Bacon is a great addition to any dish It's no secret: bacon is hot right now. It's so hot right now, in fact, that people think nothing of having it in their cocktails, as an ice cream topping or in other non-traditional ways.
The beauty of bacon (much like that other trendy comfort food, the burger) is that its popularity is neither surprising nor will it ever wane. People have always loved bacon and no matter how fancy or un-fancy it gets, people will continue to love it. And as the weather gets colder, I find myself reaching for it more and more to use in satisfying soups and hearty pastas.
But the world of bacon comprises more than just the skinny pork bookmarks you're used to. Here are 6 non-traditional bacon alternatives to try:
1. Duck Bacon: Made from smoked duck breasts thinly sliced lengthwise, this elegant cousin of bacon is not super smoky, but it is salty, full-flavored, and delectably fatty. Be careful not to overcook it or else it'll get tough. Since it doesn't cook up that crispy anyway, it's perfect for wrapping around beef filets, chicken breasts, or scallops.
Related: 5 Ideas for Bacon
2. Turkey Bacon: This product's long been the dieter's solution for a full-force bacon craving. A turkey, unlike a pig, does not have a fatty "belly" (from which traditional bacon comes), so turkey bacon is made up of smoked and ground turkey meat reformed to resemble strips of bacon. Since turkey bacon doesn't have as much fat as real bacon, you won't get the shrinkage you normally do, but it also means you don't get quite the same crunchy richness. If you're really watching your fat intake or keep kosher and want something smoky and salty next to your eggs, turkey bacon's the answer.
3. Lamb Bacon: Unlike duck or turkey bacon, lamb bacon is actually made from the belly, just like pork bacon; however, unlike pork bacon, the strips are very narrow (I guess lambs have slimmer bellies?) and while they're plenty fatty, they also don't get that crispy when cooked. Their perfect use? Chopped up and pan-fried to flavor veggies and pasta sauces.
Related: Taste Test: Pre-Cooked Bacon
4. Slab Bacon: As the name suggests, this bacon is sold in one whole piece, not pre-sliced like most bacons. Perfect for cutting into lovely lardons (aka cubes) for French salads or for flavoring chowders, you can cut it or slice it anyway you want to.
5. Pancetta: Often referred to as "Italian bacon," pancetta is a salt-cured pork product made from the pork belly. Unlike American bacon, however, it is not smoked. It's perfect when you want a subtler salty, pork flavor. I love roasting up thin slices until perfectly crisp to put in a BLT or as a garnish for pureed soups.
6. Shiitake "Bacon": Not even close to bacon at all, but rather a vegan/vegetarian attempt at replicating the meaty savory flavor of bacon using thinly sliced shiitake mushrooms that are roasted or fried until crispy. While I agree that the satisfying heft of mushrooms can occasionally stand in for meat, this is one swap-out I just cannot get behind
What is your favorite way to use bacon? Let me know in the comments!
-by Sherry Rujikarn
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