The first question that pops up on anyone’s mind when they hear the words “Beef Bacon” is probably “Where can I buy it?” Since regular bacon is made from pork belly, and cows also have bellies, it wasn’t a stretch to imagine that beef bacon wouldn’t be far behind. Beef bacon is made from beef plate or short plate which visually resembles pork belly. The texture of beef bacon tends to be a little bit tougher than regular pork bacon because of the higher melting point of beef fat but it’s still pretty darn good. Due to the curing method, beef bacon tasked just like regular bacon, just a bit heartier and beefier.
Beef Bacon Trivia
- Beef bacon is an excellent alternative for those wanting to lower their fat intake.
- International bacon day is celebrated on the Saturday before US Labor day.
- National bacon day is celebrated on December 30. (People love bacon so much that they have two celebrations for it!)
- Believe it or not, there’s a United Church of Bacon based in Las Vegas that has a membership of around 13,000.
Beef Bacon Buying Guide
For the longest time, bacon has always been associated with pork, so it’s not surprising that there is some confusion when people see beef bacon in supermarket displays. Yes, it is made out of beef, so if you’re avoiding pork for any reason, it is made from beef. If you look around, there are a couple of varieties of beef bacon available so we’ll go have a quick rundown of what’s available out there.
- Cured Beef Bacon – This is your run-of-the-mill beef bacon. Much like its pork counterpart, mass-produced in factories and injected with seasonings and nitrates to keep it fresh.
- Uncured Beef Bacon– Now this may be a little bit tricky. Due to FDA labeling guidelines, manufacturers can legally label them “Uncured, no nitrates or nitrites added” but they are still being cured with a form of celery salt that naturally contains nitrates. While the nitrites may be naturally occurring, some “uncured” beef bacon has shown higher nitrate levels than cured ones.
- Faux Beef Bacon – These are “fabricated” bacon using ground meat and emulsifiers to make slices that look like bacon. Uses the same methods as turkey bacon production. To avoid these, look for “Plate / Short plate” on the packaging.
- Artisan Beef Bacon – Now this is a pretty general term for small independent producers. Artisan beef bacon usually refers to beef bacon that is produced using organically grown cows and using traditional preservation methods to make the bacon.
Beef Bacon Production & Farming in Texas
Beef bacon production is in many aspects the same as regular pork bacon production, but it does have some key differences, especially on the artisan production side.
Commercial Beef Bacon Production
Commercial beef bacon production is the same as commercial pork bacon production. Beef short plate is machine injected with bacon solution that may contain salt, flavorings, preservatives, and other ingredients.
Beef bacon, depending on the requirement, may be smoked or not, before being compressed to form blocks or slabs for easier slicing. After being compressed to form blocks or slabs, they are machine cut then packed in see-through plastic packaging to display their streaky bacon-like appearance.
Traditional / Artisan Beef Bacon Production
Artisan beef bacon producers typically dry cure their beef to use as bacon. Before the cure is applied, the beef is first carefully trimmed to remove excess fats and meats that might make the slicing down the line more difficult. The cure is then rubbed on the surface of the beef and left there to cure for up to two weeks.
After the curing stage, the beef is washed and left to dry in a temperature-controlled environment for about a day. After drying the beef, it is then cold smoked with their wood of choice (applewood, cherry, maple, hickory, or any other smoking wood) before being packed and readied for consumption/sale.
Another Artisanal way of making beef bacon is by extended dry curing time to a few months, making pancetta-style beef bacon that is easier to cook than their shorter cured counterparts but is a lot more time-intensive and expensive to make.
Preservatives and Chemicals
Commercially produced beef bacon usually contains the maximum allowed levels for preservatives set by the FDA to make them shelf-stable for longer periods. The most common preservatives used are Sodium Nitrite, Sodium Ascorbate, Sodium Phosphate, and Sodium Erythorbate. For more information on what each preservative does, check out the Bacon page here on our Texas Real Food Promptuary.
Ninety-nine percent of all beef bacon produced, weather commercial or artisanal are vacuum packed in plastic bags to preserve freshness and to maximize shelf life due to them being sliced.
Beef bacon that is sold in specialty butchers and shops are usually cut upon order and are either vacuum packed on the spot or wrapped up in plain wax paper.
Enjoying Beef Bacon
Beef bacon, just like regular bacon, needs to be fully cooked before they are eaten.
Beef bacon, if vacuum packed, can stay in the fridge for up to one week. They can also be stored in the freezer for up to one month before the fat starts to break down and become rancid.
Some commercially produced bacon can last for up to six months in the freezer due to the number of preservatives injected into them.
If for some reason, you fail to finish a pack of bacon, they can still be stored in the fridge for a few more days. Just transfer them to a clean Ziploc bag or if you have a vacuum sealer at home, vacuum seal them again. Re-freezing opened bacon is not recommended as this can affect the texture of the bacon.
Cooking beef bacon is the same as cooking regular pork bacon. You can cook them in a pan on the stovetop, crisp them in the oven, or cook them in the microwave. For more information on the specific cooking methods, please refer to the main bacon entry.
Beef bacon can also be used in any application that calls for regular pork bacon. They’re basically the same thing, but with a slight difference in flavor profiles. As my brother used to say, chicken, pork, beef, or turkey, bacon is bacon and bacon is good on everything.