What is Bacon?
Bacon is a form of cured meat product prepared from pig meat. The meat strips are used as a main ingredient in numerous dishes in various cuisines throughout the world. It is known as “tocino” in Spanish while the French name for the meat is “lard”. The salty processed meat has many health benefits to offer as well.
Table Of Content
The slices of bacon can also be referred to as “rashers”. They vary according to the primal cut they are prepared from:
Streaky or Side Bacon: They come from the pork belly and have thick fat layers along the sides of the rind. This form is most commonly used in the US. Pancetta is Italian side bacon available both in the smoked and un-smoked (aqua) forms, with a strong flavor. This type of rashers is usually rolled into cylinders once cured.
Middle Bacon: It is prepared from the sides of the animal with a moderate fat content and flavor. This product is less expensive than the streaky bacon.
Back Bacon or Canadian bacon (in the US): The rashers are prepared from the loins in the middle part of the animal’s back. This is a lean and meaty cut having much less fat than the other cuts. Their texture resembles that of ham. Most bacon used in the UK is Canadian bacon.
Cottage Bacon: These thin, oval shaped slices of pork meat are prepared from the shoulder region of the animal. The meat is first cured and then cut into round slice for frying or baking. This variety has a low fat content.
Jowl Bacon: This is the cured and then smoked cheeks of pigs.
Slab Bacon: This variety generally has moderate to high levels of fat. It is prepared from the side cuts, belly as well as the fatback. It should not be confused with another pork product named salt pork, which is made from the similar cuts; but unlike the slab bacon, it is not cured.
Bacon joints are also available in several varieties, including:
Collar Bacon: Like the name suggests, it is prepared from the animal’s back, near the head.
Hock: It is the ankle joint cut between the ham and foot.
Gammon: The Gammon is the hind leg cut, cured in the traditional Wiltshire manner.
Picnic: The picnic includes the shoulder cut beneath the blade. This variety is quite lean but tougher than many pork cuts.
Uncured and un-smoked pork belly is known as Chinese bacon and is used in numerous dishes in the Chinese cuisine.
The following chart gives the nutritional value of 1 strip of the cured meat:
|Nutrients||Amounts (Recommended Daily Value)|
|Calories from fat||32|
|Total Fat||3.6 gm (5%)|
|– Saturated Fats||1.2 gm (6%)|
|– Trans Fat||0 gm|
|Cholesterol||9 mg (3%)|
|Sodium||196 mg (8%)|
|Total Carbohydrates||0.1 gm (< 1%)|
|– Dietary Fiber||0 gm (0%)|
|– Sugars||0 gm|
|Vitamin A||0 mg|
|Vitamin B||0 mg|
Many health benefits can be derived from it when consumed in moderate amounts:
Good Source of Animal Protein: It is packed with protein essential for the body to function properly while maintaining the energy levels. Bacon helps to keep the body healthy, having very little amounts of fat building carbohydrates.
Regulates Blood Pressure: According to various studies, eating moderate amounts of bacon regularly helps to lower the blood sugar and blood pressure levels. It also helps to prevent and cure the symptoms of diabetes.
Increases Metabolism: It is erroneously believed to have a high fat contain that is harmful for the human health. But it truth, its high protein/low carbohydrate energy content helps to satiate one’s appetite and make them feel full, raising the metabolism and helping to lose weight. It also strengthens the muscles. Its total cholesterol, fat and saturated fat contents are higher than those of various popular cuts of chicken and beef.
Good for the Brain: The meat is rich in “choline” an essential nutrient for proper brain development. Studies show that choline is also useful for preventing and fighting chronic brain diseases like Alzheimer’s disease.
Rich in Essential Nutrients: It contains significant amounts of various vitamins and minerals essential for the body to function properly. The cured meat provides around 65% of the Recommended Daily Intake (RDI) of Thiamin, 47% of Niacin, 38% of Vitamin B12, 22% of Riboflavin, 24% of Vitamin B6, 22% of Phosphorus, 36% of Zinc, 10% of Magnesium, 10% of Pantothenic acid and 9% of Iron. Additionally, it has the highest protein to fat balance (4 to 1) provided by any fish, fowl or meat products.
Good for the Heart: Recent studies show that the Omega-3 Fatty Acids present in this meat actually make it beneficial for the heart. The choline found in it also helps to prevent various heart disorders such as strokes and heart attacks. It is even believed to help in recovering from such conditions.
Here are the main uses of the cured meat:
- In the US, the streaky and the Canadian varieties are often added to various foods, like salads, pizza, cheeseburgers, sandwiches, hot dogs, baked potatoes and soups, as a topping.
- Bacon jerky and bacon popcorns are popular snacks in various parts of the world.
- Fried or grilled strips are popularly consumed, along with eggs, as a whole breakfast.
- It is also commonly used for preparing various appetizers and side dishes.
- Bacon is even added to desserts like ice creams and brownies as well as various alcoholic beverages for producing a unique flavor and taste.
Recent studies suggest it to be useful for stopping nosebleed. According to a report, strips of cured pork have been successfully used as nasal tampons for curing nosebleeds in a 4-year old girl, in Michigan.
Bacon Flavored Products
The popularity of this cured meat in the US has brought about numerous bacon flavored commercial products. Some of these products are quite unusual, such as bacon peanut brittle, coffee, mints, candy canes, salt, bacon mayonnaise (baconnaise), bacon vodka, bourbon and soda. Various inedible products are also available, including bacon flavored soaps, air fresheners, perfumes, band aids and even scarves.
Curing bacon at home is an easy procedure that allows one to add some variety to the daily breakfast. One can also avoid the nitrites and nitrates present in the commercially prepared product by curing it at home. Here is how to make nitrate-free bacon it at home:
- First, the pork belly needs to be rinsed thoroughly and then patted dry.
- Next, one has to mix ½ cup of sugar, 1 tablespoon of curing salt, 2 tablespoons of kosher salt, 1 tablespoon of blackstrap molasses and 1 tablespoon of ground black pepper together in a bowl.
- The mixture has to be rubbed evenly into the port piece.
- Next, the meat has to be put in a large plastic bag and stored in the fridge for seven days. One should make sure to lay the plastic bag flat and flip the meat daily to make sure all the moisture is not absorbed by just one side.
- Once the seven days are over, one should take the bacon out of the bag to see if it has been cured properly. If the meat is soft and spongy in spots, then it has to be massaged with additional 2 tablespoons of salt and stored in the refrigerator in the same manner. One should check the meat again 1-2 days later.
- The salts, sugar and pepper should be rinsed off the meat once it is properly cured. The meat should be patted dry before storing it for later consumption.
How to Cook Bacon in the Oven?
Cooking bacon in the microwave is not difficult. It takes very little time while ensuring a delicious, evenly cooked strip of meat that can brighten up one’s day. Here are the instructions for making bacon in the oven:
- First, the oven rack needs to be positioned in the middle before preheating the oven at 375 °C.
- Then, the raw bacon strips should be laid flat on a baking sheet lined with an aluminum foil. It is important to leave a little space between the strips to make sure they do not overlap.
- Pop the meat into the oven and cook it for 15-20 minutes. Excess grease produced by the meat should be drained halfway through cooking.
- The baking is done once small grease bubbles starts appearing on the meat while it is still quite tender. The meat tends to become too firm if it is cooked too long.
Cooking it in the microwave is another way to make sure that the meat is cooked perfectly.
The rashers contain high amounts of fat or grease which melts into bacon drippings once the meat is heated. The flavorful grease is often saved, especially in the southern US and British cuisines, to be used in cooking and for flavoring various dishes like gravies, salad dressing and cornbreads. It is traditionally used for making crispy bacon on the stove top.
The names of some of the most popular dishes are mentioned below:
- Bacon Wrapped Chicken Breasts
- Bacon Wrapped Dates Stuffed with Goat Cheese
- Bacon Wrapped Scallops with Spicy Mayo
- Bacon Explosion or Bacon Bomb with Cheese
- Maple-Pecan Sundaes with Candied Bacon
- Bacon Wrapped Shrimp & Asparagus
- Chocolate-Covered Bacon
- Slow-Cooker Bacon Jam or Marmalade
- Bacon and Brussels Sprout Mac and Cheese
- Bacon-Wrapped Water Chestnuts
- Green Beans with Bacon Vinaigrette
- Bacon-Wrapped Jalapeno Poppers
- Bacon-Wrapped Meat Loaf with Barbecue Sauce Glaze
- Spinach Salad with Warm Bacon Dressing
- Bacon-Wrapped Pork Tenderloin
- Applewood Smoked Bacon
- Peanut Butter-Chocolate Chip-Bacon Cookies
- Potato, Bacon & Egg Salad
- Deep Fried Bacon-Wrapped Hot Dogs
- Avocado & Bacon Deviled Eggs
- Peameal Bacon Roast
- Cauliflower-Broccoli Bacon Salad
- Bacon and Spinach Quiche
- Irish Bacon Sandwich
- Bacon-Wrapped Filet Mignon
- Bacon Milkshake
- Chicken Bacon Ranch Pizza
- Bacon Cheeseburger Meatloaf
- Garlic Mashed Potatoes with Bacon Gravy
- Chicken-Bacon-Ranch Pasta Salad
- Bacon Wrapped Tater Tots
- Green Bean Casserole With Bacon And Potatoes
- Maple-Glazed Bacon Donuts
- Smoked Bacon Lardons
- Cream of Potato Soup with Bacon
- Bacon Fried Rice
- Apple Bacon Pie with Cheddar Crust
- Chicken and Bacon Corn Chowder
- Broccoli-Bacon Salad
- Chocolate Bacon Cupcakes
- Bacon Wrapped & Grilled Tenderloin Steak
- Creamy Bacon Carbonara
- Fried Cabbage and Bacon Soy Sauce
- Bacon Wrapped Turkey Breast
- Kale and Bacon Frittata
- Maple Bacon-Wrapped Salmon
- Corn Bacon Muffins
- Bacon Horseradish Dip
- Black-Eyed Pea Risotto with Bacon
Turkey bacon can be used as a nutritious substitute for the pork product. Vegetarian alternatives are also available with eggplant bacon being one of the most popular varieties.
Is Bacon Bad for the Health?
It has been believed to be bad for the human health for a long time. However, recent studies have proved the inaccuracy of most of the claims about bacon increasing the risks of various diseases. Still, there are certain health risks associated with consuming too much of cured pork. According to a “British Journal of Cancer” report, eating bacon every day (even one daily serving) tends to increase the chances of developing pancreatic cancer.
Where to Buy
It is available at many grocery stores that sell meat products. One can also buy the cured meat from gourmet food stores where both raw and pre-cooked bacon is available. Canned bacon can be availed at local meat stores or ordered online. The price can vary between $2 and $5 depending on the variety.
Find out some fascinating facts about this popular food:
- It is believed to be an effective mood elevator as it helps to reduce stress by making one feel happy and satisfied.
- The TMI Foods from the UK has found a way for making a natural bio-diesel using bacon fat. This inexpensive, environment-friendly fuel is useful both for transportation and industrial purposes.
- Yearly Bacon festivals are held in various places in the United States. These festivals allow bacon enthusiasts to come together for participating in activities like bacon eating contests and sampling its varieties.
- International Bacon Day is unofficially observed in the US on the Saturday before the Labor Day.
- Bacon roses, roses made by rolling the strips tightly, are a popular gift item, especially in the US.
Check out the following images to find out how the different types look.
- by Deepamala Bhattacharya
- July 19th 2013