Pork Belly Vs Bacon
Pork belly is often confused with bacon. Although the two are still the same part of the pig, pork belly and bacon can be used for completely different dishes. Bacon usually comes from pork bellies that have been cured or brined in salt, sugar, or some other preservative. Pork belly on the other hand does not go through this process; it can simply be left as is, skin and all. Both meat items are very similar in taste, texture and flavor once prepared. In this article, I will go over the differences between pork belly and bacon, how they are the same, their nutritional facts, and what you can make with them.
Pork belly – what is it?
Pork belly is literally the pig’s abdomen. On a pig, this part of the animal runs from just below its neck down to its rear legs. This section also houses bacon and spare ribs together, which are both more commonly known compared to pork bellies. It is made up mostly of fat and connective tissue like collagen and can be very tough if it is not prepared correctly. Many cultures around the world use pork belly in different dishes such as barbecue (especially with bacon) or braised; most notably China, Italy, and Korea have many specialties that include pork belly in them. Pork belly is sometimes confused with side bacon because they look similar when cooked; however, unlike side bacon, there is no muscle in a pork belly.
Nutrition Information of pork belly:
Pork is packed with nutrition and has about 20g of protein per 100g serving. It is also high in B vitamins, zinc, iron, selenium, phosphorus, thiamine (vitamin B1), niacin (Vitamin B3), and vitamin D. Some people are concerned that pork contains too much fat; however, it only contains 5g of saturated fats out of the total 32 grams per 100 grams. Pork belly is very high in omega-3 fatty acids which helps to decrease the risk of heart disease.
How can you cook pork belly?
Cooking pork belly varies with each culture’s style; however, there are some general guidelines to follow when cooking pork bellies (no matter what method). Pork belly does not take long to cook; usually about an hour or two depending on how thick it is cut into. For example, if it is cooked too long then the meat will be tough and dry; but if it isn’t cooked through enough then there be bacteria still present that can make you sick. There are three common ways to cook pork belly:
Roasting – heat oven to 400°F, place the meat on a rack with enough space around it for air to circulate, and roast until an instant-read thermometer reaches 145°F (about 1h).
Broiling – put the meat under your broiler (close to or at the top), turn halfway through cooking time, and cook until it is browned evenly on both sides and an instant-read thermometer reads 160°F when inserted into the center of the meat.
Grilling – start by searing all sides over high heat, then turn down the heat and continue cooking until the desired temperature is reached.
What is bacon?
Bacon comes from the belly of the pig which contains plenty of fat and meat. When it is cured (usually with salt or some other preservative), it becomes what we know as bacon. It usually has more flavor than its counterpart, pork belly, because it goes through a curing process that tends to give bacon its distinct flavor. This process also gives the bacon a crispy texture that many love.
How many different types of bacon are there?
While there are many different types of bacon, the most popular and common forms include:
Canadian Bacon – also known as back bacon; this cut does not have a smoked flavor to it at all compared to American-style bacon. When Canadian bacon is prepared, it is usually fried in a pan or baked in an oven because it has little fat content so it doesn’t curl up while being cooked.
American-style Bacon – often served for breakfast alongside eggs and pancakes; this type of bacon is very similar to side bacon because they come from the same part of the animal (the belly); however, side bacon usually has more fat than American-style bacon. This form of bacon can be made from either pork belly or from leaner back bacon.
Side Bacon – often served for breakfast, this is the fattiest portion of the pig and contains a lot of meat; unlike American-style bacon which is leaner in fat content. It’s almost always smoked to give it its distinct flavor and aroma.
Pancetta – an Italian type of cured meat that usually comes in thin slices or cubes; although, it can vary depending on what part of Italy you’re from. Pancetta can be made from pork belly but also from other parts such as the back or sides because pancetta means “belly”. The best pancetta will come from Parma, Italy where they are known for preparing some of the world’s finest cured meats.
Guanciale – another Italian cured meat that is very similar to pancetta; however, guanciale is made from minced pork jowl or cheeks so it has a more intense flavor than pancetta.
Hardwood Smoked Bacon – this type of bacon doesn’t have any added sugar in the curing process so you will find that there isn’t much shrinkage when it’s cooked; also, hardwood smoked bacon usually has more meat than fat which gives it an exceptionally great taste. This product can be difficult to find at some grocery stores because of demand (it’s usually only sold directly through the butcher or meat market).
Nutrition Information of bacon:
According to the USDA, a serving of bacon contains:
Calories – 218 kcal
Total Fat – 17.8 g (27%)
Cholesterol – 51 mg (17%)
Sodium – 887 mg (38%)
Carbs – 0.4 g (1%)
In addition, bacon that is made from organic pork tends to have higher nutritional values because they’re raised without antibiotics or growth stimulants which makes them all-around healthier than conventionally raised pigs. Also, those brands of bacon that advertise as being “hormone and antibiotic-free” and “naturally raised” are high in omega-3’s; therefore, they should be considered as a healthy choice.
Bacon has been a staple in many diets around the world for decades because of its taste and convenience. It’s usually high in protein which means when you eat bacon, there’s a good chance you’ll feel full afterward because protein takes longer to digest in the stomach compared to carbohydrates or sugars. In addition, Canadian-style back bacon doesn’t have a lot of fat in it compared to American-style bacon; therefore, if your goal is to lose weight then this might be a better alternative for you. However, it should also be noted that although Canadian-style back bacon doesn’t contain much fat or sugar content, it still can have a higher sodium content than American-style bacon.
How can you cook bacon?
There are many ways you can cook bacon which include deep frying, pan frying, oven baking, microwaving, barbequing, or smoking. Most people prefer to shallow fry or sauté bacon because it is easier; however, it also means that more of the fat will be retained in the meat compared to other cooking styles.
Deep frying – this method of cooking ensures that your bacon will be crispy and you won’t need to add any extra oil to the pan. But, deep frying also means that you’ll have a higher fat intake when it comes to eating bacon because more fat is absorbed during the cooking process which then gets left in the bottom of the pan.
Pan frying – this is similar to deep frying, but instead of dipping each strip in oil before placing them on a plate; only about one tablespoon of oil needs to be heated over medium heat in a large skillet. After the pan has been preheated, place three strips of bacon side by side (if they curl up too much during cooking, you can straighten them out after cooking) and cook for about five minutes until the bacon begins to cook through. Once it has become crispy, you can remove it from the pan and place it on a paper towel-lined plate to drain off any excess oil before eating.
Oven baking – preheating your oven between 375 degrees Fahrenheit (190 degrees Celsius), placing aluminum foil over a baking sheet, and then placing your bacon strips onto the sheet will be enough preparation; next, all you’ll need to do is wait about 20 minutes or until your bacon becomes crispy which means it’s done cooking. The method of oven baking ensures that there won’t be any extra fat left behind in the bottom of the pan because most of it will drip into the aluminum foil; however, this does mean that you may sacrifice some flavor because the bacon won’t be able to absorb as much of it.
Microwaving – this method is quick and easy but you’ll need to make sure to use paper towels or a clean dishcloth when taking your bacon out of the microwave because there will usually be some water still on it; otherwise, your bacon will become soggy.
Barbequing – if you like adding smoke flavor to your meat, then barbequing might be an option for you which means that you’ll need to dig out that old open-style grill that doesn’t sit flat over the coals anymore; next, wait until the charcoal has become hot enough so that it begins to emit thin blue flames (this usually takes about 20 minutes) and place your bacon over the grill using tongs. Once one side has become crispy, flip it over and then cook until both sides of the bacon appear to be glistening with grease.
Smoking – this method adds a unique flavor that can’t be achieved by any other cooking style which means it might be worth trying out if you are tired of eating bland-tasting meat; next, prepare your smoker at about 225 degrees Fahrenheit (107 degrees Celsius) before placing bacon strips on the rack or grilling platform. The temperature needs to remain consistent throughout the entire smoking process, therefore, don’t open the lid unless you need to check if your meat is done yet; otherwise, it will let all of the smoke escape.
Differences between pork belly and bacon
While there are many similarities between pork belly and bacon, there are also several differences that need to be taken into account before you can accurately answer this question.
The first major difference comes down to the cut of meat as pork belly is typically sliced off from either side of a pig’s stomach whereas bacon seems to refer to any type of cured or smoked meat from around the pig’s belly area; however, some people do disagree with this statement because they believe that only smoked and cured meats made using the pork belly cut should actually be referred to as bacon.
Another important difference has got to do with their taste as bacon tends to have a saltier flavor which can make it more appealing for certain consumers whereas others believe that the rich, savory flavors of pork belly will taste much better after they have been cooked.
The next difference has got to do with the cooking time as bacon is usually fried, barbequed, or grilled for a few minutes whereas pork belly needs to be slow-roasted for several hours before it becomes tender enough to eat; however, if you want extra crunchy crackling, then frying might be a good option.
When it comes down to the pig breeds used in order to produce the meat from either cut, pretty much any type of hog can provide you with delicious cuts of pork belly or bacon which makes them all fair game when choosing which one you’d like to prepare.
Pork bellies are often sold as just that whereas bacon is prepared using cuts of pork belly; however, there is no hard and fast rule that will guarantee you’ll always be provided with the cut of meat that you want, therefore, make sure to ask your butcher before leaving their store.
Pork belly is often considered to be the healthier option because it doesn’t contain added sugars or preservatives but bacon does have its advantages in this department because it’s usually smoked which means the fat becomes infused with delicious smoky flavors; next, both types of meat are rich in protein which can provide satiety for hours at a time.
Now that you’ve learned about all of the differences between these two cuts of meat, who do you think will win this battle? There isn’t any clear answer so why don’t you try making some pork belly or bacon and then decide for yourself?
When should you use pork belly instead of bacon?
Just as you should ask yourself if you’d rather have bacon or pork belly, it’s also recommended to ask yourself what type of recipe would work best with each cut. In general, pork belly will taste much better when it’s slow-roasted for several hours because this method allows the meat to become extremely tender and succulent; however, if you’re going to be frying or barbequing pork belly then you might want to consider using bacon instead because it contains less fat – therefore, frying won’t cause a grease fire.
It’s important to take into account the people who will be consuming your food before deciding how much time needs to be spent preparing each cut because those who are on a diet can benefit from the fact that pork belly is much leaner than bacon while others might prefer the stronger taste of bacon.
Pork belly will usually provide you with more meat per serving which means it can be a great option for those who are trying to save some money or simply want to make a large meal for their friends and family.
When should you use bacon instead of pork belly?
If you want to use bacon instead of pork belly, then the best way to go about this is by using a recipe that requires some type of cured or smoked meat so you can take advantage of the rich smoky flavors. Generally speaking, most people who enjoy eating bacon will also love pork belly because it doesn’t contain any added sugars or preservatives; however, if they’re going to be fried or barbequed then bacon might be preferred for its lower fat content which means there’s less chance of causing a grease fire when frying.
Now that you’ve learned about the differences between bacon and pork belly, it’s time for you to experiment in your kitchen so you can decide which one of these delicious cuts will be able to provide different flavor profiles when cooking. Let’s take a look at some recipes which might help you choose pork belly over bacon or vice versa.
Pork belly recipes
Roast Pork Belly with Porcini Mushrooms and Sage Butter Sauce
1 ¼ lb. slab of fresh pork belly, skin scored to about ½-inch thickness in a diamond pattern (ask your butcher to do this for you)
4 Tbsp unsalted butter
6 oz. sliced white mushrooms
6 leaves fresh sage
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 ½ cups dry white wine
¾ cup heavy cream.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit before doing anything else so it can be ready when the meat has finished cooking. Place the pork belly in a shallow baking dish before seasoning generously with sea salt. Roast the pork belly for forty-five minutes before basting it with the white wine and placing it back into the oven for an additional hour. When this time has passed, remove the pork belly and place it on a platter before covering it with foil and allowing it to rest for about ten minutes.
Meanwhile, melt butter in a medium saucepan over high heat before adding garlic, fresh sage leaves, mushrooms, salt, and pepper; cook while stirring occasionally until vegetables are softened which should take about four minutes. Add heavy cream to the mixture before simmering it while you’re stirring occasionally until sauce is creamy enough to coat the back of a spoon (which should be about five minutes). Pour mushroom sauce over pork belly slices at the time of serving.
Pork Belly with Sauteed Apples and Shallots
2 apples, cored and cut into chunks
1 Tbsp. butter or oil (vegetable works best)
3-4 shallots, peeled and chopped finely (a few slices for garnish)
Sea salt and pepper to taste
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Heat a pan over high heat before adding butter or oil followed by shallots and cook until softened which should take about three minutes; season with salt and pepper then add your apples just as you’re about to finish cooking the shallots. Stir ingredients together so they can be evenly coated in the brown bits from the bottom of the pan along with any leftover butter from sauteing the shallots.
Pour ingredients into a small baking dish before covering with foil and placing in the oven for about twenty minutes or until apples are tender when you poke them with a fork. Remove from oven and allow to cool slightly together while preparing the pork belly by the following recipe:
Pork Belly Ingredients:
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1 Tbsp brown sugar
Salt and Pepper to taste
Directions: In a shallow bowl add sea salt, black pepper, cayenne pepper, paprika, and brown sugar; mix these ingredients together before coating your slab of fresh pork belly on both sides using a pastry brush. Add oil to skillet making sure it’s hot enough so it starts sizzling immediately when you place the pork belly in; brown each side for about one minute before cooking it in the oven at 350 degrees Fahrenheit until done which should take about sixty minutes.
You want to make sure that your meat thermometer is inserted deeply into the thickest part of this slab of pork belly so it registers an internal temperature of 160 degrees Fahrenheit. Remove from oven and allow to rest for ten minutes before cutting into slices.
Balsamic Pork Belly
2 small cloves of garlic, minced
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar (I used a fig-flavored one.)
Salt and pepper to taste
Heat pan over high heat before adding in oil and garlic; stir ingredients together and then add pork belly that’s been rubbed with sea salt and black pepper. Cook for about three minutes on each side making sure your pork is browned well; add in balsamic vinegar when you’re done cooking the meat and let it come to a simmer so the sauce reduces by half. Remove from heat once this takes place and allow to rest covered with foil for ten minutes before serving. Enjoy!
Good bacon recipes:
Apple and Bacon Grilled Cheese Sandwich
2 tablespoons butter or olive oil
4 slices rustic multigrain bread
3 to 4 ounces, sliced cooked bacon (about 3/4 cup)
1 medium apple, cored and thinly sliced
In a large skillet over medium heat add in one tablespoon of the butter or oil before adding the apple slices; cook for about three minutes on each side making sure apples are caramelized. Remove from pan and set aside covered with foil while you’re preparing the sandwiches by melting remaining butter in the same skillet.
Make all four pieces of grilled cheese at this time using two slices of cheese per sandwich then assemble them with one slice of apple per sandwich that’s been topped with bacon which you’ll add to the skillet at this time before turning it over and browning the other side. Once sandwiches are finished cooking allow them to rest for five minutes before eating warm.
Blue Cheese and Bacon Sliders with Caramelized Onions and Balsamic Glaze
3/4 pound lean ground beef
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 package dinner rolls, sliced in half horizontally
12 thick-cut bacon slices
3 ounces blue cheese crumbles
2 medium white onions, thinly sliced
One hour before cooking place the frozen patties on a baking sheet and put them in the refrigerator. In a large cast iron or stainless skillet over medium high heat add two tablespoons of oil; once it’s hot enough add your onion slices then season with one tablespoon of brown sugar with three cloves chopped garlic followed by 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar.
Cook for a total of twenty minutes or until onions are browned then remove from heat and set aside while you’re preparing the sliders by mixing beef with two tablespoons of Worcestershire sauce, one teaspoon kosher salt, and a half teaspoon black pepper in a bowl before forming twelve three ounce patties out of the meat. Once your grill is hot add burgers to it while cooking for about four minutes on each side making sure they hit an internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit.
Remove burgers from heat once finished and let them rest for five minutes while assembling sliders by placing a burger on each dinner roll bottom followed by a slice of bacon, some onion slices, blue cheese crumbles, and a top bun. Finish your sliders off by drizzling the caramelized onions and balsamic glaze over each slider before serving immediately.
Crispy bacon and eggs:
10-12 slices of bacon (I used applewood smoked.)
4 large eggs salt and pepper to taste
Heat your oven’s broiler to high before cooking the bacon; in a baking pan place two pieces of foil and top it with a wire rack followed by laying five strips of bacon side by side on it making sure they don’t overlap. Once finished broil for ten minutes or until crispy; remove from oven and set aside while you make your breakfast by frying four eggs sunny side up in a tablespoon of butter. Season both sides of the cooked eggs with salt and pepper then serve alongside crispy bacon strips. Enjoy!
What temperature should I cook my pork belly to?
The USDA recommends cooking pork until its internal temperature reaches 145 degrees Fahrenheit, but some chefs like to go lower and cook it for even longer at a lower temperature before chilling it overnight and slicing off the fat before searing or roasting it.
What type of oil should I use when cooking my pork belly?
I just used simple vegetable oil in the cast iron skillet since you’re going to have bacon in there anyway, but you can definitely add butter or olive oil if you’d like which will add even more flavor.
Can I put raw pork belly in a marinade before cooking it?
Yes, doing this will allow the meat to tenderize before you cook it. You can use marinades like soy sauce, fish sauce, oil, lemon juice, garlic puree, rosemary sprigs, bay leaves, etc.
Can I put pork belly in a slow cooker?
Yes, it’s definitely possible but bears in mind that cooking times vary depending on the amount of meat you’re using as well as your slow cooker’s temperature settings.
How long should I braise my pork belly?
You should braise your pork belly for about five hours total or until the meat is fork-tender and easily pulls away from the bone which means you should check up on it every hour to make sure it doesn’t dry out.
What seasoning should I use when braising my pork belly?
When braising your pork belly, you can either use salt and pepper or any other type of dry spices that you’d like to add flavor. Just remember that everything goes in the pot so if you’re using bay leaves then just throw them in there while cooking not before.
What do I serve my braised pork belly with?
I served mine with a simple egg and cheese sandwich on a roll which was excellent by the way. You can also eat it over rice or noodles, on top of some mashed potatoes, or on its own as an entree. Let me know how it goes if you end up giving this recipe a try.
What should I look for when buying pork belly?
Always look for a piece of pork belly that has a decent amount of meat on it as well as a good amount of fat which means the meat to fat ratio is going to be 80/20 or even 85/15.
Is fresh pork belly better than frozen pork belly?
I personally haven’t noticed much of a difference between using fresh or frozen, but some experts say that when cooking with frozen pork belly it will release more liquid which could change overall cook times and negatively affect overall meal preparation.
Should you rest pork belly?
Yes, it’s highly recommended that you let your pork belly rest for about 10 minutes while covered before slicing into it.
How do you know if pork has gone bad?
There are two ways to tell if pork has gone bad and both of them pretty much involve the same process. The first way involves smelling it which is exactly what you think it is, just sniffs it and if it smells off then chances are that the meat is bad. The second method involves water which comes into play when you have a bit of time to kill before serving up your meal. What you do is put the pork belly in a bowl filled with cold water, place the lid on top, and bring it to a rolling boil for about 5 minutes or until boiling stops once again signifying that the meat isn’t fresh anymore so don’t eat it.
Does pork belly get more tender the longer you cook it?
Yes, in fact cooking pork belly for an extended period of time will yield the best results in terms of tenderness with this particular cut of meat.
How to make crispy pork skin?
Pork skin is a delicious yet underrated part of the pig that’s been gaining more popularity as of late. The easiest way to make crispy pork skin is to simply season it with salt and pepper then cook it in a cast-iron skillet over medium heat for about 30 minutes or until the skin starts bubbling up which means it’s ready to serve alongside your shredded pork belly, your ramen noodles, etc.
How long can you keep the bacon in the freezer?
Bacon is a type of meat that’s best when fresh so I wouldn’t recommend keeping it in the freezer for over three months. If you want to freeze some then just wait until there’s no more room left in your freezer and place it in a plastic bag with its air removed.
How do you thaw out frozen bacon?
I just let my frozen block of bacon sit on the countertop overnight which was slow but effective, but if you’d prefer to speed up the process then just rinse off your frozen slab of bacon under cold running water until thawed out. Remember not to cook it while still frozen because this can cause uneven cooking.
How do you cook frozen bacon?
Bacon is best when it’s cooked slowly on low heat either in an oven or on the stovetop, but if you’d prefer to speed up the process then just pop it into a pan that’s already hot over high heat. Make sure your meat is dried off first before searing it because this will help with getting that crispy exterior.
Is bacon good for you?
The answer to this question largely depends on whether you’re asking me or my cardiologist because although I love bacon to death, health experts say that eating too much of it can raise your cholesterol levels which would increase your risk of heart disease or stroke. This doesn’t mean you should stop eating bacon by any means but just that you should probably moderate your intake or switch it up with other types of meat.
How long can you leave the bacon out before putting it in the fridge?
I’d recommend only leaving your bacon out for about five hours max because pigs are warm-blooded creatures so bacteria will spread rapidly if left at room temperature for too long. After letting your pig rest on the countertop for a while, I would transfer him to a plastic bag and store him inside the coldest part of your refrigerator until ready to use.
Why does bacon get a bad rap?
The reason why bacon is often looked down upon by health experts is because of the way it’s made which usually involves soaking pork belly in a brine solution before cooking it which can add up to all sorts of contaminants. Some companies go so far as to add extra ingredients like sugar, salt, and preservatives which isn’t exactly what I’d call nutritious food. In my humble opinion, if you want to reap all the benefits of eating bacon then just opt for ones that use natural methods of curing their meat rather than going with some factory-made product.
Is there any healthy substitute for bacon?
If you’re worried about the cardiovascular side effects that come from eating too much bacon then you can try using other types of meat like turkey or chicken to get your fix. Another alternative would be replacing the bacon bits in your salad with nuts like pine nuts or walnuts. If you just can’t live a bacon-less life then I would recommend buying a pasture-raised or antibiotic-free brand if possible.
Where/how can you buy quality bacon?
A lot of markets carry high-quality meat products these days but my favorite place to buy pig parts like pork belly is really from a trusted butcher who specializes in responsibly-raised meat. Some of the best pig butchers can be found in places like New York City, Boston, and Los Angeles so if you live near any of these cities then I’d recommend checking out their inventory to see what they have to offer.
Do different types of bacon taste different?
When buying your next batch of pig bits, you may notice that there are different types like Canadian, peppered, smoked, etc., but I personally find them all delicious in their own special ways. The subtle differences between these types usually have less to do with the actual kind of pig part being used and more to do with the additives or seasonings used during processing.
Pork belly and bacon are both delicious cuts of meat that can be used in a wide variety of recipes; however, there are several differences between the two which means not every recipe will work for both types of meat. When it comes down to choosing between bacon or pork belly, ask yourself how you want your meat prepared, and then make sure to include any dietary restrictions before making your decision.
I hope this article has provided you with enough information to help you make an informed choice about whether or not pork belly is the right cut for your family’s dinner table.