Pork Belly Vs. Bacon – Which is Best?

Roasted Organic Pork Belly Meat With Salt And Pepper

There is no pork without talking about pork belly or bacon. Pork is one of the most popular cuts of meat on the planet. In fact, 36% of the world’s meat production is pork which beats out chicken by 33% and beef by 24%.

Nevertheless, it is easy to confuse pork belly and bacon. That’s why you need to understand the difference between the two cuts of pork, so you don’t end up with a slab of meat instead of a package of sliced bacon.

What Is Pork Belly?

Pork belly is a popular cut of pork. It comes from the underside of domestic pigs.

Pork belly is the animal’s fattiest cut. It contains more fat than pork tenderloin or pork chops. Therefore, it is versatile and tender.

Pork belly can usually be found in grocery stores. It can be sold in a large slab of pork or cut into long 1-inch strips.

Pork belly has become popular among home cooks, and they can be roasted in the oven or cut into large pieces and fried. Pork belly can be served as an entree, or you can cut it into cubes, fry them, and add them to pasta or vegetable dishes. 

Pork belly also is a staple part of Asian cuisine and can be found in ramen.

Is Pork Belly A Pig’s Belly?

Yes, pork belly is the belly of the pig. Specifically, the pork belly is fabricated from the underside of the pig that runs along the central line. As the butcher fabricates the pig, the loins and spare ribs will be removed, leaving behind the pork belly.

What Is Bacon?

Bacon is actually thinly cut pork belly. However, the major difference is that bacon is cured and smoked. Bacon is usually smoked using hickory or applewood.

Curing refers to a preservation method that entails massaging the bacon with a combination of nitrates, salt, and nitrites. These ingredients preserve the meat, but they also give bacon its vivid pink color.

If you are concerned about the nitrates used to cure bacon, you can cure your own bacon at home. However, most grocery stores can also find cured and uncured bacon.

However, uncured bacon does not mean nitrate-free. Celery powder and sea salt contain natural nitrates and are used in both cured and uncured bacon. 

Which Part Of The Pig Is Bacon

Bacon is fabricated from the belly of the animal through the ventral line. Nevertheless, bacon is not exclusively fabricated from pork belly. For example, back bacon comes from the loin, cottage bacon comes from pork shoulder, slab bacon comes from side cuts of pork, and cottage bacon comes from pork shoulder.

Pork Belly Vs. Bacon

Even though bacon is technically a type of pork belly, they are not the same thing.

Curing

The biggest difference between pork belly and bacon comes down to curing. Pork belly is not cured while bacon is cured. Bacon is cured to not only preserve the meat and extend its lifespan, but curing also prevents spoilage and botulism and inhibits bacterial growth.

Flavor

Because bacon is cured with salt, the meat develops a salty flavor that does not need additional salt when fried in a hot cast-iron skillet. In addition to this, bacon also has a smoky flavor that comes from the wood it was smoked with.

In contrast, pork belly is not cured, so it does not have a salty flavor and will require additional salt during the process. In addition to this, since pork belly is not smoked, it will not have a smoky flavor.

Price

In terms of price, bacon is more expensive than pork belly. This is because bacon takes several days to cure. Therefore, if the price is a huge concern, it’s better to go with pork belly.

Thickness

Technically, butchers can cut both bacon and pork belly to any size. However, traditionally, bacon is cut into thinner slices because it is easier to fry. Be that as it may, pork belly is typically cut into thicker slices, so it can be used in several different recipes.

Uses

Most cooks usually fry thin-cut bacon in a shallow pan. In its fried state, bacon can be eaten as is, or it can be added to pasta, salads, sandwiches, or soups.

In contrast, pork belly can be cooked in multiple ways. You can roast it in the oven, braise it, fry it, smoke it in a propane smoker, or slow cook it in a crockpot. You can also serve pork belly as the main entree or add it to sandwiches or side dishes such as mac and cheese.

Can You Substitute Pork Belly for Bacon?

Yes, you can substitute pork belly for bacon. However, you will need to add additional salt since pork belly is not cured. You will also need to add additional cooking time when using pork belly in place of bacon.

Is Pork Belly Better Than Bacon?

In most chefs’ opinions, pork belly is the creme de la creme. Pork belly has layers of fat encasing the meat.

While there won’t be much meat once the pork belly is cooked, it becomes extremely tender. It’s so tender that it’s reminiscent of pork tenderloin.

When to Use Bacon?

There’s no doubt that bacon is extremely delectable and tasty on its own. In the same way, bacon is also an incredibly delicious addition to any meal.

The most common cooking method for cooking bacon is to pan-fry it. However, you can also grill bacon and even bake it or microwave it. While bacon works well with savory dishes, it also pairs well with sweet desserts too, such as brown sugar bacon or bacon apple pie.

In short, you should use bacon if you want a salty, crispy accompaniment to side dishes, salads, and pastas. You can also add bacon to your BBQ hamburgers or breakfast sandwiches.

Bacon can also be used to wrap foods such as shrimp, asparagus, BBQ meatloaf, and even pineapples. However, you can also use bacon to make bacon crackers or chocolate bacon bark.

When To Use Pork Belly? 

In contrast, pork belly can be fried, braised, roasted, or grilled on your kamado grill. Pork belly can be found in Chinese cuisine in dishes like Chinese braised pork belly or in Filipino cuisine in a deep-fried dish known as Lechon kawali.

Nevertheless, when preparing pork belly, do not overdo it. One mistake and your pork belly’s rich, tender texture could turn into a rubbery mess.

Pork belly is best for the aforementioned cooking methods. However, you can also use pork belly for stews or in noodle dishes such as ramen.

Final Thoughts

Both pork belly and bacon are delicious cuts of pork. However, it’s best to try both cuts before deciding whether pork belly or bacon is better.

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