The Difference Between Smoked And Unsmoked Bacon

Bacon is considered one of the most favorite breakfasts in many countries around the world, and it comes in two types; smoked and unsmoked. It also has different flavors and cuts that make it even more in demand. This tasty meat can complement other delicacies because of its and flavor, so expect to encounter bacon even in different delicacies.

What is the difference between unsmoked and smoked bacon? Smoked and unsmoked bacon is different in terms of processing. As its name suggests, smoked bacon is treated by smoking while unsmoked bacon is meat that is only cured in salt. Smoking bacon gives it a much different flavor – and can have subtle differences based on the type of wood used.

There are a lot of differences that may not be immediately apparent between smoked and unsmoked bacon. Below is a comparison between the two, as well as other information regarding saltiness and cuts of bacon.

Smoked vs. Unsmoked Bacon

There are differences between smoked and unsmoked bacon. One of the primary differences is the process they undergo for cooking.

Smoked bacon is flavored, browned, cooked, and preserved using smoke from smoldering or burning material. Usually, it is done using wood, but there are other ways to smoke bacon, and among those is through electric, charcoal, or gas smokers.

Different flavors of smoked bacon are also achieved by utilizing various types of wood chips, wood sawdust, or fuels like peat or corn cobs. These fire starting materials contain unique properties in them that can contribute to the taste of smoked bacon.

Smoking is a method that is used by many countries to prevent trichinosis in meat products. Trichinosis is a condition that is caused by a parasitic roundworm called Trichinella.

On the other hand, unsmoked bacon is a bacon variant that is cured in salt but not treated with smoke. While many individuals prefer the plain taste of unsmoked bacon, this meat product is often mistaken for a thin slice of ham and not bacon.

In terms of taste, smoked bacon is more flavorful than unsmoked bacon. The flavor varies depending on the equipment used to smoke the meat and how long it is smoked.

Generally, smoked bacon has a combination of nutty, sweet, grassy, and buttery taste. It is the reason why many individuals prefer it more compared to unsmoked bacon. Smoked bacon is especially juicy and tender, especially when cooked well.

Is Unsmoked Bacon Less Salty?

Unlike what most people believe, unsmoked bacon doesn’t consistently contain less salt than its smoked variant. Also, there is no existing pattern to the difference in the salt content of varying bacon types. For this reason, bacon products must have clear and reliable labeling.

Smoking doesn’t affect the saltiness of the bacon. Instead, it only adds flavor, dries, as well as preserves the meat. The reason behind the salty taste of smoked and unsmoked bacon is the salt that is used during curing. It helps in preserving the food by drawing out moisture from the meat, reducing the hospitable environment for any contaminating organisms such as bacteria and fungus. This is the reason smoking food can help increase the shelf-life of food. 

Different countries have their way of preserving meat. But for most western countries, curing and smoking are among the most popular. Existing methods on how to smoke bacon also vary in different places. It is also preferred by many as a way of food preservation because they believe that salt may contain impurities that may produce undesirable results when curing. Therefore, it is more likely for unsmoked bacon to be saltier than smoked variants because curing primarily involves the use of salt.

Different Cuts Of Smoked And Unsmoked Bacon

Bacon, either for smoked or unsmoked variety, comes in various cuts depending on the preference of local consumers. Here are the different types of cuts for bacon:

Back Bacon

Back bacon is a type of bacon cut that contains meat coming from the loin of the pig. Compared to other cuts, back bacon is leaner, containing less fat than side bacon. Most of the bacon that is consumed in Ireland and the UK is back bacon. This bacon cut is also acquired from the same cut of pork chops.

On top of this, back bacon is available in smoked and unsmoked variants. A form of back bacon is also found in Canada called “Canadian-style-bacon.” It is a cured, smoked, and completely cooked pork meat that is cut into cylindrical medallions and sliced thickly. Unlike other kinds of bacon, Canadian-style-bacon is ready to eat.

In terms of taste, people describe it having a similar taste to ham because it is made from the lean eye of pork loin. Generally, it is still called back bacon and only known as Canadian-style-bacon in Canada.

Streaky Or Side Bacon

Side or streaky bacon is a cut that comes from the belly of pork. It contains long alternating layers of muscle and fat running parallel to the rind. 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.

Jowl Bacon

Another type of cut for bacon is Jowl bacon. It is smoked and cured cheeks of pork. It also has an Italian variant called Guanciale that is dry-cured and seasoned but not smoked.

Jowl bacon can either be smoked or unsmoked. It is also used to add flavor in other popular foods, including spaghetti, sandwiches, and so much more.

Collar Bacon

As its name suggests, collar bacon is a cut that comes from the back head of a pig. It is a bacon cut that is popular in Ireland that is usually boiled or roasted to get a juicy and very tender result.

Collar joints are perfectly marbled along with fat. For this reason, they are full of flavor. You can find smoked and unsmoked collar bacon in the market so you can get what you prefer most.

Cottage Bacon

Cottage bacon is a cut that is taken from boneless pork shoulder. It is lean meat from the said area that is usually tied to form an oval shape. This type of bacon cut is cured and sometimes smoked. It also tastes and looks similar to ham.

Some variants of cottage bacon are hot-smoked. It is so they can be sold as thoroughly cooked and ready to consume. On the other hand, cottage bacon usually requires cooking, so make sure to check their package label carefully.

Unlike British, Danish, or Irish bacon, cottage bacon is a little bit fatter. However, it slightly contains more fat, compared to the streaky bacon of America.

Is It Safe To Eat Undercooked Smoked Or Unsmoked Bacon?

It is best to eat well-cooked bacon to avoid acquiring Trichinella. This condition is an effect of a worm larva that infests raw pork. While manufacturers utilize smoking and curing to treat pork meat, these methods are not always enough to kill Trichinella. Added nitrites and salt, on the other hand, makes raw bacon less perishable compared to different raw meat types.


To summarize, smoked and unsmoked bacon are two types of bacon that may arrive in different cuts. You can have unsmoked or smoked cottage bacon, collar bacon, jowl bacon, streaky or side bacon, as well as back bacon, and other unique cuts of bacon from other countries. Also, countries around the world have a different preference in terms of bacon. If you want a more flavorful tasting bacon, choose the smoked variant. Otherwise, select the unsmoked option if you wish to experience the original taste of cured pork meat.