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What Is English Bacon?

Two strips of American bacon.
English bacon may be served with eggs.
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  • Written By: Mark Wollacott
  • Edited By: Lauren Fritsky
  • Last Modified Date: 29 September 2014
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Traditional English bacon is taken from the back of a pig and is also known as back bacon. English bacon is just called "bacon" in Britain. It is similar to bacon eaten in Denmark and Ireland, whose inhabitants also call it bacon. English bacon traditions date back to the Saxon era in the first millennium AD.

The British have a diverse range of terms for their bacon and a diverse range of cures for it, too. Back bacon is a center cut of a boneless pork loin. American bacon is known as streaky bacon and is cut from pork belly. Streaky bacon can also be called streaky rashers or belly bacon. Some bacon rashers are taken also from middle cuts.

British-style back bacon is noticeably different from American belly bacon. Bacon taken from the back has far less fat when compared to belly bacon. Cuts with less fat are referred to as leaner cuts. English bacon has around a third of the fat content of its American equivalent.

Once cut, English bacon is usually cured using the Wiltshire curing method. This involves immersing the bacon in brine for three to four days and then leaving it in a cool cellar to mature for two weeks. The Wiltshire curing method contrasts with American curing, in which bacon is usually smoked with corncobs or hickory and flavored with cinnamon, red pepper or molasses. British bacon is, therefore, more savory and less sweet than its American counterpart.

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There are alternative curing methods in Britain. English bacon can also be dry cured by being packed in salt, molasses and spices for four to eight weeks. Side and middle cuts are also smoked over beach or oak sawdust for two to three days. Smoking gives the bacon a more honeyed taste and appearance.

Bacon forms a core part of the British diet. It is an essential ingredient of the full English breakfast, which also includes baked beans, fried tomatoes, fried egg and blood pudding. Bacon is also put between slices of bread to make bacon butties. It is also combined with bread, lettuce and tomatoes to make the BLT sandwich. English bacon is usually eaten with ketchup or brown sauce. The use of mayonnaise, which is more common in America, is rare in Britain.

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