The term Irish bacon has confused many an Irish person, as well as most from the UK. In Ireland and the UK it is simply referred to as bacon. This food is a close relative to what those in the US think of as Canadian bacon. It may also be called back bacon or rashers. The term rashers may also be used as in “rashers of bacon,” meaning individual slices.
Traditionally Irish bacon is made from the back meat of the pig, as opposed to the pork belly used in American bacon. This makes it quite similar to Canadian bacon. Both are cured and have about the same thickness in slices. Both are cooked until done but not crisped like American bacon.
Unlike its Canadian cousin, Irish bacon tends to have a layer of fat around the meat, which many feel enhances flavor. To further confuse matters, some companies now make versions that are similar in cut to American bacon and should be cooked until crispy. It is normally a great deal thicker in cut than American bacon, but is prepared in the same manner.
Irish bacon is also similar to pancetta — the Italian cured meat made from pork belly. In fact round versions can make an excellent substitute for pancetta in recipes. Either one can stand in for the other in recipes, though the Irish bacon will be sliced much thicker than pancetta. This is of little consequence in recipes that call for diced pancetta.
When one makes a traditional Irish breakfast of eggs, white pudding, blood pudding and bacon, Irish bacon of the round variety should be used. Alternately one can substitute Canadian bacon, or even slices of ham. The Irish and English tend to prefer this type of bacon as a breakfast meat to American bacon, although one may find American bacon offered in hotels or restaurants catering to American tourists.
Irish bacon is a great addition to sandwiches, spicing up a club sandwich or a monte christo. It’s also well adapted for use in omelets, frittatas, or in an Italian dish of pasta with peas. It is a little less fatty than American bacon, so it may be a better choice for maintaining heart health. However, no bacon is exactly fat free, and Irish bacon derives some of its flavoring from the marbled fat running through each slice.