What Is Salt Pork?

In the Simpsons episode “Lisa the Vegetarian,” Homer asks Lisa about her new diet. He goes through all the things she’ll be abstaining from: bacon, ham, and pork chops. When Lisa informs him that those are all from the same animal, Homer says, “Yeah, right, Lisa. A wonderful, magical animal.” I’m with Homer on this one. It’s hard to believe that so many great things can come from one creature. But one porky product that people may be missing out on is salt pork. What is salt pork? What is salt pork used for? How do you use salt pork? Don’t get salty, I’m here to answer all your salt pork questions. 

What is salt pork?

To put it as plain as possible, salt pork is salted, fatty pork. Salt pork is almost always pork belly, then that belly is layered, covered, and cured in a salt brine. Salt pork is always made with a fatty cut of pork as the fat allows the salt to soak in and cure the meat. Salt pork is one of those foods that has been around forever. Salt pork, hardtack, and canned corn beef have been a part of army rations since the time of Napoleon.

Is salt pork the same as bacon?

A slab of salt pork looks a lot like some uncut bacon. But appearances can be deceiving. Salt pork and bacon are not the same thing. While salt pork and bacon are both usually made of cured pork belly, salt pork often comes from a lower, fattier part of the belly. Also, bacon is smoked after it’s cured. So, when you’re cooking with salt pork, you get that unctuous pork lard flavor rather than the smokey taste that you get with bacon. 

Sometimes, people confuse salt pork with fatback. Fatback is exactly what it sounds like. It’s a layer of fat off of the pig’s back. Way back in the day, butchers would make salt pork out of whatever pork scraps they had leftover, including fatback. But these days, salt pork is almost always made with pork belly.

How to use salt pork?

So, you’ve gone out to the grocery store and bought a big, honking, hunk of salt pork. Now you’re at home staring at it and trying to figure out how to use it. How do you use salt pork? If you’re from the South or New England area, you may already use salt pork quite a bit. Salt pork is often used to render down and sweat veggies like greens. Classic collard greens are made with salt pork. It’s how those greens get their savory depth of flavor. Salt pork is also used in baked beans and in New England clam chowder recipes. Soups, stews, and even stir-fries can all be made with some salt pork. The fat in the pork renders down to cook whatever else you throw in there and the pieces of pork meat fry up to add a crunchy texture to your dish. Personally, I love to just take a big, fat, piece of salt pork, shove it in my pie-hole, and chow down. I have been kicked out of so many grocery stores for doing that but I’ll never stop.

About the Author

Will Morgan

Will Morgan, a freelance contributor to Sporked, is an L.A. based writer, actor, and sketch comedy guy. Originally from Houston, TX, he strongly believes in the superiority of breakfast tacos to breakfast burritos. Will traveled the world as one of those people that did yoyo shows at elementary school assemblies, always making a point to find local and regional foods to explore in whatever place he was, even in rinky-dink towns like Tilsonberg, ON. Will spends his birthdays at Benihana’s. Let him know if can make it.

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