Sure, you love bacon. But do you really know bacon?
It’s a part of breakfast. It’s a part of lunch and dinner. It’s even part of beer these days. But bacon has done much more for the world. Seriously, it’s actually accomplished quite a bit when you get down to it -- in different forms, cooked different ways, and eaten different ways, even when it's not involved with being the best part of breakfast or complementing lettuce and tomato on a sandwich. Roll up your sleeves and get out your grease traps, because we're gonna deep dive into five things you didn't know about bacon.
#1 Give me the bacon basics!
Do you think bacon is as American as apple pie? YOU’RE WRONG! Nope, on many levels, bacon comes from our good friends in Europe. First, terminology: “bacon” is derived from the German term for butt: bacho. On the other hand, the French used the term bacun circa the 14th century to define back meat. Because bacon brings the world together, these terms melded into one around the 16th century, when the term bacoun became known essentially as cured pork, losing the specificity of cut. These days it can refer to salt-cured cuts from other types of meat, including beef and turkey.
Now, the idea that bacon meat comes from the back is still generally true back in Ye Olde Europe, though it can also come from the belly or side. However, in the land where football means hitting each other in pads rather than kicking a ball (that is, America), most of the bacon that is manufactured and sold is belly bacon, which is a more fatty cut than back bacon. Regardless of cut, salt-cured ham (salt pork) is similar to bacon but lacks the final smoking process that is commonly used to finish preparing the meat.
#2 International bacon
Around the world, people love bacon. Of course they do -- it's bacon, so it's kind of impossible to not love it. But, here's where the fine print can throw you for a loop. Let's say you're traveling to the UK and you order a side of bacon with your breakfast. It might taste and feel a little different.
No, the jet lag hasn't affected your taste buds. The truth is that, as we hinted at above, what is considered bacon actually changes from region to region! Here's what you'll get when you order bacon around the world:
Canada: We know it as Canadian bacon (actually, they call it that too; bacon means bacon north of the border) -- a cut more similar to our traditional ham from the pork loin with little fat.
UK: The original term referring to back cuts has largely stuck, with variations existing depending on curing process and thickness.
Japan: Bacon there is similar to what we have in America -- same cut, same curing. However, the Japanese market uses shorter slices than what we're used to and often sells it precooked, which creates a chewier texture for final cooking.
#3 Why does it taste so good?
Many things claim to be the best thing since sliced bread. Sorry pretenders, but bacon is actually the best thing since sliced bread – and it goes great with sliced bread to boot. The trick to this? Well, it’s cause bacon is really fatty.
Look, we love bacon but seriously, but even we can’t eat it for every meal. For many years, taste was considered to be five categories: sweet, salty, sour, bitter, and umami (savory). In 2015, fat was confirmed as the sixth taste -- and in terms of delivering fatty content, bacon is a winner at that.
From the Daily Meal:
When the fatty acids break down as bacon cooks, they turn into compounds of tastes and smells, such as furans, aldehydes, and ketones. Furans are sweet and nutty; aldehydes are grassy; and ketones are buttery. When combined, they taste like bacon.
Chris Kerth, a professor of meat science at Texas A&M University, told the BBC that the diet and breed of the pig also factor into how the bacon will taste. “A lot of what makes it possible to tell one species' meat from another is traceable to the fats in membranes of muscle cells,” Kerth explained.
Makes sense when you put it all together.
Tangent to this: if the release of fatty acids upon cooking makes it taste better, seems like cooking bacon in its own juices would make extra amazing, doesn’t it? Good thing we have a solution for that.
#4 What is bacon’s shelf life?
Okay, it’s time for a practical lesson. You’ve bought your bacon and now you have to store it. So how long does bacon stay good? The answer depends on what you’re doing with it:
- Sealed refrigeration: If bacon is still vacuumed sealed on store shelves, it should -- in most cases -- still be safe for 7-10 days after the sell-by date, whether it’s in the store’s clearance section or you brought it home.
- Open refrigeration: If you’ve opened the bacon and cooked part of it, you should use it within one week of opening.
- Sealed freezing: If you’ve brought bacon home and immediately put it into the freezer, it’s capable of being used for six months past the printed expiration date. Thawing bacon can always be a bit of a challenge since slices can freeze onto each other and be hard to separate, so be sure to look up techniques on this before you pull it out.
- Open freezing: You can still freeze remaining bacon even after you’ve opened the package. As with sealed bacon, it will stay good for up to six months.
Also, after you’ve cooked bacon, you can store uneaten portions for up to a week. The trick with those is reheating it properly -- one simple technique is to simply wrap it in a paper towel, then another layer of aluminum foil, and stick it in the toaster oven for ten minutes at 350 degrees.
#5 What is bacon’s mark in history?
Besides being delicious, bacon has become part of history, being used during war times and becoming a cultural touchstone. These are three of our favorite bacon historical footnotes:
Bombing Nazis: Bacon produces a lot of fat. Sure, you could use this grease as a cooking oil, but in World War 2, the United States government asked people to turn in fat to help make bombs. Bacon: it tastes great and defeats fascism.
Bringing home the bacon: You've no doubt heard “bringing home the bacon" as a metaphor for earning a living. This phrase has murky origins, as variations of it have appeared as early as the 1100s, and in fact Chaucer references bacon in his writings. But the specific quote appears to have first been used in the early 1900s related to a boxing match.
Baconmania: Bacon left popular culture in the 1980s for health reasons, and it wasn’t until foodie culture re-emerged in the 2010s that bacon exploded. (Not literally, of course. As much as we love bacon, that’s kinda gross.) Bacon became the de facto add-on ingredient, becoming part of beer, ice cream, chocolate, and much more. Bacon moved on from just the edible arena, and even became a fashion statement.
We Want to Make Bacon Even Better
So that’s why everyone loves bacon. It has been, and always will be, freaking delicious. The big question is this: can you improve perfection?
We will answer that question with a hearty “hell yes!” And we invite you to try it right now with our sous vide-cooked, flavor infused bacon.
Seriously. Not to sound all high-and-mighty but we firmly believe we make the best bacon in the universe (or at least the known galaxy). Check out our products to see for yourself -- we ship anywhere in the United States, so you know, there’s really no reason to not treat yourself to some amazing Baconer bacon.