“Bacon makes everything better” is a mantra in the culinary world, its salty, sweet and smoky flavor lending itself to a variety of dishes from main courses to desserts. Bacon is readily available in slabs or pre-sliced. Served as an accompaniment to breakfast in crispy fried strips or as the centerpiece of a meal in thick, meaty, slow-cooked chunks, bacon can be enjoyed by the slice or by the slab.
Slab vs. Sliced Bacon
Bacon is made from pork bellies and sides that are cured or brined and then smoked. A slab of bacon consists of one thick, uncut chunk, usually with the rind still attached to lock in flavor. Sliced bacon differs from a slab in that the rind is removed and the bacon is cut into strips before packaging. Sliced bacon can be purchased in a variety of thicknesses; thin sliced bacon usually contains about 35 strips per pound, regular sliced bacon contains 16 to 20 strips per pound and thick sliced bacon contains 12 to 16 strips per pound. Slabs are usually cheaper than sliced bacon.
Cooking by the Slab
Slab bacon is versatile and can be prepared many ways. Remove the rind and cut it into slices to make sliced bacon. The rind can be diced and fried to make cracklings, which can be snacked on or used to flavor your favorite dishes. You can cook the slab whole, rind and all, by slow roasting it in the oven or simmering it gently in a pan of water until tender. Cooking the slab whole creates rich, savory bacon because the fat does not render away as much of it does when fried in strips. Cut it into steaks and serve with lentils, potatoes or sauerkraut. Cut the slab into meaty chunks for savory stews or sear them on the grill and make bacon kabobs.
Cooking by the Slice
Sliced bacon is convenient because it already has been prepared for cooking. Fry it up in a pan on the stove top, bake it in the oven on a baking sheet or cook it on the grill on top of a layer of aluminum foil. Serve it in strips with your favorite breakfast foods or use it to make savory sandwiches. Dice it into small pieces and use it to top salads or soups. Wrap bacon strips around other cuts of meat such as filet mignon or deer loin to add flavor and seal in moisture.
Pork can contain bacterial pathogens including trichinosis and salmonella that can be contracted from eating undercooked pork.. These food-borne pathogens are destroyed during the cooking process. Bacon can be safely refrigerated for up to seven days; if you don’t anticipate using it within that time frame, freeze it. For best quality and flavor, eat frozen bacon within four months.
- The Food Lover’s Companion; Sharon Tyler Herbst and Ron Herbst
- The Better Bacon Book; Tom Mylan and Rob Willey
- U.S. Department of Agriculture: Bacon and Food Safety
- Fine Cooking: Pancetta vs. Bacon
- The New York Times: Bacon by the Slab
- Marcus Samuelsson: A Guide to Cuts of Bacon
- Photo Credit Eising/Photodisc/Getty Images