America has been bacon-crazy for quite some time now; we’ve got not just bacon itself in countless forms but everything from bacon chocolate to deep-fried bacon and beer ice cream sandwiches, to bacon cotton candy. It’s not a new craze, but it is still a growing one.
The word bacon has its origins in Old High German — it referred to the “back” of the pig, where some bacon meat comes from, especially in certain countries outside the United States (we like ours from the fattier belly of the animal).
Domesticated pigs were introduced to the Americas by Christopher Columbus (he brought eight with him on his first big trip), and then again by Hernando de Soto — who brought mainland America’s first 13 pigs to Tampa Bay, Florida — but bacon really hit it big in 1924 when Oscar Mayer introduced pre-packaged portions of pre-sliced bacon to consumers. Since then, it’s been America’s favorite breakfast food.
In Germany, bacon (or speck) is sold in chunks and browned in a pan. The meat is first cured with salt, then cold-smoked with beechwood before being air-dried. The Germans choose beech to create a specific flavor — you won't find maple- or hickory-smoked bacon here. Koreans flame-grill their pork belly, or samgyeopsal-gui, much like barbecue. Since it is not cured or smoked, the natural flavor of the meat is revealed after cooking.
Want to get your pork belly fix while traveling? Here’s what to look for.
Original reporting by Fabiana Santana.