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Canadian Bacon vs. Ham

A close look at a pile of Canadian bacon.

Breakfast is one of the best meals you can eat, no matter what time of day you are eating it. There are so many delicious breakfast foods available to you from all over the world. Ham and bacon are among these breakfast treats. However, there is a lot of confusion about Canadian bacon. It has the word bacon in it, but it looks like ham. So, is it bacon, or is it ham?

For most people, it doesn’t really matter which is which when it comes to Canadian bacon vs ham, because both are delicious! Still, we’re going to present the facts to tell you the differences between Canadian bacon vs ham.

Related: Ham Substitute Options | Types of Ham | Side Dishes for Ham | Honey Glazed Ham Recipe | How to Store Ham | Turkey vs HamTypes of Bacon

What is Ham?

A holiday spread with a sliced glazed ham and cranberry sauce.

Ham is a cut of meat found on the back legs of the pig: specifically, the areas where ham is sources are the rear end and thighs. There are many types of ham, and it be prepared using various methods. Ham can be boiled, baked, dried, or cured. Ham is a versatile meat and can be used in any number of dishes. Ham sliced thin is considered deli meat, commonly used in sandwiches between two slices of bread. You can eat country ham, which is usually especially salty. You can also find ham presented as a cured meat and cut into thin slices or diced chunks. 

What is Canadian Bacon?

A close look at fresh slices of Canadian Bacon.

There is only one version of Canadian bacon. Canadian bacon comes from a pig just as ham does, but it comes from a different part of the pig’s body. It is a specific type of back bacon, and it is sourced from the center of the pig. Canadian bacon actually comes from the center of the pork loin. It is a lean cut of meat that has a texture that is more ham like than traditional bacon. The meat is cured with salt, and it can be smoked, but it does not have to be. It may also remain as uncured bacon.

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Canadian bacon is nothing like American bacon. In Canada, what Americans consider to be Canadian bacon is not called Canadian bacon. Instead, it is called back bacon or peameal bacon. The latter is rolled in peameal or cornmeal after it is brined. The corn- or peameal adds another layer of texture and flavor to the meat. This leads to an additional moisture and tenderness when the meat is brined. Some other names for Canadian bacon include rasher, Irish bacon, British bacon, or back bacon. 

American-style bacon is prepared in strips and often referred to as regular bacon. This more “normal” bacon is sourced from pork belly. American bacon often is greasy and laden with calories. Some versions contain sodium nitrite. You may be able to find American Canadian bacon that looks and tastes like Canadian bacon, but is cut into an individual slice. Bacon tends to have a lot of fat, but that is what makes it taste so good. 

What is the Difference Between Canadian Bacon vs Ham?

One of the major differences between ham and Canadian back is the location of the pig from where the meat comes. Ham comes from the leg of a pig, and Canadian bacon comes from its back. The brine of Canadian bacon has maple syrup in it, as well, while the brine for ham may have honey or maple in it, but also may have neither. Ham brine also usually contains vinegar, herbs, sugar, spices, and caramel. 

Canadian bacon is sliced in circles and more often found rolled in cornmeal. Ham, on the other hand, is cut in many shapes and thicknesses, and is prepared using various cooking methods. Ham can be cubed, sliced, sliced thin, or whole.

Ham tastes and is presented differently based on the country where it is produced. From Italy, you can find Italian Parma prosciutto or ham. From Spain, you will find Jamón Serrano or Jamón Ibérico. In most places, ham can be eaten at any point throughout the day, while Canadian bacon is typically served at brunch or breakfast only. 

How Should I Eat Ham?

A woman eating a few slices of ham.

The short answer is you can eat ham any way you would like to do so. If it is cured, baked, or smoked ham, it does not need to cook it before it can be eaten. Ham can be used in breakfast casseroles or scrambles, and it can also be eaten on open-faced sandwich, platter, or in a salad. 

How Should I Eat Canadian Bacon?

You do not need to heat Canadian bacon, as you can eat it directly from its package. Most people think Canadian bacon tastes better when it has been warmed. If you agree or are curious, you can cook or bake Canadian bacon. You can eat it in an egg sandwich or combine it with potatoes and vegetables. Canadian bacon is commonly used as an ingredient in the popular breakfast dish eggs Benedict. You can also put it in salads, a frittata, or on a pizza. 

What Are the Other Types of Bacon?

This is a close look at pieces of Italian bacon cubes.

Pancetta is Italian bacon that is belly bacon. It can be eaten raw, or after being cured or smoked. Pancetta is enhanced with salt, sometimes pink salt, then chopped up and often tossed into pasta. 

Slab Bacon is meat cut into large slabs, which is the most common way to cut bacon. Regular bacon is known as streaky bacon because when it is sliced, streaks appear in the meat. It may have a rind, but this is not a requirement. This is a great bacon for stew or soup. 

Turkey Bacon is a great alternative to pork meat. It is not a lower fat option, but it is made from smoked turkey. Turkey bacon is ideal for those who choose not to or cannot eat pork meat. You can use turkey bacon in any recipe that calls for bacon. 

Duck Bacon comes from a duck, just as its name implies. This bacon is juicy, has a slightly different taste, and has less fat than pork bacon does. Duck bacon is sourced from duck breast and is cut into thick slices. 


Can You Substitute Ham for Canadian Bacon?

It is possible to substitute your Canadian bacon with traditional ham. If you are going to do this, you want to make sure you procure and use center cut ham. The slices of a center cut ham will be thicker than those of Canadian bacon, but the flavor will be similar. 

Is Canadian Bacon Expensive?

Canadian bacon is expensive because it comes from the belly of the pig. In order to get this meat, an entire pig must be slaughtered just to get to the pork belly. There is an incredibly high demand for Canadian bacon, with not enough supply to fill the demand for it.

Is Canadian Bacon Considered a Processed Meat?

Yes, Canadian bacon is considered a processed meat. However, there is not a lot of fat around this small amount of meat, like there is when it comes to traditional bacon. 

Is It Healthier to Eat Smoked Bacon or Unsmoked Bacon?

Neither one is healthier for you than the other. If you are eating bacon as part of a balanced diet, then it is alright for you to eat bacon in moderation. If you are eating bacon everyday, and several times a day, you may want to consider consuming less bacon to benefit your health. The one downside to smoked bacon is it typically contains nitrates. Nitrates are chemicals added to a food that are intended to preserve the life of the food. There have been links between nitrates and chronic health conditions. 

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