Bacon long ago earned its stripes as a versatile ingredient. From breakfast staple to startling sundae topping, bacon is everywhere on menus.
Even as bacon’s popularity endures, extreme applications are fading as better ways for bacon lovers to belly up to their favorite part of the pig emerge.
“We’re seeing more innovative dishes in which bacon is used as a flavour component and a center-of-the-plate protein,” says Gordon Food Service Corporate Consulting Chef Gerry Ludwig, CEC. “And, by far, the most unique treatment we’ve encountered is pulled bacon.”
Long-brined and slow-braised pulled bacon is one smoky, umami-laden bit of porky goodness. Carefully shredded by hand or fork, the fatty bits that don’t dissolve into the brining liquid mush together with chewier lean pieces for a distinctive mouthfeel that’s chewy and meltingly tender—a quality pulled pork simply can’t equal. The end result is an extremely delicious protein suitable for plenty of menu applications.
Many ways to pull bacon through the menu
Pulled bacon offers a delicious opportunity to add variety and flavour to menus. Here are just a few ideas to get you started.
Braised-meat sandwiches. Pulled bacon bridges the opportunity between braised beef and pulled pork. The appeal is the juiciness of the pork and the unique flavours that come from layers of flavour often not eaten together. One example: Create a torta-style sub with pulled-bacon, tomato, lettuce, avocado, pickled jalapeños, red slaw, refried baked beans and chili mayo.
Pulled-bacon French dip. Swap swine for beef. Serve with a dipping sauce of equal parts pork broth and braising sauce.
Pulled-bacon patty melt. Use pulled pork instead of a beef burger patty.
Pulled-bacon banh mi. Replace the roasted pork with pulled bacon in this highly adaptable Vietnamese sandwich.
Pulled-bacon biscuit sandwiches. Add eggs and cheddar at breakfast. Or serve an all-day version with fresh chèvre, brie, Asiago, compound butter, and grilled fresh vegetables.
Pulled-bacon burger. Top a burger with a generous scoop of pulled bacon. Or, blend one part finely chopped pulled bacon with two parts ground beef.
Tacos/burritos. Use pulled bacon for a signature version of the Kogi-style fusion taco.
Bowls. Use pulled bacon in signature rice, noodle, or grain bowls.
Sharing plates and snacks. Incorporate pulled bacon into rice balls or potato croquettes. Stuff jalapeños with pulled bacon and deep-fry or bake for a signature bar-snack popper. Menu parfaits with pulled bacon, mashed potatoes, grits, or refried beans.
Toppings. Plop pulled bacon onto poutines, baked beans, or polenta.
More reasons to go whole hog with bacon
One more selling point? Bacon is always an excellent value because it only takes a little to yield big flavour.
The bottom line? Using bacon to boost flavour on the menu is a smart move. But serving something as distinctive and differentiating as pulled bacon? Now that will tug at diners’ hearts.
Pulled Bacon: The Technique
- Immerse whole smoked and cured flat slab bacon⎯not pork belly or Canadian bacon⎯ in two parts apple juice, apple cider, or vinegar to one part water to draw out the smoke and tenderize the meat. Enhance the flavour and complexity with signature brines incorporating bourbon, vinegar, and maple syrup, sugar, or molasses.
- Brine, refrigerated, for 48 hours to one week.
- Oven-braise the slab with the brine in a slow oven until spoon-tender.
- Cool, then shred the meat.
- De-fat and reduce the braising liquid by half or more to concentrate the flavour, then add it back to the meat or serve separately.