The differences between lardons vs. bacon aren’t straightforward for most consumers. Lardons are essentially a kind of bacon chopped into cubes, so why use a fancy name?
Well, because lardons not only differ from bacon by the cut but also the preparation process.
Lardons originated in France long after regular bacon was invented. They are a cured variety of bacon commonly used for sauteing vegetables and larding meat. Bacon, in turn, may or may not be cured. It’s typically used as an independent ingredient in cooking and has a less distinct, rich taste.
Here, I’ll review the differences and similarities between bacon and lardons in detail.
Table of Contents
What Are Lardons?
Lardons are a type of bacon that originated in France. Unlike American bacon, typically sold in strips, lardons are cubes or short strips of bacon cut crosswise.
In other words, lardons, first and foremost, are a kind of bacon cut. Lardons are usually made from pork belly or back but may also come from pork leg or other cuts.
Lardons are sometimes smoked, but this step isn’t mandatory for a piece of bacon to be called a lardon.
Traditionally, lardons are cut from a slab of cured pork. In this process, the meat is generously rubbed with salt and optional spices. It’s then hung in a cool, dry place to preserve for about a month.
As salt removes excess water, bacteria can’t thrive, extending meat’s shelf life.
Thanks to the curing process, lardon can be stored at room temperature for over a month while in its original packaging. However, after opening, they must be consumed within 10 days and stored in a fridge.
Some cured meat lasts for longer, but lardon pieces are too small.
Lardons have three traditional uses in cooking.
First, they can serve as an oil substitute for vegetable sautéing, giving veggies rich, salty flavor.
Second, Lardons also make a great addition to numerous dishes, including tarts, quiches, and pasta.
Finally, lardons are used in larding. This process involves wrapping a piece of meat that needs to be roasted with a twine featuring threaded lardons. The technique dates to Middle Ages when meat acquired from hunting used to be very lean. Lardons soften the meat and give it a rich flavor.
What Is Bacon?
Bacon has a vaguer origin story than lardons. Bacon is believed to have originated in China around 1500 B.C., though pigs at that time were domesticated in Europe, too.
Today, this type of meat is common in many countries, and each one has a slightly different idea of perfect bacon. However, one rule remains unchanged regardless of the region – bacon is a fatty piece of pork, usually belly, sides, back, or leg.
American bacon is typically made from a pig’s side, while Irish or Canadian bacon is made from the back. Back bacon resembles ham.
Bacon is sometimes cured and smoked. In other cases, it’s lightly brined in salt. You can also find bacon varieties with apple, maple, or other flavors.
As there is no rule as to whether bacon must be cured, the shelf life of bacon types differs noticeably. Cured bacon slices, like lardons, can be stored out of the fridge for weeks until opened.
Afterward, they must be consumed within 10 days. On the other hand, raw bacon must be stored only in the fridge and lasts up to two weeks unopened.
Bacon is a versatile ingredient. It’s a traditional ingredient in breakfast and a worthy substitute for pancetta and prosciutto.
Bacon is also commonly used in salads, quiches, casseroles, and pasta dishes. Cured bacon is frequently eaten raw or used to make finger foods, such as bacon-wrapped grilled peaches.
What Are the Similarities Between Lardons and Bacon?
Technically, all lardons are bacon, but bacon isn’t lardons. Don’t get confused – the similarities between these types of meat end with the animal they’re made from.
Lardons and bacon can be used in similar dishes and may taste similar, though not always.
What Are the Differences Between Lardons and Bacon?
Bacon can be cured or raw but is nearly always smoked. Lardons are always cured and may or may not be smoked.
This distinction leads to a difference in shelf life. Lardons in an original package can be stored at room temperature for nearly two months, whereas raw bacon must be stored in the fridge.
The uses of lardons vs. bacon differ, too. Lardons are commonly used as an add-on in cooking, such as sautéing vegetables or larding meat.
On the other hand, bacon is used primarily as an independent ingredient. That’s because bacon isn’t cured as long as lardons are and don’t have a distinct salty flavor.
However, bacon is just as fatty, so it can serve as a lardon substitute for sautéing.
Another difference between lardons vs. bacon is their availability in the U.S. Bacon can be found in any food store across the country. Lardons are less common, mainly sold in specialty meat stores.
Summary Table: Lardons vs. Bacon
The distinction between lardons vs. bacon is a bit confusing. However, this table should help you clarify the similarities and differences between these meat types.
|Origin||France||China, 1500 B.C., though the topic is debated|
|Frequency Smoked||Sometimes||Often but not always|
|Flavor||Salty, sometimes spicy||Salty, often smoky, available in a variety of flavors|
|Shelf-life||About six months unopened at room temperature, up to two weeks after opening in the fridge||Up to two weeks in the fridge if not cured|
|Used In||Sautéing, as dish add-on, larding||Numerous dishes, including English breakfast, salads, casseroles, and pies|
|Availability in the U.S.||Not very common||Extremely common|
As you can see, lardons are closer to guanciale than bacon in terms of application, despite being made from the same pork cut.
Both bacon and lardons are delicious and may serve as substitutes for each other. However, I recommend you try out both varieties in different recipes to decide for yourself which – lardons vs. bacon – is better.