Big breakfasts and BLTs are not whole without one essential ingredient: bacon. Although most bacon is made from the belly of a swine, different types use other types of meat, or other portions of a pork. There are several types of bacon including Canadian bacon, Irish bacon, Italian bacon, pea-meal bacon and uncured bacon.
According to A Dictionary of Food and Nutrition, bacon is defined as “cured (and sometimes smoked) meat from the back, sides and belly of a pig; variety of cuts with differing fat contents.” Considering this definition, you may think there isn’t such as thing as uncured bacon.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) says that all bacon that is not cured with sodium nitrates or nitrites cannot be labeled as such. In other words, when sodium nitrate is not used to cure pork meat, it has to be labelled “uncured bacon.” It is possible to cure pork meat using natural preservatives and a mixture of salt, sugar and celery juice. Celery juice contains natural sodium nitrate but because it does not follow the chemical curing process approved by the USDA, it is considered uncured.
When looking for uncured bacon, you should be able to identify it because of words such as “natural” or “nitrate free.” Although a good portion of “organic bacon” is uncured, read the fine print in the ingredients list to make sure it does not contain nitrate. “Organic” may refer to the type of meat used but not necessarily to the meat curing process.
Benefits of Uncured Bacon
Some people prefer eating uncured bacon because they believe that sodium nitrates are harmful to their health. However, recent research studies prove that bacon labeled as uncured can still contain traces of nitrates which occur naturally when using ingredients such as celery, parsley, spinach and cherry and beet powders. When this is the case, the USDA requires that uncured bacon manufacturers label their products as “no nitrates added except for those naturally occurring in seasoning ingredients.”
Uncured bacon is mostly free of preservatives which means it should be kept refrigerated at a temperature of 40 F or less at all times, unless indicated otherwise on the product’s packaging, when approved by the USDA.
References and ResourcesTaste The Bacon: The Many Amazing Types of Bacon
A Dictionary of Food and Nutrition; Bacon; David A. Bender; 2005