Styles of German Speck

Smoked bacon on cutting board

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In Germany, speck (pronounced shpek) is the fat contained in cuts of pork. It can be used raw or cured and smoked. This meat is often served as an appetizer, traditionally included on hospitality plates, and it can also be used in cooked dishes. It's also is known as fetter speck, durchwachsener speck, frühstücksspeck, and bacon.

Other German Styles of Bacon

  • Bauchspeck: This is bacon used for cooking that comes from the pork belly and is marbled with muscle and fat. In Germany, it is cured with salt, then cold-smoked and air-dried.
  • Rückenspeck: Fatback which is usually cured and smoked and used to bard or lard lean pieces of meat. If fresh, it is often rendered into lard or schmalz. A popular bread spread made with schmalz is griebenschmalz, rendered lard with crispy bacon bits, onions and apple similar to Polish smalec.
  • Schinkenspeck: This is a cured and smoked cut of pork from the back hip which is sliced thin and usually served as cold cuts. It has larger muscles and less marbling than the inexpensive speck used for cooking.
  • Schinken: A general term for all types of ham, it refers to the hind quarter of the pig. Hams can be fresh, cooked, cured or smoked. This is not usually used to mean bacon.

Italian Definition of Speck

In the Tyrol, a region that spans part of Northern Italy and Southern Austria, speck doesn't mean lard, but rather a very special salt-and-cold-smoke-cured ham that is a fusion of the much sharper smoked meats of middle Europe and the sensuous salt-cured, air-dried prosciutti of northern Italy.

Speck is meat similar to bacon, prosciutto, or pancetta, but it has a distinct flavor and different preparation from these other traditional meats. Speck, in the Italian and Tyrolean sense, is often served as an appetizer on a charcuterie board, and it also is used in cooked dishes.

According to Wisegeek, "speck enjoys a protected designation of origin (PDO) in the European Union, which means that only meats which have been processed in a specific area of the Tyrol and in accordance with traditional practices may be labeled as 'speck'."