When meat is wrapped in strips of fat while it cooks, the practice is called barding. Barding helps to keep meat moist while it cooks, and also imparts flavor. A related practice, larding, involves inserting pure fat into a cut of meat with the assistance of special tools. Whether barding or larding, the result is a rich, flavorful cut of meat which is also moist and tender.
Bacon and fatback are two cuts of meat commonly used as barding. Fatback is exactly what it sounds like; it is a fatty cut from the back of a pig. Any meat rich in fat will work as barding, however, with darker fats like goose and duck lending a distinct flavor to the meats they are cooked with. The barding is often seasoned as well, to further flavor the meat.
The meat which is most often barded is poultry, because poultry tends to dry out during the cooking process. By wrapping the breast of a bird in bacon or fatback, the cook can ensure that the meat stays tender and moist. As the barding cooks, the fat will render out, trickling through the meat. In a sense, barding is an automatic basting system. When the meat is close to done, the barding is usually removed to allow the meat to brown.
Other meats can also be wrapped in fatty cuts. Bacon wrapped meat is a popular grill item, for example, since grills can cause meat to dry out. The subject of barding also does not have to be meat. Bacon wrapped fruits and vegetables such as pears and artichokes are distinctly delicious. Barding can be used for grilling, roasts, and broiling on everything from fish to acorn squash.
Larding is accomplished by inserting a hollow needle into a cut of meat. The hollow of the needle is filled with fat, which is left behind when the larding needle is withdrawn. As the name implies, larding typically uses lard, rendered fat from pigs, but other fats could be used as well. Often, the fat used in larding is seasoned, so that it will slowly release flavors into the core of the meat as the meat is cooked.
Barding and larding are both useful techniques to have in your cooking repertoire, especially if you struggle with dry roasts. Experimentation with different fats and seasonings can also yield a wide range of results.