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A strip of cooked side (streaky) bacon Made20bacon.png
A strip of cooked side (streaky) bacon

Bacon is a type of salt-cured pork [1] made from various cuts, typically from the pork belly or from the less fatty back cuts. It is eaten on its own, as a side dish (particularly in breakfasts), or used as a minor ingredient to flavour dishes (e.g., the club sandwich). Bacon is also used for barding and larding roasts, especially game, including venison and pheasant. The word is derived from the Old High German Bahho, meaning "buttock", "ham" or "side of bacon", and is cognate with the Old French bacon. [2] [3] It may also be distantly cognate with modern German Bauche, meaning "abdomen, belly". [4]


Bacon in a pan.jpg
Cured side bacon in a pan
Bacon in a pan (cooked).jpg
Bacon after being pan-fried

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, for example, "turkey bacon". [5] Such use is common in areas with significant Jewish and Muslim populations as both religions prohibit the consumption of pork. [6] Vegetarian bacons such as "soy bacon" also exist.

Curing and smoking

Uncured pork belly Schweinebauch-1.jpg
Uncured pork belly

Historically, before the advent of cheap and widespread artificial refrigeration in the modern era, the curing of pork was necessary for the safe long-term preservation of meat. However, the flavour imparted to the meat by the various curing processes had become much prized, and although the curing process is in general no longer necessary in the developed world, it continues in wide use due to the flavour and other properties it imparts to the meat.

Bacon is cured through either a process of injecting it with or soaking it in brine, known as wet curing, or using plain crystal salt, known as dry curing. [1] [7] Bacon brine has added curing ingredients, most notably nitrites or nitrates, which speed the curing and stabilize colour. Fresh bacon may then be dried for weeks or months in cold air, or it may be smoked or boiled. [1] Fresh and dried bacon are typically cooked before eating, often by pan frying. Boiled bacon is ready to eat, as is some smoked bacon, but they may be cooked further before eating. Differing flavours can be achieved by using various types of wood, or less common fuels such as corn cobs or peat. This process can take up to eighteen hours, depending on the intensity of the flavour desired. The Virginia Housewife (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 flavouring, noting only that care should be taken lest the fire get too hot. [8] In early American history, the curing and smoking of bacon (like the making of sausage) seems to have been one of the few food-preparation processes not divided by gender. [9]

Bacon is distinguished from other salt-cured pork by differences in the cuts of meat used and in the brine or dry packing. Historically, the terms "ham" and "bacon" referred to different cuts of meat that were brined or packed identically, often together in the same barrel. Today, ham is defined as coming from the hind portion of the pig and brine specifically for curing ham includes a greater amount of sugar, while bacon is less sweet, though ingredients such as brown sugar or maple syrup are used for flavour. Bacon is similar to salt pork, which in modern times is often prepared from similar cuts, but salt pork is never smoked, and has a much higher salt content. [10]

For safety, bacon may be treated to prevent trichinosis, [11] caused by Trichinella , a parasitic roundworm which can be destroyed by heating, freezing, drying, or smoking. [12] Sodium polyphosphates, such as sodium triphosphate, may also be added to make the product easier to slice and to reduce spattering when the bacon is pan-fried.


Varieties differ depending on the primal cut from which they are prepared. [10] [1] Different cuts of pork are used for making bacon depending on local preferences.

Uncooked strips of side bacon RawBacon.JPG
Uncooked strips of side bacon
Uncooked back bacon Bacon.JPG
Uncooked back bacon
Sliced jowl bacon Jowl bacon.jpg
Sliced jowl bacon

The inclusion of skin with a cut of bacon, known as the 'bacon rind', [18] varies, though is less common in the English-speaking world.

Around the world

Bacon is often served with eggs and sausages as part of a full breakfast. [19]

Australia and New Zealand

The most common form sold is middle bacon, which includes some of the streaky, fatty section of side bacon along with a portion of the loin of back bacon. In response to increasing consumer diet-consciousness, some supermarkets also offer the loin section only. This is sold as short cut bacon and is usually priced slightly higher than middle bacon. Both varieties are usually available with the rind removed. [20]


Roasted peameal bacon with a maple glaze at the St. Lawrence Market in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Flickr bokchoi-snowpea 4266923676--Roast peameal bacon.jpg
Roasted peameal bacon with a maple glaze at the St. Lawrence Market in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

In Canada, the term bacon on its own typically refers to side bacon. [21] Canadian-style back bacon is a lean cut from the eye of the pork loin with little surrounding fat. [21] Peameal bacon is an unsmoked back bacon, wet-cured and coated in fine-ground cornmeal (historically, it was rolled in ground, dried peas); [21] it is popular in southern Ontario. Bacon is often eaten in breakfasts, such as with cooked eggs or pancakes. Maple syrup is often used as a flavouring while curing bacon in Canada.


German Speck, a salted, smoked, and roasted pork fatback or belly cut used as a cold cut Speck-1.jpg
German Speck, a salted, smoked, and roasted pork fatback or belly cut used as a cold cut

Some of the meanings of bacon overlap with the German-language term Speck . Germans use the term bacon explicitly for Frühstücksspeck ('breakfast Speck') which are cured or smoked pork slices. Traditional German cold cuts favor ham over bacon, however Wammerl (grilled pork belly) remains popular in Bavaria.

Small bacon cubes (called Grieben or Grammerln in Austria and southern Germany) have been a rather important ingredient of various southern German dishes. They are used for adding flavour to soups and salads and for Speck dumplings and various noodle and potato dishes. Instead of preparing them at home from larger slices, they have been sold ready made as convenience foods recently as Baconwürfel ("bacon cubes") in German retail stores.


In Japan, bacon (ベーコン) [22] is pronounced "bēkon". It is cured and smoked belly meat as in the US, and is sold in either regular or half-length sizes. Bacon in Japan is different from that in the US in that the meat is not sold raw, but is processed, precooked and has a ham-like consistency when cooked. [23] Uncured, sliced pork belly, known as bara (バラ), is very popular in Japan and is used in a variety of dishes (e.g. yakitori and yakiniku).

United Kingdom and Ireland

Back bacon is the most common form in the UK and Ireland, and is the usual meaning of the plain term "bacon". A thin slice of bacon is known as a rasher; about 70% of bacon is sold as rashers. [24] Heavily trimmed back cuts which consist of just the eye of meat, known as a medallion, are also available. All types may be unsmoked or smoked. The side cut normal in America is known as "streaky bacon", [25] and there is also a long cut, curving round on itself, known as "middle bacon", which is back bacon at one end, and streaky at the other, as well as less common cuts. [26] Bacon is also sold and served as joints, usually boiled, broiled or roast, [27] or in thicker slices called chops or steaks. These are usually eaten as part of other meals. [7]

Bacon may be cured in several ways, and may be smoked or unsmoked; unsmoked bacon is known as "green bacon". [7] Fried or grilled bacon rashers are included in the "traditional" full breakfast. Hot bacon sandwiches are a popular cafe dish in the UK and Ireland, [28] and is anecdotally recommended as a hangover cure. [29]

United States

The term bacon on its own generally refers to side bacon, which is the most popular type of bacon sold in the US. Back bacon is known as "Canadian bacon" or "Canadian-style bacon", and is usually sold pre-cooked and thick-sliced. [30] American bacons include varieties smoked with hickory, mesquite or applewood and flavourings such as chili pepper, maple, brown sugar, honey, or molasses. [31] A side of unsliced bacon is known as "slab bacon". [32]

USDA regulations only recognized bacon as "cured" if it has been treated with synthetic nitrites or nitrates (e.g. sodium nitrate or potassium nitrate). This means that bacon cured with nitrites derived from celery or beets (which has the same chemical outcome) must be labelled "uncured" and include a notice such as "no nitrates or nitrites added except for that naturally occurring in celery". There is also bacon for sale uncured with any nitrites from any sources. [33]

Bacon mania

Chocolate-covered bacon on a stick ChocolateCoveredBaconStick.jpg
Chocolate-covered bacon on a stick

The United States and Canada have seen an increase in the popularity of bacon and bacon-related recipes, dubbed "bacon mania". The sale of bacon in the US has increased significantly since 2011. Sales climbed 9.5% in 2013, making it an all-time high of nearly $4 billion in US. In a survey conducted by Smithfield, 65% of Americans would support bacon as their "national food". [34] Dishes such as bacon explosion, chicken fried bacon, and chocolate-covered bacon have been popularised over the internet, [35] as has using candied bacon. Recipes spread quickly through both countries' national media, culinary blogs, and YouTube. [36] [37] Restaurants have organised and are organising bacon and beer tasting nights, [38] The New York Times reported on bacon infused with Irish whiskey used for Saint Patrick's Day cocktails, [39] and celebrity chef Bobby Flay has endorsed a "Bacon of the Month" club online, in print, [40] and on national television. [41]

Commentators explain this surging interest in bacon by reference to what they deem American cultural characteristics. Sarah Hepola, in a 2008 article in, suggests a number of reasons, one of them being 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 smoulders between your lips." [42] 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 , argues the case of bacon's American citizenship by referring to historical and geographical uses of bacon. [36] 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. [43]

As of December 2016, the U.S. national frozen pork belly inventory totaled 17.8 million lb (8.1 million kg), the lowest level in 50 years. [44]

Bacon dishes

A bacon, lettuce, and tomato (BLT) sandwich BLT sandwich (1).jpg
A bacon, lettuce, and tomato (BLT) sandwich

Bacon dishes include bacon and eggs, bacon, lettuce, and tomato (BLT) sandwiches, Cobb salad, and various bacon-wrapped foods, such as scallops, shrimp, [45] [46] [47] and asparagus. Recently invented 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. Bacon jam and bacon marmalade are also commercially available.

In the US and Europe, bacon is commonly used as a condiment or topping on other foods, often in the form of bacon bits. Streaky bacon is more commonly used as a topping in the US on such items as pizza, salads, sandwiches, hamburgers, baked potatoes, hot dogs, and soups. In the US, sliced smoked back bacon is used less frequently than the streaky variety, but can sometimes be found on pizza, salads, and omelettes.

Bacon is also used in adaptations of dishes; for example, bacon-wrapped meatloaf, [48] and can be mixed in with green beans [49] or served sautéed over spinach.

Bacon fat

Bacon frying in its own grease Bacongrease.jpg
Bacon frying in its own grease

Bacon fat liquefies and becomes drippings when it is heated. Once cool, it firms into a form of lard. Bacon fat is flavourful and is used for various cooking purposes. Traditionally, bacon grease is saved in British and southern US cuisine, and used as a base for cooking and as an all-purpose flavouring, for everything from gravy to cornbread [50] to salad dressing. [51]

German Griebenschmalz used as spread Griebenschmalz-1.jpg
German Griebenschmalz used as spread

In Germany, Griebenschmalz is a popular spread made from bacon lard.

Bacon is often used for a cooking technique called barding consisting of laying or wrapping strips of bacon or other fats over a roast to provide additional fat to a lean piece of meat. It is often used for roast game birds, and is a traditional method of preparing beef filet mignon, which is wrapped in strips of bacon before cooking. The bacon itself may afterwards be discarded or served to eat, like cracklings. It may also be cut into lardons.

One teaspoon (4 g or 0.14 oz) of bacon grease has 38 calories (40 kJ/g). [52] It is composed almost completely of fat, with very little additional nutritional value. Bacon fat is roughly 40% saturated. [52] Despite the disputed health risks of excessive bacon grease consumption, it remains popular in the cuisine of the American South. [53]


One 10-g slice of cooked side bacon contains 4.5 g of fat, 3.0 g of protein, and 205 mg of sodium. [54] The fat, protein, and sodium content varies depending on the cut and cooking method.

68% of the food energy of bacon comes from fat, almost half of which is saturated. [55] A serving of three slices of bacon contains 30 milligrams of cholesterol (0.1%). [55] [56]

Health concerns

Studies have consistently found the consumption of processed meat to be linked to increased mortality, and to an increased risk of developing a number of serious health conditions including cancer, cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes. [57] [58] Although as of 2017 these links have not been definitely established as causal, they are likely to be. [58]

Bacon can contain nitrites, which can form carcinogenic nitrosamines. In the United States, sodium nitrite cannot exceed certain levels in bacon. Vitamin C (ascorbate) or sodium erythorbate can be added to bacon, which greatly reduces the formation of nitrosamines. Vitamin E (tocopherol) also reduces nitrosamine levels. Bacon fried at higher temperatures potentially has more nitrosamines than bacon fried at lower temperatures. [59]

According to the World Health Organization, regular consumption of processed meats such as bacon increases the likelihood of developing colorectal cancers by 18%. [60]


Several alternatives to and substitutes for bacon have been developed for those who cannot or prefer not to eat standard pork bacon.

Turkey bacon

Turkey bacon cooking in skillet Turkey bacon cooking in skillet.jpg
Turkey bacon cooking in skillet

Turkey bacon is an alternative to bacon. [1] [61] People may choose turkey bacon over real bacon due to health benefits, religious laws, or other reasons. [61] It is lower in fat and food energy than bacon, [1] [61] but may be used in a similar manner (such as in a BLT sandwich). [61]

The meat for turkey bacon comes from the whole turkey and can be cured or uncured, smoked, chopped, and reformed into strips that resemble bacon. [1] Turkey bacon is cooked by pan-frying. [61] Cured turkey bacon made from dark meat can be less than 10% fat. [62] The low fat content of turkey bacon means it does not shrink while being cooked and has a tendency to stick to the pan. [62]


Macon is another alternative to bacon, produced by curing cuts of mutton in a manner similar to the production of pork bacon. [63] Historically produced in Scotland, it was introduced across Britain during World War II as a consequence of rationing. [64] [65] It is today available as an alternative to bacon, produced for the Muslim market and sold at halal butchers; it is largely similar in appearance to pork bacon except for the darker colour. [66]

Vegetarian bacon

Vegetarian bacon, also referred to as facon, veggie bacon, or vacon, is a product marketed as a bacon alternative. [67] It has no cholesterol, is low in fat, and contains large amounts of protein and fibre. [67] Two slices contain about 310 kilojoules (74 kcal). [67] Vegetarian bacon is usually made from marinated strips of textured soy protein or tempeh.


Barded rabbit limb with rosemary and bay Bardieren.jpg
Barded rabbit limb with rosemary and bay

Everything Tastes Better with Bacon , a book by Sara Perry, is a cookbook that compliments bacon's many uses in cooking. [68]

On the other hand, as with most meat products, producers of bacon have received heavy criticism for how their pigs are treated. Many petitions and protests have been made trying to raise awareness and change how producers treat their pigs. Many of these protests have turned out successful: for example, following NBC News's report of an undercover investigation of an abusive pig farm, Tyson Foods terminated their contract with the pig farm. [69] Similar to NBC's investigation, The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) investigated Seaboard Foods, one of the pig breeding facilities that supply Walmart. [70] According to HSUS, the pigs were treated poorly and abused. Walmart spokesperson Diana Gee said, "As soon as we were made aware of the allegations, we immediately reached out to Seaboard to begin investigating the issue ... Pending our review, we will take any action necessary." Petitions also exist that oppose poor treatment of pigs, many of which state that the current treatment of pigs in factories is cruel and unethical. [71] [72]

Bacon-flavoured products

Bacon bits in a bowl. Bacon bits in a bowl.jpg
Bacon bits in a bowl.

The popularity of bacon in the United States has given rise to a number of commercial products that promise to add bacon flavouring without the labour involved in cooking it or the perceived negative qualities of bacon.

Bacon bits

Bacon bits are a frequently used topping on salad or potatoes, and a common element of salad bars. [1] They are usually salted. Bacon bits are made from small, crumbled pieces of bacon; [1] 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 flavoured to resemble bacon. [73]

Other bacon-flavoured products

There is also a wide range of other bacon-flavoured products, including a bacon-flavoured salt (Bacon Salt), [1] [74] Baconnaise (a bacon-flavoured mayonnaise), [1] [75] Bacon Grill (a tinned meat, similar to Spam) and bacon ice cream.

See also

Related Research Articles

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Ham is pork from a leg cut that has been preserved by wet or dry curing, with or without smoking. As a processed meat, the term "ham" includes both whole cuts of meat and ones that have been mechanically formed.

Sausage Meat product

Sausages are a meat product usually made from ground meat, often pork, beef, or poultry, along with salt, spices and other flavourings. Other ingredients such as grains or breadcrumbs may be included as fillers or extenders. Some sausages include other ingredients for flavour.

Braunschweiger (sausage)

Braunschweiger is a type of sausage. The type of sausage the term refers to varies by region. In the German language, Braunschweiger is the demonym for people from Brunswick, but under German food law refers to a variety of mettwurst. In Austria, Braunschweiger is known as a type of parboiled sausage (Brühwurst), while American Braunschweiger is often confused with liverwurst.

Salami Cured sausage, fermented and air-dried meat

Salami is a cured sausage consisting of fermented and air-dried meat, typically pork. Historically, salami was popular among Southern, Eastern, and Central European peasants because it can be stored at room temperature for up to 40 days once cut, supplementing a potentially meager or inconsistent supply of fresh meat. Countries and regions across Europe make their own traditional varieties of salami.


Chorizo or chouriço is a type of pork sausage.

Back bacon Type of bacon

Back bacon is a cut of bacon that includes the pork loin from the back of the pig. It may also include a portion of the pork belly in the same cut. It is much leaner than side bacon made only from the pork belly. Back bacon is derived from the same cut used for pork chops. It is the most common cut of bacon used in British and Irish cuisine, where both smoked and unsmoked varieties of bacon are found.

Pancetta Italian bacon made of pork belly meat

Pancetta is a salumi made of pork belly meat that is salt cured. Pancetta in Italy is typically cooked to add depth to soups and pastas.

Sausage making Sausage production processes

The origins of meat preservation are lost to the ages but probably began when humans began to realize the preservative value of salt. Sausage making originally developed as a means to preserve and transport meat. Primitive societies learned that dried berries and spices could be added to dried meat. The procedure of stuffing meat into casings remains basically the same today, but sausage recipes have been greatly refined and sausage making has become a highly respected culinary art.

Charcuterie Branch of cooking of prepared meat products, primarily from pork

Charcuterie is a French term for a branch of cooking devoted to prepared meat products, such as bacon, ham, sausage, terrines, galantines, ballotines, pâtés, and confit, primarily from pork.

Bacon Grill is a canned meat product made from chopped and cured pork, seasoned to be similar in flavour to bacon. Manufactured in the Netherlands, it is produced by several companies, including Princes for the British market, in the style of Spam and corned beef. Bacon Grill was a standard element of rations in the British Army.

Curing (food preservation) Food preservation and flavoring processes based on drawing moisture out of the food by osmosis

Curing is any of various food preservation and flavoring processes of foods such as meat, fish and vegetables, by the addition of salt, with the aim of drawing moisture out of the food by the process of osmosis. Because curing increases the solute concentration in the food and hence decreases its water potential, the food becomes inhospitable for the microbe growth that causes food spoilage. Curing can be traced back to antiquity, and was the primary method of preserving meat and fish until the late-19th century. Dehydration was the earliest form of food curing. Many curing processes also involve smoking, spicing, cooking, or the addition of combinations of sugar, nitrate, and nitrite.

Tocino Crunchy strips of skin and bacon cut from pork loin

Tocino is bacon in Spanish, typically made from the pork belly and often formed into cubes in Spain. In Caribbean countries, such as Puerto Rico and Cuba, tocino is made from pork fatback and is neither cured nor smoked but simply fried until very crunchy; it is then added to recipes, much like the way lardons are used in French cuisine. In the Philippines, tocino refers to sweetened and cured pork belly.

Hungarian sausages

The cuisine of Hungary produces a vast number of types of sausages, many of which were influenced by their Polish neighbor and brethren.

Pork Meat from a pig

Pork is the culinary name for the meat of a domestic pig. It is the most commonly consumed meat worldwide, with evidence of pig husbandry dating back to 5000 BC.

Turkey bacon

Turkey bacon is a meat prepared from chopped, formed, cured, and smoked turkey, which is commonly marketed as a low-fat alternative to pork bacon. Turkey bacon may also be used as a substitute for bacon where religious restrictions forbid the consumption of pork.

Cut of pork Piece of pig meat consumed as food by humans

The cuts of pork are the different parts of the pig which are consumed as food by humans. The terminology and extent of each cut varies from country to country. There are between four and six primal cuts, which are the large parts in which the pig is first cut: the shoulder, loin, belly and leg. These are often sold wholesale, as are other parts of the pig with less meat, such as the head, feet and tail. Retail cuts are the specific cuts which are used to obtain different kinds of meat, such as tenderloin and ham. There at least 25 Iberian pork cuts, including jamón.

<i>Bacon and Hams</i>

Bacon and Hams is a 1917 book by George J. Nicholls, a member of the Institute of Certificated Grocers. The book details the then-modern bacon and ham industry beginning with the use of the pig breeds, meat processing and the distribution and pricing of cuts with a focus on the United Kingdom. The meat processing aspects focus on the popular Wiltshire cut of the time, but also includes American cuts as well. The book was described, with approbation, by the Saskatchewan Overseas Livestock Marketing Commission, as an "admirable and important treatise". Despite having entered the public domain, the book is rare and collectible and generated interest for its "unparalleled" anatomical details of pigs found in its fold-out pages.

Peameal bacon Canadian back bacon made from lean boneless pork loin, trimmed fine, wet cured, and rolled in cornmeal

Peameal bacon is a wet-cured, unsmoked back bacon made from trimmed lean boneless pork loin rolled in cornmeal. It is found mainly in Southern Ontario. Toronto pork packer William Davies, who came to Canada from England in 1854, is credited with its development.

Pork jowl

Pork jowl is a cut of pork from a pig's cheek. Different food traditions have used it as a fresh cut or as a cured pork product. As a cured and smoked meat in America it is called jowl bacon or, especially in the Southern United States, hog jowl. In the US, hog jowl is a staple of soul food, and there is a longer culinary tradition outside the United States: the cured non-smoked Italian variant is called guanciale.


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