Meat Morgan: Bacon Talk

Cook’s Country Deputy Food Editor Morgan Bolling gives helpful tips on how to bring home the bacon.

Published Dec. 11, 2018.

Whether you love cooking meat or just eating it, it’s time that you formally meet our in-house meat connoisseur, Morgan Bolling. She’s worked at a few different kitchens across the United States, gracing those who will listen with her meat knowledge. When she’s not at work developing a new meaty recipe, there’s a chance that she’s hosting a homemade sausage dinner, running a half marathon (to cancel out those sausage dinners), or planning her next pig roast.

Bacon is at home on a burger, wrapped around a date, or sprinkled over chowder. You can even find it in chocolate bars, cookies, and ice cream. Really, we haven't found a place where bacon doesn't naturally belong. You probably already know this. However, what you may not know is that there are different kinds of bacon, and they're used for different things. To learn more, see Deputy Food Editor Morgan Bolling's answers to six of your most-asked bacon-related questions.

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1. What is center-cut bacon?

Center-cut bacon is just regular bacon with the fatty ends cut off. The next time you’re at the supermarket, compare a piece of center-cut to regular bacon; you’ll notice that the center-cut piece of bacon is a little shorter. If you look closely, you’ll also notice that supermarkets charge you the same price for 12 ounces of center-cut bacon that they do for 1 pound of regular bacon. This is one of the reasons why we tend to not use center-cut bacon in the test kitchen.

TAKEAWAY: Save your money and buy regular bacon.

2. What is thick-cut bacon?

Thick-cut bacon is just as it sounds: thicker slices of regular bacon. There is no hard rule for how thick the bacon has to be to be qualified as thick-cut. In the test kitchen, we like to use thick-cut when we’re serving bacon plain because the heftier slices get nice and crispy.

TAKEAWAY: If you’re looking for crispy bacon to serve on its own, pick this type of bacon.

3. What’s the difference between pork belly and bacon?

Pork belly is technically just a cut of meat. It comes from the underside of the pig. Bacon is pork belly that’s been salted, (usually) sugared, and smoked. (Pancetta, sometimes called Italian bacon, is similar but not smoked.)

TAKEAWAY: Pork belly is a cut of meat; bacon is a form of pork belly.

4. How long can you keep an unopened package of bacon in the refrigerator?

If the package of bacon is unopened, just go by the expiration date.

TAKEAWAY: Trust the expiration date.

5. How long can you keep an opened package of bacon in the refrigerator?

Opened bacon is safe for up to seven days in the fridge. I’d store it in a large zipper-lock bag or wrap it tightly in plastic wrap.

TAKEAWAY: Use it within a week!

6. Can I freeze bacon?

Yes. It can be stored in the freezer for up to a month. Store it in a zipper-lock bag or wrap it tightly in plastic wrap.

TAKEAWAY: Yes, but not forever . . .

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If you’re looking for more bacon-inspired recipes, check out our archive.

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