Can You Over Cure Bacon? How to Avoid Ruining Your Homemade Bacon

Learn what you need to know about curing bacon at home. We’ll show you how easy it is to cure meat, give you the tools you need, and answer your most-asked questions about cured bacon.

Brandon Sheard from The Farmstead Meatsmith is joining us on the Pantry Chat today. On their homestead in Oklahoma, he and his wife Lauren teach workshops on how to cure meat. They also have online courses.

Brandon taught Carolyn and me how to traditionally salt cure our bacon at home. Traditional eating and consuming whole-food ingredients is important to our health journey.

This is how we’ve been storing our pork belly ever since (when we’re not making tasty pork rillette with it). This bacon served up with sweet pepper hash makes a great breakfast.

Curing your own bacon at home results in deliciously smoky, salty bacon that puts store-bought to shame. But it requires getting the cure time just right – too little and the bacon won’t be properly preserved, too much and you risk over-curing and ruining the texture and flavor. So how do you avoid over-curing homemade bacon? Let’s look at the signs of over-curing and best practices for perfect bacon every time.

What Happens When You Over Cure Bacon?

Before getting into how to prevent over-curing, let’s look at what happens when you do over-cure Here are the potential effects

  • Becomes extremely salty and harsh tasting
  • Texture changes from tender to tough/chewy
  • Color dulls or develops an unnatural rainbow-like sheen
  • The meat dries out completely and shrinks
  • An “off” or chemical flavor develops
  • It’s unsafe to eat if cure chemicals build up to toxic levels

So over-curing significantly impacts the flavor, texture, appearance, and safety of the bacon. It’s definitely something you want to avoid!

What Causes Bacon to be Over-Cured?

There are a few things that can lead to over-curing

  • Too much curing salt/nitrites in the cure recipe

  • Curing for too long of a time period

  • Using a wet brine cure instead of dry rub (faster penetration)

  • Curing at too high of a temperature

  • Using certain types of cure with very high nitrite levels

  • Not evenly distributing cure mix on the meat

  • Curing extra thick cuts of meat that require longer time

  • Not properly measuring cure amounts for the meat weight

Carefully following a tested recipe and process controls for these factors to prevent over-curing.

How to Avoid Over-Curing Bacon

Here are some tips to properly cure bacon without going overboard:

  • Use a trusted, tested recipe from a reputable source

  • Weigh meat precisely to calculate cure amounts accurately

  • Mix and evenly distribute dry cure rub thoroughly on meat

  • Cure in fridge at 34-40°F to slow cure penetration

  • Follow recommended minimum cure time, not shorter

  • For wet brines, calculate exact nitrite level needed

  • Track total cure time and don’t exceed recommendations

  • Use a meat needle for curing whole pork bellies

  • Slice off a small bit and test taste/texture before full smoking

  • Rinse off surface cure before smoking and cooking

Follow strict recipe guidelines and don’t take shortcuts.

Signs Your Bacon is Fully Cured Without Being Over-Cured

Look for these signs that indicate the cure time was sufficient, without going overboard:

  • Firm, dense texture without dried out areas

  • Bright, even pink or red color throughout

  • No noticeable “off” or chemical smells

  • Pleasant salty flavor without extreme harshness

  • Able to slice cleanly without crumbling

  • No visible bubbles or powder on the surface

  • Cured evenly throughout entire thickness of meat

Getting the perfect cure time takes practice, but these cues signal properly cured bacon.

How Long to Cure Bacon Without Over-Curing

Cure times depend on many factors, but here are general guidelines:

  • Dry cure: approximately 7 days

  • Wet brine cure: approximately 14 days

  • Thicker cuts: add 2-3 days minimum

  • Cold smoking: add 3-5 days after dry cure

  • Frozen meat: add 1-2 days

  • Test fry a slice after minimum time before smoking

For most people, a 7-14 day dry cure time produces great bacon without getting overly cured. Always go by recipe, not shortcuts.

What to Do if You’ve Over-Cured Bacon

If you accidentally let your bacon cure too long, here are some options:

  • Try rinsing it well and soaking in water 2 hrs to draw out salt.

  • Slice it thinner so less is needed per serving.

  • Use it in fully cooked dishes like casseroles or soups rather than eating plain.

  • Dice it small and use as a seasoning instead of eating big slices.

  • Smoke, cook and freeze it for using a little at a time in the future.

While you may not be able to completely fix over-cured bacon, you can still salvage it creatively.

Frequently Asked Questions About Over-Curing Bacon

Here are answers to some common questions about over-curing:

Can you over-cure bacon with a dry cure?

It’s less common with dry curing than wet brining, but possible if cure ratios are off.

How long after curing before smoking?

2-3 days after dry curing allows the surface to dry. 7-10 days for a wet brine.

What happens if you under cure bacon?

Under-cured bacon risks bacteria and spoilage. It may also not develop the proper cure flavor and texture.

Can you eat bacon right after curing?

It’s recommended to smoke and cook bacon after curing for food safety and proper texture.

How long can cured uncooked bacon last in fridge?

About 1 week maximum if kept at 34-40°F. Smoking preserves it longer.

Master the Bacon Cure Time For Perfect Results

Curing bacon is a delicate balance – too little time and you risk safety and quality issues, too much time over-cures the meat. Use a trusted recipe, calculate precisely, and stick to minimum recommended cure times. With practice, you’ll be able to produce properly cured bacon without over-salting or drying it out. Perfectly cured bacon is sweet reward for your patience and care.

can you over cure bacon

How Long Does it Take to Cure Bacon?

There are a few different methods when it comes to curing bacon. As mentioned above it takes approximately five days. How long it takes depends on the cut of meat and the type of salt used. It could be three days to two weeks.

The method Brandon follows takes roughly five days. The fact that it’s simple and easy to keep up with while also having a busy life is what makes it work so well for many of us.

can you over cure bacon

Do You Need Nitrates or Nitrites for Cured Bacon

Brandon shares that nitrites tend to homogenize the product. They give the cured bacon a mildly tangy flavor that we’re all accustomed to.

Nitrates have no effect on cured meat, the nitrates have to be isolated into nitrites first.

Other cured meats from the store will taste different from bacon that has only been cured with salt.

Nitrates and nitrites are not always the carcinogen that we’ve all been led to believe they are. Brandon says that curing meat with nitrites is more of an exact science because too little or too much can really mess up the taste and safety of your meat.

For this method, no nitrates or nitrites are needed. There’s no need for concern about botulism when curing a solid slab of meat. When making aged sausages or salami, you need to take extra safety precautions, and this method won’t work.

Bacon Cured With and Without Sodium Nitrite | Side by Side Comparison

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