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Bacon is highly favored for the intensity of its flavor and the way that it can spruce up any dish. A lot of the power of bacon lies in its salt content as well as its flavorsome smokiness.
However, sometimes the salt content can be too overpowering, especially if you are eager to cut down on your sodium intake.
So why is bacon so incredibly salty and is there a way to remove or reduce the salt content entirely?
Why Is Bacon Salty?
The answer is that bacon is salty due to the way that it has been manufactured and cured. It is brined or packaged in salt and this results in the vast majority of the moisture being taken from the meat in order to create an inhabitable environment for bacteria.
The result is bacon that is mouth-wateringly salty. The resulting low moisture content also ensures that it is able to be cooked quickly as any remaining moisture will evaporate in a pan, leaving behind a certain amount of salt. This is why crispier bacon will always be more salty than fresh bacon.
Bacon is usually cured using a time-tested method of brining. This method was usually implemented to ensure that meat lasted a long time when stored and although this is no longer needed, we have become accustomed to the flavor and thus, the process remains.
Therefore, a bacon cut is typically immersed in brine or alternatively, packed using salt. The resulting moisture absorption is notably evident when it comes to dry-packed bacon as the meat will lose up to 30 percent of its volume.
The main reason why bacon is salty is because it is packed with salt or in brine that prevents bacteria from being above to thrive. Mold and bacteria thrives in moist environments and so the bacon is less likely to ‘go bad’ if it is packed with salt.
This is also why salted meats will last for a long time when compared to fresh cuts. As meat becomes cured, it has become slated and thus dehydrated.
How to Reduce Bacon Salt Content?
If your bacon has become too salty for consumption, there are ways that you can remove any excess salt. This should be a rare occasion, as nowadays most producers have their brining and curing program down to a science.
Whilst you may also lose some flavor, this is a worthwhile process if you are looking to reduce your sodium content.
In order to reduce the salt levels in your bacon, you should reverse-brine it. To do this, you will need a container full of water that is large enough to hold your bacon. Then, you should immerse your bacon in the water, cover it and allow it to sit for 2 hours.
After this, check to see if your bacon is still too salty and if it is still overwhelmingly salty, add a fresh batch of water and repeat the process for a further 2 hours.
You should repeat this reverse-brining process until your bacon is no longer salty and has become just right. You should also bear in mind that you will lose the smoke flavor to your bacon if you overdo this process and thus, you should attempt to find the right balance.
You should ensure that you have dried your bacon prior to placing it in a pan as the oil will splatter and this can be hazardous. You will also have excess moisture that needs to be cooked off.
Reducing the salt content in cooker bacon is a far larger issue and your options are few and far between. Your best option is to use an alternative ingredient that masks the salt taste like heavy cream.
Adding breadcrumbs and sweet potatoes may also help to balance out the salt and enhance the flavor of the dish.
Is Bacon Naturally Salty?
Pork is not a naturally salty meat, contrary to popular belief. Bacon becomes salty because it is cured in brine or salt. Pork meat is not salty when it is in its raw form. Whilst all meat will contain sodium, the natural sodium content will depend on how the pig was fed.
Part of the reason bacon is prepared this way is because generally speaking, the salty flavors and structure provide balance to the flavors of the pork.
*Be sure to check out our bacon wrapped jalapeño poppers recipe next!
How to Choose Less Salty Bacon
The biggest issue with the salt in bacon is that it can make poor produce. You can be eating a cut of beat that is poorly produced and low quality but your tongue will be fooled by the salt flavor.
Therefore, there is no real way to establish which bacon contains less salt just by looking at it. Therefore, the best way to assess its salt content is to read the label. The lower the sodium content in the bacon, the less salty that your bacon will be when cooked.
Brined bacon doesn’t contain any less or more salt than dry-packed bacon. However, brined bacon will inevitably be more salty when it’s cooked due to the amount of moisture that will be evaporated.
Are There Alternatives?
If you are seeking an alternative form of bacon that is flavorsome without being doused in salt, there are a number of options that you can sample.
Whilst none of these are guaranteed to contain a lower amount of sodium, you are likely to discover one that contains less salt whilst bringing a similar flavor. Prosciutto cotto is a great alternative as well as capocollo.
This meat is taken from the back of a pig’s head and whilst it is dry-cured, the cut itself ensures that it is less salty.
Bacon is salty due to the curing process that occurs after it is has been cut. Bacon is typically cured in brine or dry-packed with salt and it is this process that provides it with its flavorsome salty taste.
However, if your bacon has become too salty, there are processes that you can implement in order to reduce the salt content like reverse-brining.
Looking to experiment with bacon? Check out our guide on how to cook bacon on the grill next for ideas!