Few foods are as irresistible as bacon. A well-cooked strip of bacon (or two or three) tastes of salt and smoke and sweetness, and every crunchy bite creates a craving for another one. Even the fiercest dietary willpower weakens in front of a mahogany pile of hot bacon. It’s the food vegetarians miss most.
Bacon makes all kinds of other foods better: What’s tomato, lettuce, and bread without bacon? Or a club sandwich, or a Cobb salad? Bacon transforms a cheeseburger, zips up beef stew and chili, and makes a crisp, savory wrap for shrimp; diced and fried, it’s great on greens or a chilled oyster or a hot chowder, and let’s not forget pizza. Oh, bacon! There are so many ways to love you.
Know your bacons
Most of the bacon sold in the West (as well as the rest of the country) is the crunchy, fatty, smoked kind, taken from the belly of the pig (what the British call “streaky bacon”). It’s sold in a few different forms:
- Thick-cut. Great if you like a hefty crunch; good for dicing or slicing before frying, to top soups and salads; about 16 slices in a pound.
- Thin-cut. Makes the crispest possible morning slice; about 32 slices in a pound.
- Center-cut. Has a greater percentage of meat to fat than ordinary bacon does.
- Slab. The whole cured pork belly, sold unsliced.
Other bacon types
- Canadian bacon. From the back (loin) of the pig; very lean; sold precooked.
- Pancetta. Italian bacon, cured with salt and spices but not smoked.
- Chinese bacon (lop yuk; sold at Chinese butcher shops and some markets). Air-cured with soy sauce, sugar, and spices like star anise and Sichuan peppercorn. It’s usually not eaten on its own, but used in small chunks to flavor other dishes.
Next: eating bacon responsibly: Can it be done?