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What is Irish Bacon?

Tricia Christensen
By
Updated May 16, 2024
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Rashers are an Irish culinary staple that often perplexes those outside of Ireland and the UK. Commonly known as bacon in their native lands, rashers are a beloved breakfast component and much more. According to the Irish Food Board, Bord Bia, Irish pork production accounts for a significant portion of the country's agricultural output, with a notable emphasis on quality and sustainability. 

Unlike the streaky pork belly bacon popular in the United States, Irish bacon is crafted from the leaner back cut of the pig, akin to what North Americans refer to as Canadian bacon. This type of bacon, which is both cured and sliced to a similar thickness as its Canadian counterpart, is traditionally cooked through but not crisped to the extent of American bacon. Whether you're enjoying a hearty Irish breakfast or simply savoring a slice, understanding the nuances of rashers can elevate your culinary experience.

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.

FAQ on Irish Bacon

What is Irish bacon and how does it differ from American bacon?

Irish bacon, also known as back bacon, comes from the back of the pig and includes a portion of the loin, which makes it leaner than American bacon. It is similar to Canadian bacon but includes more fat around the meat. American bacon, on the other hand, is cut from the pork belly and is much fattier, with streaks of meat running parallel to the rind. Irish bacon is typically sold in round slices and has a ham-like texture, whereas American bacon is sold in thin strips and has a crispier texture when cooked.

How do you cook Irish bacon?

To cook Irish bacon, you can fry, grill, or broil it. Start by heating a pan over medium heat and add the bacon slices. Cook for about 4-5 minutes on each side until it reaches the desired level of doneness. Unlike American bacon, it does not need to be cooked until crisp and is often enjoyed with a slightly softer texture. It's important to turn the bacon only once to maintain its juiciness and flavor.

What are some traditional dishes that use Irish bacon?

Traditional Irish dishes that feature Irish bacon include the full Irish breakfast, which typically consists of Irish bacon, sausages, black and white pudding, eggs, tomatoes, and sometimes mushrooms and beans. Another popular dish is cabbage and bacon, where the bacon is boiled with cabbage and sometimes potatoes. Irish bacon is also used in a variety of soups, stews, and pies, adding a rich, savory flavor to these hearty meals.

Is Irish bacon healthier than American bacon?

Irish bacon can be considered healthier than American bacon due to its higher lean meat content and lower fat percentage. However, it is still a processed meat and should be consumed in moderation. According to dietary guidelines, processed meats should be limited in a balanced diet due to their association with certain health risks when consumed in large quantities. Opting for Irish bacon might be a better choice for those looking to reduce their intake of saturated fat.

Where can I buy Irish bacon?

Irish bacon can be purchased at specialty food stores, international markets, and some supermarkets that carry a variety of international or gourmet foods. It is also available online through various retailers. If you're unable to find it locally, you might consider looking for an Irish butcher or a store that specializes in British and Irish products, as they are more likely to carry authentic Irish bacon.

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.
Tricia Christensen
By Tricia Christensen , Writer
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a DelightedCooking contributor, Tricia Christensen is based in Northern California and brings a wealth of knowledge and passion to her writing. Her wide-ranging interests include reading, writing, medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion, all of which she incorporates into her informative articles. Tricia is currently working on her first novel.

Discussion Comments

By anon990444 — On Apr 22, 2015

Irish bacon is exactly the same as British bacon; both are cut from the back of the pig. Common and cheap as chips, streaky bacon is what the Americans refer to as 'American Bacon'. What the author calls 'round Irish Bacon' is simply called a 'medallion' or trimmed. This is popular in the UK, Ireland, Australia and NZ.

By anon940870 — On Mar 20, 2014

I have just had some Danish bacon with my Irish denny sausages and organic mushrooms and the danish bacon is quite salty but gorgeous. I much prefer Danish bacon to the Irish brands but prefer the Irish Denny, Cookstown (sausages and rashers are lovely as is their white pudding!) brands, all cooked lovingly in a light olive oil with a dash of black pepper, some dip (fried bread triangles) and a hot cup of sugary tea! Lip smacking goodness! Everyone who reads this, book a flight, or book a cruise and come to Ireland!

By anon315883 — On Jan 25, 2013

@Jerryroreo: Where did you get that info? Hilarious!

By anon284995 — On Aug 13, 2012

I think it's a bit harsh to say that the article is completely wrong. However, it's not completely accurate. In Ireland, 'bacon' and 'rashers' are considered two very different things.

'Bacon' is a chunk of salt-cured meat (from the back, as the article says) - it's not quite correct to describe it as a 'joint', as that term tends to be used for other parts of the pig. As post 12 says, Irish people would tend to refer to it as a 'flitch' - the size varies, but generally it means a chunk large enough to feed a family. 'Rashers' are simply thin slices cut from this bacon piece.

In my area (Co. Clare), 'rashers' are used in a fry-up, not with cabbage. The 'bacon' in 'bacon and cabbage' refers to the uncut flitch, which is usually boiled (generally with at least one or two changes of water to get rid of the salt) and then the cabbage is boiled in the water along with the bacon. I remember the older people used to insist on the bacon being boiled for about three hours, with the cabbage added after the first hour. Thankfully, people don't tend to treat the cabbage quite so badly nowadays!

By anon284818 — On Aug 12, 2012

Go to Newport, in Mayo, for the best whole cured 'flitch' going.

Get your local butcher to cut it up into 'rashers.'

By anon255468 — On Mar 17, 2012

Corned Beef and cabbage is an American invention. However, the corned beef is actually borrowed by Irish immigrants in the early 1900s from the Jewish.

By anon231930 — On Nov 28, 2011

Speaking as a Donegal man who has lived in the US for a long time, I can say that this article is actually right -- contrary to what some other commenters have said.

Ireland has only recently gotten American-style bacon, and it's called that on the package, and is just as greasy and useless as in the States.

"Rashers" does indeed refer to what Americans call "Irish bacon" and what the Irish call "bacon".

And Canadian bacon is distinct but roughly similar.

By anon83367 — On May 10, 2010

Speaking as a Wexford man, brought up in London, UK, I find this site to be completely bogus. I suspect it's written by someone, who has never eaten bacon.

1453

By anon69915 — On Mar 10, 2010

Irish bacon is cured back bacon same as Canadian bacon and is a traditional dish in Ireland, boiled with cabbage and potatoes and we have it usually once a week.

rashers are usually slices of the same cut of meat same as Canadian but we Irish leave the fat and rind on.

Streaky rashers or bacon is what is popular in America and cooked 'till crisp. when I was a child and was sent to shop for rashers and if I brought home streaky rashers instead of back rashers I'd get a wallop across the head and have to go back to shop to get decent rashers. nowadays I love both American bacon and Irish rashers.

By anon53040 — On Nov 18, 2009

This is completely wrong. This describes what the Irish call "rashers." Rashers are similar to American bacon.

Irish "bacon" is a cured cut of pork that is, as the previous poster pointed out, typically boiled and served with cabbage and potatoes.

By jerryroreo — On Mar 18, 2009

Irish Bacon is used in Ireland with cabbage as their traditional St. Pat's day meal.

Unlike the US version of Corned Beef & cabbage, which is strictly an American invention.

By anon14213 — On Jun 12, 2008

Pancetta is unsmoked and traditionally tied and rolled. Lardo is cured back fat.

Tricia Christensen

Tricia Christensen

Writer

With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a DelightedCooking contributor, Tricia...
Learn more
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