The snap and sizzle of bacon crisping in a skillet will perk up any breakfast menu.

See also pork.

Bacon comes mainly from the fatty belly and sides of the pig. The fat content, while high, is what gives bacon its delicious aroma and taste. The most familiar product, sliced “American” bacon, is cut from the underside while in Europe it is also trimmed from the thigh and back.


American – This is the bacon many of us enjoy for breakfast or in sandwiches combined with lettuce and tomato. It is typically sold in one-pound packages, but also available in slabs.

Bacon is usually brined, cured, and smoked. Slices can be thick or thin and fat-to-meat ratios vary from package to package. Varieties include maple, sugar-free, and reduced sodium. Europeans call it “streaky” bacon (each strip is called a rasher), and they do not cook it as long as in the typical American household.

Pancetta – An Italian bacon that is cured but not smoked. Cylindrical and ready for slicing in many deli sections.

Gypsy – This Hungarian specialty bacon is found in ethnic markets. It is paprika-seasoned and roasted.

Canadian bacon is not technically similar. It actually comes from the pork loin and is much leaner. Cured and smoked (always pre-cooked), it’s sliced or packaged as a solid cylinder. The taste is more like ham, which is how it should be prepared.

Buying Tips

  • Packaged bacon has a long shelf life, but be sure to check the dates when buying at a reduced price.
  • Fresh or imitation bacon bits can be purchased for salads and toppings. Imitation products will contain little or no fat.
  • Pre-cooked sliced bacon is more expensive, but tasty and convenient when time is short.

Storage Tips

  • Packaged bacon, if unopened, can typically be refrigerated for several weeks. Consume within a week after opening. Follow the “use by” date and freeze for up to two months if not used in that time. Bacon does not lose texture when frozen and if it is not be consumed within a week or two after purchase, go ahead and freeze to retain freshness.

Usage Tips

  • To cook bacon slices, place them in a cold skillet and turn to medium heat. Turn often for even cooking and drain on paper towels when done. To reduce fat even further, drain off the grease in the skillet before adding fresh slices. Bacon can be microwaved or baked as well, but should not be broiled.
  • One pound of sliced American bacon, when cooked, will reduce to one-third its original weight.
  • Safe food handling is essential with all pork products. While trichinosis is no longer a large threat in pork products, precautions should be taken.