Fresh pork belly is just what it sounds like—the meat and fat from the underside of a pig. It becomes bacon when you brine and smoke it.
For making bacon, use heritage pork breeds found at farmers’ markets, specialty stores, and online because they’re more flavorful than mass-market pork. Great pork bellies come from the Duroc breed, which has rich flavor and just the right ratio of fat to lean, tender meat. Tamworth and Berkshire pork bellies are also good.
If you don’t want to use a heritage breed, you can order fresh pork belly at your supermarket’s meat counter. Here’s what to ask for:
• A skinless, whole fresh pork belly that has an equal ratio of creamy white fat to lean red meat. The redder the meat, the better.
• A smaller belly that’s between 6 and 8 pounds (pork bellies can weigh up to 12 pounds) and at least 1-1/2 inches thick.