Is bacon pork belly? Pork belly and bacon are different in a few key ways, though bacon is made from pork belly.
Bacon and pork belly are two popular cuts or pork that are often used interchangeably, but are they really the same thing? The answer is yes and no. I think you saw that coming, right?
Both bacon and pork belly come from the same part of the pig, the belly. However, the main difference between the two is the way they are prepared.
Pork belly is unprocessed and uncured, while bacon undergoes a curing process that involves adding salt, sugar, and other flavorings. This process not only gives bacon its signature flavor, but also helps to preserve it and extend its shelf life.
Another key difference between bacon and pork belly is the way they are sliced. Pork belly is typically sold in larger pieces with the skin still attached, while bacon is sliced into thin strips and often comes with the rind removed.
Finally, bacon is often smoked, which gives it a distinct smoky flavor that pork belly lacks. You can get bacon both ways, but you can’t find pork belly that is already smoked or cured.
Despite these differences, both cuts can be used in a variety of dishes and are sometimes interchangeable. Let’s dig into the details.
What is Pork Belly?
Pork belly is a boneless cut of fatty meat that comes from the belly of a pig. It is a popular ingredient in Asian cuisine and has become increasingly popular in Western cuisine as well. It’s a versatile cut of meat that can be cooked in a variety of ways, including roasting, braising, and grilling.
Two of the standout features of pork belly – the main reasons it’s so delicious – is the crackling skin that gets crispy and crunchy when cooked properly, and the layers of marbled fat in the meat, which makes it incredibly tender and rich.
But Is it the Same as Bacon?
Pork belly is the same cut of meat that is used to make bacon, but it is not cured or smoked. It is simply a slab of raw meat that can be prepared in a variety of ways. The kicker is that pork belly is the slab of meat from which bacon is made.
Pork belly is often used in dishes like ramen, where it is sliced thin and cooked in a flavorful broth. Or it’s coated in dry rub and smoked to perfection. We also love it in pork belly buns.
Characteristics of Pork Belly
Pork belly has a high fat content, which gives it a rich flavor and tender texture when cooked properly. The fat can be rendered down while the meat stays moist and tender. In fact, the fat melted gives the meat even more flavor and tenderness.
Pork belly is less processed and contains no added nitrates or preservatives. There are a lot of people who are allergic to nitrates and can’t eat bacon, but they could make their own bacon out of pork belly.
Pork belly is also a relatively inexpensive cut of meat. You can typically buy a 5- to 10-pound slab of pork belly for around $4 a pound. At many Costcos, you can find both a pork belly slab and sliced pork belly. I like to buy the slab because then you can use it however you want.
What is Bacon?
Bacon is a cured meat that is cut from the belly of a pig. However, it can also be sourced from other parts of the pig such as the back, collar, shoulder, and jowls.
During the curing process, salt, sugar, and other flavorings are added to the meat, then it sits for a period of time to cure. This process helps preserve the meat and gives it a distinct flavor and texture.
Characteristics of Bacon
One of the main characteristics of bacon is its high fat content. Bacon from pork belly has more thinner layers of fat and meat than bacon made from other parts of a pig. You might notice that the grease leftover from cooking pork belly bacon is more than other pieces of bacon.
Another characteristic of bacon is that it is usually smoked. This process involves exposing the meat to smoke from burning wood chips or sawdust, which helps to enhance its flavor and aroma.
Much of the bacon found in the U.S. undergoes a lot of processing, although some brands like ButcherBox offer uncured bacon. If you’re sensitive to preservatives or nitrates, you’ll have to look closely at the package to find out what it contains.
There’s a Flavor Difference
Because bacon is cured and smoked, it has a distinct, smoky flavor that sets it apart from pork belly. The curing process also gives bacon a salty, savory taste that many people enjoy.
Pork belly, on the other hand, has a mild flavor because it hasn’t been treated or seasoned at all. This way, it can be seasoned and cooked in a variety of ways to suit what you’re cooking.
There’s a Texture Difference
Bacon and pork belly also differ in texture. Bacon is typically sliced thin and has a crispy texture when cooked. Pork belly, on the other hand, is thicker and has a more tender texture. When cooked properly, pork belly can be melt-in-your-mouth tender and juicy, making it a popular ingredient in many cuisines around the world.
When Would You Use Bacon vs Pork Belly?
So, when would you use bacon vs pork belly? Here are a few examples:
How to Use Bacon
- For breakfast: Bacon is a classic breakfast food, often served alongside eggs, pancakes, or waffles.
- In sandwiches: Bacon is a popular sandwich ingredient – think BLT – adding saltiness and crunch to a variety of sandwiches.
- In pasta dishes: Bacon can be crumbled to add flavor to pasta dishes, such as carbonara or spaghetti alla amatriciana.
- In salads: Crumbled bacon can add a salty crunch to salads, such as a spinach salad with bacon and hard-boiled eggs.
How to Use Pork Belly
- As a main dish: Asian cuisines, such as Korean BBQ or Chinese braised pork belly. We like to smoke a slab of pork belly on the pellet grill. It’s insanely good.
- As a main protein: It can also be used in dishes such as pork belly tacos or pork belly sliders.
- On skewers: Since you can cut the meat up in any size you like, you can cut it into cubes and thread it onto skewers to grill along with some veggies.
- As a snack: Pork belly bites make a fantastic snack. They can be made quickly in the air fryer.
Ultimately, the choice between bacon and pork belly comes down to personal preference and the dish you are making. Both are delicious in their own way and can add flavor and texture to a variety of dishes.
Are Pork Belly & Bacon Bad For You?
I’m not gonna lie, pork belly and bacon are both high in fat and calories, which can lead to weight gain and other health issues if consumed in excess. However, when consumed in moderation as part of a balanced diet, they can be enjoyed as a delicious treat.
When it comes to nutrition, pork belly and bacon both contain protein and some essential vitamins and minerals. It is important to balance your intake of these foods with plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean protein sources to maintain a healthy diet.
Before You Go
Now that you’ve learned the difference between pork belly and bacon, how about checking out our recipe for…
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Laura is a passionate home cook and grill enthusiast who has spent years perfecting her culinary skills, with a particular focus on grilling techniques and flavor combinations. Her fascination with the grill, smoke, and the mouthwatering results they produce has led her on an exciting journey to discover the best methods for grilling delicious and unforgettable meals.