uestion: The pack of bacon I happened to pick up at the grocery store is labeled “uncured.” It’s usually labeled “cured.” What’s the difference? (Asked by a curious housewife.)
Reply: The wife, in this case, is my wife, Sandy. We like bacon every now and then for bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwiches (BLTs). But not too often, for health reasons.
All bacon is soaked in brine to give it flavor and prevent botulism. “Cured” here refers to meat being preserved. Both “cured” and “uncured” bacon (and ham) is cured and safe to eat. In other words, “uncured” does not mean “not cured.”
The main difference between cured and uncured is the process of preservation. Cured bacon generally relies on chemical additives such as sodium nitrate or nitrite. These compounds are important for curing because they help prevent bacterial growth in meat.
Uncured bacon uses natural salts and flavorings. A common choice is celery powder, which has a high concentration of natural nitrate that is transformed into nitrite when processed. Another is sea salt.
Thus, uncured products have labels stating, “No Nitrates or Nitrites added except those naturally occurring.” Because the natural choices are high in salt, uncured bacon is often high in salt.
Cured usually has a longer shelf life than uncured bacon because the chemical additives keep the meat fresher for a longer period of time. On average, cured bacon will last for several months when kept refrigerated, whereas uncured bacon lasts for a much shorter time. You’ll hear comments about taste, but that depends a lot on the taster.
I won’t get into the health considerations of pork bacon, viz. saturated fat and salt. You are probably aware of these. But wait! What about turkey bacon for a substitute. Well, let’s see:
(For one 2-ounce serving)
Fat (gm) 14/22
Salt (mgm) 1,900/1,300
Oh, by the way, the recommended daily intake of salt is 1,500 mgm (milligrams). Got to watch the turkey too!
C.P.S. (Curious Postscript): “Never put off until tomorrow what you can do the day after tomorrow.” — Mark Twain