These cured pork products bring so much flavor to the table.
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Salty, fatty, savory, meaty, and delicious any time of day, cured pork is a special ingredient that carnivores adore. "The aroma of fresh cured meats can't be denied," says Peter Parrota of Calabria Pork Store, a renowned butcher shop in the Bronx, N.Y. "You know you are getting something great when you smell the aroma and the spices that have been working together, curing for weeks on end."

Popular cured pork products include bacon, pancetta, guanciale, prosciutto, and lardo. Here are the key differences between them, plus how to use them in your cooking.

bacon on pan
Credit: Peter Ardito

Bacon

There's nothing like the smell of crispy bacon strips on a Sunday morning. Whether you serve bacon with pancakes and eggs, layered on top of a cheeseburger, or wrapped around meatloaf, it certainly adds savory, fatty flavor to the meal. Bacon comes from the belly of the pig and is priced moderately compared to other cured pork products, says Parrota.

Some types of bacon are uncured, some are cured with salt and artificial nitrates, and some are smoked over applewood or hickory wood chips. While it excels as a simple side at breakfast and a standout addition to a sandwich, such as our Cabbage-and-Bacon Sandwiches or Chicken-Salad Club Roll, don't overlook bacon as a salad ingredient, like in our Corn-and-Avocado Salad with Goddess Dressing.

Guanciale sliced on board
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Guanciale

A staple Italian ingredient, guanciale (which translates to pig cheek) is generally very fatty and less meaty than bacon or pancetta, because it comes from the jowl of the pig. It's also the least expensive of the three.

Guanciale is typically cured with salt, pepper, sage, rosemary, and garlic, then aged for several months to further develop its flavor. You can find it in specialty grocery stores, butcher shops, and Italian markets. Try cooking with guanciale in this recipe for homemade Ricotta Raviolo with Garlicky Greens, or use it in Italian classics like Pasta Carbonara and Bucatini All'Amatriciana.

Pancetta sliced on cutting board

Pancetta

Pancetta, which also originated in Italy, comes from the belly of the pig, and is more expensive than bacon or guanciale because the curing process is time-intensive. It is typically cured in a salt brine for a few days before being seasoned with spices and herbs to infuse the meat with even more flavor, explains Parotta. While you can find smoked pancetta, most pancetta is not smoked. Pancetta is typically sold pre-diced or rolled. It's a key ingredient in our recipe for Grandma's Bolognese, and our Porchetta-Style Roast Pork. We also like to use it stuffing for the holidays and even this classic creamy Clam Chowder.

Proscuitto on cutting board
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Prosciutto

What's a grazing board without an elegant display of paper-thin slices of salty prosciutto? This pork product, which comes from the hind leg of a pig, can be cured anywhere from a few months to a few years. While bacon, pancetta, and guanciale are usually cooked, prosciutto is generally eaten as is. Of course, there are many inspired ways to use prosciutto beyond as an appetizer. Toss it with rigatoni in this Prosciutto Carbonara with Spinach, wrap it around thinly pressed chicken breasts for our Chicken Saltimbocca with Sage, layer it on top of this Asparagus-and-Potato Gratin, or press it in a sandwich, such as these Spicy Turkey Medianoches.

Lardo bacon on cutting board
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Lardo

This cured pork product is made from a slab of pork fat from the back of the pig. It's salt-cured and seasoned with herbs such as rosemary, garlic, and oregano and has a melt-in-your-mouth fatty flavor that is buttery and so flavorful. Lardo is not as easy to find as these other cured pork products; check with a local Italian grocery store or cheese shop to see if they sell this unique, delectable food.

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