Why Is Bacon So Salty? The Salty Truth

December 13, 2022

Bacon is quite salty of course because of its salt-based curing process. Just so you know, the processing of pork to become bacon involves the brining of the meat with salt and sodium nitrate, another ingredient with salty content. 

I started brining pork right from cooking school. So I know every step to making bacon. I can tell you 100% why your bacon is salty and what you need to do if you are looking to desalt the meat. 

Why is bacon so salty

Why Is Bacon Salty?

Pork contains high sodium even before it is processed into bacon. That’s why bacon is saltier after it’s processed. 

Actually, bacon is pork meat that has been cured with salt. Brining or drying (dry-cured bacon) it with seasoned salt is the best method for preserving it.

The salt solution preserves the meat by removing humidity and protecting it against dangerous bacteria. The flavored mixture also imparts a salty scent. 

Note however that when you eat bacon that’s pretty high in salt, you have a high chance of having stomach cancer.

Is Bacon Salty Naturally?

There is little evidence to say bacon is naturally salty because it’s made from pork.

First, a serving of raw pork contains 50 mg of sodium. This is still considered “low sodium” and far less than the 2,300 mg safe limit recommended by the American Heart Association

The salt content and flavor of bacon is heightened as soon as you cure and smoke it. The bacon strip is drenched in salt nitrate and sugar before frying to add a distinct flavor. 

To turn it into bacon, you simply need to cut the pork belly and soak it with brine solution for 10 to 14 weeks. 

The brines are a combination of water, salts, and sugars. Many manufacturers add spice to their brine. These can be thyme, rosemary, or garlic. This helps to give it more flavor. After the pork dries out, the meat is grilled or smoked over a wood fire. So the bacon ends up with a unique texture and flavor.

Why Bacon Tastes too Salty Sometimes?

Sometimes, bacon tastes too salty when it is exposed to curing salt for too long. You can cure bacon for three to ten days but at 10 days, the meat would have taken in a lot of salt. 

To reduce the saltiness when making bacon at home, try reducing the time required for curing to 5 days

You may also have used excess salt. 5.6 grams of pink curing salt is enough for 5kg or 11 pounds of pork belly. You can also use Kosher or table salt for the brine mix. 

Speaking of the cured ingredients, sugar reduces saltiness. So, you may want to add some sugar or maple syrup to the brining ingredient. 

How to Reduce the Saltiness of Bacon?

If you need help reducing the saltiness in your bacon, you can try the following tricks:

  1. First, you should use thinner-cut bacon strips. The fat in bacon contributes to the salty flavor so choosing thin slices reduces the saltiness.
  2. Second, cooking bacon reduces the saltiness. The easiest way to desalt the bacon is by letting the bacon soak in cold water in a heat proof bowl for about 30 minutes just before cooking. Asides from the cold water method, you can also simmer it in a frying pan with boiling water for a minute. This helps remove some of the bacon salt, so they’re healthier. 
  3. Lastly, you may add more bacon ingredients like brown sugar, white sugar, and paprika to compensate for the saltiness.

However, note that it’s easier to remove salt from uncooked bacon than cooked bacon.

Appetizer fried egg with bacon

Why Do We Use Salt for Curing Pork?

Bacteria and mold tend to multiply in raw pork’s humid environment like in any other raw meat. Since salt retains moisture, curing meat like pork helps remove the bacteria. 

That’s why meats like beef jerky that are cured and dehydrated with salt last a lot longer. When water is removed, bacteria will find less space to set camp.

Which Bacon Is Salty, Smoked, or Unsmoked?

The treatment method for bacon includes two different types: smoked or salted bacon. 

Unsmoked bacon is typically salty, unlike smoked bacon which is a far less salty bacon. It is more flavorful than unsmoked bacon. 

So, you should choose smoked bacon if you’re concerned about the salt composition in bacon. When you choose smoked bacon such as pancetta di maiale for example, it’s noticeably tastier and less salty. Note however that smoked bacon isn’t fully cooked bacon.

However, smoked bacon is quite expensive. This smoke process involves the use of wood chips or pellets which flavor, brown, cook, and preserve the bacon.

Note also that there are smoked crispy bacon products like the Brown Sugar Candied Bacon which are known to be quite salty.

Brown Sugar Bacon Jerky Candied Bacon
  • WARNING : Our Candied Bacon Jerky is...
  • GOOD SOURCE OF PROTEIN : 16g per...
  • NATURAL THICK CUT BACON : Made in the...
  • GLUTEN FREE AND NO MSG
  • CANDIED BACON JERKY : The Perfect...

Packaging Plays an Important Role

Bacon is a fast-selling staple in many grocery stores. So, the stores and supermarkets believe in maintaining supplies to have high customer satisfaction. 

The news is fantastic for buyers but it’s also important for producers and distributors to find a method to pack bacon to be fresher for longer before it’s sold to the consumers. 

Typically this entails packing them to seal the freshness. This method requires the use of more sodium so the bacon can last longer. Unfortunately, this increases the saltiness. 

How to Know if Bacon is Too Salty?

You can’t measure how salty bacon is by its appearance or taste when purchased at the supermarket. The best way to determine the amount of sodium in a salty bacon is by checking the labels. 

Compare several brands to determine the lowest sodium and pick one that suits your budget best.

But first, to know if bacon is too salty, it helps to first know how much sodium bacon should contain. Keep in mind that one ounce of bacon typically contains 233 milligrams of sodium. That’s still a lot less than the daily allowance of sodium, which is 2300 mg, according to the CDC

When you have more than that 400 to 500 mg level in bacon, and you serve it with bread or eggs, the salt intakes are excessive. 

Bacon may seem delicious but salty bacon can cause serious health problems, particularly for those monitoring sodium intakes. Excessive salt intake is dangerous and can cause atrophic gastritis. This is the chronic thinning and inflammation of the linings of your stomach.  

People suffering from high cholesterol should also be cautious about eating bacon.

Cooked Bacon and Tomato

Is It Good to Remove Salt From Bacon?

Cutting out the salt will improve your bacon taste, although this is not always advisable during the brining process. Not using enough salt while curing will reduce the preservation function of the cure. It’s always better to remove the salt before or during cooking using the methods I suggested earlier. 

However, salt has an added benefit: it allows for a stronger taste in the meat. However, I prefer the taste of high-quality bacon pork to that of salty bacon.

Bacon Alternatives with Less Salt

For those who cannot tolerate bacon strips with high sodium, I suggest you try low-salt alternatives. These include:

Uncured Bacon

I’ve already compared how uncured meats, uncured hams, and uncured pepperoni compare to their cured versions.

Uncured versions of meat have low sodium nitrite content and are processed using natural preservatives. However, this usually contains the same sodium content found in cured bacon. But there’s usually no added chemically derived preservatives

Uncured bacon is untreated with preservatives. So it is healthier. However, it is always worth checking the meat’s sodium content before buying it in bulk.

Beef Bacon

Yes, beef bacon. Don’t be surprised. 

Beef bacon comes from beef, rather than pork and is brined with sugar and spices

It’s rich in flavor and high in fats and calories. Similar to pork bacon, however, the beef bacon product has fewer sodium compared to the pork version.

Vegan Bacon

Yes, there are vegan bacon options in the market. They’re often made with soy, pea, or wheat and have flavors similar to bacon. 

Although their sodium content is slightly lower than bacon from pork, vegan bacon doesn’t usually taste exactly like bacon. 

Turkey Bacon

Turkey bacon is a lighter alternative to the pork version. The meat used is ground turkey which usually has lower calories and fats compared to real bacon. 

Turkey bacon generally has less sodium than that of pork. It could be your best choice in the long term.

Lamb Bacon

Lamb bacon comes from lamb legs and cured in a salt and sugar mixture. It has an amazing taste but contains lots of fat and calories. Its sodium level is usually higher as compared with pork bacon.

Sliced Bacon

Conclusion 

Bacon contains significant amounts of sodium. Extended exposure to the brine or using too much salt than normal will increase the salt concentration in your meat. You can either remove the salt by rinsing in warm water or add the meat to other low-salt dishes or recipes.

By Kristy J. Norton
I'm Kristy – a chef and connoisseur of all things BBQ! You can find me either in my kitchen (or someone else's) or at a big outdoor barbecue surrounded by friends and family. In both my professional and personal life I’ve picked up more than a few tips and tricks for turning out delicious food. I consider it a privilege to share it with others!
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