Bacon: the crispy, salty, and oh-so-delicious meat that has become a breakfast staple in many households.
But where did it all begin?
The history of bacon dates back thousands of years, with origins in ancient China and the Roman Empire.
As we dive into the story of bacon, we’ll explore its evolution from a simple salted pork belly to the beloved breakfast food we know today.
So grab a slice of bacon (or two) and let’s explore where it all began.
Where Was Bacon First Made?
The origins of bacon can be traced back to ancient China, where pork bellies were cured with salt to create an early form of bacon. Pigs were domesticated in China as early as 4900 B.C., and by 1500 B.C., they were also being raised in Europe.
It’s believed that the Romans and Greeks learned bacon production and curing through conquests in the Middle East. The Romans improved pig breeding and spread pork production throughout their empire.
In Middle English, the term “bacon” referred to all pork in general. The word “bacon” comes from various Germanic and French dialects, including the Old French “bacun,” Old High German “bacho” (meaning buttock), and Old Teutonic “backe,” which refers to the back. However, the cut typically used to make bacon comes from the side, or belly, of the hog.
The first commercial bacon processing plant was opened in Wiltshire, England, in the 1770s by an entrepreneur who used a technique now known as the Wiltshire cure. This involves a special brine that creates low-salt bacon with a sweet, delicious flavor.
Throughout the years, the English identified and bred specific types of pigs to create the best bacon. Bacon slowly but surely emerged in other places around the globe, reaching the present-day United States in the mid-1500s when Hernando de Soto of Spain brought thirteen domesticated pigs on his voyage to the North American continent.
The Origins Of Bacon: Ancient China And The Roman Empire
The history of bacon dates back thousands of years to ancient China, where the first records of cured pork originate. The Chinese were curing pork bellies with salt, creating an early form of bacon, as early as 1500 B.C. Pigs were domesticated in China as early as 4900 B.C. and by 1500 B.C., they were also being raised in Europe.
The Romans and Greeks are believed to have learned bacon production and curing through conquests in the Middle East. The Romans improved pig breeding and spread pork production throughout their empire. Salted pork belly first appeared on dining tables thousands of years ago in China, and pork curing methods spread throughout the Roman Empire.
In Middle English, the term “bacon” referred to all pork in general. However, the word “bacon” comes from various Germanic and French dialects, including the Old French “bacun,” Old High German “bacho” (meaning buttock), and Old Teutonic “backe,” which refers to the back. The cut typically used to make bacon comes from the side, or belly, of the hog.
It’s interesting to note that until well into the 16th century, bacon was generally produced on local farms and in domestic kitchens. The world’s first commercial bacon processing plant was opened in Wiltshire, England, in the 1770s by an entrepreneur who used a technique now known as the Wiltshire cure. This involves a special brine that creates low-salt bacon with a sweet, delicious flavor.
Throughout history, specific types of pigs have been identified and bred to create the best bacon. Bacon slowly but surely emerged in other places around the globe, reaching the present-day United States in the mid-1500s when Hernando de Soto of Spain brought thirteen domesticated pigs on his voyage to the North American continent.
The Evolution Of Bacon: From Salted Pork Belly To Breakfast Staple
Bacon has come a long way from its origins as a salted pork belly. The Chinese were the first to cure pork belly with salt around 1500 B.C., creating an early form of bacon. The Romans and Greeks later learned the art of bacon production and curing through conquests in the Middle East, improving pig breeding and spreading pork production throughout their empires.
In medieval Europe, cured meats were a staple of the peasant’s diet, including bacon. The term “bacon” was originally used to refer to all pork in general, but eventually became associated with the cut of meat from the side, or belly, of the hog.
The first commercial bacon processing plant opened in Wiltshire, England in the 1770s, using a special brine known as the Wiltshire cure to create low-salt bacon with a sweet flavor. Over time, specific breeds of pigs were identified and bred for their superior bacon-making qualities.
Bacon slowly made its way around the world, reaching the United States in the mid-1500s when Hernando de Soto brought thirteen domesticated pigs on his voyage to North America. However, it wasn’t until 1924 that sliced, packaged bacon as we know it today was patented by Oscar Mayer.
Since then, bacon has become a breakfast staple and a beloved ingredient in countless dishes. From BLTs to bacon cheeseburgers to chocolate-covered bacon, this salty and savory treat has evolved into a culinary phenomenon that shows no signs of slowing down.
The Different Types Of Bacon: American, Canadian, And Beyond
When it comes to bacon, there are several different types that are popular around the world. In the United States, the most commonly consumed type of bacon is made from cured and smoked pork belly. This type of bacon is typically sliced thin and cooked until crispy.
Canadian bacon, on the other hand, is a bit different. It is made from cured and smoked pork loin, which comes from the back of the pig. This type of bacon is much leaner than traditional American bacon and is often used as a topping for pizza or in breakfast sandwiches.
Other countries have their own unique types of bacon as well. In Italy, for example, pancetta is a popular type of bacon that is made from pork belly that has been salt-cured but not smoked. In Germany, speck is a type of bacon that is made from pork belly or back meat that has been cured with salt and spices.
Regardless of the type of bacon, it’s clear that this delicious meat has a long and rich history that spans centuries and cultures. From ancient China to modern-day America, people around the world have been enjoying the salty, savory taste of bacon for generations.
The Health Benefits (and Risks) Of Eating Bacon
When it comes to the health benefits of bacon, it’s important to note that most health research focuses on its negative impact. However, there are some positive health outcomes associated with bacon consumption. For example, a study from the University of North Carolina found that choline, a micronutrient in bacon, is key to healthy brain development in unborn babies. Additionally, bacon is a source of Omega-3 oils, which can help reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke, reduce symptoms of Rheumatoid arthritis, and even help with depression.
However, it’s important to note that bacon is also high in saturated fat and cholesterol, which have been associated with an increased risk of heart disease. Diets high in processed meats like bacon have also been linked to chronic health conditions including migraines, asthma, heart failure, kidney disease, and several types of cancer. Even bacon labeled as “uncured” or “no nitrate or nitrite added” can still contain high levels of potentially harmful chemicals.
The American Institute for Cancer Research recommends eating no more than 18 ounces of red meat per week, including bacon. It’s also important to prepare bacon in a way that reduces its fat content, such as cooking it in the microwave or baking it in the oven on a rack that lets fat drip off. If you do choose to eat bacon, it’s best to enjoy it as an occasional treat rather than a regular part of your diet.
On a more positive note, some super fans claim that bacon is a healthy choice because it has “good fats.” While it’s true that some positive omega-3 fatty acids are found in bacon, the amount of saturated fat in bacon is huge compared to other sources. Bacon can also be a natural mood enhancer that helps encourage positive mental states due to the umami in it being an addictive substance that has a neurological impact on the brain.
Bacon In Popular Culture: From Kevin Bacon To Bacon-Wrapped Everything
Bacon has become a staple in American cuisine, and its popularity has spread to all corners of popular culture. One of the most well-known references to bacon is the game “Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon,” which is based on the idea that anyone in the entertainment industry can be connected to Kevin Bacon through their film roles within six steps. This game has become so popular that it has spawned a website and even a charity initiative.
In addition to its presence in the entertainment industry, bacon has also made its way into many other aspects of popular culture. One example is the trend of bacon-wrapped everything, from bacon-wrapped hot dogs to bacon-wrapped shrimp. The salty, savory flavor of bacon has proven to be a perfect complement to a wide range of foods, and this trend shows no signs of slowing down.
Bacon has also become a popular ingredient in many desserts, such as chocolate-covered bacon and bacon-flavored ice cream. These sweet and savory combinations have become popular among foodies and have even been featured on popular cooking shows.
How To Cook The Perfect Slice Of Bacon: Tips And Tricks From The Pros
Bacon is a versatile ingredient that can be cooked in various ways, but the best way to cook bacon is in the oven. Oven-baked bacon ensures that it is cooked evenly and to your desired crispness. Here are some tips and tricks from the pros on how to cook the perfect slice of bacon:
1. Use flour to coat the bacon: Dredging the bacon in flour before cooking helps to absorb excess moisture and provides a protective coating, preventing it from overcooking. The flour also helps to weigh down the bacon, ensuring that it fries flat and doesn’t curl up.
2. Preheat the oven: It’s important to preheat the oven to 400°F before cooking the bacon. This ensures that the bacon cooks evenly and gets crispy.
3. Use parchment paper: Line a baking sheet with parchment paper before laying out the bacon strips. This prevents them from sticking to the pan and makes cleanup easier.
4. Cook in a single layer: Make sure to lay out the bacon strips in a single layer on the baking sheet. This ensures that they cook evenly and get crispy all over.
5. Flip halfway through: After about 5 minutes of cooking, use tongs to flip the bacon strips over. This ensures that both sides get crispy and evenly cooked.
6. Drain excess grease: Once the bacon is cooked, use tongs to transfer it to a paper towel-lined plate to drain off any excess grease.
By following these tips and tricks, you can cook the perfect slice of bacon every time. Whether you like it soft and chewy or crispy and crunchy, oven-baked bacon is sure to satisfy your cravings.