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Bacon is a cured meat prepared from a pig. It is first cured in a brine or in a dry packing, both containing large amounts of salt; the result is fresh bacon (also green bacon). Fresh bacon may then be further dried for weeks or months (usually in cold air), boiled, or smoked. Fresh and dried bacon must be cooked before eating. Boiled and smoked bacon are ready to eat, but may be cooked further before eating.

Bacon is prepared from several different cuts of meat. In the United States, it is almost always prepared from pork belly. Elsewhere, it is more often made from side and back cuts, and bacon made from bellies is referred to as "streaky", "fatty", or "American style". The side cut has more meat and less fat than the belly. Bacon may be prepared from either of two distinct back cuts: fatback, which is almost pure fat, and pork loin, which is very lean. Bacon-cured pork loin is known as back bacon.

Bacon may be eaten smoked, boiled, fried, baked, or grilled, or used as a minor ingredient to flavor dishes. Bacon is also used for barding and larding roasts, especially game birds. The word is derived from the Old High German bacho, meaning "buttock", "ham" or "side of bacon", and cognate with the Old French bacon.

In continental Europe, this part of the pig is usually not smoked like bacon is in the United States; it is used primarily in cubes (lardons) as a cooking ingredient, valued both as a source of fat and for its flavor. In Italymarker, this is called pancetta and is usually cooked in small cubes or served uncooked and thinly sliced as part of an antipasto.
Uncooked strips of bacon


Meat from other animals, such as beef, lamb, chicken, goat, or turkey, may also be cut, cured, or otherwise prepared to resemble bacon, and may even be referred to as "bacon". Such use is common in areas with significant Muslim populations. The USDAmarker defines bacon as "the cured belly of a swine carcass"; other cuts and characteristics must be separately qualified (e.g., "smoked pork loin bacon"). For safety, bacon must be treated for trichinella, a parasitic roundworm which can be destroyed by heating, freezing, drying, or smoking.

Bacon is distinguished from salt pork and ham by differences in the brine (or dry packing). Bacon brine has added ingredients, most notably sodium nitrite, and occasionally sodium nitrate or saltpeter, are added to cure the meat; sodium ascorbate or erythorbate are added to accelerate curing and stabilize color. Flavorings such as brown sugar or maple are used for some products. If used, sodium polyphosphates are added to improve sliceability and reduce spattering when the bacon is pan fried. Today, a brine for ham, but not bacon, includes a large amount of sugar. Historically, "ham" and "bacon" referred to different cuts of meat that were brined or packed identically, often together in the same barrel.

Curing and Smoking bacon

Bacon is cured through either a process of injecting with or soaking in brine or using plain salt (dry curing).

In America, bacon is usually cured and smoked, and different flavors can be achieved by using various types of wood, or rarely corn cobs; peat is used in the UK. This process can take up to eighteen hours, depending on the intensity of the flavor desired. The Virginia House-Wife (1824), thought to be one of the earliest American cookbooks, gives no indication that bacon is ever not smoked, though it gives no advice on flavoring, noting only that care should be taken lest the fire get too hot. In early American history, the preparation and smoking of bacon (like the making of sausage) seems to have been a gender-neutral process, one of the few food-preparation processes not divided by gender.

In the United Kingdommarker and Irelandmarker smoked and unsmoked varieties are equally common, unsmoked being referred to as green bacon. The leaner cut of back bacon is preferred to the bacon from the belly (that is ubiquitous in the United States) which is referred to as streaky bacon due to the prominence of the bands of fat. While there is a tendency on both sides of the Atlantic to serve belly bacon well done to crispy, back bacon is cooked to taste in often a way that, at first, appears undercooked to those used to belly bacon.

Cuts of bacon

Rashers (slices) differ depending on the primal cut from which they are prepared:

Cooked rasher of streaky bacon
  • Streaky bacon comes from pork belly. It is very fatty with long layers of fat running parallel to the rind. This is the most common form of bacon in the United States. Pancetta is Italianmarker streaky bacon, smoked or aqua (unsmoked), with a strong flavor. It is generally rolled up into cylinders after curing. In America unsmoked streaky bacon is often referred to as side pork.
Back bacon, ready for cooking
  • Middle bacon, from the side of the animal, is intermediate in cost, fat content, and flavor between streaky bacon and back bacon.
  • Back bacon comes from the loin in the middle of the back of the pig. It is a very lean, meaty cut of bacon, with less fat compared to other cuts. It has a ham-like texture. Most bacon consumed in the United Kingdommarker is back bacon. Also called Irish bacon or Canadian Bacon.
  • Cottage bacon is thinly sliced lean pork meat from a shoulder cut that is typically oval shaped and meaty. It is cured and then sliced into round pieces for baking or frying.
  • Jowl bacon is cured and smoked cheeks of pork. See Guanciale.


Slab bacons typically have a medium to very high fraction of fat. They are made from the belly and side cuts, and from fatback. Slab bacon is not to be confused with salt pork, which is prepared from the same cuts, but is not bacon cured.

Bacon joints include the following:
  • Collar bacon is taken from the back of a pig near the head.
  • Hock, from the hog ankle joint between the ham and the foot.
  • Gammon, from the hind leg, traditionally "Wiltshire cured".
  • Picnic bacon is from the picnic cut, which includes the shoulder beneath the blade. It is fairly lean, but tougher than most pork cuts.


In the English-speaking world

Traditionally, the skin is left on the cut and is known as bacon rind, but rindless bacon is also common throughout the English-speaking world. The meat may be bought smoked or unsmoked. Bacon is often served with eggs as part of a full breakfast.

Australia and New Zealand

Generally as for the United Kingdom. Middle bacon is the most common variety and are sold in "rashers". Middle bacon includes the streaky, fatty section along with the leaner "eye" at one end. In response to increasing consumer diet-consciousness, some supermarkets also offer the leaner "eye" end only. This is sold as "short cut bacon" and is usually priced slightly higher than middle bacon. Both varieties are usually available in rindless, that is, with the rind removed.

Canada

An individual slice of bacon is a slice or strip. In Canada:
  • The term bacon on its own refers generically to strip bacon from the belly meat of the pig, which is the most popular type of bacon sold in Canada.
  • The term back bacon is used interchangeably to describe either smoked or unsmoked back bacon.
  • The term peameal bacon is a variety of unsmoked back bacon which historically was brined and rolled in a meal made from ground yellow peas. Today, fine cornmeal is more commonly used as a coating.
  • Canadian bacon, meaning back bacon, is not in common parlance amongst Canadians.


United Kingdom and Ireland

An individual slice of bacon is a rasher, or occasionally a collop. In this region, bacon comes in a wide variety of cuts and flavors:
  • The term bacon on its own suggests the more common back bacon, but can refer to any cut.
  • The term Canadian bacon simply means bacon from Canada, though whether the product was entirely reared, slaughtered, cured, sliced and packed in Canada is not normally made clear on packaging. However, it is not particularly common nor regarded as different from other bacon.
  • Slices from the pork belly are referred to as streaky bacon, streaky rashers or belly bacon.
  • Slices from the back of the pig are referred to as back bacon or back rashers. These usually include a streaky bit and a lean oval bit, and are part of the traditional full breakfast.


United States

A side of unsliced bacon was once known as a flitch it is now known as a slab. An individual slice of bacon is a slice or strip.
  • The term bacon on its own refers generically to strip bacon from the belly meat of the pig, which is the most popular type of bacon sold in the U.S. Consumption of bacon increased from per person in 1998 to per person in 2007, or over .
  • The term Canadian Bacon or Canadian-style bacon must be made from the pork loin, and means back bacon, but this term refers usually to the lean ovoid portion (m. longissimus, or loineye). It also can be made from the sirloin portion of the loin (gluteal muscles), but must be labeled appropriately. Similar products made from the ham are used as less expensive substitutes.


Bacon mania

The United States has seen an increase in popularity of bacon and bacon related recipes, dubbed "bacon mania". Dishes such as bacon explosion, chicken fried bacon, and chocolate covered bacon have been popularized over the internet, as has using candied bacon. Recipes spread quickly through the national media, culinary blogs, and YouTube. Restaurants are organizing bacon and beer tasting nights, The New York Times reported on bacon infused with Irish whiskey used for Saint Patrick's Day cocktails, and celebrity chef Bobby Flay has endorsed a "Bacon of the Month" club online, in print, and on national television.

Commentators explain this surging interest in bacon by reference to what they deem American cultural characteristics. Sarah Hepola, in a 2008 article in Salon.com, suggests a number of reasons, one of them that eating bacon in the modern, health-conscious world is an act of rebellion: "Loving bacon is like shoving a middle finger in the face of all that is healthy and holy while an unfiltered cigarette smolders between your lips." She also suggests bacon is sexy (with a reference to Sarah Katherine Lewis' book Sex and Bacon), kitsch, and funny. Hepola concludes by saying that "Bacon is American":Alison Cook, writing in the Houston Chronicle (she calls bacon "democratic"), concurs with the third of these reasons, arguing the case of bacon's American citizenship by referring to historical and geographical uses of bacon. Early American literature echoes the sentiment—in Ebenezer Cooke's 1708 poem The Sot-Weed Factor, a satire of life in early colonial America, the narrator already complains that practically all the food in America was bacon-infused:

* "Pon" – [[cornbread]]
** "Mush" – [[Hasty_pudding#Hasty_pudding_in_North_America|hasty pudding]]
*** "Homine" – [[hominy]]
**** "Syder-pap" – [[porridge|a porridge]]
***** "Molossus" – molasses"


In East Asia

In Koreamarker, one of the most popular cooked meats is grilled unsmoked pork belly called samgyeopsal (삼겹살), literally "three layered meat". Like most traditional meat dishes in Korea, it is grilled at the table, cut into small pieces with scissors when partly or wholly cooked, and eaten communally, often accompanied by mushrooms, garlic, and onion.

In Japan, bacon (ベーコン) is pronounced "beikon". It is cured and smoked belly meat as in the U.S., but is usually shorter; one possible application is tempura. There are also other kinds of "bacon" made from the shoulder and loin. The uncured belly slices, known as bara (バラ), are used in a variety of dishes.

Bacon dishes

BLT sandwich
Bacon dishes include bacon and eggs, BLT sandwiches, bacon wrapped foods (scallops, shrimp, and asparagus), and cobb salad. Recent bacon dishes include chicken fried bacon, chocolate covered bacon, and the bacon explosion. Tatws Pum Munud is a traditional Welsh stew, made with sliced potatoes, vegetables and smoked bacon.

In the U.S. and Europe, bacon is often used as a condiment or topping on other foods. Streaky bacon is more commonly used as a topping in the U.S., on items such as pizza, salads, sandwiches, hamburgers, baked potatoes, hot dogs, and soups. Sliced smoked loin Americans call Canadian bacon is used less frequently in the U.S., but can sometimes be found on pizza, salads, and omelets.

Bacon is also used in adaptations of dishes, for example bacon wrapped meatloaf, and can be mixed in with green beans or serve sauteed and served over spinach.

See :Category:Bacon dishes and List of bacon dishes.

"Bacon" products

The popularity of bacon in the United States has given rise to a number of commercial products that promise to add bacon flavoring without the labor involved in cooking it or the perceived negative qualities of bacon. Some new products are evidence of the recent bacon fad, which also saw bacon bandaids, scarfs, and air fresheners.

Bacon bits

Bacon bits in a bowl.
Bacon bits are a frequently used "topping" on salad or potatoes, and a common element of salad bars. Bacon bits are made from either small, crumbled pieces of bacon (ends and pieces) or torn or misshapen slices; in commercial plants they are cooked in continuous microwave ovens. Similar products are made from ham or turkey, and analogues are made from textured vegetable protein, artificially flavored to resemble bacon. They are most often salted.

Popular brands include Hormel Bacon Toppings, Oscar Mayer Real Bacon Bits and Pieces, and the analogue Betty Crocker Bac-Os.

Bacon Salt

A bottle of Bacon Salt
Bacon Salt is a seasoning invented in 2007 by Justin Esch and Dave Lefkow and marketed under the slogan "Everything Should Taste Like Bacon." It is fat free, low sodium, vegetarian and kosher.

Its inventors claim to rely on self-generated and customer-generated Web content, such as YouTube videos, for publicity. For example, in 2008, Matt "Volkov" Schmidt, a writer for the Sarcastic Gamer website, jokingly accepted a Bacon Salt sponsorship for his previous praise of the product. In an e-mail to Schmidt, Lefkow offered to send free Bacon Salt.

Baconnaise

Baconnaise is a bacon flavored vegetarian mayonnaise spread that comes in regular and light varieties. It was invented in 2008 by Dave Lefkow and Justin Esch, the same entrepreneurs who invented Bacon Salt.

Product launch, marketing, and distribution, were much like that of Bacon Salt. For instance, in October 2008, the creators sponsored a no-holds barred wrestling match between a giant slice of bacon and a giant jar of mayonnaise that wrestle in a ring filled with 200 gallons of mayonnaise.

Jon Stewart satirized Baconnaise in his The Daily Show as a combination of gluttony and sloth: "for people who want heart disease but are too lazy to actually make the bacon." Outside of the United States, baconnaise seems to characterize the U.S. in the same way Stewart proposed, as suggested by the French blog Écrans.

Bacon fat

Bacon fat liquefies and becomes bacon drippings when it is heated. Once cool, it firms into lard if from uncured meat, or rendered bacon fat if from cured meat. Bacon fat is flavorful and is used for various cooking purposes. Traditionally, bacon grease is saved in British and southern U.S. cuisine, and used as a base for cooking and as an all-purpose flavoring, for everything from gravy to cornbread to salad dressing.

Bacon, or bacon fat, is often used for barding and larding roast fowl and game birds, especially those that have little fat themselves. The bacon itself may afterwards be discarded or served to eat, like crackling.

One teaspoon ( ) of bacon grease has . It is composed almost completely of fat, with very little additional nutritional value. Bacon fat is roughly 40% saturated. Despite the health consequences of excessive bacon grease consumption, it remains popular in the cuisine of the American South.

Abbey Fleck in 1993 invented the Makin' Bacon microwave oven dish that cooks bacon slices suspended in the air on three t-shaped bacon holders similar to an air-dry sunshine clothes line so bacon grease drips down out of the way to the catch tray below as the bacon strips cook until crisp.

Nutrients

Four slices of bacon together contain of fat, of which about half is monounsaturated, a third is saturated and a sixth is polyunsaturated, and of protein. Four pieces of bacon can also contain up to 800 mg of sodium, which is roughly equivalent to 1.92 grams of salt. The fat and protein content varies depending on the cut and cooking method.

Health concerns

A 2007 study by Columbia University suggests a link between eating cured meats (such as bacon) and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. The preservative sodium nitrite is the probable cause, and bacon made without added nitrites is available. A diet with a large amount of red meat such as bacon, increases the risk of developing colorectal cancer. Bacon is usually high in salt and saturated fat; excessive consumption of both is related to a variety of health problems. See the articles on saturated fat and salt for more details.

References

  1. Sarah F. McMahon, "Gender, Dietary Decisions, and Food Technology," in Esp. pp. 186–89.
  2. http://www.krcastlemaine.com.au/foodservice/product_info.php?category_id=1&category_name=Bacon
  3. http://www.chainleader.com/blog/180000418/post/1170039717.html
  4. Cattleman's Beef Board & National Cattlemen's Beef Association. Uniform Retail Meat Identity Standards. Retrieved 2007-07-09.
  5. Recipe from James Villas, The Bacon Cookbook.
  6. Bacon wrapped meatloaf WKRG Mobile, Alabama
  7. Bacon and beans WKRG Mobile, Alabama
  8. ABC News: 'Bacontrepreneurs' Building Bacon Empire
  9. USDA, Agricultural Research Service, Nutrient Data Laboratory. USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference. Retrieved 2007-07-12.


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