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When I think of cooking side pork, I remember a small town butcher shop I used to visit with my grandmother. They had the most fabulous ground pork burgers (a story for another time), as well as fresh side pork. Today, we get side pork from our locally raised hog. But I realized one morning while I was cooking side pork for breakfast that it isn’t widely known. I’ve heard of people asking what it is and how you use it, so I thought I’d put together a post on this topic.
Caution: You might just find yourself with a new addiction…crispy side pork. 🙂
What is side pork? What’s the difference between side pork and bacon?
From what I understand (and this is from a Midwestern gal’s standpoint, just so you know), side pork IS bacon. It just hasn’t been cured yet. It’s pork. No smoke. No spices. No salt. Just clean slices of pork that come from the exact same spot as the bacon. (Side pork is the raw meat used to make bacon.)
Most side pork is a bit more chewy than bacon. In my experience, it doesn’t get quite as crisp, probably because it’s usually cut into thicker pieces than bacon and isn’t cured. Side pork also doesn’t have the smoky/strong bacon flavor, obviously. But if cooked properly, side pork still offers a deliciously crispy pork flavor you cannot forget.
How do you cook side pork?
Cook side pork like bacon, preferably in a covered cast iron skillet. (Trust me – you need one of these if you don’t already! They’re worth their weight in GOLD in the kitchen. Click here to see what sizes and designs you could get.)
Preheat skillet. Lay the strips evenly over a cast iron skillet. Keep the heat at medium-high until the skillet is hot and the meat begins to cook. Once the fat starts to render, turn down to medium/medium-low heat.
Stir the meat using a large fork or pair of tongs, so it cooks evenly. You may need to continue adjusting the heat up and down.
You want the pan hot enough where it continues frying the side pork, but not so hot that it burns. But do watch and keep it hot, because if it gets too cool, the meat will boil in its own juices instead of frying, and that will make it tough. (Doesn’t do much for flavor either, trust me.) It really depends on the temperature of the room, as well as what stovetop and skillet you’re using.
Once the side pork is brown and crispy to your liking, remove from pan and drain on paper towels. Do NOT discard the grease or pan. More on that in a moment.
How do you use it? What does side pork taste like?
Eat freshly cooked side pork like bacon. It’s delightful for breakfast! You can eat side pork plain, or make it into a sandwich with mayo, tomato, and lettuce. I generally eat it plain or in a sandwich, but I suppose you could use it for some recipes that call for bacon, depending on the recipe in question.
Remember what I said about side pork grease? Drain and save it. (It keeps for at least a week in the refrigerator, longer if frozen.) It’s basically a deeper flavored lard. You can use it for baking too, if you don’t mind the cooked meat flavor that may come with it. It’s always wonderful for cooking eggs, french toast, etc. too.
Also save the pan once you’ve discarded the grease. It makes wonderful gravy! Cooking eggs directly in the pan also provides a delicious flavor that cannot be replicated with just the grease.
Tips for Cooking Side Pork:
- If desired, season the pork with salt before cooking. It does help it fry better, but it isn’t completely necessary. (You could season it with other spices if you get the hankering! I’ve tried to make a quickie bacon before.)
- Cast iron works best for cooking side pork, because it fries better than plain stainless steel or aluminum pans.
- Warning: In my opinion, side pork splatters more than bacon, so be extra careful of your eyes while stirring.
Have you ever had side pork before? What did you think? Comment below!
- Skillet (cast iron is best) with lid
- Tongs/fork for stirring
- Paper towels
- 1 pkg fresh side pork
- Dash salt optional
- Preheat skillet. Lay strips evenly over skillet. Keep the heat at medium-high until the skillet is hot and the meat begins to cook. Once the fat starts to render, turn down to medium/medium-low heat.
- Stir the meat, so it cooks evenly. (You may need to continue adjusting the heat up and down, depending on your stovetop, pan, etc.)
- Once the side pork is brown and crispy to your liking, remove from pan and drain on paper towels. Serve immediately.
- Save grease and pan for future use (if desired).