Bacon is a type of salt-cured pork that has become really popular all of a sudden. From becoming a favorite breakfast side to becoming an essential in many fast food restaurants, bacon is something everyone wants to indulge in. Moreover, it has gained so much popularity in the North American continent that it caused a movement to start known as bacon mania.
Although the debate of when this movement began is still unconfirmed, culinary experts say that bacon mania began at the end of the 20th century. It gained additional popularity during this period because low-carb and high protein foods were very popular. Everything was under the influence of the Atkins diet. Although the Atkins diet does not have much significance anymore, bacon keeps becoming as popular as always. In addition, the true bacon lovers are probably aware of the fact that their favorite meat has different types.
Not to forget, ever since bacon mania began, the world has seen bacon being used for many different things such as bacon band-aids, alarm clocks that wake people up with the smell of cooked bacon, and bacon flavored bubble gum. It is safe to say that this delicious pork product has become much more than just a side on the plate.
Since it is a meat which has gained so much popularity, there are many different types of bacon available. If you are a bacon lover, here is what you need to know about bacon.
Table of Contents
- How Is Bacon Made?
- Curing Process of Bacon
- Types of Bacon
- Ways to Cook Bacon
How Is Bacon Made?
In different regions around the world and the type of bacon you are using, the bacon making process varies. However, the most common ways involve brine, or hot or cold smoke that is used to add a smoky flavor in the meat. Then, the slab of meat is sliced, and the thickness depends on what you prefer. Once the bacon has been sliced according to your preferences, it can be cooked in the griddle, in a bacon press, baked, or fried.
What Is The Thickness Of Bacon Slices?
- Thick slices: The thick slices of bacon are usually 1/8 inch thick. Because it is a thick slice, this bacon thickness is ideal for different kinds of pasta and sandwiches. It does not have the same kind of crispiness as compared to thinner slices.
- Regular slices: The regular slices are usually 1/16 inch thick. This is the type of bacon that is available at grocery stores.
- Restaurant slices: This is the thinnest bacon slice that is available. It is 1/32 inch per slice. Since it is pretty thin, it is the type that tends to get crispy. It is found in restaurants, hotels, and diners.
Curing Process of Bacon
Curing is a cooking process used to preserve foods while adding flavor to is. Food can be cured by smoke or by adding salt to it. The most popular way of curing food is with salt, sugar (especially brown sugar), and other flavor enhancers allow the food to taste better.
Cured bacon would be any form of bacon which is cured. Moreover, all types of bacon are preserved with salt and smoke so uncured bacon is not something that exists. However, marketers still use the terms “cured” and “uncured” when they are selling it.
Cured vs. Uncured
Cured bacon is usually preserved with sodium nitrite and salt. Nitrites are the additives that give bacon its subtle pink color amongst the other things.
The two ways to cure bacon would be by pumping or dry curing. In this, the concentration of nitrites is controlled. When pump curing bacon, the nitrites should not go over 120 parts per million (ppm) and when dry curing bacon, they should not go over 200 ppm.
Uncured bacon would be bacon that did not get cured with nitrites. This bacon is cured with celery, parsley, beet extract, and sea salt.
Types of Bacon
As suggested by its name, gypsy bacon is the type of bacon that is used by gypsies in the world. This is an old school form of bacon that is very popular in the Hungary region, but it is very similar to the traditional type of bacon.
What sets this bacon apart from the rest is that it is cured but still has rind. It has a rich flavor and a distinguishable aroma. This bacon is quite easy to cook for most people and it can be cooked on top of a campfire, making it the ideal option for the individuals that are always on the go. Gypsy bacon is available in meat stores, so amateur cooks can cook it flawlessly as well.
Duck bacon is the option for people that want to be munching on a good piece of meat but do not like indulging in pork. Bacon is a cut of meat that does not necessarily have to be from pork. Duck bacon is cut from duck, obviously.
Duck bacon is a niche item which is made in many ways. There is not one way that is suitable for all people; depending on the individual, duck bacon can be made in different ways. Most commonly, duck bacon is cured. Thick slices are cut from the breast of the duck meat. This type of bacon has its benefit as it is not as fatty as pork bacon.
Canadian bacon is also known as back bacon. Authentic Canadian bacon is identified with its thick slices, perfect cure and the way it has been cooked. Because it has a lean cut and unique appearance, it is often confused and compared with ham.
The name Canadian bacon is only used in the United States. Moreover, it is a bacon type which is really popular in America. In Canada, it is just called back bacon. Canada is famous for another type of bacon as well called Peameal bacon. This southern Ontario bacon is made with boneless pork loins and coated in cornmeal.
Thanks to coconut bacon, vegans have finally entered bacon mania because they do not eat the bacon that comes from pigs. Coconut bacon is not made with any kind of meat, making it one of the most interesting kinds of bacon available. This vegan bacon alternative is made with coconut flakes, spices, and salt. Most of the times, coconut bacon is made with maple syrup and soy sauce. With the right proportions of flavorings, coconut bacon can have the same consistency and flavor as real bacon, which is what earned its name.
This bacon is the best way for vegetarians and vegans to enjoy bacon just as carnivores enjoy it on a daily basis.
The biggest contribution to the bacon world would be Italy as it serves us with salt cured pork belly known as pancetta. Generally, only black pepper is used to elevate the taste of this meat, but there can be other spices added to heighten the taste.
Pancetta has a few popular types as well such as arrotolata and stesa. Arrotolata is usually consumed raw and it is commonly used in sandwiches. Stesa is usually eaten in grilled strips and used in pasta dishes. Although both these types of bacon are completely different from each other, true bacon lovers can eat and appreciate both.
This type of pork belly cut originates from Korea is called samgyeopsal or samgyeopsal-gui. Samgyeopsal-gui means “three layers of flesh,” which does not sound like something appetizing or indulging at all. However, when this type of bacon is prepped correctly, it has the utmost delicious taste ever.
This Korea originated bacon is quite fatty and thick. Samgyeopsal-gui is considered as a grilled dish because gui means grilled. Unlike the other types of bacon, this three layered flesh bacon does not get marinated nor does it get seasoned. Recently, there have been versions of this seasoned samgyeopsal-gui bacon, making it a popular meat option in Korea. It has gained so much popularity that there is an entire day dedicated to this bacon on March 3rd.
Chicken Fried Bacon
Culinary legends state that chicken friend bacon was first ever invented in a restaurant in Texas during the early 90’s. What leaves people confused is that how could someone not think about frying this beautiful piece of meat before? Whatever the case may be, this bacon type is delicious, despite, how unhealthy it can be.
Chicken fried bacon is strips of bacon that have been deep fried. This bacon is usually served as an appetizer with complementary sauces. What you need to keep in mind is that this bacon is pretty unhealthy no matter how delicious it may be.
Another alternative for the non-pork eaters would be elk bacon or venison bacon. Deer, granted, and elk are not the same kind of animals, but the meat from these animals has the amount of fat needed to add a smokey flavor to the meat, making it the perfect option for bacon. Adding honey as a source of flavoring to elk bacon strips adds a layer of scrumptiousness to this piece of meat.
Elk bacon (and venison bacon) is the ideal option for hunters as they can make good use of the meat they are hunting.
Lap yuk is a type of bacon which is from China and it is used in many popular Asian dishes. Most of the time, lap yuk is produced from a part of the pork belly. In addition, this type of bacon is air cured with brown sugar, soy sauce, and different spices.
This bacon is sold with the rind attaches to it so it is safe to say that this meat cut possesses a strong pork flavor and aroma. Lap yuk is often infused with star anise and cinnamon as well to give it an exotic flavor. Since this bacon specializes in China, it is the most accessible for Chinese people. But, this type of bacon can also be found in other markets situated around Asia.
Lardon or lardoons is another type of fatty bacon which is served in either a cube form or in small strips. Sometimes, it is also referred to as pork fat. Lardon is the type of bacon which can be used for many different kinds of foods including salad. This bacon originates from France and it is popularly used in dishes of that country.
Lardon can be prepared from different cuts including pork belly and fatback. Authentic lardon cannot be smoked; it must be cured with salt. Although it does not resemble the appearance of ham at all, its taste can be compared to that ultra rich meat piece.
Salo belongs to Russia and it is a traditional food for this country. However, in Eastern Europe and the British nation, it can easily be considered as bacon. The word salo means bacon. This meat is cured slab bacon and is it most commonly salt cured.
This bacon can be cooked or eaten raw; it solely depends on what you want to eat. If this meat is cooked, it is most commonly fried, but depending on a country’s geographical position, this bacon is cooked differently. There are some countries that cook salo with black pepper, garlic, and salt. In Russia, it is served on bread with garlic.
Turkey bacon is a non-pork option and it is often considered a healthy alternative to traditional bacon. Turkey bacon undergoes a process in which the turkey is first seasoned then chopped in a way where it can resemble the appearance of bacon strips. Although it has lesser calories and lesser fat than traditional bacon, turkey bacon has high contents of ingredients that can be detrimental to health and it is processed.
It is available at stores that sell it as an alternative to classic bacon. Similarly, this bacon can be micro waved, baked or pan fried until it is crispy and golden.
Jowl bacon is an essential in the Southern part of the United States. It is a type of bacon is obtained from the cheeks of the pork and it is smoked and cured. This bacon has become the staple for many soul foods, but outside the United States, it has a non-smoked and dry cured version called guanciale. Most of the times, this bacon is used as a garnish or used inside sandwiches.
Similar to streaky bacon, this type of bacon is typically used a side in a full English breakfast (especially popular in the United Kingdom).
When talking about German bacon, people are often referring to a meet that is referred to as Frühstücksspeck. In German, Frühstücksspeck means breakfast fat or breakfast speck. Frühstücksspeck is sometimes smoked, cured slices of pork.
Apart from this, there are a few others types of bacon meats that are quite popular in Germany. People of Bavaria love Wammerl which is grilled pork belly. Griebien is bacon cut in small cubes which is quite popular in the southern part of the country. Moreover, when it comes to meat in Germany, another popular one would be Bratwurst.
Jalapeno bacon is the ultimate combination of bacon and jalapenos. As suggested by its name, jalapenos are added to this bacon so the standard bacon dish can be elevated with a delicious spice.
Although this type of bacon may seem different for many, this way of cooking it is becoming more and more popular. There are some brands that are releasing their own versions of jalapeno bacon that can be purchased at stores. Moreover, this type of bacon has become a popular option in bacon mania as well.
Ways to Cook Bacon
In the Microwave
Take a bowl and flip it over on a plate. Spread the bacon on top of the bowl and cook it for 1 minute. This way, the grease will drip down the sides of the bowl. Since there will be no grease left on the strips of bacon, the bacon will get crunchy and it will be less greasy.
In the Oven
Preheat your oven to 425 degrees. Cover the baking tray with aluminum foil and spread 6 slices of bacon on it. On top of the bacon, keep a clean cooling rack. Roast the slices of bacon for 6 minutes; turn them over and roast for another 6 minutes. This will allow the bacon to cook perfectly and evenly.
On the Grill
When adding bacon in burgers, make sure you are grilling them for 5 to 7 minutes on top of the cooler part of the grill.
In the Deep Fryer
Using the deep fryer is a great way to cook your bacon. Take 6 strips of bacon and add it in hot oil for 5 minutes. This will give you chewy, curled bacon.
In Its Own Fat
If you frequently cook bacon, you know how much fat it secretes. Instead of throwing that away, store the fat in a container. Next time you are cooking bacon, use the fat. In a cast iron skillet, add the fat and fry the fresh pieces of bacon on medium high heat. When the frozen liquid fully melts, add the bacon strips and let it cook. When it is done cooking, blot it with paper towels and start eating.
Bacon is a type of meat loved by people all around the world. Whether it is used as a side or the main star in a savory dish, every bite of it will be highly appreciated. There are many types of bacon available in the world and –almost- every country has its own special way of cooking it. Once you figure out what your favorite type and style of cooking bacon is, start cooking. However, make sure that you are not consuming it in excessive portions as it can be quite unhealthy.