Lots of people love bacon. Bacon and eggs is a staple of American breakfasts, and in all its varieties, bacon is a very popular part of all meals—from breakfast through to dinner. At its heart, bacon is a cured meat product made from the back, sides or belly flesh of a pig.
Worldwide, there are many different kinds of bacon. The type of bacon is generally determined by the cut of the pig from which it is made. In the US, standard bacon, also called side bacon or streaky bacon (or outside of North America, American-style bacon), is most common. Standard bacon is made with the pork belly and is generally brined or cured with a salt water mixture before being smoked. The skin, or rind, is generally trimmed from the bacon before it is sold. This type of bacon is sold in two varieties: fat back, which is almost pure animal fat, and loin bacon, which is a lean cut with a bit of fat.
While it’s sometimes sold in sides or slabs, then sliced to the buyer’s desired thickness, most bacon is pre-cut and sold in pound sized packages. Thick cuts (of 1/16 of an inch) yield about 18-20 slices per pound. Thin cuts (of 1/32 of an inch) yield about double the number of slices per pound. Extra-thick cut bacon (of 1/8 of an inch) that has been heavily smoked is sometimes called country bacon.
Pancetta, an Italian bacon, is a variety of side bacon. It is generally salt cured, then rolled into cylinders for further seasoning with spices. After seasoning, the bacon is dried for many weeks. It may be thinly sliced and eaten raw, and can often be found wrapped around other foods, such as melon or seafood.
In Great Britain, back bacon is a popular variety. Back bacon is made from the pork loin from the middle back of the animal; it is lean with just little fat on the outside. Americans would mistake back bacon for Canadian bacon or regular ham.
Canadian bacon is a variety of back bacon, but it is even leaner, without the thin layer of fat that back bacon has. Generally, Canadian bacon is only lightly salted and smoked, giving it a more ham like taste than American bacon.
Bacon is often used to infuse fat and salt into a dish; when using American bacon adding more salt and fat is often unnecessary, as simply cooking the bacon will add all the required flavor into the dish being prepared.