Salty, Crispy, Fatty. These are just a few thoughts we have when the craving for bacon hits. Bacon has always been that one guilty pleasure for breakfast. It was always one of the few things that would actually get me out of bed on a Saturday morning. Alarm clocks have never worked for me but bacon, the smell of it wafting in the air throughout the whole house, was always a surefire way to get me up. To this day, it’s probably the only effective way of doing so.
For the uninitiated, bacon serves as versatile ingredient. From simple frying in a skillet to candied and used as a topping for a maple bacon doughnut, bacon has become an ingredient that should be loved and treasured by all.
So we all know what bacon is, but what actually goes into making this piece of deliciousness? Traditionally, bacon is made of pork belly and cured in salt and an assortment of spices. Pork belly itself is very fatty and obviously one of the reasons it just tastes so darn good. Depending on where you buy your bacon, it may also be smoked. Because it’s such a decadent ingredient, the fat itself is actually an important element that accounts for it being used in a number of dishes.
Wet-cured bacon is probably the bacon that most of us are familiar with. It’s the one found in the packaging at the grocery store and has that greasy liquid splattering everywhere when you open it up. It’s called “wet-cured” because the pork belly has been cured in a brine.
Dry-cured bacon is my personal favorite form of bacon. This is simply pork bacon belly rubbed liberally with salt and spices to flavor the pork.
Pancetta is the Italian version of bacon. It’s cured with salt and a black pepper and can commonly be found in a rolled-up form.
Although bacon is normally made of pork, many chefs and restaurants opt to use other cuts of meat. Duck, lamb and beef are popular because they offer fatty cuts of meat similar to pork belly but with a different taste.
I personally do not, in any way, consider this to be bacon. The use of turkey, tofu and anything similar to this is just not real bacon. These are usually made from chopped up meats that are seasoned and reformed to look like bacon. Do not fall victim to these counterfeit impostors. If you really want to savor the deliciousness of bacon, stay away from any kind of imitations and eat the real thing. Accept that there is no substitute for real bacon.
The simplest way of preparing bacon is crisping it up in a skillet. You get unadulterated bacon in its purest form and it can be enjoyed by itself with no need for any distractions.
In many recipes you’ll find that you need to cook down the bacon to use its fat. This is commonly referred to as rendering down the fat. You’re basically extracting as much of the fat as possible in order to use it in preparing a number of dishes including stews, soups and sauces. If you’ve got enough you can actually use the fat to deep fry whatever you’re cooking too. Think about it, deep frying anything is already so good, why not deep fry it in bacon fat to make that much better?
Recently, more and more chefs have been slowly incorporating bacon into their dessert recipes. If you’ve ever seen an episode of Epic Meal Time you’ve probably seen them candy bacon by smothering it in brown sugar and possibly even maple syrup.
A simple BLT would suffice but to top it all off with a fried green tomato just brings an awesome contrast to the fatty bacon.
Where dessert and meat collide there are maple bacon doughnuts. The salty bacon cuts through the sweetness of the maple glaze on top of this delectable treat.
This is by far one of my favorite preparations of bacon. Although it isn’t cured in the traditional sense it’s simply awesome. Crispy pork skin along with super juicy pork, what more could you want?
Finally, I leave you with two things – a quote from the great Ron Swanson…
and The Rules of Bacon.