Salt Pork vs Bacon: The 7 Differences You Need To Know

When it comes to different meat cuts, sometimes it can get very confusing. In some cases, the similarities are so striking that it seems impossible to tell them apart.

There are some meat cuts and deli meat that are strikingly different, but when it comes to salt pork and bacon, for example, they can leave you a little baffled, and rightly so.

Salt Pork vs Bacon
The main differences between salt pork and bacon are fat content, salt levels, smokiness, rinsing, uses, storage, and preparation methods. Salt pork is usually used in small amounts to flavor dishes while bacon is mostly consumed alone or as a side dish.

What is salt pork?

Salt pork represents a type of cured meat extremely popular in the New England area of the United States.

Cured salt pork, like the name suggests, is a kind of meat that is cured and preserved in salt. It kind of looks like bacon, or pancetta, but it has a unique tang to it.

It predominantly comes from the belly of the pig, but it can also derive from the side of the pig as well.

Salt pork is incredibly popular in the making of fantastic New England recipes, like New England Clam Soup or Boston Baked Beans.

Although the amount of salt contained in salt pork can differ from one cut to the other, it is good practice to rinse it well before cooking it.

Cooking salt pork imparts an incredible flavor to your dishes, but if it is not rinsed beforehand, it might add too much saltiness to your recipes.

What is bacon?

Bacon, just like salt pork, is also a type of cured meat and it is incredibly popular everywhere around the world.

Europe, and especially the United Kingdom, has a soft spot for this type of cured meat, and it is possible to find it in many recipes.

It can be found as a side in breakfast dishes, like a Full English breakfast, or as the main ingredient in sandwiches, like the popular BLT sandwich.

Bacon comes from the belly part of the pig too, and it is also cured with salt. The amount of salt used though is less than the one used in salt pork.

There is only one thing that differentiates bacon from salt pork: bacon is more often than not smoked.

This characteristic gives it its peculiar, woody aftertaste, and it makes it incredibly delicious.

Although the original bacon derives from the pig, alternatives are gaining quite popularity around the world, like turkey bacon, for a healthier option or soy bacon for a vegan alternative.

What are the differences between salt pork and bacon?

It is known by now that both cured salt pork and bacon come from the same part of the pork, the belly.

On top of that, it is known that both cuts of meat are cured in salt. If you place them side by side, sliced salt pork looks like bacon.

There are a few essential differences that make salt pork and bacon completely diverse, both during the making process and the cooking.

So without further ado, here is a comprehensive list of every difference between bacon and salt pork.

1. Fat content

The fat contained in salt pork and bacon is radically different. Although they both come from the same part of the pig, bacon is leaner than salt pork.

Salt pork contains a more significant percentage of fat in it, making it the ideal option if you want to add flavor and creaminess to your recipes.

Bacon does not have as much fat as salt pork, and when cooked, it dries, even more, leaving it crispy.

2. Salt levels

As its own name might give away, salt pork has a higher percentage of salt compared to bacon.

As a result, as salt pork is mainly cured with salt, bacon is preserved using a mixture of ingredients including salt, nitrates, and sometimes sweet ingredients like brown sugar.

This specific trait seems to be the reason why it is always best to rinse salt pork before employing it in your recipes.

Instead, it is possible to cook bacon right away, straight from the fridge, as it does not require any rinsing or other prepping process before cooking it.

3. Smokiness 

As we all know by now, bacon is a type of cured meat that is smoked in the preparation process.

It is achieved as part of the curing technique to make it last longer. The smokiness in the meat will eventually provide bacon with its specific, signature woody tang that everyone loves.

Due to their similarities, there is a fine line between salt pork and bacon when we talk about smokiness.

However, it is not possible to make smoked salt pork, because it will turn into a sort of incredibly salty bacon.

4. Preparation

Although salt pork and bacon are both two types of raw cured meat, they have different preparation methods.

American bacon is usually fried, although it has been proven that boiling it might make it safer to consume for our bodies. However, for most people, the thought of boiling bacon is simply unbearable.

The main rule when preparing salt pork is that you cannot consume it raw. You should always rinse it properly and thoroughly cook it before consuming it.

As with every kind of meat, it is safer to cook it properly before eating it, as it is very harmful to eat raw meat.

5. Rinsing

Before you start the cooking process, it is necessary to know that salt pork needs to be rinsed properly.

The high levels of salt contained in salt pork make rinsing a crucial step to take before you even begin to cook.

As bacon has a way lower percentage of salt, it does not need to be rinsed before cooking it. Therefore, it is possible to add it to the pan straight from the fridge.

6. Uses

Bacon and salt pork are used for different recipes and have very distinct purposes as well.

Bacon is frequently used as a side, or simply to include proteins in a dish. For example, it fantastically goes in a Full English Breakfast, alongside eggs, veggies, and sausages.

It also works as a stand-alone main ingredient in a bacon patty or BLT sandwich. In many countries, bacon is a staple on the breakfast table.

Salt pork is often used to add flavor to a dish or a recipe. Its saltiness and the fat contained in salt pork add a fantastic tang to soup, stews, or vegetables used as a side dish. 

7. Storage

Both bacon and salt pork need to be stored in the refrigerator. Salt pork can be stored in a freezer too.

If it is still sealed in its packaging, bacon can last up until the expiration date that appears on the wrap. If open, it is best to use it in the following 24 hours before it goes bad.

Bacon can also be stored in the freezer if unopened, and it lasts for about a month until the fat goes bad.

Salt pork lasts way longer than bacon when preserved properly. It can last between four and five months in a regular fridge, but if frozen it can last even longer.

Salt pork vs bacon: are they the same? 

No, salt pork and bacon are not the same things. They might have a few similarities, but there are multiple differences that make them very diverse ingredients.

As mentioned above, salt pork contains a significant amount of salt compared to bacon. And it is also fattier too, making bacon a leaner option.

The high percentage of salt in salt pork requires it to be rinsed thoroughly before using it in the kitchen, while bacon does not need further prepping.

Salt pork is mainly cured with salt, while bacon is cured with a mixture of different ingredients that aren’t always the same but usually include nitrates, salt, seasonings, and sometimes even brown sugar.

To make it last longer, bacon is also smoked, imparting it a woody taste.

Bacon is fantastic on its own, while salt pork is the perfect ingredient to provide your recipes with a wonderful, wholesome flavor.

Bacon and salt pork are not interchangeable, therefore, it is extremely important that you know what is the result you want to achieve with your dish before you pick one or the other. 

It does not only depend on your personal preference. The choice between salt pork and bacon also depends on the texture and consistency you want to give to your dish.

Not to mention the flavor you want to bring to your recipe. It can either be a salty tang or a slightly pungent, smoked one. 

Bacon is incredibly popular worldwide, so it can be found in any store or supermarket. Salt pork is not as well-known as bacon, therefore it might be a little challenging to find it near you.

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