Smoked vs. Unsmoked Bacon: Which One is Saltier?

Crispy, savory bacon is a beloved breakfast food for good reason But with so many types of bacon on the market, it can get confusing Two of the main categories are smoked and unsmoked bacon. Most people assume smoked bacon, with its robust flavor, would naturally be the saltier choice. However, the truth about salt content in smoked vs. unsmoked bacon is more nuanced.

In this in-depth feature, we’ll explore the key differences between smoked and unsmoked bacon, how they’re made, and why both can be salty. You’ll get the real facts on salt content so you can choose the right bacon for your taste buds. Let’s dive in!

Overview: Smoked vs. Unsmoked Bacon

First, a quick rundown on what distinguishes smoked from unsmoked bacon

Smoked Bacon

  • Cured and flavored by prolonged smoke exposure
  • Robust, wood-infused taste
  • Varying flavors based on wood type (hickory, applewood, etc)
  • Common in US

Unsmoked Bacon

  • Cured primarily with salt and seasonings
  • Milder taste than smoked
  • Sometimes called “green bacon”
  • More commonly found in UK/Ireland

With this basic background, let’s analyze the salt content between them.

The Curing Process Is Key for Salt

It turns out the smoking or not smoking part doesn’t directly impact saltiness by itself. The key factor is the curing process used to preserve the pork prior to smoking. There are two main types of curing:

Dry Curing

  • Rubbed with salt, sugar, spices
  • Takes 1-2 weeks
  • Traditional method

Wet Curing

  • Soaked in salty brine solution
  • Faster, used for mass production
  • Injects solution deep into meat

The wet brining technique exposes the pork more directly to salt, driving it deeper into the meat. This tends to make wet-cured bacon saltier than dry-cured. Most large commercial bacon producers use rapid wet curing.

So unsmoked bacon, often dry-cured using traditional methods, may actually be less salty than mass-produced smoked bacon wet-cured for efficiency.

Smoking Itself Doesn’t Affect Salt Level

While smoking infuses bacon with robust flavor, it does not make the bacon any saltier. The smoking process involves hanging or racking the cured pork in a smoker chamber and burning wood down to embers. The key effects of smoking are:

  • Penetrates meat with smoky flavors
  • Dries out surface through low heat
  • Preserves through anti-bacterial smoke
  • Intensifies flavor already present from curing

Since no additional salt is added during smoking, it does not further raise the salt content. Any increase in saltiness is just the curing flavor being concentrated as moisture reduces.

So saltiness depends more on pre-smoking factors like curing method. Smoking just enriches existing salty notes.

Cooked Bacon May Taste Saltier

While smoking itself doesn’t affect salt levels, cooking the bacon can intensify the perception of salt:

  • Frying or baking concentrates flavors
  • Reduced moisture allows salt to emerge
  • Crispy textures enhance saltiness

The salty taste you experience from cooked bacon mostly comes from condensed curing flavors, not extra salt added during smoking or cooking.

Checking Labels Is Important

To understand true salt content, don’t rely on assumptions about smoked vs. unsmoked bacon. You need to read labels carefully:

  • Labels should clearly list exact sodium content
  • Terms like “reduced salt” can be misleading

Don’t assume unsmoked is less salty, or that a brand’s smoking method adds more salt. Curing techniques are the key, so check sodium levels.

Factors Impacting Bacon Salt Content

Many variables beyond smoking affect the final saltiness, including:

  • Curing Method – Wet-curing injects more salt than dry-curing

  • Curing Duration – Longer exposure equals more salt absorption

  • Lean-to-Fat Ratio – Fatter bacon can mask saltiness

  • Quality Ingredients – Cheap fillers can cause uneven salt distribution

  • Brand Philosophy – Some brands intentionally use less sodium

For complete control over salt levels, making your own bacon allows you to customize every step.

Reduced-Salt Bacon Options

If you’re watching your sodium intake, most major brands now offer reduced-salt bacon options. For example:

  • Oscar Mayer Center Cut Bacon
  • Hormel Black Label Lightly Salted Bacon
  • Smithfield Reduced Sodium Bacon
  • Applegate Organic No-Salt-Added Bacon

Check labels to find a lower-sodium version that still delivers the bacon flavor you crave. Or opt for turkey bacon.

Should You Avoid Salt Curing Altogether?

Salt-free “uncured” bacon has risen in popularity recently. However, uncured bacon still needs preservation methods to be shelf-stable. Common salt alternatives include:

  • Celery powder – Provides nitrites while allowing “uncured” label

  • Vinegar or citrus – Acidic flavor replaces salty taste

  • Smoke – Extensive smoking preserves meat

  • Sugar – Sweetness balances loss of salt

While unsalted options appeal to some palates, expect a significantly different flavor profile from classic cured bacon.

The Takeaway: It’s Not Just About Smoke vs. Salt

Contrary to popular belief, smoked bacon isn’t inherently saltier than unsmoked styles, or vice versa. Curing decisions drive salt content more than smoking. But both smoking and salt are traditionally used to impart flavor and preserve bacon.

Carefully checking labels for sodium levels is key to finding a bacon to match your tastes. Whether you go smoked or unsmoked, rest assured your breakfast bacon can still sizzle without excess salt!

What if your bacon is too salty?


Is smoked or unsmoked bacon salty?

This survey importantly shows that bacon can easily be made with far less salt. The least salty bacon overall was The Co-operative 8 Reduced Fat Unsmoked Bacon Medallions with just 1.45g/100g* of salt – 4 times less salt compared to the saltiest bacon offender.

Which bacon is saltier?

The saltiest bacon offender was Tesco Finest Unsmoked 8 Wiltshire Cure Back Bacon Medallions with a staggering 5.3g/100g, more than twice the concentration of seawater, and the equivalent salt content of 1 Burger King Hamburger in just 1 rasher.

Is smoked bacon high in salt?

Both smoked and fresh bacon are high in saturated fat and sodium, which are not considered healthy in large amounts. Consuming too much saturated fat and sodium can increase the risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, and other health issues.

Which is better, unsmoked or smoked bacon?

But the curing process and the smoking process are two very different things, and they can’t really be compared from a nutritional standpoint. Most experts out there agree that as part of a balanced diet, neither smoked nor unsmoked bacon is necessarily bad for you.

What is the difference between smoked bacon and unsmoked bacon?

Unsmoked bacon is cured only in salt, while smoked bacon is treated with smoke over a specific type of wood. The smoking process gives the bacon a distinct smoky flavor, which can vary depending on the type of wood used. Unsmoked bacon is also known as “green bacon” and is paler and milder in flavor compared to smoked bacon.

Is smoked bacon salty?

Smoked bacon also comes in different cuts such as back, streaky, and middle. In terms of salt content, there is no clear winner between smoked and unsmoked bacon. Both types of bacon can be salty or less salty depending on the curing process. The salt content of bacon products must be clearly labeled to help consumers make informed choices.

What kind of bacon is smoked?

In the US, streaky or side bacon is the most common cut of bacon. In Italy, side bacon, either smoked or unsmoked, is called Pancetta. It is rolled-up meat into cylinders after curing, and it is popular for having a strong flavor. Another type of cut for bacon is Jowl bacon. It is smoked and cured cheeks of pork.

Is unsmoked bacon salty?

Both types of bacon can be salty, and the saltiness depends on the curing process. Unsmoked bacon is typically cured in a brine solution, which results in a saltier flavor. The prolonged exposure to salt is what gives this type of bacon a higher salt content.

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