I could never figure out why people boast about their love of bacon. What’s special about that? Everyone loves bacon. It’s a substance so intensely and unfailingly pleasurable that only the most insensate of beings could fail to enjoy it. But loving it isn’t the same as understanding it. And it really deserves to be understood. Here are six facts that constitute the beginning of bacon wisdom.
Bacon is smoked and cured. One of the main reasons bacon is so good is that two wonderful things happen to it, and if they don’t both happen, you don’t get bacon. One is curing, which is what happens when you let bacon sit around in a mixture of salt and sugar, causing it to dry up and become—duh—salty and sweet. You can also achieve these flavors by putting it in brine or putting it in a kind of iron maiden filled with syringes, but let’s just pretend these methods don’t exist. Afterward, the pork sits in a bath or in warm hardwood smoke for three or four hours. And I do mean warm; you should be able to sit in there next to it for the whole time, provided you had an oxygen mask and a big bottle of cold water. Country bacon often smokes at between 80 and 100 degrees.
Pork that is just cured is ham. Pork that is just smoked is barbecue. Pork that has been through both of these trials emerges at the end as bacon.