What is Pork Jowl Bacon Used For? A Guide to Cooking with This Unique Cured Meat

Pork jowl bacon is a delicious and versatile cured meat that comes from the fatty cheeks of pigs. If you’ve never cooked with jowl bacon before, you may be wondering – what is it actually used for? While it’s not as widely known as traditional bacon, pork jowl has been enjoyed for centuries in many cuisines around the world. When cured and cooked properly, it can add incredible depth of flavor and richness to all kinds of dishes.

In this guide, we’ll cover everything you need to know about cooking with pork jowl bacon. We’ll discuss what it is, where to buy it, how to prepare it, and most importantly – the many ways it can be used to take your cooking to the next level. Let’s dive in!

What Exactly is Pork Jowl Bacon?

Pork jowl refers to meat from the cheek area of a pig. It’s an unusually fatty cut that is full of collagen and flavor. When cured with salt, sugar, and spices, it becomes pork jowl bacon.

Unlike regular bacon which comes from the belly, jowl bacon contains a higher proportion of fat marbled throughout the meat. This gives it an ultra-rich taste and velvety texture when cooked. The curing process also adds smokiness savoriness and subtle sweetness.

Some key differences between pork belly bacon and jowl bacon

  • Fat content – Jowl has more intramuscular fat, around 50% compared to belly bacon which is around 20%.

  • Flavor – Jowl is more intensely porky, savory, and sweet due to its fat content.

  • Texture – When cooked properly, jowl becomes meltingly tender with a silky mouthfeel.

  • Uses – The ultra-richness makes jowl bacon ideal for flavoring applications rather than just breakfast.

While regular bacon plays more of a supporting role, jowl bacon is a star ingredient that can transform the flavor of soups, beans, greens, pasta, and more.

Where to Buy Pork Jowl Bacon

You may need to visit a specialty butcher shop to find fresh or cured pork jowl for sale. It’s also sometimes available at upscale grocery stores, particularly in the Southern United States where jowl is popular in local cuisines. Online mail order is another option for finding high-quality jowl bacon.

When buying, look for pieces with deep red meat and plenty of creamy fat marbling throughout. The curing spices should smell fragrant, not overly salty. As with any cured meat, it’s best to cook jowl bacon within 1-2 weeks of purchasing for maximum freshness.

If you can’t find pre-cured jowl, you can easily cure pork jowl at home with a basic salt and sugar rub. Apply the cure 1-2 days before cooking for the best flavor.

Preparing Pork Jowl Bacon for Cooking

Pork jowl needs special care when cooking due to its high fat content. Here are some tips for prepping jowl bacon:

  • Rinse – Give the jowl a quick rinse under cool water to remove any excess curing salt or spices. Pat dry thoroughly.

  • Portion – Slice the jowl across the grain into 1/4 to 1/2 inch thick pieces. Thinner slices will render and get crispy faster.

  • Low and slow – Always cook jowl over low heat. High heat causes the fat to burn and turn bitter.

  • Render slowly – Rendering all that luscious fat properly is key. Cook low and slow until fat just starts to melt, then increase heat slightly.

  • Crisp the fat – Once most of the fat has rendered out, you can crisp up the jowl slices to your desired doneness.

  • Drain fat – Drain on paper towels after cooking to remove excess rendered fat.

When cooked with care, pork jowl bacon becomes divinely rich, tender, and flavorful. Now let’s look at all the amazing ways it can be used.

5 Classic Uses for Pork Jowl Bacon

Here are some traditional and authentic ways that different world cuisines have long utilized pork jowl bacon:

1. Collard Greens and Pot Likker

In Southern cooking, pork jowl gives collard greens incredible depth. Simmer jowl in pot likker until tender, then use it to flavor stewed greens.

2. Jambalaya

Dice jowl bacon and render as the flavor base for Creole-style jambalaya rice. It builds incredible umami.

3. Pasta Carbonara

Rendered bits of jowl make the ultimate porky carbonara sauce. Toss with homemade pasta for a decadent Italian dinner.

4. Char Siu Pork

Marinate pork jowl in char siu sauce and roast for Chinese BBQ perfection. The sweet glaze complements the richness.

5. Pea Soup

Europeans have long flavored hearty split pea and bean soups with jowl bacon. It adds body and savoriness.

Creative New Ways to Use Pork Jowl Bacon

Beyond the classics, pork jowl bacon can lend its magic to all types of modern dishes too. Get creative with these ideas:

  • Add diced jowl to pinto beans or chili for richness.

  • Render into lardons for salad toppings or pasta Carbonara.

  • Chop and cook into ground meat for incredible burgers.

  • Dice jowl and cook into rice for risotto with intense pork essence.

  • Use rendered fat for roasting vegetables to add meaty flavors.

  • Fold finely diced jowl into biscuit or scone dough for savory baked goods.

  • Swap jowl for pancetta or guanciale in classic Roman dishes like bucatini all’amatriciana.

  • Render jowl into French onion soup in place of beef broth.

The possibilities are endless once you understand how to best use pork jowl bacon’s strengths. That ultra-rich fat carries flavor into anything it touches.

Tips for Cooking with Pork Jowl Bacon

To get the most out of jowl bacon, keep these tips in mind:

  • Cook low and slow – never above medium

Pork Jowl Bacon: Better Than Regular Bacon? | Harry the Horse BBQ

What is Jowl bacon?

Jowl bacon is to the South what guanciale is to Italy. A fatty, silky chunk of awesome. It is what you think it is. Bacon, made not from pork belly, but from the cheeks of the hog, known as pork jowl — which you’d understand if you’ve seen fat pigs in a barnyard.

Can you use Jowl bacon for pork belly?

You may also want to consider using jowl bacon, a variation of the traditional pork belly bacon made specifically from the pork jowl. This particular type of bacon adds a smoky flavor to the dish, while retaining the tenderness of the meat. To enhance the taste, incorporate additional seasonings such as sugar, garlic, and thyme.

Is pork jowl bacon fresh?

Pork jowl may be available fresh. But like traditional bacon, pork jowl bacon needs to undergo a curing and smoking process in order to be called bacon. After the meat has been skinned and trimmed, the pork jowls are cured with salt and nitrites. Then the meat is heat processed and smoked to add flavor.

What is pork jowl used for?

Pork jowls are commonly utilized in various ways. They can be employed as a seasoning for beans, black-eyed peas, or cooked alongside leafy green vegetables like collard greens or turnip greens in a traditional Southeastern meal. Additionally, jowl meat can be chopped and used as a garnish, resembling bacon bits, or served in sandwich form.

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