The types of bacon you might find will vary all over the world. A slab of pork meat ranging from very lean to very fatty, bacon is cut from the underside, or belly, of a pig and is sold fresh, cured, or smoked. It is often fried or baked and served with eggs, pancakes, or waffles for breakfast, used to make sandwiches, especially BLT’s (bacon, lettuce, and tomatoes), atop hamburgers, or can adorn just about any dish you can think of.
Bacon is quite versatile in cooking: used whole to enhance the flavors of dishes, is wrapped around lean meats to provide moisture and an exquisitely savory and salty taste, and the bacon grease (fat rendered during cooking of the bacon) can be used to fry or cook other dishes. It makes sautéed vegetables and seafood more delicious. Below are some of the most popular types of bacon used in cooking today.
While many brands of common bacon are available in the store, gourmet bacon is in a class by itself.
MUST READ: The Top 10 Facts About Gourmet Bacon.
Bacon comes from the belly and side of a pig as seen in the illustration above.
American-style bacon: Cut from the belly of the pig, American-style bacon is cured in salt and then smoked. It has a streaky texture and ranges from very lean to very fatty depending on the selection and raising of the hog. One of the most common types of American-style bacon is Virginia bacon. American-style bacon is cut in a variety of thicknesses: thin, regular, thick, and extra thick (sometimes referred to as bacon steak). Before the bacon is sliced the rind is taken off.
Slab bacon: A single piece of large bacon with the rind left on, slab bacon is sometimes roasted over corncobs for additional flavor.
Canadian bacon: Cut from the pork loin from the back of the pig, Canadian bacon has fewer calories and less fat than American-style bacon. This popular pizza topping tastes a bit like ham and often has been smoked and cured.
Pancetta: Italian-style bacon cured with peppercorns, salt, and cloves, pancetta is packaged in a roll similar to sausage and sold by the slice.
Rashers: This style of bacon is more common in Europe, specifically the United Kingdom, and is cut from a different part of the pig than American-style bacon.
Irish bacon/Back bacon: A lean meat cut from the eye of the pork loin, Irish bacon is cured by smoking and is similar to boneless pork loin roast in appearance. It can be sliced thick or thin.
Fatback: A slab of fat that is cut along the back of the pig, fatback can be used as lard for frying or sautéing or cut into barding strips and wrapped around lean roasts. It is also used to line pate pans or terrine. Before cutting it into sheets, fatback is placed in the freezer so that it is easier to slice. Fatback may be seasoned and left to age.
Gypsy bacon: A Hungarian specialty, gypsy bacon is a slab of bacon roasted and seasoned with paprika. It is cut into thin slices and then served on rye bread. It is often sold in Hungarian or German markets.