Peppered bacon is one of the natural evolutions of bacon. The addition of high amounts pepper to the dry curing stage gives the bacon a peppery kick, but much more subtle than adding ground pepper after the bacon is cooked. Black pepper bacon was previously only available from artisan producers, but its popularity had led to some bigger name commercial players creating their versions of peppered bacon.
Peppered Bacon Trivia
- The term “bacon” comes from a middle English word that was used to refer to all pork in general.
- John Harris is credited to have been the forefather of large-scale industrial bacon production when he opened his first company in Wiltshire in the 1770s.
- Two breeds of pigs, the Yorkshire and Tamworth, are bred just for bacon.
- There have been calls by certain groups to make bacon designated as the national food! But no such luck getting it passed.
Peppered Bacon Buying Guide
When in the market for peppered bacon, you need to examine the packaging carefully. It must indicate that it is peppered, dry-cured, and smoked, and not just “Pepper flavored” bacon. For bacon, a certain number of nitrates are fine because they are needed to prevent botulism during the curing stage.
For the best peppered bacon, here are our recommendations on things to look out for.
- Cut – Peppered bacon is best with belly bacon. Jowl, shoulder, or back bacon just doesn’t cut it.
- Thickness – Our recommendation is to go with slab bacon and have it sliced to 1/8th of an inch. If slab pepper bacon isn’t available, then try to look for thick-cut bacon so that you can enjoy the deep pepper flavor.
- Curing – Always look for dry-cured peppered bacon. Dry curing is the only way to fully get the pepper taste right.
- Smoked – Look for the terms “Natural smoked” or “Hardwood smoked” on the packaging. Don’t be fooled by “smoke-flavored” bacon.
Peppered Bacon Production & Farming in Texas
Commercially Produced Peppered Bacon:
Commercial food production is always about getting the product out as affordable as possible and to market it as attractively without breaking any laws. Commercial peppered bacon is usually injected with bacon solution to speed up the curing process. The bacon can then be left to cure from 30 minutes to a few days. The belly bacon may then be smoked or not, depending on the requirement of the customer, but in the case of peppered bacon, it is usually smoked. The pepper “coating” is added after the smoking process. The pork belly is then compressed using a shaping machine for even cutting. After cutting, the peppered bacon is then packed and sent out to supermarkets
It is worth noting that commercial peppered bacon production has minimal human interaction. The only time that human hands touch the meat is transporting the bacon from one machine to the next.
Small Batch/Artisanal Peppered Bacon Production:
For small-batch or artisanal peppered bacon, the case is reversed. Almost all stages of the production are done by hand. The meat for the bacon is often sourced from humanely raised and organically grown hogs. The producers will most often than not, be the ones that will butcher the meat and prepare it for use as bacon.
The first step after butchering the hog is to trim the pork belly for easier cutting down the line. Unlike commercial peppered bacon production where the pork belly is being shaped and pressed by a machine, small-batch bacon producers have to manually cut and shape the pork belly.
After preparing and shaping the meat, it is hand packed with spices, most specifically pepper and left to cure anywhere from five days up to two weeks. After the curing process, the bacon is then smoked for up to six hours. The finished product is then sold as slabs or sliced to order.
Preservatives and Chemicals:
The top three chemicals and preservatives used in commercially produced peppered bacon are the following:
- Sodium Nitrite – The worlds most used preservative and curing salt. This is also known as “Pink salt.”
- Sodium Ascorbate – This is the sodium form of ascorbic acid or Vitamin C. This is added to prevent the meat from browning.
- Sodium Phosphate – This is used to maintain the freshness of the bacon and help the flavor absorption of the cure.
Aside from preservatives, the following are sometimes used in commercial bacon production.
- Water – Yes, water. While it may look harmless, if you see water on the ingredient panel of your bacon, that is a sure sign that this has been injected and not dry-cured.
- Smoke Flavor – Another sign that the flavor has been injected in, and not naturally smoked.
- Natural Flavors – Another red flag. You don’t need any added “natural flavors” aside from the meat and the spices used for curing.
Commercially produced bacon is often laid out on a paper or plastic backing board before being vacuum-sealed to preserve freshness and protect it from contamination.
For small-batch peppered bacon, it can either be vacuum packed or wrapped in wax paper bags, depending on the producer. They can also be sold sliced or as a whole slab.
Enjoying Peppered Bacon
Peppered bacon, even though smoked, is still raw. It still needs to be cooked through before consumption.
For commercially produced peppered bacon, the unopened package can be stored in the refrigerator until its best before date. You can also store the unopened package in the freezer for up to two months.
For dry-cured artisanal bacon that has been smoked, it can be stored in the refrigerator in an air-tight container for up to a week. Peppered bacon can also be stored in the freezer for up to a month, provided that is it is stored in a freezer-safe container.
Peppered bacon can be cooked and prepared just like any other bacon variant. Just cook them on the stovetop, oven, or microwave until you hit your desired crispiness level and you’re good to go.