What is bacon?
Bacon is a cured meat that comes from pigs. It is also one of the world’s most popular meat dishes and a staple of the full English breakfast. The preferred cut of bacon varies from country to country, as does the flavour due to different smoking methods.
What makes RSPCA Assured bacon different?
Bacon which carries the RSPCA Assured logo comes from farms where the pigs had better lives. We know that pigs are intelligent animals and if they don’t have the opportunity to express their natural behaviour they can get bored. Pigs kept indoors must have plenty of space to move around in, material such as straw they can root about in, and also a comfortable place to sleep. When they are kept outdoors, they must have access to a dry, comfortable shelter. You can find out more about pig welfare on RSPCA Assured farms and about other species animal welfare on RSPCA Assured farms.
The difference between ham and bacon
The meat used to make bacon comes from the back, loin or belly of the pig. Bacon can be dry-cured in cold air or smoked. Ham, on the other hand, is meat cut from the thigh or rump of the pig, it can then be cooked and served fresh or cured, often with honey.
How is bacon smoked?
In order to preserve it, bacon is smoked and this process can give it different flavours depending on the wood chips or sawdust used. Using apple wood to smoke bacon, for example, gives it a fruity flavour, whereas oak and hickory produce a stronger, heartier flavour.
For bacon to be smoked, it must first be dried; the meat cannot take in the smoke until the surface is totally dry. If bacon is smoked while still damp, it doesn’t take on the same rich colour or flavours. When dried properly, a layer of proteins forms a sticky coat on the surface of the meat which can then absorb the smoke.
One of the best ways to smoke bacon is to cold-smoke it. This involves sealing the meat in the smoker at a relatively low temperature, around 25 to 35 degrees, for about eight hours. Once this process is complete, the bacon can be sliced into strips and packaged.
How best to cook bacon?
The most popular way to cook bacon is in a frying pan but it can also be cooked in the oven if you have a lot of other things on the go. And if you’re in a real hurry, you can even do your bacon in the microwave.
Cooking bacon in a frying pan
Place your cold frying pan on the hob with no oil and lay in your rashers of higher welfare bacon. You don’t need any oil as the bacon releases its own fat. Once the bacon starts to buckle and curl, be ready with your trusty kitchen tongs to flip it over and keep flipping to ensure the meat browns evenly and the fat renders nicely throughout.
Cooking bacon in the oven
Maybe not the most traditional way to cook your bacon but it does leave you and your hobs free to concentrate on other things; like your RSPCA Assured eggs, whether you’re having them scrambled or fried.
Preheat your oven to about 190C and lay the RSPCA Assured bacon out evenly on a tray with greaseproof paper and bake for about 20 minutes depending on the thickness.
Cooking bacon in the microwave
If you’re in a rush and just can’t wait for your bacon, it’s OK to cook it in the microwave. It only takes a few minutes and to be honest, it’s not that bad, but you might find it loses a little of that succulent crispy bacon texture you were craving.
Why is American bacon different from English?
There are different cuts of bacon enjoyed in different parts of the world. In America, the traditional rashers which we normally enjoy in the UK as part of a Full English are known as Canadian bacon. While the slender crispy cuts that the Americans eats for breakfast, we Brits would call streaky bacon.
If like millions of others in the UK and around the world, you’d like to make the switch to higher welfare bacon, be sure to look for the RSPCA Assured logo when you shop. As well as at supermarkets like Sainsbury’s, Aldi, Co-op and Lidl, you’ll also find delicious RSPCA Assured Black Treacle Smoked Bacon and Double Smoked Streaky Bacon from producers like the Jolly Hog. And keep your eye out for Dry Cured Smoked Back Bacon and Dry Cured Unsmoked Back Bacon from Spoiled Pig.
Different types of bacon
Also known as America bacon, this cut comes from the layer of fat and fat streaked meat just below it.
Cut from the side of the pig, it is longer and curls round. In terms of fat content and flavour, it is between streaky bacon and back bacon.
Also known as Canadian Bacon, this is what we, in the UK, refer to as bacon rashers. It is cut from the loin in the middle of the back of the pig and is a lean, meaty cut of bacon, with less fat than other cuts.
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