If you are going through a cookbook or recipe and come across the word barding, as in “bard sides and top before broiling”, you might wonder what it means. Barding is the term used in the culinary world for draping a peice of meat with fat, so that while it cooks it does not become too dry. Commonly you bard with a strip of bacon. The fat melts over and into the meat as it cooks, adding flavor and keeping the meat moist. Dry cooking methods such as roasting, pit raosting, or smoking are good ones to use this method on.
What fats can you use for barding? There are several things to use; bacon, for one, but also salt pork, sliced thinly, jowl meats, and caul fat. Caul fat is the connective tissue which holds intestines in place and is quite fatty. It lacks the flavor of bacon, but is cheaper. Caul fat is the recommended barding for cooking fowl. Avoid turkey bacon, which does not have enough fat to do the job of keeping the meat moist.
The original use was in barding poultry and fowl. The cook would tie over the breast a thin slice of raw fat bacon, in which a few cuts had been made to prevent it from curling when heated.
One not so well known meaning of the word “barding” is the armour for horses that knights used in the middle ages. It featured a prominent breastplate meant to protect the horse from archery attack. This describes quite well what is placed on the fowl; it was a breastplate of bacon to protect the flesh from the attack of heat from the fire or oven, which might otherwise dry and scorch it.
The slice had be large enough to entirely cover the breast, and was be kept in place with two pieces of string. About five or ten minutes before the cooking was done, the bacon was removed to allow the breast meat to be well browned.
The modern use of barding that most cooks are familar with is wrapping a peice of bacon around a filet mignon steak before cooking. Another way to bard is to use pork belly laid on the top rack of a barbeque smoking pit and let the fat drip onto pork butts below, for some outrageously good pulled pork.
For wild meats that are usually tougher and leaner, like wild turkey or venison, covering the whole thing with strips of bacon can make them more palatable for those who are more used to domesticated meat sources, which are bred to be more tender and fatty.
Photo by flickr user stevendepolo