Bacon: the facts
Bacon - officially better than sausage in a butty according to you - is a cured cut of pork. It’s usually made up from side and back cuts of the animal: back bacon comes from the loin, in the middle of the back of the pig, and should be lean and meaty; streaky bacon is taken from the belly and should have layers of meat and fat. It can be smoked, or unsmoked (otherwise known as green) and can be dry-cured or wet-cured.
Dry curing involves rubbing the meat with salt and sugar and will produce the best flavour and texture (and none of that horrible white stuff that comes out during cooking). For wet-curing, the bacon is immersed in a brine (or sometimes the brine is even injected directly into the meat) and this will produce lots of liquid in the pan and a flabby rasher. As always with meat, the best flavour will come from happy and well-looked after animals.
Heston from Waitrose, Vanilla Back Bacon Rashers
That man just can’t leave anything alone can he? “Vanilla and bacon!” you might cry. You’ve not heard anything yet. How about stout and golden syrup smoked streaky or tomato ketchup-cured bacon? But, they work. Open the packet of Vanilla Back Bacon and you’ll be hit with an instant heady whiff of the spice – it’s sweet and fruity, and becomes even more intoxicating when it’s being cooked. The actual flavour from the vanilla is quite delicate though. Its natural sweetness works well with fat and salty bacon. Expect quite a thin and lean rasher with a firm texture.
Best for? Those that like to experiment. The vanilla doesn’t overpower but adds an extra dimension to this outdoor-bred pork.
Lovefood.com tip: While Heston’s rashers taste delicious just sandwiched, try using them in cooking too. Cut the bacon into strips and fry until crispy; serve on top of this soup.
How much? For 6 rashers (200g) expect to pay £3.29 at Waitrose. Certainly not an everyday bacon but definitely worth giving a go.
Denhay, Smoked Streaky Bacon
It’s no surprise this bacon won a Great Taste Gold award in 2011. Produced using outdoor-bred pork, from a farm in Dorset, these streaky rashers are hand dry-cured. The beech wood smoke is beautifully delicate, still allowing for the flavour of the meat to shine through, and the balance of fat and meat is just right. The rashers are a medium thickness and perfect for crisping up and drizzling with maple syrup or (if you’re a die-hard Brit) smothering in Tommy K.
Best for? Those that like their bacon crispy and can handle a bit of fat (people who cut off the rind should walk away now).
Lovefood.com tip: The fat in this bacon makes it great for wrapping around your roast, or even fish, when cooking. It’s a natural baster and flavour enhancer.
How much? Denhay bacon (and its equally good sister bacon Spoiltpig) is stocked in a range of local independents, Waitrose, Sainsbury’s, Tesco, Morrisons, Nisalocally, Budgens and online at Ocado for £2.99 for 200g.
Tesco Finest, Unsmoked British Dry Cure Back Bacon Rashers
Made using a traditional dry-curing method that was developed in 1824 by Cumbrian bacon and sausage producer Richard Woodall, this bacon has a surprisingly good flavour for a supermarket range. It’s firm, not flabby, thanks to four weeks of air drying and no-added water. It’s not too thick either and crisped up nicely on our taste test.
Best for? Your sarnie. It was the best value on our taste test without compromising on flavour or welfare standards (look out for the Red Tractor mark). A good everyday bacon.
Lovefood.com tip: This is a bacon that needs no messing around with. How about swapping the Heinz or HP with a homemade mayonnaise instead? Take Mat Follas’ advice and get out the stick blender – you’ll never look back.
How much? Tesco Finest Unsmoked Bacon costs £2.84 but the store is currently offering any two packs in the range for £5.
Find out more about Bacon Connoisseurs’ Week.
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