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Whether you’re cooking a pork roast, or adding pancetta, pork is incredibly popular and versatile.
If you’re wanting to learn more about the difference between pork belly and bacon, look no further.
In this article, I will cover some important information regarding pork belly and bacon.
Without further ado, let’s get started.
What Is Pork Belly?
The term “pork belly” is used for a cut of meat from the underside of a pig.
Pork belly is typically sold in large slabs or thick strips. Pork belly is an incredibly fatty and versatile cut of meat. Due to its high fat content, it’s also incredibly flavorful.
Pork belly is particularly popular in Asian cuisine, and is often used in popular dishes such as ramen. But it can also turn out great when it’s cooked BBQ style on the smoker.
So, where does pork belly come from?
As the name suggests, pork comes from the underside of the pig. As the butcher works, they will remove the sides of the pig’s belly, along with the spare ribs and loins. The remaining meat in the bottom portion of this area is pork belly.
What Is Bacon?
Bacon is a type of thinly cut pork belly that has undergone a process of curing and smoking.
Curing is a preservation process that involves the bacon being rubbed with a mixture of salt, nitrates, and nitrites. The process of curing is to preserve the meat, and is also what gives bacon its pink color.
You can use bacon in a variety of different sweet and savory recipes. You can even cook bacon on the grill!
It is a highly popular breakfast food in the U.S., and is traditionally served in all manner of ways, including on top of pancakes with syrup. It’s crispy, salty, smoky, and delicious!
You can buy both cured and uncured bacon in most grocery stores in America.
So, where does bacon come from?
Bacon is traditionally taken from the belly of the pig along the ventral line. That being said, it can also be taken from the pig’s back and sides, as these places also have a high fat content.
Pork Belly vs Bacon: The Key Differences
Although bacon and pork belly are cut from the same place and bacon is a type of pork belly, there are various distinctions between the two.
The differences between pork belly and bacon include:
The main difference between bacon and pork belly is curing. While bacon undergoes the curing process to preserve the meat and extend its shelf life, pork belly on the other hand is uncured.
Next up we have price. A key distinction between pork belly and bacon is price, as bacon tends to be a little more expensive per pound when compared to pork belly.
This comes down to the fact that the curing process that bacon undergoes takes time, contributing to the overall price of the product.
Another key difference between pork belly and bacon is the flavor. The curing process imparts a salty flavor to bacon, and you won’t need to add salt during the cooking process.
In addition to this, smoked bacon takes on smoky flavors that many people associate with bacon and is what makes it so irresistible.
Pork belly, however, is not smoky or salty like bacon. As a result, it will need to be seasoned when you are cooking it in order to bring additional flavor to the meat.
The texture is a big difference between bacon and pork belly. While the texture of meat largely comes down to how you cook it, the difference in the way pork belly and bacon are cut means that the texture of these meats is also very different.
Pork belly has a similar texture to pork loin. It’s somewhat juicier and becomes tender when cooked right. Due to its high fat content, it should just melt in the mouth!
On the other hand, bacon is cut much thinner, and therefore tends to have a much crispier texture in comparison to pork belly.
Bacon and pork belly both have many uses and can be cooked in many ways.
While bacon is traditionally fried, pork belly can be fried, slow-cooked, braised, oven-roasted, and smoked.
Both can be eaten on their own and in dishes, but someone is more likely to eat bacon on its own than pork belly.
Pork belly is usually cooked and then added to dishes where the fatty nature of the meat is desired. This includes dishes such as stews, soups, and salads.
Bacon can be added to pasta and a variety of different breakfast dishes.
Last, but by no means least, is the thickness of bacon and pork belly.
While bacon and pork belly can be cut to almost any thickness, a butcher will traditionally thinly slice bacon to make it easier to fry. That being said, you can get thick-cut bacon.
On the other hand, pork belly is cut much thicker to maintain its structural integrity and to provide maximum flavor to the dishes it’s added to.
How To Cook Bacon
Cooking bacon is super simple, and it’s a very quick food to cook.
There are many ways to cook bacon, but one of the most convenient ways is frying:
Step One – Preheat And Add Oil To A Pan
To begin, you will first need to preheat and add a small amount of oil to a pan to prevent the bacon from sticking to the pan.
Note: If you use too much oil, the bacon will absorb all of it and become super greasy. If you don’t have enough oil, the bacon will stick.
Step Two – Add Your Slices Of Bacon
Once the pan and oil is nice and hot, it’s time to add your slices of bacon.
The oil is likely to spit slightly when you add the bacon, so be careful to not get hit by any hot oil.
Step Three – Allow Your Bacon To Cook
Now you need to allow your bacon to cook for a few minutes before flipping it over to cook the other side.
Note: How long you cook your bacon will depend on how crispy you like it.
Step Four – Drain The Bacon Of Excess Oil On Paper Towels
Once you are happy with how your bacon is looking on both sides, it’s time to remove it from the pan.
Allow the bacon to drain slightly on paper towels to get rid of any excess oil.
Step Five – Serve And Enjoy
Now, all there is left to do is to serve and enjoy your bacon!
How To Cook Pork Belly
Like bacon, there are many ways to cook pork belly. However, this is how to oven-roast pork belly.
Step One – Score The Skin
If you’re not using skin-on pork belly, skip this step.
Take a sharp knife to score through the skin diagonally. Repeat in the opposite diagonal to create a diamond pattern.
This allows the skin to crisp up nicely and also means that the whole pork belly gets a thorough seasoning.
Step Two – Season Your Pork Belly
Next, you will need to season your pork belly with salt and black pepper. Place it into the refrigerator overnight.
Step Three – Roast The Pork Belly
The following day, you will need to preheat your oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit.
Place the pork belly skin side up in an oven tray and roast the pork belly for 30 minutes.
Note: you can also cook bacon low and slow on the smoker for some BBQ inspired pork belly bites.
Step Four – Reduce The Oven Temperature
After 30 minutes of cooking time, you will need to reduce the oven’s temperature to 275 degrees Fahrenheit.
Allow the meat to roast for another hour, or until the pork belly is tender.
Note: The key is tender, as opposed to mushy meat.
Step Five – Remove From The Oven
Next, you will need to remove the pork belly from the oven and allow it to cool to room temperature.
Wrap it in plastic wrap and place it in the refrigerator until chilled.
Step Six – Slice The Pork Belly Into Pieces
Once you have allowed the pork belly to cool down, it’s time to slice the pork belly into bite-size pieces.
You can either eat this pork belly alone or add it to a variety of dishes, including soups, ramen, and salad!
Step Seven – Serve And Enjoy
Serve, dig in, and enjoy the fruits of your labor!
Can You Use Bacon As A Substitute For Pork Belly?
In short, yes, you can use bacon as a substitute for pork belly in a variety of different recipes.
That being said, it’s important to note that bacon is significantly saltier than pork belly.
In addition to this, bacon takes much less time to cook than pork belly does.
As a result, your recipe will need to be adjusted accordingly in terms of flavor and cooking time to ensure the recipe works.
There are a number of differences between pork belly and bacon, including taste, texture, and cost.
Despite coming from the same area of the pig, hopefully this article has given you a better idea of the key differences and similarities between pork belly and bacon.
Enjoy experimenting and creating delicious dishes with these cuts of delicious pork in the kitchen.
Good luck cooking with both bacon and pork belly!