The Savory Delight: A Complete Guide to Irish Bacon

What is Irish Bacon? – The complete guide

Bacon is a popular cut of meat that is enjoyed all over the world. From breakfast dishes to sandwiches and pizzas, bacon adds a delicious and savory flavor to a variety of culinary creations. But not all bacon is the same. Different countries have their own unique variations, each with its own preparation methods and flavors. One such variety is Irish bacon, which holds a special place in the hearts (and stomachs) of the Irish people. In this comprehensive guide, we will explore what Irish bacon is, how it is made, and the best substitutes for this delicious cut of meat.

What is Irish Bacon?

Irish bacon, also known as back bacon, is a traditional breakfast item in Ireland. It is made from the back or shoulder of a pig, which distinguishes it from the belly bacon commonly found in America. The cut of meat used for Irish bacon is meatier and leaner, with a layer of fat surrounding it that adds flavor and gives it a distinctive taste. Unlike American bacon, Irish bacon is typically cooked until done but not crisp.

How is Irish bacon made?

The process of making Irish bacon involves curing the meat and then cooking it. The curing process gives the meat a unique flavor and increases its shelf life. While not all Irish bacon is cured, when it is, a basic brine is often used, which takes longer to cure than other types of bacon. Irish bacon is usually cut into rounds rather than thin strips and has a higher fat content than other types of bacon.

Curing Irish Bacon

To cure Irish bacon, you will need the following ingredients and steps:

  • 5 pounds of Irish bacon
  • Brine Mix (Garlic, Maple Syrup, Bay Leaves, Thyme, Nutmeg, Juniper Berries, Brown Sugar and Honey)


  1. Prepare the hardener mix by either making your own at home or using a store-bought hardener mix.
  2. Add the meat to the brine and rub well to coat the bacon evenly.
  3. Place the bacon in a plastic bag or airtight container.
  4. Refrigerate the container of cured bacon at a temperature between 34-40°F for 7 days.
  5. Halfway through the curing process, remove the bacon and rub it again to even out the seasoning mixture and any moisture that may have collected in the container.
  6. After 1-2 weeks, take the cured meat out of the refrigerator and rinse well.
  7. Preheat oven or smoker to 140-200°F. If using a smoker, leave the damper open for dry curing.
  8. Place the meat on a baking sheet and place in the oven or smoker for 90 minutes.
  9. Use a meat thermometer to check the temperature of the thickest part of the meat. The meat is done when it reaches 150°F and turns a reddish-brown color.
  10. Remove meat from heat and allow to cool.
  11. Wrap the bacon in plastic wrap or aluminum foil and refrigerate or freeze until ready to serve.

How to Cook Irish Bacon

Once the bacon is cured, it can be cooked in a variety of ways including the pan, oven or microwave.

Skillet Method

  1. Remove the cured bacon from the refrigerator and allow it to come to room temperature.
  2. Slice the bacon and lightly brown it in a skillet over medium heat using butter or American bacon fat.

Oven method

  1. Preheat oven to desired temperature.
  2. Place the cured bacon on a baking sheet and cook in the oven for the recommended time.

Microwave method

  1. Slice the cured bacon and place on a microwave-safe plate lined with paper towels.
  2. Cook the bacon in the microwave for the recommended time.

Best substitutes for Irish bacon

If you don’t have access to Irish bacon, there are several alternatives that can provide a similar taste and texture.

  • Canadian bacon: Similar to Irish bacon, Canadian bacon is made from the loin cut of the pig and is often referred to as back bacon. It is lean and succulent and, like Irish bacon, is served at a soft and succulent stage of cooking rather than crisp.
  • Ham slices: Ham slices can be a suitable substitute for Irish bacon, especially when used as a breakfast item. Although ham and bacon come from different parts of the pig and are cured and packaged differently, they can be used interchangeably in certain recipes.
  • Pancetta: Pancetta is an Italian seasoned, salt-cured meat made from the belly of a pig. While it differs from Irish bacon in preparation and flavor, it can serve as a decent alternative. Pancetta offers a rich and intense flavor that can complement a variety of dishes.
  • Smoked Turkey Bacon: For those looking for a healthier option or a non-pork alternative, smoked turkey bacon can be a good substitute. It offers a similar smoky flavor and crispy texture, making it a suitable choice for those who do not consume pork.
  • Vegetarian bacon: Vegetarian bacon, typically made from plant-based ingredients such as soy, tempeh, or seitan, is an option for individuals who follow a vegetarian or vegan diet. While it may not replicate the exact taste and texture of traditional bacon, it can still add a smoky and savory element to dishes.

Bottom line

Irish bacon, also known as back bacon, is a delicious and distinctive cut of meat that is popular in Ireland. Made from the back or shoulder of a pig, it differs from American-style bacon, which comes from the belly. Irish bacon is meatier, leaner, and typically cooked to doneness but not crispness. The curing process adds flavor and extends shelf life. Irish bacon can be cooked in a variety of ways, including in a pan, in the oven, or in the microwave. If Irish bacon is not available, alternatives such as Canadian bacon, ham slices, pancetta, smoked turkey bacon or vegetarian bacon can be used to achieve a similar taste and texture. So whether you’re enjoying a traditional Irish breakfast or adding a unique twist to your favorite recipes, Irish Bacon is sure to delight your taste buds.


What is the main difference between Irish Bacon and American Bacon?

The main difference is the cut of meat used. Irish bacon comes from the back or shoulder of the pig, while American bacon comes from the belly. In addition, Irish bacon is meatier, leaner, and typically cooked to doneness but not crispness.

How is Irish bacon cured?

Irish bacon is typically cured with a basic brine mixture that may include ingredients such as garlic, maple syrup, bay leaves, thyme, nutmeg, juniper berries, brown sugar, and honey. The bacon is coated with the curing mixture and refrigerated for about a week to infuse the flavors and increase its shelf life.

Can I substitute other types of bacon for Irish Bacon?

Yes, if Irish bacon is not available, you can consider using alternatives such as Canadian bacon, ham slices, pancetta, smoked turkey bacon, or vegetarian bacon. While these substitutes may differ in flavor and texture, they can still be a delicious addition to your dishes.

How should Irish bacon be prepared?

Irish bacon can be cooked in a number of ways. It can be lightly browned in a skillet, cooked in the oven, or prepared in the microwave. The cooking time and temperature can vary depending on the method chosen, and it is typically cooked until done but not crisp.

Is Irish bacon suitable for a vegetarian or vegan diet?

No, Irish bacon is a meat product and is not suitable for a vegetarian or vegan diet. However, there are vegetarian and vegan alternatives on the market that can add a similar smoky and savory flavor to dishes.

How do I use Irish bacon in recipes?

Irish bacon can be a delicious addition to a variety of dishes. It can be used in sandwiches, omelets, frittatas, salads, pasta and more. Its distinct flavor and meaty texture can enhance the flavor of your favorite recipes.