Bacon may make everything better, but it’s certainly not the only cured meat in the game, nor should it be the only cured meat you use in the kitchen. Now is the time to start exploring the whole wide world of cured meats.
Bacon has long been a heavyweight in the kitchen, and it is undeniably an amazing, cheap staple food that not only tastes great alongside eggs, but also enhances the flavor of vegetables, pastas, casseroles, and soups, among other dishes.
But once you’ve wrapped everything in bacon, it gets, gasp, kind of old. In fact, Americans eat about 18 pounds of bacon a year, which means we’re stuck in a cured-meat rut. This is where charcuterie, the craft of curing, salting, and preserving meat — generally pork — comes into play.
Bacon is pork belly that has most often been cured using a salt brine, and is then usually hot-smoked. The most prevalent bacon styles in the United States use methods popularized in England.
Long before we had freezers and refrigerators, humans around the world found ways to preserve food. The first recorded method of curing meat is salting, in which salt is used to dehydrate the meat. After salting came brining (pickling), and then smoking. Although these methods are no longer necessary for preservation purposes, cured meats are delicious and make for some amazing additions to food.
For the sake of narrowing down the almost infinite amount of amazing cured fish, meat, and poultry from around the world, this list is limited to cured meats that could be used in place of bacon in a recipe. These cured meats are fatty, super salty, and add tons of meaty flavor when sautéed gently to render the fat.
Find some new pork products to satisfy your bacon cravings.
Chorizo, Spanish dry-cured smoked pork sausage (as opposed to fresh Mexican chorizo), is flavored with garlic and smoked Spanish pimentón (like paprika).
Coppa, also known as capicola (and sometimes pronounced gabagool) is a dry-cured Italian shoulder ham seasoned with wine, herbs, and spices.