Back bacon is a type of bacon found throughout the United States (US) that is cut from pork loins found at the back of a pig, rather than traditional US bacon that is made from cuts of meat from the belly or underside of the pig. The region along the back of the pig is less fatty, and the bacon from that area does not usually have the fat content that regular bacon has. Otherwise, they are quite similar and are both usually cured and smoked during preparation to give a strong, smoky flavor that enhances the natural taste of the meat.
One of the most attractive aspects of back bacon is that it is typically lower in fat that even low-fat cuts of belly bacon. Bacon from the underside of the pig is sometimes called American bacon or streaky bacon, due to the prominent streaks of fat running throughout the cuts. While this fat content can lend some flavor to the bacon, back bacon retains much of its flavor and smokiness while providing a significantly reduced amount of fat.
In the US, back bacon is sometimes also referred to as Canadian bacon or Irish bacon, because of the frequent use of this cut of bacon in those regions. Canadian bacon can alternatively refer to a round cut of ham steak that is popular throughout the US and is available in most commercial supermarkets and grocery stores. In Canada, however, back bacon can sometimes be referred to as "peameal bacon," due to the traditional practice of rolling such bacon in meal made from ground peas. This practice is seldom seen today, and when it is prepared in this way, the peameal has typically been replaced by more common cornmeal.
Cooks should be careful not to confuse back bacon with fat back, which is a long strip of fat found running along the back of a pig. This is often used in hot pans to render down to add flavor and fat content to other foods, or wrapped around other cuts of meat to enhance the flavors of the final product. Salt pork is a similar piece of fatty pork that comes from the belly of the pig and is often rendered down to provide grease to cook onions and other vegetables in to add flavor, especially in soup bases. Prosciutto is similar to bacon and back bacon, but is not smoked after curing and so has a meatier flavor and lacks the traditional smokiness of other types of bacon.