Bacon was cooked and processed almost 3,000 years ago by the Chinese. As it moved west, the Romans created petaso, which was their name for a boiled salted pig with figs, seasoning, and pepper sauce accompanied with red wine. Today, the average American consumes about 18 pounds of bacon annually. This savory and salty delicacy is served in many restaurants in our modern society, and there's even an officially sanctioned church of bacon with over 13,000 members who "Praise Bacon."
Types of Bacon
Bacon and ham are both from a pig, but the difference is where the parts of the pig the cuts are from, along with the curing process for the meat. Ham, for example, is often taken from a thigh or rump and has different types of curing processes depending on the country and culture.
There are different types of bacon. For example, collar bacon is from the back of a pig's head, cottage bacon is thin, sliced, and lean pork meat from a shoulder cut, and jowl bacon is cured and smoked pork cheeks. Bacon from pork belly with streaks of meat and fat is known as streaky bacon. The type of pork that comes from the side or back of a pig is often known as back bacon and includes a streaky piece along with a lean oval from the loin.
How Bacon Is Made
Bacon meat is often cured and smoked before cooking at home, and the curing process for bacon usually includes a lot of salt (pickling) and a brine or dry packing.
The drying process can take weeks or months in cold air if it's not boiled or smoked. What often makes bacon so flavorful is the fat inside that ultimately transforms it into a crispy and tender product. Although bacon can be cooked by stovetop or oven, cooking bacon in the oven is fast and easy. You also get the added benefit of no splattering and cooked bacon that's flat rather than curly.
How to Prepare Bacon
For this simple process, all you need are four ingredients and materials:
- A set of bacon
- An oven
- A shallow baking sheet
- A baking rack to fit inside the pan
- Aluminum foil (optional)
How to Cook Bacon in 5 Steps
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
- Place a rack on a shallow baking sheet. For easy clean-up, you could also line the shallow pan with aluminum foil.
- Lay out bacon slices side by side, not touching.
- Bake for 10 to 15 minutes, depending on the desired level of tenderness.
- Drain on paper towels. (Keep in mind that the bacon will continue to cook a bit when you remove it from the oven, and it will crisp more as it cools.)
Cooking It Homemade
Homemade bacon takes a long process to make in comparison to the recipe above. Cooks must refrigerate the belly on an uncovered rack for about two days. Then, they often set up their smoker with applewood chips for about 200 degrees F. The pork belly can be smoked for three hours or until the internal temperature is 150 degrees F.