Meat products made from pigs are widely consumed around the world, especially in the East Asian countries, with China being the number one consumer. However, religions like Islam and Judaism prohibit the consumption of pork, limiting the consumption of these products in certain other areas.
The reasons behind the popularity of pork are mainly pork’s texture and high-fat content, which brings flavor to any dish. There are numerous varieties of pork, namely ham, bacon, prosciutto, and many others. These differ between pork and beacon is where pork and beacon are extracted from in a pig’s body, and how they’re processed. Pork, in general, is a term that refers to pig meat, usually in an uncured form. Ham is extracted from the upper thigh or buttocks of a pig, and bacon usually comes from the pig’s belly. These can also differ based on taste and the way they are consumed.
We know a lot of people who consider pork and bacon to be one and the same, even those who have been consuming pork products for years. If you’re one of those people or just a beginner that has recently started consuming pork and bacon, understand the basic differences between pork and bacon is important.
While it’s true that bacon comes from pork, it’s necessary to know how they stand apart. And that is why we’ll be discussing various aspects of pork and bacon, which will include the basic characteristics of both types, the overall difference between them, and why bacon makes every dish taste better.
What Is Pork?
Pork is raw pig meat. In other words, pork is the flesh of a pig that is unsalted and uncured. All other products such as ham, gammon, sausages, and bacon are made out of pork by curing, processing, or storing it. Pork is extremely popular and widely consumed around Europe and East Asian countries. Nearly every country that consumes pork has a few authentic recipes, some of which are native delicacies of their heritage. For instance, Spain has a dish called jamón serrano that is made of pork extracted from the pig’s back legs, and Brazil produces a dish called feijoada that is made of pork extracted from the pig’s tail, feet, and ears.
Pork is sold in various cuts through wholesale departments. These are named according to the pig’s body parts and bought by restaurants and grocery stores. These are then sold as retail cuts in these stores and are often distinguished by their fat content. Fresh pork cuts are sold directly, and the rest are cured and processed. In the past, pork used to be cured to make it fit for consumption for a longer time. Now, curing aims to increase porks flavor.
When you’re out buying pork at a grocery store or a butcher’s shop, look for a cut that is grayish pink in color and feels firm. No hair or moisture should be present. The exterior part should have a visibly lower fat content. Streaks of shades and fat in the muscle indicate that the cut is rich in flavor and is tender. This phenomenon is known as marbling and is often helpful in picking out fresh and flavorful meat. Pick a cut that has medium marbling, not too little, and not too much.
What Is Bacon?
Bacon is produced by curing pork and is widely consumed in the United States. It is extracted from the middle (the belly) and side parts of a pig’s body. The belly portion is highly preferred as it has a higher fat content. Also known as streaky bacon due to its texture and shades, bacon is salt bath cured pork. It is then dried, boiled, and smoked to form long strips of bacon that can be eaten as a breakfast favorite or cut in small pieces to be used as garnishing and to enhance the flavor and texture of any dish. Bacon can be processed in two ways: wet curing and dry curing. Wet curing is when the pork is soaked in brine (often containing sodium nitrate to enhance flavor and retain color) or injected with it. Dry curing is when the meat is rubbed and left to absorb the flavor of plain crystal salt.
Since bacon is prohibited in some parts of the world due to religious beliefs, people are choosing to consume bacon alternatives such as turkey bacon, beef bacon, lamb bacon, chicken bacon, and many other varieties. Traditional bacon is commonly considered to be unhealthy, which is another reason why people are switching to healthier alternatives.
Differences between Pork and Bacon
Now that we have a basic understanding of both pork and bacon, it’s time to address the real question, i.e., what is the difference between them?
The basic difference between pork and bacon lies in the curing process. While pork doesn’t undergo a curing process, bacon is cured to bring out its unique flavor and texture. Apart from the factor of curing, pork is more popular and widely consumed around the world as compared to bacon.
Pork needs to be cooked for consumption and is inedible otherwise. On the other hand, bacon is often consumed in its cured state, while it can also be consumed cooked. Pork can be extracted from the entire body of a pig, whereas bacon is only extracted from the middle part. Pork is often used in recipes and dishes as a filling ingredient and to add more nutritional value. Basically, it is used when you need to add meat to any dish, whereas bacon is usually added for the sole purpose of enhancing the flavor in any recipe. It is often used in fast food such as burgers, sandwiches, and pancakes—and even eaten alone for breakfast.
Both pork and bacon have their individual tastes and textures that are distinctive. Pork is highly preferred due to its texture and sweetish taste, whereas bacon is preferred due to its salty flavor and crispy texture. Bacon is often eaten after being grilled, fried, or baked to enhance its crispiness and flavor.
The nutritional values of the two types vary by a high margin. Typically, a slice of cooked bacon (around 10 grams) contains 3 g of protein, 205 mg of sodium, and 4.5 g of fat, which is quite high. The nutritional value of bacon might vary depending on the way it is processed and cooked. However, bacon is often considered an unhealthy food source as it is high in fat, and it should be avoided by people with cholesterol issues. Since the meat is processed, its excessive consumption can lead to several health problems, including diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
On the other hand, pork is packed with nutritional benefits. It is rich in essential nutrients such as protein, amino acids, vitamins, and minerals. If the pork is lean (when visible fat is trimmed off), the nutritional value increases, sometimes making this cut even healthier than chicken. People who are trying to eat healthily and patients with high cholesterol should switch to lean pork as it contains mono- and poly-unsaturated fats that aren’t harmful. It is also rich in minerals, vitamins, and other beneficial components such as copper, potassium, phosphorus, selenium, zinc, sodium, vitamin B12, vitamin B6, riboflavin, niacin, and thiamin. Collectively, these nutrients can help to repair damaged nerve tissues and muscles, boosting the functioning of the immune and nervous systems, increasing the production of red blood cells, and strengthening bones.
The Bacon Rule: Everything Tastes Better With Bacon
You might have heard of this renowned bacon rule; “everything tastes better with bacon on it.” Bacon eaters, bacon lovers, TV shows, and various cookbooks swear by the reign of bacon. It’s so widely popular in every pork-consuming culture that it might sound too good to be true at times. So, what’s the science behind it?
First, the taste of bacon is somehow aligned with the category of umami. It’s not only fatty and salty but also comforting. This flavor explosion gives the ingredient the true versatility and flexibility of playing a major part in numerous recipes. In fact, the taste is so nostalgic and satisfying that people have even invented dessert recipes with bacon, chocolate-covered bacon being the most common. They consider this combination of sweet and salty to be utterly pleasing. According to a few experts, bacon is meant for the human palate due to its fatty, sweet, and salty flavor profile.
Speaking of nostalgia, some people grow up eating bacon almost every day of their lives. This is either due to its convenience, versatility, or the flavor combination we’ve been emphasizing. Eating bacon ends up becoming a crucial part of their lives, and it just tastes like home.
If we look at it from a scientific point of view, we see that the fatty acids in bacon divide into furans, aldehydes, and ketones upon cooking. Each of these components has a distinct flavor— furans are nutty and sweet, aldehydes taste grassy, and ketones are buttery. Also, the amino acids and sugars produce a flavor bomb when they are heated and combined.
Both pork and bacon are widely consumed around the globe. If you’re new to the world of cooking, it’s important to know the basic differences and use them to your advantage. These points will surely help you clear up your doubts and take your cooking to the next level.