Irish bacon is traditionally made from the back of the pig as opposed to the pork belly commonly used in American bacon. In this sense it is more similar to Canadian bacon; both Canadian and Irish bacon are referred to as back bacon but the Irish variety has more fat and often cut into a round shape. Both are cured and are about the same thickness, significantly thicker than American bacon. The fat surrounding the meat gives Irish bacon its distinctive taste, enhancing its flavor. It is typically cooked until done but not until crisp like American streaky bacon.
Irish bacon is a common breakfast item in Ireland, although the term “Irish” is dropped and it is only referred to as “bacon.” A traditional Irish breakfast consists of eggs, blood pudding, white pudding, and bacon, typically the round variety, which is referred to as “Irish bacon” in other parts of the world. For breakfast, Canadian bacon or slices of ham can often be used as substitutes to Irish bacon. Sometimes, pancetta can also be substituted when the recipe calls for Irish bacon and none is available.
A little less fatty than American bacon, Irish bacon is meatier and leaner. It is a great addition to sandwiches, especially delicious in club sandwich or a monte cristo, and makes an excellent ingredient for making frittatas, omelets, salads, and pasta. It can often be cooked and prepared the same way as the streaky U.S. variety although the main difference is that it is not cooked to a crisp.
Irish bacon can also be sliced into strips and added to salads or cut into small cubes and used as garnish for a wide variety of dishes. It is best as a breakfast item and can accompany pancakes, waffles, eggs, or toast. As a light lunch, it is delectable with potatoes or rice.