Canadian Bacon vs. Ham: What’s the Difference?

by Charlie

Did you know that Canadian bacon is called that way, not because of where it came from but because of its cut? Canadian bacon looks so similar to ham that some people wonder whether it is mislabeled, or maybe ham is called Canadian bacon in Canada.

Well, let’s shed light on those wrong thoughts. Canadian bacon and ham may look alike, but they’re not the same.

So what’s the difference between Canadian bacon and ham? The main difference between Canadian bacon and ham is the cut of pork meat. Canadian bacon is cut from the back of the pig, the pork loin. Meanwhile, ham is cut from the back legs or rear end of a pig.

A bit of a pork belly may sometimes get included in Canadian bacon cuts. But you can see that this usually roundish cut is very much ham-like in texture and appearance. It’s also quite interesting to note that Canadian bacon is an American term. A Canadian bacon cut is plainly called back bacon in Canada.

What are Other Differences Between Canadian Bacon and Ham?

There are other differences between Canadian bacon and ham.

  1. Firstly, Canadian bacon comes in slices only. But you can get whole or diced ham. You can buy it canned or airtight wrapped.
  2. Secondly, Canadian bacon always needs some cooking but ham may be eaten straight away.
  3. Thirdly, ham brines may have honey or sugar. But Canadian bacon brine is usually salted and has some maple.
  4. Fourthly, Canadian bacon typically contains less salt than ham. Lastly, Canadian bacon slightly has more fat than ham.

Is Canadian Bacon the Same as Other Types of Bacon?

Canadian bacon, like other types of bacon, is cured and often smoked. But Canadian bacon is less fatty than rashers or streaky bacon. Hence, it is lower in calories and healthier to consume.

Canadian bacon registers around 150 calories per 100 grams compared to raw bacon’s 400 calories per 100 grams. Lastly, since Canadian bacon is a leaner cut, it naturally has more protein.

Canadian bacon is your choice when you want to match your sunny side-up or eggs benedict with a non-fatty, soft, and juicy bacon. And streaky bacon is your pick if you are craving for crispy bacon along with your eggs benedict or scrambled eggs.

Does Canadian Bacon Taste Like Ham?

Yes, Canadian bacon and ham can pretty much taste alike. However, there are many kinds of ham being sold in markets, with different brine base and even glazes.

So don’t be surprised if some of the hams you buy taste differently than Canadian bacon.

Can You Substitute Canadian Bacon for Ham in Recipes?

Yes, you can use Canadian bacon in place of ham and the other way around. These are so similar in texture and taste that people may hardly notice the switch.

However, some recipes specifically call for ham as the best choice. And your dish will taste much much better if you stick to the recipe. We should also mention that ham is a great choice for antipasto platters and sandwiches. You can just slice them up straight away to serve.

Do remember that unlike ham, you should cook Canadian bacon for a shorter amount of time. Else, you will dry the meat out. When sautéing or stir-frying with other ingredients, mix it in at the last, and don’t keep it cooking in the pan for too long.

When Should You Use Canadian Bacon?

The soft and juicy Canadian bacon is a traditional breakfast item, but you can have it any time of the day. It’s great partnered with eggs or as a main ingredient in omelets.

It has that sweetness to it, so you can use some for your muffins, pizzas, and even pasta dishes. Canadian bacon also tastes well when chopped or diced and mixed in with salads. You can also put some slices in your soups.

Can You Make Your Own Canadian Bacon?

Yes, as with ham, it is easy to make your own Canadian bacon at home. Here’s how to do it:

  1. Buy a boneless porkloin.
  2. Prepare your brine. Mix 1/2 cup salt, 1/2 cup maple syrup, and 1.5 liters of water. Optional: You may add 1 tsp of celery powder to substitute for curing salt if you want to put curing salt into the brine. Boil or heat your brine just enough to dissolve and mix the solution completely. Next, pour it into a container.
  3. Submerge your meat into the brine. If the brine is not enough, you’ll need to make some more. Up to 2 kgs. of meat is best for brining. Bigger sizes may not turn out as tasty as smaller ones.
  4. Keep the meat in the brine solution and inside the refrigerator for 3 to 5 days depending on the size of your meat.
  5. Remove it from the brine and air dry for some hours. You could rinse it first in running water if you want to lessen the saltiness.
  6. Smoke your Canadian bacon for about 3 hours. It is ready once it reaches an internal temperature of 150 degrees. Just remember to smoke or grill using low fire to achieve the best result. People usually smoke it at 225 degrees F.
  7. Cool your Canadian bacon before storing it, and cool it before frying to serve.

Final Thoughts

  • Canadian bacon is a cut from the back of a pig, while ham is a cut from the back legs or rear end of a pig.
  • Canadian bacon has less sodium content than ham but slightly more fat than ham.
  • Americans call this cut Canadian bacon, but Canadians plainly call it back bacon.
  • Canadian bacon has less fat and is much lower in calories than streaky bacon or rashers.
  • Canadian bacon essentially uses a salt and maple brine, while ham uses sugar, honey, and other ingredients in its brine.
  • You always need to cook Canadian bacon before serving, but ham may be eaten straight from the pack or can.

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