Both pork belly and bacon come from a pig, but bacon is typically thinner and more expensive. Also, bacon undergoes processing and smoking, while pork belly generally does not.
But that’s not all. There’s a little more to this pork belly vs bacon story than meets the eye and I’m here to share it with you. In this article, we’ll delve into the key differences between these two delicious cuts – exploring their thickness, price, preparation methods, flavors, and cooking styles.
Join me on this culinary adventure and by the end of it, you’ll be well-equipped to impress your friends with your new-found pork knowledge! Let’s get started!
Differences Between Pork Belly and Bacon
Let’s look at seven differences between pork belly and bacon.
Pork belly is sold as a whole slab
Bacon is sold in thinly cut strips
Cured with salt or nitrite solution
Tender & rich meaty flavor
Crunchy & salty, meaty flavor
Cut from the pig’s belly
Cut from the pig’s belly, shoulder, loin, cheeks, etc.
Frying, Braising, Roasting, Smoking, Grilling, Baking
Frying, Smoking, Grilling, Baking, Microwaving
Bacon is typically cut into thin strips, while pork belly is displayed as a whole slab. Pork belly is generally preserved as a single large slab, which a butcher can cut into smaller thick slices depending on the customer’s preference.
On the other hand, bacon producers slice it into thin pieces because the bacon will become crispier, and the bacon fat will render more quickly.
Generally, bacon will cost more per pound than pork belly. The higher price of bacon is due to the additional ingredients and labor costs involved in the curing and smoking processes.
Pork belly, on the other hand, is simply cut from the pig’s belly and sold at a supermarket or butcher shop.
Regular bacon is processed using curing ingredients such as salt, sugar, and often nitrates, then smoked for a distinct flavor. Pork belly, on the other hand, is typically not processed.
Note that there are variations. Uncured bacon, despite its name, is cured with natural alternatives instead of artificial nitrates, offering a healthier option with a similar taste. Cured pork belly is rarer, cured like bacon but typically not smoked, resulting in a salty, non-smoky treat.
The choice depends on your preference: smoky bacon, natural pork belly, cleaner uncured bacon, or uniquely flavored cured pork belly.
The flavors of bacon and pork belly are two worlds apart because the former is pre-cooked while the latter is raw meat. Curing gives bacon a distinctive salty flavor.
Moreover, bacon could have a smoky flavor and crispy bark if it goes through a smoking process. On the other hand, pig belly, when cooked properly, tastes less salty and has a robust meaty flavor. Moreover, bacon has a crispy texture, while pork belly has a supple and tender mouthfeel.
Bacon can be gotten from different parts of the pig. For instance, some bacon producers use pork loin, or cheek meat to make back bacon and jowl bacon respectively.
As a result, uncured bacon can be made from different parts of the pig, but pig belly is just a slab of uncooked meat from the pig’s belly.
6. Cooking Methods
In terms of cooking versatility, both pork belly and bacon can be prepared in various ways
Pork belly is usually eaten as a main dish. You can fry, braise, smoke, and even roast pork belly. While it can stand alone as a main dish it can also be used to elevate the flavor profile of dishes like ramen or coleslaw.
Bacon, on the other hand, is mainly prepared by braising and frying in a pan. But beyond frying, it can also be prepared using a variety of methods like baking, smoking, grilling or even cooking in the microwave for a quick meal. This crunchy pork strip is a common addition to eggs, toast, and sausages. The saltiness of the pork bacon deliciously complements the sweet dishes for a salty-sweet treat.
What is Pork Belly?
A pork belly, also called slab bacon, is a cut from the belly of a pig. As a result, it should come as no surprise that this pork cut contains a lot of fat.
Due to its high fat content, braised pork belly has a deep, meaty flavor. Bear in mind that it can be challenging to cook with pork belly, and you must be careful with the cooking time and temperature. If you cook pork belly for too long, the fat and moisture will completely render out of the meat, giving it a chewy and dry feel.
What is Bacon?
Bacon is traditionally made from pigs, but it can also be from other animals like cows, and turkeys. Pork bacon can be cut from several different areas, like the pork shoulder, back, and belly.
Bacon is generally thinly cut and cured in order to preserve the meat. Pork belly bacon is typically cured by rubbing it in a solution of salt, and nitrites.
Bear in mind that bacon cut from the pig’s belly is characterized by its streaky white fat content. Due to the high fat level, this particular streaky bacon has a rich, meaty flavor and a crispy texture. Generally, bacon comes in different types including cottage bacon, streaky bacon, American bacon, jowl bacon, etc.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. How Long Should I Cook Pork Belly to Make It Tender?
The answer to this question depends on the size of the pork belly you’re cooking. For example, a 4-pound pork belly will take about 4 hours at 300°F to become tender. Also, the time may vary depending on the cooking temperature.
2. Can Pork Belly Be Stored in a Freezer?
The best way to store uncured or cured pork belly for a long period of time is to freeze it. To get started, simply cut your pork belly into small chunks to fit inside an airtight container and place it inside the freezer. Note that the pork will start to lose its unique flavor and texture if stored in the freezer for over four months.
Even though pork belly and bacon are typically cut from the same area of the pig, they share certain noticeable differences. If you prefer meat with a crunchy and punchy flavor, bacon is the way to go. These thinly cut strips taste saltier and more savory than pork belly due to the addition of the curing process.
Moreover, hog belly is typically stored in much larger chunks than bacon. If you want to serve more people a similar-tasting, rich, meaty flavor, pork belly is a fantastic choice. Moreover, the pig belly cut responds well to slow cooking techniques since this gives the fat time to melt and produces meat that is tender and juicy. Ultimately, both of these pork cuts will delight your taste buds. Simply buy, experiment with both cuts and make your pick.