Pork belly that has been cured and smoked, then cut crosswise into strips is what we commonly refer to as bacon. Remember Sizzlean? If it comes from anywhere else on the pig other than the belly (Sizzlean), the label has to specify where on the hog it came from. If it is that simple, then why do we have different types of bacon? Read on.
British back bacon is cut from the loin that has some belly fat still attached. It is a happy medium between American and Canadian bacon.
Canadian bacon is cut from the loin which is above the belly, next to the spine. Coming from this location, it is much leaner and cut somewhat round in shape, rather than in strips.
“Center-cut” bacon is going to cost you a little more money as it is cut from the center portion of the pork belly that has a more consistant ratio of lean to fat. In other words, it is a meatier bacon.
Guanciale is cut from the meat located on the hogs cheek or jowl (lower neck). It has been cured but generally is not smoked. Generally only your top-end or speciality butcher shops will have this type of bacon available.
Pancetta (Italian bacon) is shaped into a roll and is like Guanciale in that it is cured but not smoked. If you find it in a grocery store, it is usually found in thin, roundish slices or diced. Your top-end or speciality butcher shops generally will cut it to order.
Pepper bacon is American bacon that is generally sliced a little thicker and has been covered with black pepper to give it a different taste.
Slab bacon found in butcher shops has not been sliced. It comes in a slab so you can cut it to your desired thickness.
Thick cut bacon is as the name implies. It is simply sliced thicker than regular bacon.
You will also find bacon that has been certified organic. Expect to pay more for this bacon as cost of production is greater. If you see the term “Natural” on the label, remember that it is an unregulated term, so ignore it.
According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), if bacon is made from any other animal than the hog, it can be labeled as bacon, but must be clearly labeled as to what it is made from. Turkey or goose bacon are examples of this.
Keep your fork