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Chitlins vs. Cracklins vs. Pork Rinds

March 7, 2019

There are so many pig-and-pork based products out there, and so many of them have colorful, fun-to-say names…that aren’t the most descriptive. Here’s a little primer.

PORK RINDS

They’re crispy like potato chips, but contain no starch at all — they’re fried pig skin. It’s made by simmering separated pork skin in boiling water, cut into pieces, then chilled so extra, subdermal fat can congeal. That’s removed, leaving what remains to become dried and fried to become commercial pork rinds. If the fat remains attached, that’s called a cracklin.

CANADIAN BACON

Often served in thick, round slices — as a part of Eggs Benedict, for example — Canadian bacon is a lean, ham-like cut of eye of pork loin, originating in the center of a pig’s back. So it’s from the back and also cured like bacon, which is why the cut is also referred to as “back bacon” — such as in Canada, where it’s also called peameal bacon. (It used to be served covered in a skin of ground peas.)

CHITLINS

Also called chitterlings, these are a chewy, pig-based treat from the South, where it’s stewed, broiled or fried, more often than not on special occasions because they take a long time to clean and cook down. That’s because chitlins are the very tough small intestines of a pig.

PORK BELLY

Pork belly is very similar to regular, good old fashioned bacon because it’s actually the “mother meat” of bacon. It’s simply the cut of pork from which bacon is derived before its cured, brined, smoked, and sliced. Pork belly isn’t really a pig’s stomach, but rather a 12 pound (or so) chunk of flesh found on the underside of the animal consisting of fat layers wrapped around thin stripes of flesh.

PANCETTA

Also called Italian bacon, this meat, which falls somewhere on the spectrum of meat between ham and bacon, is, like bacon, a derivative of pork belly. It’s taken from the belly and is cured with salt and a traditional spice blend. Unlike “American” bacon, it isn’t smoked.

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