Bacon is just bacon, right? Well, what you might not know is that there are many different cuts of bacon. Most people buy back bacon but if you're a bacon lover you should take a look at the other cuts that are available to you.
The key difference between different bacon products usually comes down to the following 3 things:
The cut of bacon you are buying.
The curing and smoking process (if any).
So, what's the difference between the cuts? Let's take a closer look.
There are 5 different bacon cuts
There are five basic cuts of bacon, each offering a different taste and texture. As with any meat, different parts of the animal produce different textures and flavours. And again as with any meat, fat equals flavour.
Your preference on what bacon cut tastes the best will lie in where you sit in the balance between meat (texture) versus fat (flavour).
Ok let's take a look at these cuts of bacon.
Middle Cut Bacon
This is a really tasty cut if you can get it. It's a much larger piece of bacon as it's streaky and back bacon in one cut. Excellent flavour and texture and is called as such as it’s taken from the middle of the pig.
Probably the best selling cut due to the depth of flavour and texture. Great if you like your bacon meaty with little fat.
This is taken from the leg of the pig. It’s hard working muscle so it's a textured but it's also the leanest cut of bacon. Great for high protein snack.
Not as hard working as the leg muscles, shoulder produces great marbling through the muscle and that means great flavour. Not the prettiest piece of bacon but fantastic texture and flavour.
There is more fat on this cut which is means its very succulent and juicy. Ideal also for sealing in moisture and adding flavour to a roast or large cut of meat. Also a good one if you like your bacon super crispy.
Pancetta or bacon lardons
Chopped, little pieces of bacon, all ready for quick cooking. Have a look at the packet and see if you can tell what cut of bacon that's gone into these. Just by looking at the colour of the chopped bacon inside you should be able to make a call on the balance of meat to fat. You'll want some fat if you are adding to casseroles but something a bit leaner if you want something for topping a pizza or for adding depth and texture to a quick pasta supper.
The bacon curing process
All meat is cured to preserve it. In days before refridgeration, it was widely used to preserve meat. Curing uses salt to draw moisture out of the meat.
What is dry curing?
The dry curing process involves rubbing curing mix all over the joints. Preferably done by hand to ensure the whole surface is covered. As every cut is different, each one should be weighed individually and the curing salts rubbed into the meat ensure all parts are reached and cured equally.
These joints are then left to cure for 14 days. After 14 days, this joint is now ready to be cut into rashers.
What is wet curing?
Wet curing involves the joints being submerged in a curing pickle ie salty water. This cures the meat but also allows a large amount of liquid to be absorbed by the meat. You'll know your bacon has been wet cured if there is a fair bit of shrinkage when you cook it.
This links back to the curing process. Many lower cost bacon products are wet cured and have added water to plump them up so they look succulent. What happens to all this water when you cook this bacon? Well it's that white watery sludge that appears in your frying pan or bottom of your grill.
Don't worry though, if this all seems a little daunting, we're always available to help or discuss your requirements.
Here at Puddledub, we love our bacon and have spent a long time getting the taste absolutely right. From breeding and raising our own Puddledub pigs to the dry curing and traditional hand crafted methods used, we don’t cut any corners to bring you the very best bacon we can. All our bacon cuts are available as smoked or unsmoked. Our smokehouse uses beechwood chipping and our smoker adds a great depth of flavour to our bacon.
Jo Mitchell is a member of the Mitchell family and helps market Puddledub. Mum of 2 boys and living on the family farm helps Jo tell the story of farm life and provenance as well as sampling many of Puddledub's gluten free products.