I look at bacon at the supermarket, and I think, “Uncured bacon has got to be healthier than cured bacon, right? Right?!?” It’s at this point that I realize I am scaring other customers. But they don’t understand: I’m desperately looking for any rationalization to eat more bacon after my doctor said I should cut back for “health and safety concerns.” But he’s a quack, give me bacon!
What is uncured bacon?
To understand this distinction between uncured bacon and regular bacon, let’s first establish what curing is. Bacon is made from pork belly that has been cured in order to preserve it and extend its shelf life. The curing process is done by either soaking or injecting the meat with a mixture of salt, sugar, seasonings, and sodium nitrate.
Logically, this must mean that uncured bacon is pork belly that has not gone through the curing process, right? Wrong! The reality is this: All bacon is cured; it’s what makes bacon bacon. So how do companies get away with claiming their bacon is uncured? It all comes down to the ingredients used in the curing process.
What is the difference between cured and uncured bacon?
As established above, cured bacon traditionally uses sodium nitrate or sodium nitrite. Uncured bacon still goes through the curing process, but it does not use either of these chemicals. Instead, producers use naturally occurring nitrates that are found in things like celery seed, beets, and other vegetables.
If you read the label on a package of uncured bacon, you’ll often find it says, “Uncured bacon, no nitrates or nitrites added except those added naturally.” This is a requirement by the FDA. While nitrates occur naturally in the body and in many plants, an excess of them is not good for you. And it’s not particularly clear if the naturally occurring nitrates used in uncured bacon don’t have the same deleterious effects as the artificial ones. So, health claims about uncured bacon should be taken with a grain of salt (or sodium nitrate).
How long does uncured bacon last?
There’s no difference between the shelf life of cured and uncured bacon because, as mentioned, they are both technically cured. Unopened bacon can survive a week past the sell-by date in the fridge and anywhere from four to six months in the freezer. Once opened, uncooked bacon of any kind should be consumed in 1-2 days.
Does uncured bacon taste different?
On the whole, there is not much taste difference between cured and uncured bacon. There are some people out there that claim the lack of chemicals in uncured bacon help to enhance the natural “porkiness” of the meat. But if it hasn’t been clear yet: I am a little bacon freak, and I can’t really tell the difference between the two.
Flavor differences will occur more in preparation than anything else, or if the bacon is made from non-pork ingredients like turkey or plant-based products.