Pork belly and bacon are often derived from the pig’s belly, which over the years has led to some confusion about what to choose when roasting or grilling your next cut of grilled pork. In our detailed guide you will learn everything you need to know about the differences between pork belly and bacon.
Although bacon is also commonly obtained from the pig’s belly, its distinctive feature is that it is slowly cured, dried and smoked before use.
In this guide we’ll take a look at:
- The main differences between bacon and pork belly
- The various cuts of pork that can be used for bacon
- When to Use Pork Belly or Bacon?
- Some excellent recipe ideas for each of the pork cuts.
When it comes to delicious cuts of pork, bacon is hard to ignore.
Whether it’s crispy grilled or slow and slow smoked bacon , the cut of pork keeps us coming back for more.
No wonder, then, that it is one of the most purchased foods in the United States .
It’s a versatile meat ingredient that can be used in a variety of ways, and its high salt and fat content often allows it to enhance virtually any dish it IS added to.
Pork belly is a similar cut of meat that is also highly revered, but perhaps not as much as bacon. Despite this, WIRD is widely used in high-end restaurants and is a delicious, bacon-like quality that melts in your mouth.
It should come as no surprise that both pork belly and bacon are often confused with one another.
But what do they have in common and more importantly, what are the key differences between them?
In today’s guide, we’re going to look at where they come from in pork, what they taste like, and how best to use them.
Let’s get into that!
What is pork belly and where does it come from?
As the name suggests, pork belly is a boneless cut of meat that comes from the belly part of the pig. It has a thick layer of fat on top and because it is not a well-worked area of the animal, the muscle is heavily striated throughout.
This rich fat content makes pork belly perfect for slow cooking methods. The most important of these is the grill. Smoked pork belly cooks the meat slowly and slowly for about six hours, slowly melting the fat and infusing the meat with extra flavor.
Roasting and stewing pork belly is very popular in Asian cuisine. Even slow cooking methods, these approaches let the earthy texture of the meat come to the fore.
The best pork belly is compared to other cuts such as B. pork fillet, relatively cheap.
In the past, pork belly was often shredded for other types of pork, such as sausage, and not bought as an ingredient.
This has now changed as more and more people make the most of meat. Luckily, the rising popularity hasn’t resulted in a price hike.
What is bacon and where does it come from?
Bacon is always pork belly, especially in North America and Western Europe.
That doesn’t mean that this is always the case. While the bacon can also come from the abdomen, it can also be taken from other areas of the animal. In some cases, when purchasing bacon, your grocery store or butcher can specify exactly where on the hog the bacon was taken. However, this is not always the case.
Bacon is popular in many cuisines around the world, so it can also be cut on the sides, back, shoulder, and loin.
As a result, you might come across some of these bacon names:
- Striped Bacon – By far the most common cut of bacon. Taken from the abdominal section. It can come in hideous cuts, making it perfect for smoked recipes like homemade bacon jerky.
- Back bacon – Also particularly popular in the UK, it often includes the tenderloin and sometimes part of the belly. It tends to be much leaner than streaky bacon and often comes from the same part of the pig as pork chops.
- Jowl Bacon: From the cheek meat to the head and then pickled or roasted.
- Cottage bacon – pork shoulder
- Slab Bacon – Made with less expensive side cuts
What makes bacon “bacon” is the curing it goes through before cooking. This is a process that removes the moisture from the salted meat very slowly, often over the course of nearly a week. It is then left to dry for up to 24 hours and then smoked over hickory or apple wood.
So what are the main differences between pork belly and bacon?
The bacon is cured and grilled.
Although bacon and pork belly often come from the same area of the pig, one of the biggest differences between the two is the preparation of the meat, which occurs before it is cooked.
While pork belly can be smoked quickly right after slicing, bacon needs to be heavily cured and smoked before cooking.
While many people focus on the healing, the smoking phase changes the bacon’s texture in profound ways that really bring it to the stage we know so well.
Check out our other BBQ pork posts:
- How to smoke pork loin
- How to Salt Pork Shoulder
- BBQ Pork Dry Adobo Recipe
Bacon is(usually) more expensive
With the curing and smoking process that bacon has to go through, which is typically done by your butcher or grocery store, it makes sense that bacon is often more expensive than pork belly pound for pound.
Curing, in particular, takes days, and bacon often contains additives like sodium and nitrate to further enhance flavor.
Pork belly is healthier
Unlike bacon, pork belly DOES NOT have the same amount of additives added after it is sliced. And since it’s not cured, it doesn’t contain any salt either.
Because of this, many people consider it healthier than bacon.
Cooked pork belly is softer(and more versatile)
No matter what part of pork you get it from, bacon is often cooked until crispy quickly.
In contrast, pork belly tends to be much softer and more tender. Because of this, it tends to lend itself to a wider variety of cooking methods, including smoking when grilling.
A word of caution though. If you overcook or dry out pork belly, the fat content in the meat will melt and become rubbery.
When to Use Pork Belly or Bacon?
So how do you choose when to try to improve a meal?
We all know bacon is great on its own(and I mean really great ), but it’s a great meat ingredient to add to recipes.
While it can be added to savory dishes to add a dose of savory juiciness, it’s also great when paired with sweet dishes.
Pork belly, on the other hand, is better suited for adding a much richer layer of flavor to dishes. This is why it IS used so well with East Asian dishes, particularly in China and the Philippines.
Quick Guide: When to Use Bacon:
- As a crispy addition to salads, side dishes and pasta.
- Sandwich fillings
- As a sweet dressing for breakfast.
Quick Guide: When to Use Pork Belly:
- As the main protein in a pork dish, especially when grilled, slow-cooked, or stir-fried.
- When preparing long dishes such as stews, noodles or soup bowls.
- As a pork topping for pasta dishes, such as reman
- Pork smoked while grilling
How to eat smoked pork belly
If you’re having trouble coming up with ideas after cooking your pork belly, here are some of my favorite ways to serve it.
- Pulled pork, which can then be saved and used with any of my leftover pulled pork recipes (which aren’t sandwiches!)
- Refrigerate overnight and slice the next day for sandwich fillings(be careful not to slice before refrigerating to reduce the risk of drying out).
- Cover and eat bite-sized pork sandwiches, but don’t try to eat them all at once.
How to Eat Homemade Smoked Bacon
One of the most obvious ways to serve bacon is as part of a breakfast with eggs and sausage or in a sandwich. But why stop there?
- Chili burgers for a totally decadent dressing
- Jalapenos to cover one of my favorite types of peppers
- Drunken Brisket – Top your favorite Bacon Smoked BBQ Brisket recipe for a delicious finish