Bacon is a cut of meat that can be pan-fried, baked, and incorporated into all sorts of dishes. The protein can be eaten on its own, served alongside a breakfast of eggs, or even wrapped around other proteins.
What part of the pig is bacon, though?
What most Americans consider bacon comes from the belly of the pig. In other countries bacon is made from the loin, shoulder and jowl of the pig.
It can vary, which means that it’s time to learn a bit more about the different types of bacon available on the market.
What is Bacon?
Bacon is a delicious option that can take on many forms. The easiest way to describe bacon is that it is salt-cured meat that comes from the belly or back of a pig. For the most part, bacon is fatty due to the many layers of fat that run through the strips.
Bacon always has to be cooked before it can be consumed. Much of the fat will be rendered and poured off. In many instances, the ratio is about two-thirds of fat to one-third of meat.
The overall appearance of bacon will vary depending on the part of the world that you are in.
Bacon in the United States comes from the belly or side of the pig. Bacon in the United Kingdom, however, is often referred to as rasher or Irish bacon, which comes from the loin found in the back middle of the pig.
The meat that is cut from the pig will soak in a bath of nitrates, salt, and even sugar. Depending on what type of bacon you buy, it can also be smoked. This can provide a hearty flavor to the meat when you cook it.
Types of Bacon and Where They Come From
It’s important to understand the different types of bacon so you can decide which one will suit a particular recipe. Each cut of bacon comes from a different part of the pig. Additionally, its uses and overall fat-to-meat ratio can vary dramatically.
Center-Cut Bacon Comes from the Side of the Pig
Center-cut bacon is commonly found in the United States. It is the traditional bacon that is obtained from the side of the pig. The only difference is that the fatty ends are already cut off, which reduces the total fat that is produced when you cook it.
Since there’s less fat content, you will generally pay more for center-cut bacon than regular bacon.
This kind of bacon is popular to simply pan-fry and enjoy by itself, wrapped around a meatloaf, or even to top a cheeseburger.
Pancetta Comes from the Belly of the Hog
Pancetta is a type of bacon that is popular in Italy and throughout the Mediterranean. The bacon is obtained from the pork belly and is often held in a tub of brine after it has been salted.
Depending on the recipe you are going to use the pancetta for, it is available in two formats. You can find it sliced thin or cut into cubes.
You can choose to use pancetta in carbonara pasta, on pizza, and even eaten raw as part of antipasti.
Canadian Bacon is Made from Pork Loin
Canadian Bacon is cut from the loin along the back of the pig. It is not nearly as fatty as traditional bacon and often looks like slices of ham. Also referred to as back bacon, it is from the same cut where pork chops are derived from.
A number of recipes use Canadian bacon, including eggs benedict and strata. It can also be served by itself, as a breakfast side dish, or used in place of ham on sandwiches.
Jowl Bacon is Made from the Pig’s Cheek
Jowl bacon is also referred to as guanciale. It is cut from the jowl or cheeks of the pig. The overall composition is similar to traditional bacon with meat found between strips of white fat. Jowl bacon isn’t as uniform and has a higher level of fat.
Jowl bacon can be smoked and fried to be enjoyed by itself as well as used in dishes that would typically require pork belly. Thicker cuts can also be served as a bacon steak.
Buckboard Bacon Comes From the Pork Shoulder
Buckboard bacon, also known as Cottage bacon, comes off of the pork butt. It has a richer flavor but can also be a tougher cut due to it coming from the shoulder of the pig.
You can cook buckboard bacon quickly when it is sliced thin. It can also be cooked as a steak if you have a thicker slice. It is most commonly served as the main protein in a dish.
Bacon is Not Only From Pigs
One of the most common misconceptions is that bacon only comes from pigs. This isn’t true at all. Bacon can come from a variety of other animals, but there are two that are relatively common. Both beef bacon and lamb bacon can be found at butcher shops, providing you with many options in the kitchen.
Beef bacon is cured, dried, and smoked in a similar way to pork bacon. It is cut from the belly of the cow and provides a significant amount of flavor. While it is still fatty, it won’t crisp up the same way that pork bacon will. It is commonly enjoyed by itself or on a sandwich.
Lamb bacon is produced from the belly of a sheep, though some butchers will label it as saddle, belly, or fatback. It is both fatty and meaty, offering more flavor than bacon from other animals. It is cured and smoked similar to pork bacon. While there are many recipes available for lamb bacon, it is popularly used to wrap a leg of lamb to add a new dimension of flavor to the roast.