'Canadian Bacon' vs 'Ham': What's the Difference?

By Katie Moore, updated on September 8, 2023

‘Canadian Bacon’ vs ‘Ham’: What’s the difference? Learning new vocabulary is a great way to learn about cultural phenomena — especially things like food. Let us help you explore the difference between ‘Canadian Bacon’ vs ‘Ham.’

In a hurry? Here’s a quick preview of what’s to come:

  • ‘Canadian Bacon’ is a word that refers to the lean meat from the back of a pig
  • ‘Ham’ is a word that refers to the thick meat from a pig’s leg

What’s the Difference Between ‘Canadian Bacon’ vs ‘Ham’?

The issue with these two terms is that at first glance, ‘Canadian Bacon’ and ‘Ham’ look like the same thing. However, some lower-budget or inauthentic restaurants will just serve ‘Ham’ in place of ‘Canadian Bacon’. Despite this, though, they are, in fact, different. 

A trained chef or experienced foodie would know that a primary difference between these meats is where on the pig they come from. 

  • ‘Canadian Bacon’ comes from the back of the pig, which makes it different from American bacon, which comes from the belly. 
  • Meanwhile, ‘Ham’ comes from the upper leg of a pig, so it is more of a piece of thigh rather than the back. 

The other main difference between these meats is their variety — or lack of it. ‘Ham’ comes in all shapes and flavors, ranging from thinly sliced deli meat to chunks still on the bone. ‘Canadian Bacon,’ however, always comes in one round-cut style. 

Now that you have a general idea of how these meats differ let’s dive into what they mean and how they look individually. 

Definition of ‘Canadian Bacon’: What Does it Mean?

According to Oxford Languages, ‘Canadian Bacon’ is a noun that means:

  • Lean cured meat from the back of a pig, typically served in thick, round slices
    • “He opted to order Canadian Bacon as a side.”
  • Bacon cut from the loin that has little fat and is cut into round or oblong slices

‘Canadian Bacon’ unsurprisingly originated in Canada as a specific cut of the pig that was named Canadian when it was first shipped to the United States from Toronto to New York. ‘Canadian Bacon’ is made by bringing the meat, which makes it lower in cholesterol. 

Synonyms of ‘Canadian Bacon’

  • Back bacon
  • British bacon
  • Irish bacon
  • Peameal bacon
  • Rashers

Dishes with ‘Canadian Bacon’

‘Canadian Bacon’ is usually cooked and served by itself. Here are some other ways to eat it:

  • Canadian bacon frittata
  • Canadian bacon breakfast burrito or quesadilla 
  • Eggs Benedict with Canadian bacon
  • Quiche with Canadian bacon
  • Hawaiian pizza with Canadian bacon

Definition of ‘Ham’: What Does it Mean?

According to Oxford Languages, ‘Ham’ is a noun that means:

  • Meat from the upper part of the pig’s leg salted and dried or smoked
    • “Thin slices of honey ham.”
  • The backs of the thighs or the thighs and the buttocks 
    • “He squatted down on his hams.”

The word ‘Ham’ comes from the Germanic ‘hom,’ which literally meant “be crooked” but more often denoted the back of the knee. It later came to include the back of the thigh. 

‘Ham’ has other non-food-related definitions as well. According to Oxford Languages, as a noun, ‘Ham’ can also mean: 

  • An excessively theatrical actor
    • “Nobody gets to emote more than a ham on a witness stand.”
  • Excessively theatrical acting 
  • (informal) an amateur radio operator

Finally, as a verb, ‘Ham’ can mean:

  • To overact
    • “He was hamming it up, doing all the voices and effects.”

While knowing all definitions is important for discerning future contextual clues, we’ll stay focused on ‘Ham’ as a food. It can be prepared in a variety of ways, including thinly sliced cold cuts, small cubes, or thick round slices that do indeed resemble ‘Canadian Bacon.’ Also, know that ‘Ham’ is cured or smoked and not brined. 

Synonyms of ‘Ham’

  • Prosciutto
  • Cut of pork
  • Jambon
  • Gammon
  • Overact 

Phrases with ‘Ham’

  • Ham it up
  • Sliced ham
  • Honey ham
  • Ham and peas
  • Cured ham 

Dishes with ‘Ham’

Since ‘Ham’ can be prepared in so many ways, it is often used in different recipes, both as a main dish and as an ingredient.

Here are some ways to eat ‘Ham’:

  • Ham sandwich or sub
  • Smoked ham
  • Omelette with ham and cheese
  • Ham and mashed potatoes
  • Casserole with egg and ham 
  • Jamón Ibérico tapas 

Pronunciation: How to Pronounce ‘Canadian Bacon’ vs ‘Ham’

Since a major aspect of food is ordering it in restaurants, we want to make sure you feel comfortable saying these new words aloud. Follow the pronunciations below to build confidence in correctly saying ‘Canadian Bacon’ vs ‘Ham.’

Use this phonetic spelling of ‘Canadian Bacon’ as a guide:

  • ‘Kuh-nay-dee-an Bay-kuhn’ (notice all the vowels next to the ‘k’ sounds are flat vowels like in the word “run”)

Use this phonetic spelling of ‘Ham’ as a guide:

  • ‘Ha-m’ (the ‘a’ is wide, as in “span”)

How to Use ‘Canadian Bacon’ vs ‘Ham’ in a Sentence

The final step to mastering these new words is being able to use them in your own scenarios. Follow the sample sentences below to get a sense of the variety of contexts or recipes in which you can use ‘Canadian Bacon’ vs ‘Ham’.

‘Canadian Bacon’ Example Sentences

  • He always ordered Canadian bacon as a side because he preferred it to the fatty taste of American bacon. 
  • She was confused when she ordered bacon in Toronto, and it came out in round discs like Canadian bacon rather than the strips she was expecting. 

‘Ham’ Example Sentences

  • While turkey is the signature meat served at Thanksgiving dinner, many families eat ham on Christmas
  • She really was hamming up her retelling of the story to get a laugh out of even her more serious family members. 
  • I prefer salami on my sandwiches instead of ham because ham is too slimy, and it doesn’t taste as flavorful. 

‘Canadian Bacon’ vs ‘Ham’ Example Sentences

  • The recipe called for Canadian bacon, but he only had ham in the fridge, so he used it as a substitute.
  • Many people think Canadian bacon is just a fancy name for ham, but they are different cuts of meat. 
  • While ham can be served in a bunch of ways, including cold, Canadian bacon has its signature round cut and is always served hot. 

Final Advice on ‘Canadian Bacon’ vs ‘Ham’

Sometimes, when we learn new words, we get to go beyond basic definitions and really explore the world our words come from. Learning about food is a great way to deepen your knowledge both about cooking and about the food itself. And now you’ll be able to tackle a different type of reading and writing: recipes. 

Need a recap? Here’s a quick review of what was covered:

  • ‘Canadian Bacon’ is a noun that means a lean cut of meat from the back of a pig.
  • Meanwhile, ‘Ham’ is a noun that refers to the thick cut of meat on the thigh of a pig. 

Want to bite into more vocabulary? Be sure to investigate other confusing word articles that cover everything from basic grammar rules to more cultural topics that will give you an understanding of words and the context around them.

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Written By:
Katie Moore
Katie is a recent graduate of Occidental College where she worked as a writer and editor for the school paper while studying linguistics and journalism. She loves helping others find their voice in writing and making their work the strongest it can be. Katie also loves learning and speaking other languages and wants to help make writing accessible for everyone.

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