What Are the Different Types of Bacon? – Expert Guide

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Last Updated on July 29, 2021

Annabelle

Annabelle Watson

Annabelle is an experienced food writer and editor. She focuses on common sense, easy to replicate recipes formulated to help keep things fresh and exciting while fitting into her day to day life as a wife and mother.

What are different types of bacon

Photo Credit: Didriks

Most people, when they hear the word “bacon”, think of exactly one thing. That’s all bacon is, right? A single type of food.

The interesting thing is…depending on where you live, that “one thing” might be something completely different! Some are likely aware of this in at least a limited sense; if you live in the United States, for example, you’re likely at least aware of “Canadian Bacon” as its own separate thing, but it might not register that plenty of countries have their own unique styles of bacon that bear little resemblance to each other.

Then, throwing in different ways bacon can be prepared…well, you have a surprising amount of variety. So why don’t we break down the different types of bacon, great and small, and see what makes each individual type great?

1. Types of Pork Bacon

While all made from pork, most types of pork bacon are differentiated by cut; they can be made from a variety of different parts of the pig. Some are differentiated by the spices or preparation method as well, which I’ll note whenever it’s relevant.

Streaky Bacon

If you live in the US, chances are this is the bacon you’re most familiar with. Named streaky bacon due to its characteristic streaks of fat, this bacon is great for cooking with. The high fat content leaves behind a high amount of bacon grease compared to other types of bacon, and the stuff is gold for adding flavor and richness to other recipes afterward.

Streaky bacon is one of the types made from pork belly, hence the higher amount of fat than some other types. Streaky bacon is typically cured in salt (and other spices if desired), then smoked, which leads to a ton of variety in flavor as compared to some other kinds of bacon. Most streaky bacon is primarily characterized by what kind of wood it was smoked with, whether it be hickory, apple, cherry, or the catchall “hardwood” (usually oak or some other relatively less immediately flavorful wood).

One final thing of note: streaky bacon can be commonly bought in slabs, so you can cut it to the desired thickness yourself. Some people classify this as a different type of bacon entirely, but it’s such a minor difference I believe it’s barely worth noting.

Canadian Bacon

This is a type of back bacon that I think most people are familiar with. Made from pork loin sliced thinly, it is then cured and smoked. From there it’s pretty much ready to eat, and brings a deliciously hammy flavor to the breakfast table while remaining a bit lighter on the tongue than your typical cut of ham.

Even in places where different kinds of bacon reign supreme, Canadian bacon is king of one arena: being one of the centerpieces of Eggs Benedict.

Rashers

This is a type of back bacon that I think most people are familiar with. Made from pork loin sliced thinly, it is then cured and smoked. From there it’s pretty much ready to eat, and brings a deliciously hammy flavor to the breakfast table while remaining a bit lighter on the tongue than your typical cut of ham.

Even in places where different kinds of bacon reign supreme, Canadian bacon is king of one arena: being one of the centerpieces of Eggs Benedict.

This is the type of bacon you’ll typically find across the pond. Also known as English bacon or Irish bacon (the slightly more accurate moniker), this is another back bacon, similar to Canadian bacon. However, it’s cut slightly differently, giving it a ring of fat around the edges to give it a similar fatty appeal to streaky bacon, but a thicker, chewer, and hammier texture.

This is one of the centerpieces of the full Irish breakfast, one of the heartier morning meals you’ll find around the world. Rashers are also, in my experience, a lot easier and cheaper to make at home than streaky bacon, which is always a nice advantage; pork loin is typically very inexpensive to buy in bulk compared to pork belly, which often needs to be special ordered.

Speck

Speck is a really interesting one. While it can be said that Canadian bacon and rashers are “hammy”, in terms of texture and flavor, they don’t QUITE hit the same level as a real bit of ham would. Speck, though, could be argued to just be a type of ham itself.

Native to the regions of northern Italy, Austria, and Switzerland, speck is made from the leg of the pig; exactly the same cut as a ham. Instead of the normal preparation method, however, speck is made by deboning, opening, and flattening the leg meat before being brined, smoked, and air dried.

The result is a distinct and unique type of meat that is reminiscent of ham in terms of look and flavor, but has its own texture to it. This is helped by speck being traditionally flavored with crushed juniper berries, to give it a more unique flavor as well.

Speck is interesting because it is a type of bacon that is meant to be eaten raw. While most types of bacon are actually safe to eat straight from the package (the curing and smoking process ensures that), it is certainly not the most pleasant way to consume them by any means.

This makes speck great for entertaining, as part of a plate of cold cuts or antipasto, but it’s not bad for cooking with either, being capable of taking the place of another bit of Italian bacon.

Pancetta

Pancetta is another Italian bacon, this time made from pork belly like our old pal streaky bacon.

Unlike streaky bacon, this pork belly is very thinly sliced and cut such that it shows a spiral of meat in its round slices. This gives it an immediately striking, beautiful appearance. Combined with its lighter flavor (due to the combination of thinner slicing and higher fat content compared to other bacons), this is great for appetizer and antipasti, serving a similar role to prosciutto.

Typically it is cured with various spices, such as cloves or juniper to give it a little extra punch, but interestingly pancetta is not typically smoked like most kinds of bacon are.

Guanciale

Completing our foray into the surprisingly varied world of Italian bacons, we have guanciale. This type of bacon is utterly unique in being mad of pork jowls rather than any of the meatier portions of the pig, giving it a unique look and texture.

Guanciale is also traditionally not smoked, much like pancetta, but makes up for it with a much longer than average curing and drying period, which typically results in a thick, dry crust of spices around the fatty bacon, which makes it perfect for various recipes (including the traditional carbonara, though pancetta is just as commonly used there), though in my opinion less appealing to eat as-is.

Similar styles of pork jowl bacon are common to soul foods and creole cooking in the US, though these types don’t tend to have any fixed method of preparation.

Lardons

Lardons are an interesting type of bacon, since it’s largely characterized by style of preparation rather than anything in particular. The only hard and fast rule of lardons is that they must be cut into small, fatty cubes or matchsticks, and can be made of either pork belly or loin.

I was tempted to put these as more of a footnote to other types of bacon, but these are common enough in French cooking as their own separate thing that it didn’t feel quite right.

Perfect for salads and garnishes, or an addition to soups, lardons are quite simple to make at home; take good, thick pieces of fatty bacon (preferably in the form of slab bacon or a whole pork loin) and cut it into cubes which have a good mix of fat and meat each (this usually means you’ll want to cut the slab lengthwise rather than on the width, like you normally would for a bacon strip). Particularly thick cuts of pre-sliced bacon can also do in a pinch, but can be a bit more unwieldy.

Collar Bacon

This rare variety of bacon is interesting. Made from the collar of the pig near the shoulder bone, it’s a very meaty, relatively low in fat piece of the hog with a beautiful marbling. Technically, this is a variety of steak; a pork ribeye specifically. Cut thinly, the steak makes this collar bacon which has an incredibly rich and meaty flavor.

There’s no particular traditional use in recipes that I know of for collar bacon, this type of bacon just tastes really good.

Cottage Bacon

Similar to collar bacon, cottage bacon (or buckboard bacon) is made from a similar cut to collar bacon, in the pork shoulder; particularly the kind usually used for Boston Butt roasts. Even leaner than collar bacon, this has a meaty flavor that comes out similar to, but a bit crisper than a pork roast due to the thinner cut.

READ MORE: Simple Bacon And Egg Recipe.

2. Non-Pork Bacons

There aren’t nearly as many common varieties of non-pork bacon, but there are a few worth noting.

Turkey Bacon

This is probably the most common type of non-pork bacon out there. Turkey bacon has been billed for years as a healthier alternative to pork bacon, though in truth that is only true in a certain sense.

Turkey bacon is largely characterized by being significantly lower in FAT than pork bacon, which can be beneficial; however it is just as high in sodium, and is lower in protein content, making things a bit of a wash in most respects; it’s less fatty, just as salty, and less nutritious overall.

Turkey bacon shoulder therefore largely be viewed as just a different kind of bacon, and on that front it’s a bit of a divisive one. Some find it quite tasty, while others absolutely hate it. Personally I’m ambivalent towards it. Turkey bacon has a very nice texture, which makes it great for sandwiches (both crunch and chew in equal measure), but its flavor is extremely light which makes pairing it with foods a bit difficult.

Vegan Bacon

Vegan bacon comes in a wide variety of types, but the most common by far would have to be soy based alternatives, making tofu bacon the standout option.

Vegan bacon is only vaguely reminiscent of bacon in a technical sense, but that’s not to say there are no merits to it; the process of soaking it in soy sauce or other flavorings gives it a distinctly punchy umami flavor, and if you happen to like tofu it’s a nice change of pace every now and then even if you’re an unabashed carnivore.

For a vegetarian or vegan, of course, it’s a bit more than that: it’s the closest thing you can have to real bacon, and it’s not a bad substitute on the face of things.

Finding unique things to do with it is a bit difficult, in my experience, but as something you just eat for breakfast the same way you would bacon…I’d say it actually does the job better than turkey bacon.

Beef Bacon

Beef bacon is a bit of an interesting beast. Cut from the navel of the cow, this bacon is made from the same part of the cow we get pastrami from, but prepared the same way as streaky bacon (cured and then smoked).

While difficult to find in most standard grocery stores, it is becoming more popular over time as the market begins catering to different parts of the population. In particular, beef bacon makes an excellent halal alternative to pork bacon.

Even if it’s not part of your religious proscriptions, beef bacon is something to experience if you find it; it’s like hot, less chewy beef jerky.

Annabelle

Annabelle Watson

Conclusion

Believe it or not, this list is almost just scratching the surface of different types of bacon. The secret is that bacon can be made from pretty much anything; duck, elk, venison, lamb…even coconut meat on the vegetarian side of the spectrum. But, truth be told, those are fairly rare circumstances all things considered, and the types I mentioned by name are going to be miles more common and easy to find than any of those more esoteric bacon types.