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What is Irish Bacon?

Blood pudding, which is sometimes served with Irish bacon.
Eggs may be served with Irish bacon.
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  • Written By: Tricia Ellis-Christensen
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 20 March 2014
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The term Irish bacon has confused many an Irish person, as well as most from the UK. In Ireland and the UK it is simply referred to as bacon. This food is a close relative to what those in the US think of as Canadian bacon. It may also be called back bacon or rashers. The term rashers may also be used as in “rashers of bacon,” meaning individual slices.

Traditionally Irish bacon is made from the back meat of the pig, as opposed to the pork belly used in American bacon. This makes it quite similar to Canadian bacon. Both are cured and have about the same thickness in slices. Both are cooked until done but not crisped like American bacon.

Unlike its Canadian cousin, Irish bacon tends to have a layer of fat around the meat, which many feel enhances flavor. To further confuse matters, some companies now make versions that are similar in cut to American bacon and should be cooked until crispy. It is normally a great deal thicker in cut than American bacon, but is prepared in the same manner.

Irish bacon is also similar to pancetta — the Italian cured meat made from pork belly. In fact round versions can make an excellent substitute for pancetta in recipes. Either one can stand in for the other in recipes, though the Irish bacon will be sliced much thicker than pancetta. This is of little consequence in recipes that call for diced pancetta.

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When one makes a traditional Irish breakfast of eggs, white pudding, blood pudding and bacon, Irish bacon of the round variety should be used. Alternately one can substitute Canadian bacon, or even slices of ham. The Irish and English tend to prefer this type of bacon as a breakfast meat to American bacon, although one may find American bacon offered in hotels or restaurants catering to American tourists.

Irish bacon is a great addition to sandwiches, spicing up a club sandwich or a monte christo. It’s also well adapted for use in omelets, frittatas, or in an Italian dish of pasta with peas. It is a little less fatty than American bacon, so it may be a better choice for maintaining heart health. However, no bacon is exactly fat free, and Irish bacon derives some of its flavoring from the marbled fat running through each slice.

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Discuss this Article

anon940870
Post 15

I have just had some Danish bacon with my Irish denny sausages and organic mushrooms and the danish bacon is quite salty but gorgeous. I much prefer Danish bacon to the Irish brands but prefer the Irish Denny, Cookstown (sausages and rashers are lovely as is their white pudding!) brands, all cooked lovingly in a light olive oil with a dash of black pepper, some dip (fried bread triangles) and a hot cup of sugary tea! Lip smacking goodness! Everyone who reads this, book a flight, or book a cruise and come to Ireland!

anon315883
Post 14

@Jerryroreo: Where did you get that info? Hilarious!

anon284995
Post 13

I think it's a bit harsh to say that the article is completely wrong. However, it's not completely accurate. In Ireland, 'bacon' and 'rashers' are considered two very different things.

'Bacon' is a chunk of salt-cured meat (from the back, as the article says) - it's not quite correct to describe it as a 'joint', as that term tends to be used for other parts of the pig. As post 12 says, Irish people would tend to refer to it as a 'flitch' - the size varies, but generally it means a chunk large enough to feed a family. 'Rashers' are simply thin slices cut from this bacon piece.

In my area (Co. Clare), 'rashers' are used in a fry-up, not with cabbage. The 'bacon' in 'bacon and cabbage' refers to the uncut flitch, which is usually boiled (generally with at least one or two changes of water to get rid of the salt) and then the cabbage is boiled in the water along with the bacon. I remember the older people used to insist on the bacon being boiled for about three hours, with the cabbage added after the first hour. Thankfully, people don't tend to treat the cabbage quite so badly nowadays!

anon284818
Post 12

Go to Newport, in Mayo, for the best whole cured 'flitch' going.

Get your local butcher to cut it up into 'rashers.'

anon255468
Post 11

Corned Beef and cabbage is an American invention. However, the corned beef is actually borrowed by Irish immigrants in the early 1900s from the Jewish.

anon231930
Post 10

Speaking as a Donegal man who has lived in the US for a long time, I can say that this article is actually right -- contrary to what some other commenters have said.

Ireland has only recently gotten American-style bacon, and it's called that on the package, and is just as greasy and useless as in the States.

"Rashers" does indeed refer to what Americans call "Irish bacon" and what the Irish call "bacon".

And Canadian bacon is distinct but roughly similar.

anon83367
Post 9

Speaking as a Wexford man, brought up in London, UK, I find this site to be completely bogus. I suspect it's written by someone, who has never eaten bacon.

1453

anon69915
Post 8

Irish bacon is cured back bacon same as Canadian bacon and is a traditional dish in Ireland, boiled with cabbage and potatoes and we have it usually once a week.

rashers are usually slices of the same cut of meat same as Canadian but we Irish leave the fat and rind on.

Streaky rashers or bacon is what is popular in America and cooked 'till crisp. when I was a child and was sent to shop for rashers and if I brought home streaky rashers instead of back rashers I'd get a wallop across the head and have to go back to shop to get decent rashers. nowadays I love both American bacon and Irish rashers.

anon53040
Post 7

This is completely wrong. This describes what the Irish call "rashers." Rashers are similar to American bacon.

Irish "bacon" is a cured cut of pork that is, as the previous poster pointed out, typically boiled and served with cabbage and potatos.

jerryroreo
Post 2

Irish Bacon is used in Ireland with cabbage as their traditional St. Pat's day meal.

Unlike the US version of Corned Beef & cabbage, which is strictly an American invention.

anon14213
Post 1

Pancetta is unsmoked and traditionally tied and rolled. Lardo is cured back fat.

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