There’s more than one way to cure bacon.
Here is a guide to the different types of bacon available in the market including the various types of bacon cures. How is bacon made and what is the difference between wet cured and dry cured bacon? We begin the journey in 1500 BC, in Ancient China, which is the first known date for dry curing pork. Because dry curing pork kills bacteria, before opening it is shelf stable and does not require refrigeration. The USDA recommends using dry cured bacon within 10 days without being refrigerated or four weeks when kept chilled.
Columbus brought the first pigs across the Atlantic in 1493 AD. Decades later the increasing popularity of bacon demanded a faster curing process than dry-curing pork. This slower process was replaced with a faster curing process using a brine curing solution. This process is known as the “Wiltshire cure”, and is the pioneer of large scale bacon production. Bacon cured with a brine is labeled as wet-cured.
Since the Middle Ages, we cure bacon with nitrates. When we eat nitrates, they convert into nitrites in our digestive system, which then convert to ammonia and are disposed of by the body. Nitrates can be found in root vegetables, including celery. When they come into contact with bacteria, nitrates break down into nitrites and add a distinctive flavor and a pinkish hue to the meat. Uncured bacon, as its name implies, is not cured, though it can be smoked. Nitrate or nitrite free bacon is cured by using natural spices, often celery powder, which contain naturally occurring nitrates, serving the same purpose as the synthetic stuff.
Dry Cured Bacon
The first known process for curing pork belly is dry-curing. Salt and/or sugar and sodium nitrite are rubbed on the pork belly then left to cure for several days. The meat then starts the smoking process where it hangs above smoking hard wood chips. The next step is slicing the pork belly. Leaving the meat whole produces what is known as a bacon slab. The USDA recommends using dry cured bacon within 10 days if it is not refrigerated. Once open, refrigerate the bacon and use within seven days or freeze it for up to one year. Dry cured bacon splatters less while cooking and tends to be saltier than wet cured bacon. The dry-cure bacon sampler or the 6-pack dry cure bundle at Bacon Freak offer several different varieties of gourmet dry cured bacon.
Wet Cure Bacon
Water with a high concentration of salt is a brine. Bacon producers use brine to cure pork belly. You can submerge the meat in the brine or inject the brine into the meat. This brine cures the meat. Smoking the cured meat over hard wood chips is most often the next step in the process. When you do not slice the meat, it is known as a bacon slab. This bacon has a higher moisture content causing some popping while frying and increased shrinking while cooking compared to dry cured bacon. The Three Amigos bundle at Bacon Freak includes wet cure bacon with three different spicy bacon flavors: sriracha, jalapeno and chipotle. Also available is a 5-Pound hickory smoked, sliced bacon that is also wet cured.
Uncured & Nitrate Free Bacon
Pork belly that undergoes no curing process is uncured bacon. This uncured bacon is different than nitrate free or nitrite free bacon. These use organic spices, such as celery powder, which contain naturally occurring nitrites, which offers an organic way of killing bacteria. Keep uncured bacon refrigerated and once opened use it within seven days. Or freeze for up to
one year. Among the uncured bacon that BaconFreak offers is an
uncured hickory smoked peppered and sliced bacon as well as an
uncured and sugar-free bacon.