When fantasizing about bacon—a frequent pastime around here—I often conjure up images of huge caveman style thick-cut bacon strips. A formidable strip is a deliciously wonderful thing, no doubt about it. But focusing all your bacon love on strips alone misses the technicolor rainbow of shapes and sizes bacon can be cut and used as an ingredient, boosting the YUM! factor in everything from vegetables to salads, pastas, sauces, hors d’oeuvres, fried rice, cocktails and more. As you can imagine, I’ve cooked with A LOT of different bacon styles. Turns out my all-time favorite is one French chefs have been cooking with for centuries, but is curiously missing from the American palette: Bacon Lardons.
What is a bacon lardon?
I’m so glad you asked! Not to be confused with chopped bacon strips, bacon lardons are a traditional charcuterie, cut from the slab in baton-shaped morsels about ½” thick by 1” long. Skillet-ready right out of the package, lardons caramelize in the pan with perfectly crisped edges and soft meaty centers, yielding umami-rich-smoky-meaty-sweet-n-salty flavor bombs so indulgent those cavemen would have wrestled a saber tooth tiger to get some. The magic of the small but mighty lardon lies in its thickness, allowing it to be both crispy and tender at the same time. Think about those coveted bites at the edges of a honey baked ham or a ribeye steak, slightly charred and dripping with flavorful juices and rendered fat...you know the ones I’m talking about! Now imagine a whole bowl of those, made out of bacon, and you’ll immediately understand why lardons are the new best thing you can’t live without.
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A brief history of lardonsPart of western culinary tradition for more than 650 years, lardons were first referenced in the pages of Pegge Cook, a cookbook published in 1381. Historically used to stuff and flavor gamey meats, the book recommends lardons for such delectable dishes and Roasted Heron or Crane...though I haven’t tried either of those just yet. Another crafty historical use for lardons was threading long strips of pork fat into lean beef or veal cuts to prevent them from overcooking and drying out. In more recent times, you’ll find lardons in well known French dishes like Coq Au Vin, Beef Bourguignon, and the beloved Parisian staple Salade Aux Lardons, which strikes a perfect balance between bitter endive and chicory combined with unctuous cuts of bacon and a creamy poached egg on top. The Baconer’s modern take on this bistro classic is the Frisée Salad with Warm Lardons—a quick and easy meal that's both light and packed full of soul-satisfying flavor. Why should Parisians have all the fun? ;-)
So, what does “cut into lardons” mean?BEWARE, bacon strips cut into little ribbons are not lardons! Don’t get me wrong, there are times when a chopped bacon strip is a great thing to have, but the small size will never give you the textural experience and luxurious mouthfeel that make lardons so extraordinary, they simply don't have the thickness. If you find yourself in possession of a bacon slab however, lardons are super easy to make and don’t require any fancy knife skills. Simply cut a ½” thick strip off the slab (we call this a Bacon Steak...but that's a whole other blog post), then cross-cut that piece into ½” thick batons. Just like that, you’ve got lardons ready to throw on a skillet and make some magic!
Are lardons the same as pancetta?As I’ve discussed, lardons are a cut of bacon, so the real question here is what’s the difference between bacon and pancetta? Without going into too much food-nerdy detail, these related cousins both start as pork belly cured with various salts and spices to yield a richly flavored slab. From there, pancetta is rubbed with additional herbs and spices, tightly rolled and hung to dry for a few days to several weeks, resulting in an intensely flavored salt-forward charcuterie. Bacon can also be rubbed with additional herbs or spices, but instead of drying, it is smoked with a variety of hardwoods, producing supple and tender meat balanced with a hint of sweetness, earthy smoke and luscious fats. Both are wonderful and should be cooked with as often as possible.
What makes The Baconer lardons so tasty, so sought-after and so versatile in dishes ranging from the classic to contemporary?The Baconer’s Smoked Lardons are our interpretation of this traditional morsel of salted pork, and indeed we craft them in such a way that makes them our own. First, we start with super high quality pork, responsibly raised and perfectly marbled. Next, our flavor profiles are developed for home cooks and chefs, prioritizing richness, complexity and ability to pair with a wide range of ingredients. We flavor our slabs through and through, not just on the surface, making lardons that are consistent in flavor and perform at the same high caliber every time you use them in your recipes. And finally, when it comes time to cut, each and every lardon is sized to pack just the right amount of flavor with every bite, elevating dishes without overpowering everything else on the plate.
Now that you know everything about lardons—and you're completely salivating about these tasty bite-sized palette pleasers—what's next? I thought you'd never ask. In Cooking with Lardons, aka. Part 2 of the All About Lardons blog, I share tips, my preferred cooking method, and recipes to help you enjoy the new best food you can't live without. Cooking with bacon lardons is both absurdly easy and, in my opinion, a bacon game changer. So, whatcha waiting for—Let's do this!
READ PART 2: Cooking with Lardons