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Apr 17, 2012 03:47 PM

Skinny Pigs??

I had not bought bacon in at least two years but I needed 2 tablespoons of bacon fat to make my great-grandmother's cornbread, which I was in the mood to do, so I bought a pound of bacon, laid it out in a big flat pan, and baked it at 350* specifically to render the fat. I barely got the 2 tablespoons. I remember Grandma having a can of bacon fat on her stove that was always full---the stuff must have poured out of bacon then. I wonder if that's why bacon has so little flavor any more. Thoughts?

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  1. Did you buy a national brand or from a local butcher who makes his own? I rendered a few strips of Oscar Meyer thick slice bacon this week and got a couple tablespoons just from that little bit.

    8 Replies
    1. re: noodlepoodle

      Grocery store bacon. Whatever. A few years ago I went on a crusade to find bacon that tasted like bacon and finally gave up. Had high hopes for Slavic markets. Didn't work. Bacon used to be saltier and smokier---and it gave off more fat. Pork is so lean now---pork chops and pork loin seem to have no marbling at all. Better for us but not as flavorful, I think.

      1. re: Querencia

        I totally agree about the leanness of pork nowadays...the other white meat...nowhere near as flavorful as the pork I had in my youth.. Bacon varies too. I usually buy Oscar Meyer and that too varies from time to time. More flavor at times than others. If you're looking to render the fat, try buying supermarket bacon that appears to have more fat than lean. Good luck.

        1. re: noodlepoodle

          Try Speck, available in the German markets.

          1. re: SWISSAIRE

            Sam's Club carries a brand labeled Wright's Thick sliced bacon and I have found it to be very well marbled and really smokey flavored.

            1. re: SWISSAIRE

              Well, if it is made in the US, and all pork products are getting leaner, then I suppose the "Speck" would be leaner too. Speck = bacon (check it out in a German-English dictionary).

              1. re: Wawsanham

                I have yet to see lean salt pork. There are a few streaks of lean, but chunks appear to be 90% fat.

                1. re: Wawsanham

                  Yes, Speck is a common product here in Europe, going back hundreds of years.

                  Having once lived in North America, Speck can be found a most German, Italian, or Croatian markets. But it isn't North American bacon, given the cuts used, and as mentioned above the fact that it is solid but lean smoked meat.

                  My reason for suggesting Speck is the flavour. It is well smoked, two, or even three times, and is good solid meat, with or without bone. But it is used primarily to add flavour to a dish, usually in a small quantiity.

                  The common term expressed here is " Ein St├╝ck " when it is ordered at the butcher or market, meaning that only one small piece is needed. The leaness means that it will also last in a freezer for a very long time, similar to air dried beef ( Bressaola, B├╝ndnerfleisch, or Viande des Grisons ).

                  I hope these suggestions are helpful. If flavour is what one wants, Speck is a good cooking choice. A little goes a very long way. If fat is what is actually desired, then one might consider better cuts of pork belly.

            2. re: Querencia

              Father's Country Hams....cured the old fashioned way and hickory smoked. Tastes like bacon should IMO.

          2. Whole Foods carries some pretty good bacon. Good variety as well as quality.


            1. Bacon has probably been affected by several trends:

              - leaner pigs, since lard fell out of favor
              - leaner bacon. Bacon (the streaky US kind) is always a mix of lean and fat. It used to be that the cheapest stuff was mostly fat, with people paying a premium for leaner stuff
              - refrigeration. Salt and smoking were a way of preserving meat without it. Now consumers are salt wary.
              - wet curing. Old fashioned bacon got a heavy salt and spice rub, and left to dry and smoke. This makes for a salt, dry product. A wet brine does not dry the meat out. The dry cured hams traditional in the South are almost too salty to eat as is, though thin slices might be fried. Usually they are soaked, and then simmered. Contrast that with the typical injected brine hams.

              But the amount of rendered fat should depend mostly on the fat to lean ratio in the slices, which you can identify by sight.

              1. Is it possible that baking renders less fat than cooking on the stove? Whether I'm frying up supermarket bacon or fancy artisan bacon, I would expect to get 2 tablespoons of fat from just a few slices.

                1. It's no mystery. Yes pigs are much leaner than even a decade ago.

                  I work for a sausage company and there was a time there was so much fat on a hog, lard was a by product. Not anymore. Our whole hog sausage got as lean as ground beef. ~27% fat. Also, there is a natural change in fat composition through out the year. Spring hogs vs Fall hogs.

                  4 Replies
                  1. re: Crockett67

                    But shouldn't we render the same amount of fat from a piece of bacon - provided the ratio of fat to lean in the strip is the same? Doesn't a pork belly still have portions that are nearly all fat?

                    1. re: paulj

                      Nope. It apears to be the same since the breeding of leaner hogs was gradual. Bacon is not made from sow, that have a few years to get some 'meat on them'. It's actually made from the same pork you buy from the store. And since people have been demanding leaner meat...

                      If you had a slice of bacon from the 80's next to a slice from today, there would be more fat on the hog from the 80's.

                      I actually would be curious if a heritage hog bacon would have more fat than say Smithfield's pack?

                      1. re: Crockett67

                        Hog breeds used to be classified as bacon or lard types. The former are leaner and tend to have somewhat longer bodies than lard types. Examples of bacon types are Yorkshire, Tamworth and Landrace. Some examples of lard type include Berkshire, Chester White, Duroc, Hampshire and Poland China.

                        Most commercial pork production uses cross-breds where there has been selection for less back fat and longer bodies as well as introducing genetics from bacon type. Landrace from Denmark, famous for its bacon, was used in the mix as far back as the 1960s. Efforts to breed longer, leaner pigs in the United States go back into the 1950s as lard became an unwanted byproduct of pork production while longer pigs equal longer loins with more pork chops. The lean meat initially was more of a byproduct of going for less wasteful back fat than any particular desire for little marbling in pork chops. More recently general leanness has been a breeding objective.