An illustrated guide to common cuts. 

By Heath Goldman
April 13, 2017

Bacon connoisseurs, how much do you know about your beloved crispy snack? It’s certainly tasty in a BLT—or, better yet, a Halloumi BLT. You can cook it in the oven for delightfully crispy mess-free results that feed a crowd. You can even freeze it so it lasts for months.

But did you know that the U.S. Department of Agriculture has a very specific bacon definition? In the U.S., bacon is “the cured belly of a swine carcass.” (Yum!)

Let's break that down: Curing is a technique that preserves pork and pork belly is soaked in a salty solution called a brine. Although some bacon in the supermarket is labeled “uncured,” technically it’s cured, just without added artificial nitrates (preservatives) that speed up the process. It often tastes extra-salty because it has to sit in brine longer than traditionally cured bacon.

British bacon, cut from the back of the pig, the loin, can be hard to find in the U.S. because it doesn’t fit into our definition. If you’re partial to the meatier U.K. variety, look for a package labeled as “back bacon.”

Clearly, the ins and outs of bacon are nuanced. We dug into the USDA’s fine print and perused the aisles of the supermarket to scope out the different options available to you. Here’s a concise guide to the different cuts you’ll likely encounter. Each cut is delicious in its own way and offers irresistible savory flavor. Read on for our favorite ways to use each.Key Cuts of Bacon and How to Use Them