This article is about bacon, the food item. For other meanings, see bacon (disambiguation). For the movie "Canadian Bacon", see Canadian Bacon (movie).

Bacon is any of certain cuts of meat taken from the sides or back or belly of a pig, cured and possibly smoked. It is generally considered a breakfast dish, cut into thin slices before being fried, or grilled. It is commonly used as an ingredient in recipes, and is valued both as a source of fat and for its flavour.

Missing image
An example of "streaky bacon".

A side of unsliced bacon is known as a flitch. An individual slice of bacon is called a rasher. Traditionally the skin is left on the cut and is known as bacon rind. Rindless bacon is also available as a healthier alternative.

Bacon in North America is predominantly what the British call "streaky bacon" whilst in the United Kingdom and Ireland bacon comes in a wide variety of cuts and flavours.

Curing and smoking

Curing means preserving with salt. The traditional dry-cure process involves taking the meat and rubbing it, over a number of days, with dry salt or a mixture of salt, sugar and spices. It is then left to hang for up to 2 weeks in order for the moisture to be drawn out. It must then be left to cure in a cool, dry, airy environment for anything up to 9 months. Less time is needed if it is going to be smoked.

The alternative wet-cure process (which produces Wiltshire bacon) involves immersing the meat in brine for two to three days. Sweetcure bacon is produced by adding sugar to the brine. Honey-cured bacon has added honey, and maple cure bacon has added maple syrup. The meat must then be left to hang for approximately 2 weeks until it is cured.

Modern mass produced bacon uses the wet-cure process but also involves pumping additional water, sodium nitrite and phosphates directly into the flesh to speed up the process and add bulk. However, this is directly at the expense of flavour. Mass produced bacon is held for curing for 6 to 24 hours before being cooked.

Smoking is used to impart more flavour into the bacon and also to speed up the curing process. Unsmoked bacon is sometimes known as green bacon. Smoked bacon is traditionally produced by allowing the cured meat to hang in a room over a bed of smoking wood chips. Using different varieties of wood (such as apple, beech, cherry, hickory, or oak) gives the cured bacon different flavours. Cold smoking involves leaving the joints at a low temperature fire for anything up to 2-3 weeks. Hot smoking involves using a much higher temperature where the meat is partially cooked over a few days.

Mass produced bacon is cooked in large convection ovens. The ovens can either be of the "batch" or "continuous" variety. In a batch oven, the bacon is cooked and smoked in the same cabinet. In a continuous oven, bacon hung on a monorail system is moved from a cooking cabinet to a smoking cabinet by an overhead chain. Smoke flavor is imparted to the bacon either using natural smoke obtained by burning wood chips, or by spraying the bacon with a liquid smoke extract. Mass production cooking is much quicker than traditional smoking due to the use of convective heat transfer and can be completed in as little as 6 hours.

After cooking and smoking, the bacon must be chilled before being pressed and sliced. In mass production, bacon should be chilled to under 40°F in less than six hours after cooking in order to prevent bacterial growth and promote product shelf life.

Cuts of bacon

Most bacon consumed in the UK is back bacon (also called short back bacon). The cut comes from the loin in the middle of the back of the animal. It is a lean meaty cut of bacon, with relatively less fat compared to other cuts.

Back bacon is known as Canadian bacon in the United States but not in Canada, where it is simply called back bacon. In Canada it is traditionally unsmoked back bacon that has been sweet pickle cured and coated in yellow cornmeal. This variation is also known as peameal bacon, because in times past a mixture of ground yellow peas was used for coating to improve curing and shelf-life. The "Canadian" bacon sold in the United States is plain lean back bacon.

Middle bacon is much like back bacon but is cheaper and somewhat fattier. Collar bacon is taken from the back of a pig near the head. Streaky bacon (the most common form of bacon in the United States) comes from the belly of a pig. It is very fatty with long veins of fat running parallel to the rind. Pancetta is Italian streaky bacon, smoked or green (unsmoked), with a strong flavour.

Gammon is Wiltshire cured bacon rolled into a joint. It is often boiled or baked. Boiled Bacon And Cabbage a traditional Irish recipe uses a gammon joint. Rashers of bacon are a main constituent of the traditional Irish breakfast, along with sausages.

Although Britain has a large pork and bacon industry, much of the bacon consumed in Britain is produced in Denmark, and marketed as Danish bacon (the word "Danish" is stamped on the rind). In 1999 the Conservative Party leader at the time, William Hague, called for a ban on Danish bacon. He claimed that Britain's strict animal welfare regulations meant that British pig farmers could not compete with Danish producers who use a so-called "stall and tether" system.da:Bacon de:Speck nl:Spek ja:ベーコン zh:煙肉


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