The Best Type Of Pork For Boston Baked Beans

We may receive a commission on purchases made from links.

How do we love thee, beans? Let us count the ways. We love Cuban-style black beans flavored with sofrito and mounded atop hot rice; we love New Orleans red beans, simmered with smoked sausage and Creole seasoning; and we even love beans in salad, such as creamy kidney beans slicked in a rich mayo dressing.

Bean dishes are a staple all over the world, and it's not hard to understand why: The world of legumes is wide, but in general, beans provide a good amount of protein (via Cleveland Clinic) while still being friendly on the wallet (via The Bean Institute). The New England region of the United States is particularly keen on beans, explains Serious Eats, with the city of Boston laying claim to the area's rich dish of creamy baked beans smothered in a porky, sweet-and-savory sauce. These are Boston baked beans, of course, and if you've got a craving for them, you're going to want to know exactly which type of pork to slip into the pot when preparing them at home.

Go for salt pork the next time you make baked beans at home

If you've ever reached for your best Dutch oven instead of your can opener when the craving for baked beans strikes, then you know that these rich, warm, molasses-spiked beans are a hearty addition to any plate heaped with hot dogs or grilled chicken. Popular throughout New England, according to Serious Eats, it was Boston — a.k.a. Beantown — that worked its way into the name of the dish.

Typically, a pot of dried, soaked white beans are simmered and then slow-baked in their cooking liquid along with molasses, mustard, and other aromatics. Baked beans owe a lot of their flavor to the generous amount of fatty pork that's cooked along with them. The classic type of pork recommended by Serious Eats is salt pork, a cured strip of fat that's cut from the animal's back. Common in early America since it could travel distances and last a long time in an era before refrigeration (via Savoring the Past), salt pork appears in the earliest published recipes for baked beans, such as in 1896's "The Fannie Farmer Cookbook" and 1914's "Household Discoveries and Mrs. Curtis's Cook Book" (via Serious Eats).

Salt pork provides a generous hit of fat and just a little muscle meat, but if you can't find it, you can sub in an equal amount of thick-cut bacon, which contains more meat and less fat, Serious Eats advises. Next stop in your home kitchen: Beantown.