I’ve met a few people that can’t resist a piece of raw bacon as they open the packet. But I also saw Gordon Ramsay kick one of his chefs out of the kitchen for undercooking bacon. So is it safe or not?
Smoked bacon isn’t fully cooked unless the packaging states otherwise. Even though bacon goes through a curing and smoking process, it’s usually done for a short time at a low heat which doesn’t fully cook the bacon. You should cook bacon to kill bacteria and reduce your risk of food poisoning.
That’s not to say you’ll fall ill any time you eat raw bacon. Since you’re reading this article, it’s likely that you already indulge in fresh, uncooked bacon out of the packet. You might be protesting right now saying, “I’ve eaten plenty of raw bacon with no problem” That may be true, but your chance of falling ill is far higher than if you were to cook the bacon first. Similar to how you won’t automatically fall ill after eating raw chicken, it’s just riskier.
You shouldn’t leave raw bacon out of the fridge for over four hours. For a refrigerated expiry date, always check the packaging before purchasing. After cooking bacon, you can store it in your fridge for up to five days.
Of course, any bacon that is labeled, pre-cooked, fully cooked, ready to eat, etc, is safe to eat without cooking it yourself.
Can You Eat Raw Smoked Bacon?
Smoked bacon is almost just as risky to eat as plain raw bacon because the smoking process does not fully cook the bacon. The smoking kills a bit more bacteria which can make the product last longer in the fridge, but it’s not smoked for as long as other meats that are ready to eat after the process.
Although bacon goes through a curing process that preserves it for longer, eating raw bacon increases your risk of falling victim to food poisoning. It can cause toxoplasmosis, a parasite that is dangerous for people with weakened immune systems.
Consuming raw bacon can also cause tapeworms and roundworms leading to stomach pain, diarrhea, vomiting, and weight loss.
There are cooking instructions on the packaging of smoked bacon, which clarifies the need to cook it first. Smoked bacon lasts longer in the fridge, but it’s not ready for consumption unless it says so on the packaging.
How Is Bacon Smoked?
Most large companies simply inject smokey brine into their bacon. However, there are bacon producers that smoke the bacon in a room with wood chips. The injection method is quick and saves on production time. Smoking with wood chips takes more time but adds flavor, and value, to the product.
Cold VS Hot Smoking
In simple terms, cold smoking doesn’t fully cook meat, it only adds flavor and preserves it. Hot smoking usually means that the meat is being smoked for a longer time at higher temperatures, slowly cooking the meat in the process.
Cold smoking shouldn’t exceed heat levels of 86°F while hot smoking can reach temperatures of 176°F
Modern Bacon Preparation Methods
Mass produced bacon that you find in supermarkets isn’t the same as fully cured bacon from the old days, before household refrigerators.
- Bacon manufacturers remove the belly from the carcass.
- Then they separate the skin from the cut.
- They cure the meat with a solution of salts, sodium nitrates, and sometimes other chemicals to create a solution called brine.
- Liquid smoke is added to the brine to give the bacon a smoked taste.
- The brine is then injected into the bacon or left to soak in it. Mostly injected.
- They smoke the bacon to add more flavor and color to it. This also partially cooks the bacon.
Which Bacon Can You Safely Eat Without Cooking?
There is no type of bacon that’s safe for consumption without cooking. The curing process that bacon goes through with salt and smoke does not remove all food-borne illnesses. Of course, you can buy fully cooked bacon to avoid cooking it yourself, but some critics say that the flavour of pre-cooked bacon is not as strong as when you freshly cook it yourself.
All you need to do is microwave pre-cooked bacon for 15 to 60 seconds. 15 seconds for soft bacon and up to 60 for crispy.
Fully cooked bacon is safe to consume within 14 days of opening and usually has a resealable bag for this purpose. You must refrigerate the sealed bag of bacon after opening.
Is Smoked Bacon Healthier?
The smoking process doesn’t make bacon much safer to eat than bacon that isn’t smoked. The goal of smoking bacon is purely to change the taste of the bacon and partially preserve it, not to cook it.
Smoked or plain, bacon contains plenty of high-quality protein, vitamins B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, and B12, selenium, phosphorus, iron, magnesium, zinc, and potassium.
Can You Undercook Bacon?
You can undercook bacon, but it’s unlikely because of how fast it cooks. With bacon being so thin, it only takes a few minutes in a frying pan to fully cook. If you’re cooking thick cuts, a raw center is more likely. So just add a couple of minutes to the cooking time.
Since bacon goes through a curing process involving salt, it isn’t as dangerous to eat raw as other pork cuts that aren’t cured.
How Do You Know When Bacon Is Fully Cooked?
Bacon only takes a few minutes to cook. For soft bacon, fry the strips in their own fat for 1 to 2 minutes on either side. This should turn them golden brown for you to know it’s ready.
For crispy bacon, fry for 2 to 3 minutes on either side and watch for a foamy bubbling on the bacon.
Why Can You Eat Raw Ham But Not Bacon?
You can eat ham without cooking because most of it isn’t actually raw, whether ham is smoked, salt cured, or baked, it’s considered pre-cooked. There are raw ham options, but the packaging clearly states that you need to cook it before consuming, just like raw bacon.
Ham is smoked or cured to the extent where it is safe to consume. Bacon is smoked to add flavor and is only partially cooked when smoked.
Most smoked bacon is not ready for consumption. The curing and smoking of the bacon only partially cooks it. Eating any raw bacon increases the risk of contracting a bacterial disease. Check the cooking instructions on the packaging and follow them to ensure you cook your bacon adequately.
Smoked bacon lasts longer in the fridge because the smoke helps to reduce the bacteria in the meat and also slightly cooks it.
Bacon only takes a few minutes to cook. Soft bacon can be fried up within three minutes total, and crispy bacon only takes around six minutes. You’ll know that it’s cooked when it changes to a darker shade of brown. We call this the Maillard reaction.
Ham and other meats that don’t need to be cooked are smoked and cured to a higher extent compared to bacon.