll leave judgment on that one up to the pizza purists; we have more important things to worry about - namely the virtues of thin- vs. thick-sliced bacon.

At Nolechek’s, our standard bacon thickness is a meaty 1/8" and our thick-sliced bacon is a hefty 1/4" thick. Bacon purchased in the store is typically 1/16". We do offer what we consider a thin-sliced bacon at 1/16”, but you’ll have to visit our retail store in Thorp, Wisconsin, to get Nolechek’s bacon that thin!

First, we'd like to say that, at Nolechek's, we don't judge. We embrace all bacon lovers equally, whether they like it thin and crispy or thick and meaty. Frankly, we love both cuts; we just use them, in cooking, a little differently. Here are some of our favorite ways to use each kind of bacon:

Top 5 Uses for Thin-Sliced Bacon

  • Served with eggs
  • As a pizza topping
  • Wrapping meats and vegetables
  • Topping salads
  • Serving a big crowd

Top 5 Uses for Thick-Sliced Bacon

  • Bacon cheeseburgers
  • BLTs & BLATs
  • Baked beans
  • Braised with greens
  • Steamed bacon bao buns (YUM)

That said, if crispy, crumbly bacon is all you crave, then fry up those thin, cracklin’ slices. If you prefer your bacon thick and chewy, then just do you, because the beautiful thing about Nolechek’s Sliced Hickory Smoked Bacon is that it's one of the best foods on earth, no matter how you slice it!

Yours Through Thick & Thin,

- Nolechek’s Meats

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Nolechek’s Smoky Slow-Cooker Comfort Food Recipes

Nolechek’s Smoky Slow-Cooker Comfort Food Recipes

There's a lot to love about slow-cooker cooking. If you play your culinary cards right, you can make an entire meal in one simmering pot. That means you can focus on curling up in front of the fire with a good book instead of spending hours in the kitchen. That also means that clean-up is a breeze. Here are three of our favorite simple slow-cooker dinner ideas:
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Nolechek's Favorite Thanksgiving Snacks

Nolechek's Favorite Thanksgiving Snacks

We put together a list of our favorite Nolechek's snacks so you can make impressive snacks for your Thanksgiving and holiday gatherings, Wisconsin-style!
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Nolechek's Smoky Thanksgiving Sidedishes

Smoky Sides for Thanksgiving

What's on the menu besides turkey (or a nice Nolechek’s Hickory Smoked Ham) and stuffing? We put some of our favorite Nolechek's side dishes together to help give you some ideas for new holiday side dish favorites. From creamy Bacon Mashed Potatoes to crisp Wedge Salads and caramelized Roasted Balsamic Brussels Sprouts with Bacon, we have our Top 5 Thanksgiving Side Dish Ideas all picked out for you! 
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Lindsey Fox Talks: Learning Nolechek's Production Techniques

Lindsey Fox Talks: Learning Nolechek's Production Techniques

Today I had the opportunity to cure a batch of our famous Hickory Smoked Honey Cured Bacon. Typically, Chad, Nolechek’s resident bacon curing-smoking-slicing expert, cures each 2000-pound batch of our bacon. However, today he was on the schedule to slice with Jenn, Caroline, and Lucille and I was on deck to cure. As I was curing, I was reminiscing about products I learned how to make and what it means to carry on the tradition of making ham, bacon, and sausage that’s been passed on to me by Bill and Kelly. 

Growing up in the business, I wasn’t responsible for making the actual product, but instead worked in retail, packaging, developing HACCP, and of course, cleaning. If there’s one thing I learned at a very young age, was you can’t clean enough and if you weren’t busy, there is always something that needs to be cleaned. My least favorite and still is today, is cleaning ceilings. But, I digress. 

I didn’t go down into production until a year after I returned to Nolechek’s, in 2015. Chad was transitioning out of the business and there was a void to fill and it was time for me to learn to chop sausage. The University of Wisconsin – Meat Science offers short courses on meat processing, so I took signed up to learn the science behind what we do in production at Nolechek’s. 

The first surprise was that most meat processors use a grinder to mix in seasonings, water, and create the right consistency. We’ve used a bowl chopper at Nolechek’s Meats since the early-70s. The first bowl chopper we used had a cast iron bowl, four blades, a 50-pound capacity and cost $8,000, which was a large investment for Nolechek’s at that time. A chopper allows us to process sausage at a much lower temperature, which allows for better extraction of protein, binding of water, and overall yield. Each of these elements are important because it allows us to craft sausage that offers the highest quality texture, mouthfeel, and visual particle definition. Today we use an Alpina bowl chopper that has six blades, three speeds, and a 100-pound capacity. We can run it as slow as 300 rpm, to mix cheese in; or as fast as 1000 rpm to create an emulsion for skinless wieners. 

I was so intimidated to learn how to run the chopper because it’s not a black-and-white process. You must be aware of the start temperature of the raw product, the order in which you chop the lean and fat, and how the texture should look when finished. There are so many variables to take into consideration. Fresh sausage is chopped differently than smoked sausage and specific products in each category are chopped differently, too. Today, Chad and I split chopping duties, depending on what is scheduled for production. I chop summer sausage because Chad runs the Poly-Clip and stuffs it, but Chad chops fresh bratwurst and other smoked sausage because I’m responsible for hanging the product on those days. 

Some may say a disadvantage to using a bowl chopper is that there can be a wide range of variability because it is operator-controlled. But, to me that was the challenge, and I knew I had perfected the craft of using the bowl chopper when the consistency of the product was the same between batches. I no longer referenced my cheat sheets to see if the lean goes in before the fat (fresh bratwurst) or the fat before the lean (summer sausage), what temperatures to chop the lean and fat to (skinless wieners); and most importantly, I (rarely) ask Kelly anymore if the texture looks right. It truly is an art form that I learned from Chad and perfected under the watchful eye of Bill and Kelly. 

I also found myself reminiscing about learning to cure bacon with Bill and how it was a multi-step process that started with observing and asking questions, moved to writing down the steps, and ended with me speaking up and telling him I was ready to have a go at it by myself. The whole process of curing is methodical; from preparing the individual components for the brine (ascorbic, salt, cure, honey) to mixing them according to a specific order so that all ingredients are properly distributed in the solution to running the needle injector and finishing the process with tumbling the bellies. It’s all part of a process that has remained unchanged since I can remember. 

I think the most impressive thing about what we do at Nolechek’s is that the consistency and quality of our product that has withstood the test of time. It’s our attention to detail and knowing, from start to finish, who has been involved in crafting each product and being proud of the fact that everyone understands how important they are to the process at each level. It’s about the story and the people behind the products that really make them special…besides how they taste, of course. The story and the people are what creates a connection with our fans and in turn, our fans share their stories and connections with our products. How they remember coming to the store with parents or grandparents; the special meals they would enjoy with family when they came to visit; or the people they remember that worked here from generations past. It’s all part of the bigger picture and every single bit of it is what makes Nolechek’s Meats special and meaningful, we create food that is an experience. 

  - Lindsey Fox

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Fall Comfort Food: Polish Sausage from Nolechek's Meats

Fall Comfort Food: Polish Sausage from Nolechek's Meats

What's the difference between Polish Sausage and Kielbasa? The answer may surprise you...

...However you grill it, mix things up with a variety of sausage flavors from Nolechek's Meats. For a classic taste, choose from Unsmoked Polish Sausage with Garlic or Hickory Smoked Garlic Polish Sausage. If garlic isn't for you, serve up Nolechek's Plain Polish Sausage. And, for a perfect Wisconsin Polish Sausage bite, pick up some Garlic Polish Sausage with Sauerkraut.
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