Salty, crispy, delicious, and addicting are often used to describe bacon. However, does bacon come cooked or raw?
It’s similar to ham, so it must be cooked, right? Before we discuss whether bacon is cooked or not, let’s discuss what bacon is.
What is Bacon?
Bacon is pork that is fabricated from the pig’s belly. Bacon can also come from other fattier cuts of pork, such as the cheeks or shoulder.
In addition to this, bacon can also come from other animals, such as duck, turkey, or beef. However, most people consider real bacon to be pork.
Bacon is made by wet or dry curing pork belly. Dry curing is the most popular way of curing bacon.
Dry curing bacon involves rubbing the bacon with salt and other flavorings such as smoked paprika or brown sugar.
In contrast, wet curing involves submerging the bacon in a saltwater brine. Manufacturers may also inject the wet brine into the bacon to raise its weight and volume.
However, injected bacon will shrink significantly and release a cloudy yellowish substance as it cooks.
In addition to this, wet cured bacon will not be as crispy as dried bacon.
Bacon can be purchased in thin strips or by the slab. It can be cold smoked or unsmoked. Unsmoked bacon is pale and has a milder flavor than the smoked variety.
Is Bacon Already Cooked?
Some individuals claim that smoked bacon is safe to consume raw.
They believe that the smoking process heats it to a high enough temperature that makes it safe to eat as soon as you take the bacon out of the package.
To some degree, this statement is true. Smoking the bacon in a pellet smoker exposes it to indirect heat.
Not only do the hickory or apple wood chips impart a beautiful smoky flavor to the bacon, but they will also leave you with bacon that is safe to consume without cooking having to cook the bacon.
However, the smoked bacon would only be safe to consume if it was smoked to or above 145°F.
Nevertheless, if you purchase bacon from your local grocery store, meat market, or butcher, there is no way to confirm that the bacon was smoked to 145°F, which is high enough to neutralize bacteria.
Furthermore, according to the USDA, manufacturers can spray bacon with a liquid smoke extract to give a smoky flavor and label the bacon smoked.
In other words, these companies do not smoke the bacon, so there is no way it has reached a temperature of 145°F. The bacon could harbor bacteria that can make you sick if consumed.
Even though the bacon is smoked for a short time at a low temperature, it does not give it time to come up to 145°F.
Bacon can be smoked for as little as 30 minutes, which is definitely not enough time for it to have an internal temperature of 145°F.
Therefore, smoked bacon is not cooked unless the package explicitly says cooked bacon.
On the other hand, uncured bacon is not cooked, so it must be fried or baked to neutralize bacteria.
Always assume bacon is raw and must be cooked to neutralize any bacteria.
If you want to eat cooked bacon, look for bacon that specifically says cooked bacon. Cooked bacon can easily be recognized because it has a picture of cooked bacon on it.
What Happens If You Eat Raw Bacon?
Consuming raw bacon would be like eating raw chicken. It will expose you or anyone else who eats it to bacteria leading to food poisoning.
The most common types of foodborne illness associated with raw or undercooked pork are trichinosis, toxoplasmosis, and tapeworms.
Trichinosis refers to a specific type of parasitic roundworms. These roundworms can cause vomiting, swollen eyes, fatigue, and diarrhea.
In contrast, toxoplasmosis does not affect everyone. This parasite affects persons with compromised immune systems, such as persons under 4 and over 65, pregnant women, or individuals with HIV.
Lastly, tapeworms are parasitic worms that reside in the intestines. Tapeworms may cause weight loss, constipation, and abdominal pain.
Although most food poisoning occurrences are mild, they should still be taken seriously as mild symptoms may become severe, leading to hospitalization or worse in some cases.
Symptoms of foodborne illness associated with pork consumption include fatigue, diarrhea, vomiting, abdominal pain, and nausea.
Symptoms usually occur within 24-48 hours after consuming the pork. However, cough, fever, headache, muscle and joint pain, and chills may occur weeks after consuming the raw or undercooked pork.
Therefore, food poisoning is no walk in the park so cook your bacon before eating it.
How To Cook Bacon
Cooking bacon is super easy. You can cook bacon in the oven, on the stovetop, in the microwave, and in the air fryer.
However, I find it’s much easier to cook bacon in the oven. The bacon will come out super crispy, and it creates less of a mess.
Plus, you can work on other dishes while your bacon is cooking in the oven.
First, turn your oven to 400°F, then line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.
The rimmed baking sheet will prevent the rendered bacon grease from running off the baking sheet and dripping down into the oven, creating a giant mess for you to clean.
Place the slices of bacon onto the baking sheet in an even layer. Once the oven is preheated, add the bacon and cook it for 18-20 minutes until it reaches your desired crispness.
Remove the bacon from the oven, then place it onto a paper-towel-lined plate.
Next, remove the paper from the baking sheet, toss it in the trash, and you’ve got crispy delicious, cooked bacon.
Having breakfast without bacon is like having meatloaf without BBQ sauce or gravy. The delicious intense salty flavor of bacon is one that is simply irresistible.
However, you must cook your bacon before you eat it. Unless the package of bacon says it’s cooked, always assume bacon is raw.