Barding is a cooking technique where fat strips are wrapped around a piece of meat, which is then cooked with the fat attached to it. This method is employed for the purpose of keeping the meat from drying out and supplying additional flavor. When barding, it is best to wrap either the bacon or the fatback as securely as possible around the meat for the best results. This ensures that the fat will more likely be absorbed into the meat rather than run off of it.
Prior to cooking, adding seasoning can provide additional flavoring. There are two basic techniques cooks use to do this. The first is adding the seasoning, most often a rub, to the meat before it is wrapped in the bacon or the fatback. The second approach adds seasoning once the meat has been fully wrapped in the fat. Seasoning can be in the form of a dry rub or a wet paste.
Any meat can benefit from barding, though poultry is most commonly the meat of choice because it can easily become dried out during cooking. Barding can help prevent this, as it self-bastes the poultry as it cooks. Instead of a dry piece of chicken, the meat is tender and succulent because of the infusion of the fat from the bacon or fatback.
When barding, bacon adds more flavor than fatback will. This is because bacon has been smoked. Fatback is simply fat which has not undergone a curing process. The choice between the two is often simply one of taste.
Bacon or fatback should be sliced quite thinly when used for barding. To secure it, it should be tied tightly around the red meat or poultry with kitchen twine. As the barding cooks, it will have a tendency to separate from the meat, so it is important to secure it well.
For best results, it is best to cover the entire piece of meat, with no gaps between the bacon or the fatback. Some cooks prefer to overlap each piece, as this ensures that no air will reach the meat. When air is able to get in, it creates an opportunity for the meat to become dried out.
Barding is an excellent technique to employ when roasting or grilling. Meats cooked using either of these processes are more likely to dry out. Once the meat has finished cooking, the bacon or fatback can be removed or it can be served along with the meat.