DISCLAIMER: I love bacon as much as anyone else does. Believe me, I really do. I’m just convinced that there are some alternatives that just might be just as good, if not better than everyone’s favorite pork product. So put those torches and pitchforks away and check out some tasty bacon alternatives.
Bacon is a delicious and world-famous pork product to be sure. However, there do exist some tasty alternatives. In fact, I can name 3 fantastic alternatives to the ubiquitous Bacon: Guanciale, Pancetta and Prosciutto. While Bacon continues to hog the spotlight (pun slightly intended) these three delicious cuts deserve time in the limelight. Well I say, that time is now.
Guanciale is Italian cured meat product prepared from pork jowl or cheeks. Its flavor is stronger than other pork products, such as Pancetta, and its texture is more delicate. It is a delicacy of central Italy, particularly Umbria and Lazio. When cooked or added to recipes, it practically melts in your mouth, but still retains that wonderful flavor that makes Guanciale so unique. The pork cheek is rubbed with salt, sugar, and spices (typically ground black pepper or red pepper and thyme or fennel and sometimes garlic) and cured for three weeks. This creates the intense flavor that Guanciale is known for. Traditionally, Guanciale may be cut and eaten directly in small portions, but is often used as a pasta ingredient. In fact, the single best Guanciale dish I have ever eaten was a Guanciale Ravioli
Pancetta, is essentially the Italian bacon. It is normally not smoked and is sometimes used as a substitute when Guanciale is not available. Pancetta is made of pork belly meat that is salt cured and spiced with black pepper and other spices. The tase is similar to American Bacon, but with less smoke (obviously). However, what you are left with is this incredibly intense Pork flavor and let me tell you, it is wonderful. Traditionally, it is often cut into cubes or it can be served as a cold cut, sliced thinly.
There are two basic types of Pancetta, the ″arrotolata” (rolled) and “stesa” (flat). The “arrotolata” is mainly used sliced as part of antipasti, the “stesa” is often used chopped as ingredient in many recipes.The rolled type is typical of northern Italy, while the flat is typical of central and south.
Prosciutto (Italian ham) is a dry-cured ham that is usually thinly sliced and served uncooked; this particular style of Prosciutto is called prosciutto crudo in Italian. Prosciutto is made from either a pig’s or a wild boar’s ham (hind leg or thigh). This gives it a very intense flavor that only gets better once the ham is salted and dried. The process of making prosciutto can take anywhere from nine months to two years, depending on the size of the ham, but for this amount of flavor, it’s worth the wait. Sliced Prosciutto in Italian cuisine is often served as an antipasto with Prosciutto-wrapped melon being one of the most popular. It may be included in a simple pasta sauce made with cream, or a Tuscan dish of tagliatelle and vegetables. It is used in stuffing for other meats, such as veal, as a wrap around veal or steak, in a filled bread, or as a pizza topping. This is one of the best and most flexible Bacon replacements I have ever tried.
So the next time you want some Bacon, keep one of these three delicious pork products. As good as Bacon is, these are just better.