Bacon is a beloved breakfast staple, but have you ever wondered why it’s so salty?
There are two main types of bacon: smoked and unsmoked, and each has its own unique flavor profile. But which one is saltier? The answer may surprise you.
In this article, we’ll explore the differences between smoked and unsmoked bacon, the curing and smoking processes, and why bacon is so darn salty.
So grab a cup of coffee and get ready to learn everything you ever wanted to know about bacon.
Which Bacon Is Salty Smoked Or Unsmoked?
When it comes to the salt content of bacon, there is no clear winner between smoked and unsmoked. Both types of bacon can be salty, and the saltiness depends on the curing process.
Unsmoked bacon is typically cured in a brine solution, which results in a saltier flavor. The prolonged exposure to salt is what gives this type of bacon a higher salt content. On the other hand, smoked bacon is treated over smoke, which flavors, browns, cooks, and preserves the bacon. The smoking process does not affect the saltiness of the bacon but adds flavor and dries out the meat.
It’s important to note that there is no existing pattern to the difference in the salt content of varying bacon types. For this reason, bacon products must have clear and reliable labeling. Smoking doesn’t affect the saltiness of the bacon. Instead, it only adds flavor, dries, as well as preserves the meat.
Different countries have their way of preserving meat. But for most western countries, curing and smoking are among the most popular. Existing methods on how to smoke bacon also vary in different places. It is also preferred by many as a way of food preservation because they believe that salt may contain impurities that may produce undesirable results when curing.
The Difference Between Smoked And Unsmoked Bacon
Smoked and unsmoked bacon differ in their curing process. Unsmoked bacon is cured only in salt, while smoked bacon is treated with smoke over a specific type of wood. The smoking process gives the bacon a distinct smoky flavor, which can vary depending on the type of wood used.
Unsmoked bacon is also known as “green bacon” and is paler and milder in flavor compared to smoked bacon. It is typically leaner than sliced bacon and available in different forms such as rashers, belly strips, and gammon. In the UK and Ireland, unsmoked bacon is more commonly found than smoked bacon.
Smoked bacon, on the other hand, comes in different flavors and cuts. It can be smoked using different types of wood, such as hickory, applewood, or mesquite, resulting in a unique flavor profile. Smoked bacon also comes in different cuts such as back, streaky, and middle.
In terms of salt content, there is no clear winner between smoked and unsmoked bacon. Both types of bacon can be salty or less salty depending on the curing process. The salt content of bacon products must be clearly labeled to help consumers make informed choices.
The Curing Process: How Bacon Becomes Bacon
The process of turning fresh pork into delicious bacon involves a curing process. There are two main methods of curing, dry curing and wet curing. Dry curing is the traditional method where the bacon is rubbed with a mixture of salt, sugar, and other seasonings. This method takes a week or two to cure the meat, and the bacon is then rinsed off, dried, and smoked for added flavor and preservation.
Wet curing, on the other hand, is a faster method that involves soaking the bacon in a brine solution made up of salt, sugar, seasonings, sodium nitrate, and other chemicals. This method is commonly used by large commercial brands due to its efficiency. The bacon is injected with the brine solution using a process called pumping, which is the quickest way to cure bacon. After curing, the bacon is then smoked for added flavor and preservation.
The smoking process can take several days if dry-curing was used. However, if wet-curing was used, a convectional oven can be used to speed up the process, which only takes about six hours. Liquid smoke is commonly added to replicate the smoky flavor.
It’s important to note that most commercial bacon curing methods focus on mass production rather than quality. Therefore, when choosing which bacon to purchase, it’s essential to consider the quality of the product.
The Smoking Process: Adding Flavor To Bacon
The smoking process is an essential step in adding flavor to bacon. After the curing process, the bacon is typically placed into a smoker. Smoking meat increases the flavor and increases its shelf life. It also reduces the number of impurities and bacteria that can live in it.
There are two main types of smoking processes: hot smoking and cold smoking. Hot smoking uses low heat to induce temperatures high enough to cook the meat. The richness of the smoke will add to the flavor of the meat during the hot smoking process. This is the more popular method and is what most people think of when referring to a smoker.
On the other hand, cold smoking lasts for a much longer period and can even take up to 30-days to complete. In cold smoking, the meat will require curation before you can begin the cold smoking process- a process that takes an average of days or weeks to complete. Often, people will choose to smoke meats that are encased, like salami and other sealed meats, by hanging several links of meat over a solid rod that extends above smoldering smoking wood or other cold smoking set ups.
The type of wood used in the smoking process also plays a significant role in the flavor of the bacon. Hickory smoked will taste different than applewood smoked, for example.
After being smoked, the bacon is then ready to be cooked and enjoyed. Whether you prefer your bacon crispy or chewy, it’s important to note that smoking doesn’t affect the saltiness of the bacon. Instead, it only adds flavor, dries, as well as preserves the meat. So, whether you prefer smoked or unsmoked bacon, it’s important to pay attention to labels and choose a product with clear and reliable labeling.
Why Is Bacon So Salty?
Bacon is known for its salty flavor, but have you ever wondered why? The answer lies in the curing process. To preserve the meat, bacon is either wet-brined or dry-packed in salt. This draws out moisture from the meat and creates a hostile environment for bacteria and fungi, resulting in a longer shelf life.
The amount of salt needed to cure meat makes it easy for bacon to become too salty. Sometimes, bacon can become more salty if left in the curing process for too long or if too much salt is used. Additionally, even though smoking creates a new flavor profile, it is a method of cooking which only brings out the saltiness of the bacon even further.
It’s important to note that not all bacon products have the same salt content. Different brands and types of bacon can vary greatly in their saltiness. Some products may be labeled as “reduced salt” but still contain high levels of sodium. It’s essential to read labels carefully and choose bacon products that fit your dietary needs and preferences.
Choosing The Right Bacon For Your Taste Buds
When it comes to choosing the right bacon for your taste buds, it ultimately depends on your personal preference. Smoked bacon offers a distinct smoky flavor that comes from the type of wood used during the smoking process. For example, hickory-smoked bacon will have a different taste than applewood-smoked bacon. If you’re a fan of bold flavors, then smoked bacon may be the way to go.
On the other hand, unsmoked bacon offers a saltier taste due to its prolonged exposure to salt during the curing process. If you prefer a saltier taste, then unsmoked bacon may be the better option for you.
It’s also worth noting that there are different cuts of bacon available, such as pork belly or pork shoulder (also known as cottage bacon). Pork belly bacon is more commonly found in stores and has a higher fat content, resulting in a richer flavor. Cottage bacon, on the other hand, is made from pork shoulder and is meatier than regular bacon.
Ultimately, the choice between smoked and unsmoked bacon comes down to personal preference. It’s important to read labels carefully and choose a high-quality product that meets your taste and dietary needs. Whether you prefer a smoky or salty taste, there’s no denying that bacon is a beloved breakfast staple around the world.