Bacon–it’s one of America’s favorite foods. From BLT sandwiches and bacon cheeseburgers to eggs Benedict topped with Canadian bacon, bacon is found on a variety of our favorite dishes. It’s gained somewhat of a cult following as well, serving up novelties like bacon soda and even bacon ice cream. Bacon festivals are found in cities across the country with bacon eating competitions to boot. In short, we have an obsession with bacon and there’s no denying it. As the world of cured meats turn, the bacon club stands strong.
With all the hype around our favorite pork product, there’s no wonder there’s a multitude of different types of bacon you can buy at the store. Have you ever stopped to take a look at all of the different kinds–applewood smoked bacon , back bacon, country bacon and wonder what it all means?
I’m with you. Let’s uncover the world of bacon, together and figure out the best way to buy bacon and store it.
What is bacon?
Bacon is pork belly that has been cured and sometimes smoked before packaging. The bacon can come from different parts of the pig, like back bacon, but it must be specified. Most bacon that you see in the stores are from the belly and are cut into strips with that identifiable strip of fat.
Some bacon tends to be sweet and flavored with brown sugar (leading to the term, “meat candy”) while others tend to be on the more savory side with hints of smoky flavor.
The curing process of most bacon uses a wet salt-water brine which contains sodium-nitrate which retains the pink color of the bacon and helps cure it. There are also brands that produce uncured bacon, which prides itself on its natural ingredients and lack of nitrates added. This method uses natural occurring nitrates, which are found in celery, to cure the bacon without added chemicals.
Take a look at some of the types of bacon you can buy at the store:
1. Canadian bacon
Did you know that it’s only in America we call this type of bacon, Canadian? Closely related to ham, Canadian bacon is actually referred to as back bacon everywhere else. Whatever you call it, the cut includes part of the pork loin and the pork belly, making this bacon lean.
2. Dry cured bacon
Just like the name implies, dry cured bacon is bacon that has been cured by salt and other dry ingredients. The bacon is then smoked with something like hickory or applewood and treated just like regular bacon. The process takes longer than the wet brine, making this type of quality bacon a bit pricier.
3. Slab bacon
What makes this bacon a bit different than normal sliced bacon is the fact that the bacon is sold as entire slab, making it easy to slice thick pieces of bacon.
Prepared from the pork belly, pancetta is very similar to the sliced bacon we are used to. While both pancetta and bacon are prepared by curing, pancetta is not smoked and is usually sold in paper-thin rolls or in small cubes. The curing method includes lots of black pepper making pancetta tasty on its own.
5. Country bacon
Unlike bacon which is cut from the belly, smoked country bacon is actually made from the shoulder and cured and smoked. It can also be sold as country ham.
Other Types of Bacon
Along with these types of bacon there are also various types of “not bacon” bacon which includes turkey bacon, veggie bacon and yes, bacon bits. Turn over your jar of bacon bits and see if the label says, “bacon flavored bits”. If it does, the jar doesn’t hold a single piece of bacon in it.
So now you’ve got your bacon, what’s the best way to keep it super fresh?
According to Epicurious, an unopened bag of bacon will last about two weeks in the fridge before it starts to get a little funky. Once you open the bag, use the bacon within seven days and store it in an airtight container. Or better yet, cook up the entire batch of bacon and freeze it. When you are hankering for a slice of bacon, remove it from the freezer and warm it up in the microwave. Easy, peasy.