Is Canadian Bacon Actually Ham Or Bacon Or Both?

If you've ever started your day with an Egg McMuffin from McDonald's or a plate of Eggs Benedict at your favorite brunch spot, you're probably familiar with Canadian bacon. But, while it's called "bacon," it doesn't look or taste at all like the salty, crispy strips Americans refer to when they say the word. In fact, Canadian bacon's appearance and flavor are far more akin to ham. So, which is it?

Despite their similarities, Canadian bacon is not considered ham. The former is a cut sourced from the back of the pig, also earning it the appropriate name "back bacon" in Canada. Meanwhile, the back legs of a pig are where ham is cut from, which is what mainly differentiates the two meat products. Additionally, Canadian bacon can be brine-cured and often remains unsmoked while preservation of ham can range from wet or dry curing methods to smoking. Plus, ham is sold both cooked and uncooked while precooked Canadian bacon is what is usually available at grocery stores.

So, if Canadian bacon isn't ham, is it actually bacon?

Canadian bacon's name is no mistake

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) helps weigh in on the topic. The agency defines bacon as "the cured belly of a swine (hog) carcass." This definition clearly refers to the American style of bacon, or the strips that are cut from the belly of the pig. It is both cured and smoked and is sold in vacuum-packed slabs or slices (though there has been a push from the public for companies to move to resealable packaging for bacon). It is most often sold in its raw form, though there are precooked varieties available as well.

However, the USDA also defines Canadian bacon, explaining that it's a leaner cut that comes from the loin. So, that being said, Canadian bacon is recognized as a form of the same type of meat — it just doesn't bear a resemblance to the slices Americans are accustomed to seeing on BLTs and breakfast plates.

How to best enjoy Canadian bacon

Americans have found ways to infuse crispy bacon into nearly every meal of the day from bacony Bloody Marys at brunch to bacon-infused desserts like bacon peanut brittle. Canadian bacon hasn't received quite the same attention as its American counterpart, but the thick, firm, and salty meat with a subtle sweetness can still be incorporated much the same way into plenty of foods.

Since Canadian bacon is usually precooked, you can easily use it to make a sandwich or toss it over a green salad to add a bit of protein. It's also a great addition to pasta salad or potato salad. And, just like American bacon, Canadian bacon is a perfect pairing for eggs, with the added bonus of not being quite as messy to make. Simply warm it up to serve alongside scrambled or over easy eggs, or slice it up and add it to an egg bake.

Canadian bacon can also be a simple way to add flavor and meatiness to soups or stews, or it can be added to casserole-style dishes like macaroni and cheese. It's also good for layering on burgers for a twist on a traditional bacon cheeseburger. And, if you want to start a little controversy at your next party, use Canadian bacon to make a Hawaiian pizza and let the debates begin.