Cottage bacon is a popular pork cut in the United Kingdom that is less known in the United States and, therefore, more difficult to find. It is usually called buckboard bacon in the US. Because of this, Americans are less likely than the British to know what to do with cottage bacon, but we have provided the answer to this question.
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What to do with cottage bacon
Cottage bacon can be used in place of original bacon in sandwiches, charcuterie, quiches, salads and other foods that are improved by a smoky, salty taste.
It can also be cooked using the same methods that are used for cooking original bacon. In an interview with National Public Radio, famed chef, the late Anthony Bourdain described his proven method of roasting bacon in an oven.
During the interview, Bourdain paraphrased an excerpt from his cookbook, Kitchen Confidential, in which he noted that frying bacon in a pan cooks the meat unevenly.
His preferred method was to place the bacon on a parchment-lined baking sheet and roast it evenly at 375F for approximately 20 minutes, or until done, taking care to turn it occasionally, due to the hotspots that ovens can have.
The roasting is said to impart a desirable crusty texture, and to bring out the flavors inherent in the curing and smoking of the meat.
Alternatively, cottage bacon can be fried in a lightly oiled skillet or grilled briefly to impart even more smoke.
Different types of bacon
The five most popular bacon cuts sold in the United States are:
- Original or regular bacon
- Thick cut bacon
- Bacon ends
- Cottage bacon
- Canadian bacon
How to distinguish cottage bacon from original bacon
The American style, or original bacon, has been in existence since the early 1700s. The cut originates from the belly of a pig and has a uniform fat distribution that gives it its characteristic crunchy texture after cooking.
It is a higher caloric cut of meat than cottage bacon. Original bacon from pork belly generally comes in rashers or slices that range in width from thin to thick and is noted for its salty, smoky flavor.
Cottage bacon, on the other hand, comes from the shoulder area of a pig. It is a meaty cut that is usually sold in an oval or steak shape. Its pinkish color and smooth texture are similar to those of ham.
While considered to be a thin cut, cottage bacon is thicker than traditional bacon and tastes less salty. Economically, cottage bacon is less expensive to process, because the spare ribs must be removed before regular bacon is cured, then smoked and sliced, which is more labor-intensive than the production of cottage bacon.
Depending on the cooking method used to prepare cottage bacon, it is thought to be slightly healthier than original bacon because it contains less saturated fat (though not as healthy as tempeh or turkey bacon).
How cottage bacon is processed
Pork shoulder, also known as pork shoulder butt, undergoes a curing process that provides a ham-like flavor, depending on the type of cure that is used. Two popular cures are the maple and brown sugar cure and the black pepper rub, each imparting its own unique flavor.
There are many other types of cures as well, but these two are used frequently in the commercial processing of cottage bacon. A maple and brown sugar cure can add a sweet flavor to cottage bacon. It is made from a mixture of kosher salt, brown sugar, and maple syrup.
A black pepper rub adds a fiery accent that is considerably more savory than the sweeter maple and brown sugar cure. The purpose of the salt in the cure is to slowly draw out some of the naturally-occurring liquid in the meat while leaving enough for the cut to remain moist and tender.
The cottage bacon is placed in a plastic container with the chosen cure and is turned each day for up to a week. This ensures an even distribution of the cure across the surface of the meat and makes sure that all surfaces are penetrated.
Some producers add nitrites to the cure to protect from harmful microorganisms, such as botulism and listeria monocytogenes, which can form in pork products unless special precautions are taken. The nitrites come in the form of a pink salt known as sodium nitrite (commonly seen in other breakfast meats).
Forming the pellicle
Cottage bacon is left in the cure until a pellicle naturally forms over the surface of the meat. A pellicle is a thin skin-like crust that serves the purpose of protecting the surface of the bacon and of trapping the flavors and moisture inside.
The seal that it forms helps provide the bacon’s distinctive flavor. Many artisans work to get just the right desired crispness.
Smoking the cottage bacon
After the pellicle forms, the bacon is smoked. This step both preserves the meat cooks it and provides a deep layer of flavor. The bacon can technically be consumed after this step if the bacon is left to smoke long enough.
However, it is typically removed before thorough cooking takes place. The primary goal of the ongoing smoking process is to maintain a steady internal temperature of 150F.
If the temperature of the meat rises much higher than that, it will cause the fat to render from the bacon, which results in a dry, tough product.
The smoking is done by placing the meat on a tray and putting it in a 200F oven. A deeper, more intense smoky flavor can be achieved by smoking the bacon on a covered grill over wet wood chips before it is placed in the oven.
The bacon is smoked for around three hours, or longer for very large cuts or multiple pieces.
Slicing the bacon
Once the bacon emerges from the smoking process, it is ready to be sliced. By definition, cottage bacon tends to be sliced thicker than original bacon in slices that are typically 3/4″ thick. Enjoy!