Basically, everybody -- except vegetarians -- has a jones for bacon on the regular. It's just about impossible to have any kind of eggs without it -- omelets, scrambled, fried, fried egg sandwiches, quiche. Ditto for most other breakfast options -- pancakes and waffles just aren't the same without a few slices of bacon on the side. The quintessential BLT is heaven on Earth for bacon lovers, and burgers get an extra hit of meat with bacon on top.
It's found in green salads, potato salads, pasta salads, on potato skins and loaded baked potatoes. The options are endless.
Bacon comes from the side of the pig and is cured and smoked. People like it fried up in varying degrees of crispness -- some want it barely done and others want it super crispy. But what are the substitutes that are similar but not exactly bacon? Here's the lowdown.
Although some salt pork (not to be confused with unsalted fat back) might look like slab bacon and might also be cut from the side of the pig, it is generally cut from the belly section. Much more fatty than bacon and unsmoked, salt pork (also known as white bacon) is cured with salt and used as a flavoring agent in soups, stews and vegetables. Cooking instructions often recommend blanching some of the salt from salt pork before it is used. Salt pork can often be substituted for traditional sliced bacon in recipes.
Canadian bacon (known as back bacon in Canada) comes from the eye of the loin in the middle of the back of the pig. It's not really bacon, per se, but more of a ham. It comes pre-cooked and can be eaten from the package or further cooked. Canadian shrinks much less than regular bacon when it's cooked because it is much leaner.
Use Canadian bacon as you would ham rather than as you would bacon.
Bacon square is actually the jowl of the pig and is usually inexpensive -- if you can find it. The cuts range from 5 to 8 inches square and are cured and smoked. The flesh usually has more fat than standard bacon and can be used instead of bacon.
Pancetta is an Italian version of bacon that is cured with salt and herbs but not smoked. It comes in a roll and is sliced like salami. It is used as a flavoring agent in all types of savory dishes.
While you certainly know how to cook bacon, if you want more ideas on how to use it to great effect, check out these cookbooks.
- "Everything Tastes Better With Bacon"
- "Bruce Aidells' Complete Book of Pork"
- "Pig Perfect"
- "Charcuterie: The Craft of Salting, Smoking and Curing"