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What is Canadian Bacon? Unveiling the Savory Secrets of a Breakfast Favorite

Editorial Team
Updated May 16, 2024
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What is Canadian Bacon?

Discover the savory world of Canadian bacon, a term that can perplex travelers due to its varying definitions across the globe. In the United States, Canadian bacon refers to a lean, smoked meat from the pork loin, often compared to ham, and is a popular breakfast choice. According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), this version must be cured and can contain no more than 10% added water. Meanwhile, in Canada and the United Kingdom, what's known as "back bacon" or "peameal bacon" is a wet-cured, unsmoked loin rolled in cornmeal. The Canadian Pork Council notes that this bacon is a staple in Canadian cuisine. Understanding what Canadian bacon truly is can enhance your culinary experiences and ensure you enjoy this versatile pork product to its fullest.

In flavor, appearance, and texture, Canadian bacon is closer to ham than it is to bacon. The meat is lean, slightly sweet, and juicy. Unlike regular bacon, Canadian bacon does not crisp up in its own fat while it is being cooked. The meat is meant to be served in a soft, juicy stage of cooking, and it will be dry and tasteless if it is allowed to crisp up. It is also usually served in thicker wedges than those used for conventional bacon

The cured pork product which Americans know as Canadian bacon is usually called back bacon in other parts of the world. It is made from the loin cut, which is in the center of the pig's back. As a result, the bacon is much leaner than conventional bacon. Back bacon is prepared in the same way as conventional bacon, with a salting and smoking process intended to cure the meat. Slightly more sugar is usually used, lending a sweet quality to Canadian bacon.

This type of Canadian bacon is a popular pizza topping in the United States, especially on Hawaiian pizza with pineapple. It also appears in breakfast foods like omelets, and is sometimes eaten by health conscious consumers who want the flavor of bacon without the heavy fat content. When available, it is usually found with other cured meat products, and is usually sold in chunks which are cut up by the consumer as needed.

Another type of Canadian bacon is also known as peameal bacon. It is also made from the loin, but it is cured in a sweet pickle and it has a crust made from yellow cornmeal or peas. Peameal bacon is sweet and slightly salty. It is usually sold in both cooked and parbaked forms. Make sure to read the label carefully to determine whether or not peameal bacon needs to be cooked before serving. Peameal bacon is eaten with numerous breakfast foods in Canada and parts of the United Kingdom.

DelightedCooking is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
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Discussion Comments

By anon993610 — On Nov 28, 2015

@anon972401: You must have no taste buds, because to what you refer to as crappy bacon, or otherwise your relentless bashing of America, is widely thought as one of the best tasting meat. In fact, it is largely equated to sex for its unique flavor which satisfies all four taste receptors.

By anon989561 — On Mar 12, 2015

Before refrigeration Canadian butchers cured pork loins in a brine of salt, sugar and water, to which salt peter was add to retain the meat's pinkish color. The loins were cured for several days then rolled in a meal made from dried yellow peas. The coating of meal acted as a barrier and further protected the cured meat. The loins were not smoked or cooked in any way before sale. This pork loin bacon product was called "Pea Meal Bacon". The same process was used to preserve beef. "Corned Beef" has added spices and is sold in its brine without the use of a meal.

Commercially produced "Pea Meal Bacon" producers now inject the loins with brine to shorten the cure time. A more cost effective corn meal replaces the pea meal for aesthetic purposes only. In Canada it is still referred to as "Pea meal Bacon".

During WW II there was a shortage of pork in the UK. Canadian producers supplied England with their products. The cured loins were shipped without the meal coating to suite the British market and were labeled as "Back Bacon". Throughout the UK this product is generally known as "Bacon".

"Regular Bacon" usually comes from the belly or side of the hog and when sliced, is streaked with fat. Hence the British term "Streaky Bacon". This type of bacon commercially produced today is injected with a brine and then smoked. Many different flavorings are added to the brine; like honey, maple, hickory etc.

Ham is also injected with a brine and then smoked. Perfectly shaped hams are made by chopping or grinding the pork, encasing it in a sheath, injecting it with brine and then smoking it. A "Cottage Roll" is cured in a brine and not smoked, it is sold in it's brine in the same manner as corned beef.

"Canadian Bacon" in the United States is made from chopped pieces of pork from different areas of the hog. Then it is encased in a sheath injected with a brine and smoked. That is why it is uniform in shape (like in the picture above) and tastes like ham. Some US producers use the loin to produce "Canadian Bacon' but it is always smoked after curing. This smoking of the meat is not the way it is made in Canada.

In conclusion "Canadian Bacon" is a smoked pork product, made in the United States to suit the US market. Authentic "Canadian" Pea Meal Bacon or as some here like to call it, 'Back Bacon' is never ever smoked after curing.

By anon972401 — On Oct 03, 2014

Back bacon is commonplace in the UK and is unlike the shaped ham style product called Canadian bacon in the U.S. It is leaner than US style bacon. but it does still have fat and can be cooked to crispy if so desired.

Visitors to the US generally refer to "American" bacon as "crappy bacon" because it is without question the worst bacon in the world. Hence the conversations you will hear on planes back to Europe lamenting the breakfasts and generally all in agreement that they "can't wait to get back for some proper bacon." US style bacon is available in the UK where it is known as "streaky bacon". It is an inferior and significantly cheaper product though, presumably consumed mostly by gypsies and the mentally unstable.

There is no such thing as peameal bacon in the UK. At all. Anywhere. They would all laugh at the name and then complain about it not being proper bacon.

And, for the record, people in Ireland don't eat corned beef on St. Paddy's day. They have boiled bacon. Look it up. It is awesome.

By anon328203 — On Apr 02, 2013

It's not ham or bacon. Ham is from the ham/leg portion of a pig and is smoked. Bacon is from the side/belly and is smoked. Before it is smoked, bacon is referred to as fresh side. Canadian bacon is simply smoked pork tenderloin.

By anon253372 — On Mar 09, 2012

Most Canadians have no idea what it is that Americans are referring to when you talk about Canadian bacon. Smoked ham is called smoked ham, Peameal bacon is called just that and regular old bacon (rashers in the UK) is just called bacon. You know, the long strips that you fry until crisp and serve with sunny side up. Just plain old bacon.

By anon248057 — On Feb 15, 2012

I love both american bacon and Canadian bacon. I have had really good and really bad of both types of bacon. I don't see how people can get American bacon and Canadian bacon mixed up, however, I do see how some might get it confused with ham.

By anon244847 — On Feb 03, 2012

Wise Geek you're the greatest! Your answers are very clear, and I have been satisfied with every one I have ever read here.

By anon192177 — On Jun 30, 2011

You are splitting hairs. Back bacon is taken from the loin, and good old bacon that is served with bacon, eggs and hash browns is made from the belly or better known as sow belly

Next time you buy bacon with the skin on it (slab), check it for nipples They will be on it.

By anon175826 — On May 13, 2011

Real Canadian bacon has no gristle or fat running through it. It's also juicy and full of flavor.

anon103238 must not have had real Canadian bacon.

By anon112643 — On Sep 21, 2010

I live in AL on the coast, love peameal. where can I buy it?

By anon103238 — On Aug 11, 2010

i bought canadian bacon and found it to be tasteless and full of gristle.

By anon102811 — On Aug 09, 2010

When we say "American", yes, we are referring to US citizens. We use this term because it is traditional, is part of our culture and as a bonus, it irritates the heck out of pedants and university professors (in the social sciences, the real scientists have actual jobs and are largely uninterested in splitting linguistic hairs).

What we (Americans) call "Canadian bacon" is the cured and smoked boneless pork loin, sliced. It is fried lightly and is served with eggs and fried potatoes (or hominy grits, yum) and hot, black coffee. It's a farm breakfast, true, and since most of us no longer work on farms, it's a weekend treat, not an everyday item.

By anon83896 — On May 12, 2010

when people say americans, do they really mean USA residents? Americans are any and all citizens living from alaska all the way to the peru -- pretty huge area.

By anon61511 — On Jan 20, 2010

Peameal bacon is delicious. What Americans call Canadian bacon is not. If you want to make your own, 1 tbsp of Morton's Tender Quick and 1 tsp of sugar to each pound of pork loin, rub loin to cover, leave in a container or ziploc for 1 week, turning daily. Roll in cornmeal. Slice and cook.

By anon59717 — On Jan 10, 2010

Canadian Bacon is not ham as some have suggested. As a Canadian now living in San Francisco, I can tell without a doubt that the product they call Canadian Bacon in supermarkets is not really Canadian Bacon -- it is just glorified ham.

The real Canadian bacon is also not salty as others suggest. The meat is taken from the loin and the texture is very very different than ham. If cooked properly - seared on both sides for 2 minutes, the flavor is slightly salty and the meat is juicy and tender. The color is very pink even when it's cooked through. Also it is not suppose to be sliced thinly. Usually the slices are 3/8" thick.

We use the term Back Bacon or Peameal bacon. And yes, we consider it bacon.

By anon59325 — On Jan 07, 2010

"So is it ham or bacon?" it's bacon! that's what it said, for crying out loud.

By anon58551 — On Jan 02, 2010

Eureka! That's just what I was looking for! Any chance you can give me the name of a company that sells and ships?

By anon58502 — On Jan 02, 2010

Sounds like those of you describing a rolled/packaged in a tube, very salty meat, are describing Taylor Ham (or Taylor Pork Roll, depending on where you're from).

It's likened more to a bologna, than a Canadian bacon, and is a common finding throughout New Jersey. Some stores in the Eastern United States have begun carrying these regularly.

By anon41921 — On Aug 18, 2009

Canadian Bacon is known as Back Bacon or Peameal Bacon in Canada, interchangeable as one person above said. It is expensive and usually an up charge from "streaky bacon" on the breakfast menu. You can buy it here in the United States.

By anon38673 — On Jul 27, 2009

I should have added to my earlier post that my mother was from the East Coast (NY/NJ) and knew and loved this product but could not find a West coast source (this was pre-internet) so had E. Coast relatives send it to her. It comes in roll form, has no noticeable marbling and (again) is quite salty. None of the links provided at the top of this page showed any product that looks like what I'm looking for, so please send more suggestions. --Cali20

By anon38670 — On Jul 27, 2009

Thank you to all who responded; I now have a better idea of the origin and composition of "Canadian bacon" but I still need recommendations for commercial sources. Cali20

By anon38049 — On Jul 23, 2009

where can we purchase this peameal bacon? were from mississauga ontario, canada. thanks...

By cali20 — On Jun 17, 2009

I'm asking for help correctly identifying a meat (I think pork-based) product so I can order it through the mail, as I've not been able to find it on the West Coast. On the East Coast, there is a round, rolled meat product, larger than salami, about the size of bologna. Variously, it's known as "Canadian ham" or "Canadian bacon". It's even-colored, not marbled, quite salty. Any help with correct ID and good source will be much appreciated.

By anon24362 — On Jan 11, 2009

Ham is only taken from the back leg, and only when its cured is it called ham. Therefore ham, jambon, serrano, proscuitto, can all be said to be ham. Whereas an uncured leg would be sold as a leg, inside or outside round (there's one more cut in there i don't remember.) A shoulder is sold as a shoulder, and when cured is referred as a picnic roast, or cottage roll. The term ham is incorrectly used all the time as to referring to a pig, or a cured part of one. Hope that clears some things up.

By anon24361 — On Jan 11, 2009

Actually, I go to Culinary School in toronto, and have been taught in my butchery class that.

Conventionally streaky bacon, is taken from the belly. Peameal, or back bacon, is taken from the loin. Canadian Bacon, is taken from the boneless side. Hope that clears things up.

By KidGenius — On Jan 04, 2009

Basically, Canadian Bacon is just ham... Oh, CANADA!

By anon22049 — On Nov 26, 2008

As a Canadian who visits the USA regularly, I have never seen the product Americans call Canadian Bacon sold or served in Canada. What we call Canadian Bacon is Peameal or Back Bacon. Both terms are used interchangeably.

By raggedywendy — On Oct 31, 2008

I want to make my own peameal back bacon and need the ingredients & amounts of each for the brine, as well as the time it needs to rest in the brine.

By anon13193 — On May 21, 2008

well if it goes on a hawaiian pizza it's ham. Telling me what part of the pig's body it's from does nothing for me.

By anon10455 — On Mar 27, 2008

Technically, it's neither ham nor bacon. Here in the US, "bacon" is the term given to cured pork belly, "ham" is the term given to cured pork shoulder or butt, and "Canadian bacon" is the term given to cured pork loin.

By anon6838 — On Jan 10, 2008

So is it ham or bacon??

Anon, UK

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