Bacon is among the world’s most beloved foods. Its incredible flavor can convert vegetarians into meat eaters. Cultures around the globe have developed all kinds of bacon from British rashers to Italian guanciale to Spanish tocino. In fact, at one time, the word “bacon” meant pork of any type, which could be why various types of bacon come from several parts of the pig, including the belly, jowl, back, and shoulder.
Although all bacon is cured with salts, flavoring it with smoke is a matter of cultural preference. North American and northern European bacons tend to be smoked, while Italian, Spanish, and southern French bacons are more often simply cured and flavored with herbs and spices. Either way, the salty, meaty flavor of bacon fat enhances all kinds of dishes. Bacon has long been used to add succulence to lean roasted game meats, either by wrapping small birds in bacon (barding) or inserting lardons of bacon deep into the flesh of a haunch to be roasted (larding). Wrapping grilled fish and shellfish in bacon also adds moisture and richness to the lean flesh of seafood.
Some bacons are dry cured and some are wet cured. Dry curing draws about 40% of the moisture out of fresh bacon, concentrating its flavor, setting its color, and softening the fat. Although a few types of artisanal bacon are dry cured for several weeks, all industrially produced bacon is wet cured quickly in brine. The brine is injected into the bacon with a set of fine needles, and the brine increases the weight of the bacon by about 10%. That’s why commercial bacon labels say “water added.” After a few hours of brining, commercial bacon is smoked and packed. Although brine cured bacon has a salty, smoky flavor, it is not nearly as deep and concentrated as the flavor of bacon that is dry cured.
The bright pink color of bacon develops during curing because nitrites in the curing mixture forms nitric oxide that converts the hemoglobin pigment in the meat to pink nitrosomyoglobin. Nitrite also flavors the bacon, protects the fat from rancidity, and inhibits the growth of botulinim bacteria. It also has been linked to possible cancer-causing nitrosamines that develop when nitrites combine with proteins during digestion or when bacon is fried at high temperatures. For that reason, U.S food regulations limit the amount of nitrites in bacon to 0.02%. The addition of ascorbic acid or sodium erythorbaye reduces nitrosamine formation. Nitrite-free bacon has become increasingly available. It tastes a bit different from traditional bacon and its lean meat parts tend to look brown rather thank pink.
If you really love bacon, make it at home. It is so easy and costs much less than buying commercial bacon. Here are our favorite recipes for making bacon and for enjoying it in all kinds of different dishes from bacon cheeseburgers to bacon wrapped shrimp.
Homemade bacon is easy and the results are much better than grocery store smoked bacon. Once you have the basic homemade smoked bacon recipe down, you can vary the ingredients to make countless flavor variations.
You seriously need to make this bacon. It's not hard. And it is so worth it. It's one of those processes that mostly just takes time. And for your patience you are rewarded with some the most delicious, homemade smoky bacon you'll ever taste.
Salty and sweet is the magic combo for bacon. Using honey for the sweet and adding spicy Sriracha takes it over the top, especially when you amp up the savory, meaty, umami flavors with hoisin and soy sauce. Ginger, garlic, and five-spice powder round out the Chinese flavor profile here.
Fans of Canadian bacon will rejoice this recipe for making flavorful smoked pork loin at home. Making Canadian bacon or back bacon is more like curing a ham than making American bacon. Order boneless loin (not tenderloin) if you want to make this. Irish bacon is made like Canadian bacon but without the smoking step.
The saltiness of bacon is a perfect foil and contrast to sweetness. Here are a variety of methods for creating mouthwatering candied bacon, including brown sugar bacon, toffee bacon, and chocolate bacon. There are several ways to put the concept to work, and of course it is best with homemade bacon.
Here's a recipe for a killer meatloaf made with Italian sausage, wrapped in bacon, and stuffed with peppers, cheese, and onion. A deconstructed and amped up version of the classic sausage and peppers sandwich, this amped up meatloaf is similar to the popular Bacon Explosion and great on its own, as a sandwich, or served on pasta and topped with marinara sauce.
Just when you thought spare ribs couldn't get any better! The secret to this bacon wrapped spare ribs recipe is wrapping each rib in bacon. Rub, smoke, and glaze, and they're done! This simple but ridiculously awesome combo is easy to pull off and is certain to wow your guests.
YouTube star Malcom Reed makes an appearance here with his recipe for Stuffed Venison Backstrap. A bacon wrap and a stuffing of crumbled bacon, sauteed onions and mushrooms, and cream cheese make this lean game meat rich and juicy.
Experience a flavor explosion with this recipe for a sweet and spicy jalapeno bacon cheeseburger. A perfectly grilled burger patty is topped with sharp cheddar cheese, pickled jalapenos, crispy fried onions, thick cut bacon, and homemade balsamic ketchup. Layer it all on a pillowy pretzel bun for pure burger nirvana.
Sweet and savory homemade bacon jam is the star of the show in this delicious burger recipe. If you’ve never had bacon jam, get ready for sweet and savory flavor bliss. This ultimate grilled bacon cheeseburger features a rich and flavorful bacon jam spiked with bourbon, a juicy reverse seared patty, and Swiss cheese.
Here's the craziest "hot dog" ever, made of pure bacon spiced with jalapeño jelly and topped with crisp, sweet and sour slaw. This mouthful of joy could only come from the creative mind of the world's best traveled chef, Andrew Zimmern. It's perfect any time you want to wow the crowd at your BBQ and grilling cookout.
Stuffed with cheese then wrapped in bacon, this grilled hot dog recipe is a sure fire hit at any backyard bash. Inspired by Chicago's famed francheesie, our recipe skips the traditional deep frying in favor of the grill for a crisp bacon shell and deep smoky flavor.
We'll bet you can't stop at just one of these tasty smoked bacon wrapped meatballs, a.k.a MOINK balls. This recipe is the perfect appetizer for any tailgating, couchgating, or backyard bash. The best part is that they are as easy to make as they are to eat!
Create a grilled bacon wrapped stuffed shrimp appetizer with only five ingredients thanks to this award winning recipe courtesy of pitmaster Melissa Cookston. Cookston won the 2012 Kingsford Invitational by taking first place in five categories including this delicious bacon wrapped stuffed shrimp recipe.
A cheesy appetizer with a kick, this easy grilled jalapeño popper recipe is sure to please, and the smoked version is better than the fried version. This appetizer is a big hit with people who like a little bit of heat in their food, but you can remove most of the heat to accommodate wimps if you wish.
If you're searching for the perfect appetizer then you're sure to love this tested recipe for grilled bacon wrapped jalapeno poppers. Known in certain BBQ circles as ABTs, these cheese stuffed, bacon wrapped jalapenos are certain to disappear as soon as you serve them.
This griddle grilled corn dish makes a perfect accompanying act to almost any recipe, but it could star as a lunch all by itself. The sweetness of the corn works great with the saltiness of the bacon, and the punch of heat from the jalapenos is tempered by the cream cheese.
Make breakfast even better with this recipe for grilled breakfast bread bowls with candied bacon, egg, and cheese. Crusty rolls are hollowed out then filled with a slice of candied bacon, an egg, and grated cheese. The bowls are then smoked on the BBQ grill for an out-of-this-world breakfast bowl.
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