Pork fat can be used in both cooking and baking and can add a delicate flavor to almost any dish. However, there are different kinds of pork fat, from caul to fatback to saltback. While they have similarities, they also have a variety of differences in both usage, preparation and taste.
Part of the Animal
Fatback is taken from the upper part of the back of pork, between the skin and loin. This creates a large strip that's largely devoid of meat. It is called a hard fat. Salt pork comes from both sides as well as the belly of the pork and underneath the skin and generally has some of the meat attached.
Salt pork is prepared in the same way it is named, with salt. Cured through a salting process, the pork can be fatty or lean, and while it seems very much like bacon, it is not cooked in the same manner. Fatback can be used as the source of salt pork, but it is the fresh version. Fatback is the basic cut and not processed in any way.
Fatback has a generally bland, creamy taste and creamy texture. This enhances the recipes and processes it is used in, such as creating the creaminess of pate. Unlike fatback, salt pork is full of flavor due to the way it has been processed. Very salty, it was used in rations historically due to its edibility and ability to be kept for long times.
Salt pork is used to add flavor to traditional American dishes, including baked beans. It is generally boiled before use. Fatback is the originator of salt pork and bacon, a particular kind that has no skeletal muscle. It is also used as a cooking fat and also in sausages. Fatback is also used in charcuterie and helps in preparing a variety of meats.