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I know I’m not alone in this world when I tell you that I love bacon. I mean really love bacon.
It’s just one of those foods that seems like it’s universally liked and tasty in just about every scenario. Bacon is delicious on its own and also as a key ingredient to many of my favorite recipes.
If you’re a bacon lover like me, bacon jerky is an absolute must try. We’ve created an ultimate guide to bacon jerky right here for you! By the end, you’ll know all about this tasty snack along with everything you need to make it at home.
What is Bacon Jerky?
Jerky, in general, refers to lean trimmed meat that has been cut into strips and dried out. The drying out process helps to preserve the meat and prevent spoilage over time. Jerky lasts a lot longer than your normal cooked meat.
The word “jerky” actually is derived from the Quechua word ch’arki which translates to “dried, salted meat”.
Typically, the drying process also includes the addition of seasonings – most often salt – before the dehydration has finished. This helps to prevent bacteria growth and keep the jerky safe to eat.
So bacon jerky is exactly that. Instead of a lean trimmed meat, we substitute our bacon and apply the same process to preserve it. This way it can be safe to snack on for a long time!
One of the best parts about bacon jerky is the creative freedom you have to make your own flavors. Since bacon goes well with so many different flavors, there are a world of possibilities when it comes to different types of homemade bacon jerky. But more on that later!
A Few Thoughts Before We Begin
Before we dive into how to make bacon jerky, there are a few things to take into consideration.
From a high level, we want to cook bacon jerky low and slow. This can either be done in the oven or in a smoker depending on the equipment that you have. Making bacon jerky in the oven is a little easier and a set it and forget it style of cooking.
Using a smoker on the other hand is a little bit more of an involved process – mostly because you’ll have to build a fire and maintain your smoker’s temperature throughout the process of making bacon jerky.
The benefit of using a smoker is that your bacon jerky will have an extra layer of delicious smoky flavor when you’re done!
To cook bacon jerky, you’ll need cookie sheets and a cooling rack that fits inside of the cookie sheet. The bacon will cook on the rack, while the sheet catches drippings and helps to flavor your jerky!
It also is helpful to have a food dehydrator for jerky on hand. They’re not 100% necessary, but they definitely make life easier. If you’re going to make a habit out of making bacon jerky at home, I’d say it’s definitely worth picking one up.
Also – it’s worth having some resealable ziplock bags or food containers on hand. I like to make my jerky in bulk, so the bags and containers are necessary to help properly store the finished product so we can snack on it later!
Thick Cut vs Regular Bacon
You can use either thick cut or regular cut bacon to make bacon jerky! Each type of bacon will lead to slightly different cooking times and a different end result.
Use regular cut bacon if you like a crispier, almost chip like texture for your final result. Regular cut bacon will lead to crunchier, more brittle results.
Use thick cut bacon if you prefer your jerky to be a little more leathery and akin to other types of jerky. Thick cut bacon will lead to more tender, fuller, candy like bacon jerky experience.
How to Make Bacon Jerky in the Oven
Here’s a step by step guide for how to make bacon jerky in the oven:
Step 1: Preheat your oven to 200°F. Remember, we want to cook low and slow for jerky.
Step 2: Place your bacon slices on a baking rack with a cookie sheet in place underneath to catch grease drippings. Be sure to leave at least a quarter of an inch of space between each slice of bacon.
Step 3: Apply any dry rub seasonings of choice to both sides of your bacon. A simple, basic recipe is to lightly dust each slice with fresh coarse black pepper, brown sugar, and a tiny pinch of salt.
*Note* we’ll get into some specific bacon jerky recipe ideas at the end of this article!
Step 4: Place rack and cookie sheet with seasoned bacon into the oven. Bake for 2-3 hours, occasionally blotting out grease if it begins to pool on any of the slices of bacon.
Step 5: Take the bacon out of the oven and apply any additional seasonings or marinades that your recipe calls for. If using a dehydrator, transfer your bacon to your food dehydrator. Continue to cook your bacon in either the dehydrator or oven. You can lower your temperature to around 160-190°F in the dehydrator or remain at 200°F in the oven.
Step 6: Cook for an additional 2-3 hours in the dehydrator or oven until your bacon jerky reaches desired texture. The process goes a little quicker in a dehydrator.
Step 7: After your food reaches desired texture, remove from oven or dehydrator and let it rest on a plate until it cools completely. Use a paper towel to blot off any remaining grease. Be sure to store any pieces you’re saving for later in an air tight plastic bag or food safe container.
How to Make Bacon Jerky on a Smoker
If you don’t mind a little extra work or enjoy using a smoker, cooking bacon jerky this way leads to some pretty spectacular results. Properly smoked bacon jerky has an additional delicious smoky layer of flavor that’s complex and mouth watering.
Step 1: Start your fire in your smoker. No matter whether you’re using charcoal, wood, or lump charcoal as your fuel of choice, the goal is to light your fire and maintain a temperature of 190-200°F in your smoker’s cooking chamber.
Step 2: Be sure to build your fire on the other side of your cooking chamber or away from where your bacon will cook. You don’t want grease dripping into your fire, I promise!
*Note* If you’re using wood chunks or chips to flavor your smoke, we think the best woods for bacon jerky are apple, cherry, pecan, maple, and peach. Hickory works too! All of these types of wood interact really nicely with pork.
Step 3: Place your bacon slices on a baking rack with a cookie sheet in place underneath to catch grease drippings. Be sure to leave at least a quarter of an inch of space between each slice of bacon.
Step 4: Apply any dry rub seasonings of choice to both sides of your bacon. Similar to our advice above, a light dust on each slice with fresh coarse black pepper, brown sugar, and a tiny pinch of salt is a great, simple recipe.
Step 5: Place rack and cookie sheet with seasoned bacon onto your smoker’s main cooking area. The bacon should stay in the smoker for around 2 hours. Be sure to monitor your temperature to ensure that your bacon jerky is getting even, consistent heat in the 190-200°F range.
Also be sure to check your grease every 30 minutes to make sure grease doesn’t overflow out of your cookie sheet. Remove and dispose of grease right away if it looks like this might become a problem.
Step 6: Take your bacon off of the smoker, drain grease, and place bacon in food dehydrator or oven to finish (preheat oven to 200°F or dehydrator to 160-190°F).
Step 7: Cook for an additional 2-3 hours in the dehydrator or oven until your bacon jerky reaches desired texture. The process goes a little quicker in a dehydrator.
Step 8: After your food reaches desired texture, remove from oven or dehydrator and let it rest on a plate until it cools completely. Use a paper towel to blot off any remaining grease. Be sure to store any pieces you’re saving for later in an air tight plastic bag or food safe container.
How to Store Bacon Jerky for Later
One of the best things about this snack is that you can make a big batch, eat some now, and save a lot of it for later! Cooking bacon jerky in batches helps to save time in the long run so that you don’t have to wipe out half a day each time you want some.
Storing bacon jerky properly is really simple. You just want to make sure you’ve completely removed all grease from your bacon. After that, you can store the jerky in ziplock bags or a resealable food container.
From there, make sure to store your food in a cool, dark place until you’re ready to enjoy. Doing this will make the shelf life of your jerky be even longer.
If you want to take storage to the next level, use a vacuum sealer machine to store your bacon jerky.
Bacon Jerky Recipe
One of the best things about bacon in general is that so many different flavors go well with bacon. Here are some delicious ways I’ve had bacon prepared, just to name a few:
- Maple Chipotle
- Honey Sriracha
- Coffee and Chocolate
- Sweet Roasted Garlic
- Brown Sugar Candied
- Sweet BBQ
- Cajun Creole
- Pecan Rosemary
The list goes on. Pretty much any way bacon has been prepared before, you can mimic that recipe for jerky. Personally I love the candied brown sugar style, but I’ll admit that it’s a pretty sweet snack. On a day to day basis, my favorite bacon jerky recipe has to be this Honey Sriracha Bacon Jerky.
Honey Sriracha Bacon Jerky Recipe
- Cookie Sheet
- Baking or Cooling Rack
- Food Dehydrator (Optional)
- 10 oz thick sliced bacon (sub regular sliced if preferred) (8 slices)
- 1/3 cup sriracha chili sauce
- 2 tbsp honey
- 1/2 tsp brown sugar
- coarse ground pepper to taste
- salt to taste
- additional brown sugar to taste
- Preheat your oven to 200°F.
- In a bowl, whisk to combine sriracha, honey, and brown sugar.
- Baste each side of your bacon with sweet sriracha sauce. If you don't have a baster, you can also dip each slice of bacon in the sauce.
- Place your bacon slices on a baking rack with a cookie sheet in place underneath to catch grease drippings. Be sure to leave at least a quarter of an inch of space between each slice of bacon.
- Dust each slice of bacon with coarse ground pepper and salt to taste. If you prefer a sweeter finished product, also dust with a pinch of brown sugar.
- Place rack and cookie sheet with seasoned bacon into the oven. Bake for 2-3 hours, occasionally blotting out grease if it begins to pool on any of the slices of bacon.
- If using a dehydrator, transfer your bacon to your food dehydrator after 2-3 hours. Continue to cook your bacon in either the dehydrator or oven. You can lower your temperature to around 160-190°F in the dehydrator or remain at 200°F in the oven.
- Cook for an additional 2-3 hours in the dehydrator or oven until your bacon jerky reaches desired texture. The process goes a little quicker in a dehydrator.
- After your bacon jerky reaches desired texture, remove from oven or dehydrator and let it rest on a plate until it cools completely. Use a paper towel to blot off any remaining grease. Be sure to store any pieces you're saving for later in an air tight plastic bag or food safe container.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is Bacon Jerky Good For You?
Bacon jerky is a popular snack throughout the United States. Like beef jerky, people enjoy this food item to keep them going between main meals. However, the main question people want an answer to is if bacon jerky is actually healthy.
Well, bacon jerky is not and shouldn’t be considered a health food. While it has high protein content, it should only be eaten in moderation.
Bacon jerky does not have the low-fat profile of beef jerky. Take a 1-ounce serving of beef jerky. This generally has 1 to 2 grams of fat whereas a similar portion of bacon jerky has 8 to 9 grams.
A bag of bacon jerky typically contains around 3 servings. That is equal to the total fat in a McDonald’s double cheeseburger but with higher levels of sodium and sugar.
However, due to its high levels of protein, bacon jerky is a great snack in small portions. You just have to watch out for the higher levels of fat and salt.
A good old ration of bacon will actually have more fat than a single serving of bacon jerky. So, it is certainly a snack to be enjoyed in moderation but should not replace healthier options.
Can You Put Bacon in a Food Dehydrator?
Dehydrating meat, such as bacon, helps to prolong its shelf life. You can then rehydrate the meat later on or enjoy it as dried food.
When we consider dried bacon, this works well in a dehydrator. It can be a protein-packed snack, soup ingredient, or salad topping. Whichever way you eat your bacon, it will undoubtedly be tasty.
Dehydrating bacon is also a great idea if you want snacks for extended trips such as hikes or camping trips. To properly dehydrate bacon, an electric dehydrator is a suitable option.
These devices remove the moisture from the meat through the use of electricity. Therefore, there is less effort required to dry the bacon.
We recommend wiping and soaking the grease from the bacon before and during this dehydrating process for the healthiest way of consuming bacon.
When it comes to storing the bacon, you should keep it in an airtight plastic container or a zip-top bag. This will prevent it from spoiling.
How Long Will Bacon Jerky Last?
As with most meat jerky, the bacon variety has a long expiration date. This is a great portable, high-protein treat that will keep you going on long hikes or even busy days in the city.
Bacon jerky is especially good when camping, hunting, or other outdoor activities because it doesn’t spoil when it becomes exposed to hot or cold temperatures.
An unopened, airtight package of bacon jerky can last for 1 to 2 years, as long as it’s stored in a cool, dry space. And, even if the “consume by” date passes, the jerky can still be edible if it is sealed correctly.
Does Bacon Jerky Need to Be Refrigerated?
When prepared correctly, bacon jerky does not need to be refrigerated. However, it should not be stored in a warm, damp place as this could see it spoil.
Bacon jerky should be refrigerated, however, before the dehydrating process starts. Bacon strips should be applied with a dry rub before dehydrating and seasoned well. Then, they should be refrigerated for up to an hour before the dehydration process begins.
Although it does not need to be refrigerated, there is nothing wrong with storing it in this manner. It will ensure the jerky doesn’t spoil so you can enjoy it for longer.
Remember, if the packaging has been opened, it usually needs to be consumed within a certain time frame. If the package remains closed, it should last for over a year in a cool, dry place.
All of this talk has my mouth salivating. It truly is one of the best and tastiest snacks you could ask for. The process of making it also has the added benefit of preserving your snack so it can be enjoyed even weeks later!
You should totally feel free to experiment with your bacon jerky! Half of the fun is trying out different things. From which ingredients you choose to which wood you use for smoking, there’s an endless list of possibilities to try at home.
Did you try our recipe? How did it go? Let us know in the comments section below. Happy bacon!