With its smoke-infused taste, compelling aroma, and crisp-yet-tender texture, a little bacon goes a long way toward satisfying the senses. But who wants just a little bacon?
Your choices extend well beyond the familiar packaged breakfast strips. Bacon comes in an array of cuts and flavors that cure any craving. Italian pancetta spices up pasta dishes. Lean Canadian or Irish bacon is a traditional accompaniment to eggs. Fried bits of slab bacon (called lardons) have a crackling crust and silken interior that provide contrast to salads and soups.
Artisanal selections of these and other types can be found at farmers' markets, butcher shops, and fine meat purveyors. Most are brine- or dry-cured and smoked over real wood, not injected with artificial-smoke additives as some packaged products are. Tastes and textures vary depending on the spices in the brine, the selection of wood, and the cut of bacon. With so many enticing options to choose from, you may find it tempting to turn this breakfast staple into a regular feature at the lunch and dinner table as well.
1. pancetta A staple in Italian cuisine, this specialty is cured, not smoked.
2. Irish The relatively lean loin cut contains more fat -- and arguably more flavor -- than its Canadian cousin.
3. slab This bacon comes thickly sliced or in hunks, with or without a rind.
4. applewood-smoked A favorite ingredient on sandwiches, it takes on the sweet, earthy essence of the wood chips over which it's smoked.
5. peppered Coated with coarse black pepper, these strips pair particularly well with roasted meats and vegetables.
6. Canadian Cut from the center of the loin, it is similar to ham in both flavor and fat content; it can be eaten hot or cold.
7. double-smoked With its intense flavor, this variety is ideal for soups, chowders, and braised dishes.