How To: Bacon
Bacon is one of the most popular foods in the world and has managed to infiltrate almost every aspect of popular foodie culture thanks to its versatility. And when you consider how delicious it is, it’s hardly surprising.
Different Bacon Cuts
Back bacon rasher
Back Bacon Rashers
This cut is traditionally sold as rashers, but it also comes as chops. As the rashers are a thinner cut, they taste delicious when fried, grilled or even baked. Chops, being cut thicker, can be used for grilling, frying or even barbecued.
This cut can be used as a joint suitable for roasting.
Middle Bacon Rashers
Middle bacon rashers consist of back and streaky bacon in the same cut. This is why middle bacon rashers are a breakfast favourite. As well as being great on taste, they’re also great on the wallet, retailing at fantastic value.
Streaky Bacon Rashers
A heavenly combination of lean bacon with a streak of fat, streaky bacon rashers are a popular favourite. Ideally, streaky bacon should be grilled or dry-fried in a hot pan, but it is also tasty when boiled, pressed and eaten cold, the perfect sandwich filler! Streaky bacon is especially good value for money.
Collar is making a resurgence; it is especially popular with independent retailers as it is an economical pork cut. It’s ideal for boiling or braising, though it should be soaked before cooking. It can also be sliced into rashers for a more typical bacon form.
Streaky bacon rasher
There are three main cuts used when making bacon rashers. These include:
- Streaky bacon - this cut comes from the belly. The name comes from the streaks of fat which reside in the rasher. The streaked fat adds a wealth of flavour to the rasher, as well as giving it a tasty crisp texture.
- Middle bacon - this cut comes from the "middle" section of the pig. It is a combination of streaky and back bacon.
- Back bacon – the UK’s most popular choice is taken from the loin so the cut is much leaner than the alternatives. Not only is it leaner, but it also has a mouth-wateringly thick, meaty texture.
Before any of these delicious cuts make it to your plate, they have to go through a variety of curing or smoking processes. There are two types of curing: dry curing and wet curing. As well as these two methods there are also a number of different techniques to choose from based on your personal preference.
Dry curing bacon
The Curing Process
Curing is the process of preserving and flavouring foods. The process begins by rubbing salt and any added seasonings to the chosen cut of meat, the salt draws the moisture out of the meat "curing it". This process gives the bacon its flavour and helps to preserve it. This process is known as dry curing. The process of wet curing is very similar. However, in wet curing, the meat is immersed in a liquid salt solution called brine.
The process of wet curing dates back to the 19th century; it has been the preferred method of meat preservation since then.
The goal of curing is to preserve the taste and texture of the meat, whilst making it edible. Initially, it was developed as a way to prevent disease, it has since become a method to heighten the taste.
Find out how your favourite bacon rashers are cured below.
Cuts are rubbed with a salt mix for several days and then cured for up to 20 days to allow the meat to mature. This removes all of the excess water, ensuring the bacon doesn’t shrink when cooking. The subtle flavour makes this bacon ideal for part of an English breakfast or scrumptious bacon butty.
Maple cured bacon
Maple syrup is added to both dry and wet cures but, allow up to 5 days for the curing process. This leaves the rashers with a unique, sweet caramelised flavour; the flavour is intensified when smoked. Perfect as an indulgent treat, it can easily be the centrepiece of a meal.
Smoking is usually carried out after the curing process is complete. Good quality bacon is often smoked over wood chippings, adding another level of succulent, smoky flavour. Oak smoked is the most popular variety, though chippings can come in a variety of options such as Beech, Cherry and Applewood.
Traditional bacon is cured with traditional sugars like Muscovado, Demerara or Molasses. This creates a smoky aroma, making it a popular choice for enhancing a variety of ingredients like pasta and various salads. The distinctive taste is certainly a winner!
Dry cured bacon
Wiltshire bacon is traditionally wet cured with the rind and bone still attached. It is immersed in a special brine for up to two days before it is matured for a further two weeks. The distinctive meaty texture brings a slight saltiness, complimenting other ingredients without overpowering them.
The process of making bacon can go in many different directions. Have a look at our bacon recipes collection to get ideas for your next bacon dish.
Make sure to visit our Bacon recipe collection page for inspiration!
Facts About Bacon
If you aren’t dribbling already, here are some delicious facts about bacon, the nation’s favourite breakfast item:
Bacon Through the Ages
- Until the 16th Century, bacon, or bacoun, was a Middle English term used to refer to pork in general. The term bacon comes from various Germanic and French dialects. It derives from the French bako, common Germanic bakkon and Old Teutonic backe, all of which refer to the back.
- British bacon is a large part of our national heritage; there are records of the Romans salting sides of bacon as early as 200BC. Julius Caesar brought his own bacon with him when he came to Britain in 55BC.
- The country’s earliest traditional breakfast, featuring bacon and eggs, dates all the way back to 1560.
- Roman soldiers received a ‘salarium’, a ration of salt, as part of their payment. Salt was a prized commodity due to its necessity for preserving meat. This is where the term ‘salary’ originated.
Bacon in Literature
- In Shakespeare’s Henry IV, Falstaff urges action crying, ‘On bacons, on!’ referring to his peasant companions.
- Streaky bacon was first recorded in Charles Dickens’s ‘Oliver Twist’ in 1838.
- In The River Cottage Meat Book, Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall speaks of the universal adoration of bacon, adding ‘It’s no secret that almost every vegetarian admits they miss bacon’.
- US President Thomas Jefferson said: ‘I had rather be shut up in a very modest cottage with my books, my family and a few old friends, dining on simple bacon, and letting the world roll on as it liked, than to occupy the most splendid post, which any human power can give’.
- Hollywood actress Catherine Zeta-Jones noted: ‘My husband was doing a cardio workout at eight o’clock this morning when I was having a bacon sandwich. There’s nothing like a bacon butty when you come back to Wales – but he’s American.’
Discover The Tastiest Bacon Recipes
Feeling hungry? Then try out one of our mouth-watering bacon recipes.