What is there not to like about bacon? Put the words bacon and jerky together and you have nothing short of a delectable snack! The kind that your family and kids will be raving about for a long time. If you are yet to try out a homemade bacon jerky recipe, you’re just in time.
Today, we’ll be looking at all the steps, ingredients, and cooking methods to achieving a tasty pork jerky. You may already be familiar with the traditional beef version, and if not, our guide will walk you every step of the way. Get your tools ready and let’s get started!
What is Bacon Jerky?
The name relays it all. This is jerky made from bacon. The thing with jerky is you can experiment with all kinds of meat including salmon. And the definitive factor about it is the rubbery texture that it possesses once done.
Unlike just any meat, jerky is cured for preservation. This explains why it has an elevated shelf life that could go up to weeks. Store it in the refrigerator and it can easily last for months. The name from which it is coined (“ch’arki”) translates to mean dried salted meat. That tells you for jerky to be jerky, at the baseline, it has to be fermented and dried.
Traditionally, it is cut into lean strips so that it cooks well but more importantly so that it rids off all those inherent juices to the extent possible. It’s a careful balance because again you don’t want jerky that will injure your gum or come off as too tough to chew.
A Few Basics First
Before we delve into the main bit, bacon is one of those eats that blend well with almost anything, either as a main dish or as a building block. Throw on just about any type of seasoning and you can bet it won’t go south. This is in itself is an added advantage, in that you could hardly go wrong when cooking with bacon. Plus it takes the pressure off needing to be super cautious.
That said, today’s recipe needs not a wizard in the kitchen. Provided you’ve cooked some bacon before, or have an idea of how it’s done, you’re already halfway there. And being a slice of versatile meat, there’s the liberty to season it with your favorite ingredients, something you can spin far and wide if you want to.
Whatever you have in your kitchen will do the trick, whether it’s an oven or a smoker. It does pay though to invest in a handy food dehydrator if you’re going to be making jerky a lot often or in bulk. A dehydrator fine-tunes the drying process which is the backbone of any jerky. It’s what gives that nice chewy consistency that we all love.
Again, with a dehydrator by your side, you need not take as many hours in the preparation stage. It’s the ideal unit to cut back on the long hours. Here are a few top picks.
Given to choose, smoking is a preferred method when it comes to making jerky. Some argue that coating with liquid smoke and using an oven renders tremendous results similar to a smoker box, but this is debatable. Nothing compares to the wood-infused flavor that catches on as the meat is cooking low and slow.
To cover all ground, we’ll be looking at both approaches so you decide which one works better.
Thick Bacon Strips vs Regular Cuts
Now that we have established bacon as one of the key ingredients, the next question is how to cut it up. Straight from the meat counter, you’re not going to worry about this because most times it is sold already chopped. But if you’re starting from scratch, pay attention.
Regular cuts are significantly thinner and will result in much crunchier and crispier bites. Thicker versions on the other hand come closer to the standard jerky consistency we’re used to. They are also easier. Pro-tip, ensure that your bacon is semi-frozen and not slippery so that the cutting glides through effortlessly.
How you slice up your bacon will also play a hand in the cooking time. The danger with going too thick is you will need to adjust the preparation time to longer durations. Something you do not want especially when you’re pressed for time.
In that case, using a sharp knife, slice the bacon into about ½ an inch thick. Strive not to exceed the ¾ inch mark or else you’ll have gone too far. If you’re worried about fitting them into a baking sheet, the good news is that they shrink as they cook so this will not be a problem.
Another mental note worth making is that fat does not go hand in hand with jerky. In the case of bacon, steering clear of fat is almost next to impossible but you can find a way to maneuver. Go for bacon with a higher red meat ratio. If not, you’ll have to trim excess fat before tossing it into the cooker.
Making Bacon Jerky in an Oven
There’s not much prior preparation with this recipe and that’s what makes it all the more practical. All you need is a few ingredients for the dry rub, a bit of handwork to get the strips evenly coated on both sides and you’re good to go. Some of the spices we have found to be loveable include brown sugar, freshly grounded black pepper, and some salt to add flavor.
It’s simple but if you like you could alternatively go with a wet rub and mix in a lot more, whatever floats your boat.
Here are the steps:
- Have your oven pre-heating in the background. Aim for temperatures between 180F-200F.
- In the meantime bring out your baking sheet and cooling rack and arrange the strips on top. Leave about a ¼ inch of space between each ensuring they do not touch.
- In case you applied a wet rub and have it in excess, pat it down a notch so that you don’t end up making a mess in your oven.
- Place your baking sheet inside and set a timer for 2-3 hours. You will need to monitor the progress and midway flip the strips as you go so that they cook evenly. Also, you can recoat the seasonings to give the jerky a richer taste.
- If you have a dehydrator, once the set time elapses, transfer your jerky here and bring down the temperature to about 160-190F. If not leave it in the oven to finish drying at the previous temperature.
- Cook for another 2-3 hours until the jerky reaches the desired consistency before pulling it out.
- Leave it cool for some time before serving or storing it.
The good thing about using an oven is that it is more hands-off. Once up to temperature, the range remains fairly consistent throughout the cook. So you can say it’s kind of a set-and-forget approach. You could use a digital thermometer to keep track of how the jerky is cooking and confirm that it’s reached the safe zone.
The extra step of layering a baking sheet or aluminum foil spares you a lot of time that would otherwise go into the aftermath of cleanups.
Smoking Bacon Jerky
Earlier on we identified smoking as a superior approach because of the excellent flavor and smoky color it imparts. The truth is you’re going to be more involved if you choose to go down this road but the results will be worth the work. Again, with smoking, the cooking is controlled so you have lesser chances of making an error.
Follow the following procedure:
- Begin by preparing a hot charcoal bed with your lumps and wood chips/chunks.
- This should be done the furthest way possible from the main cooking chamber because you want less direct heat when you start smoking.
- Bring up your smoker to approximately 200F, not exceeding the 250 marks.
- To stay on top of the temperatures you will need to adjust the vents accordingly, while at the same time feeding wood into the fire systematically.
- Once your smoker is ready, lay the strips on to the grill grates spaced evenly. Have a baking sheet underneath to collect the drippings and pool of grease.
- Set a timer and let the seasoned strips smoke for roughly 2 and ½ hours.
- Be back from time to time to check the progress of the cook and whether the desired temperature is being maintained.
- Finish the cooking in the dehydrator for an extra 2- 3hours and let your jerky cool off for some time before digging in.
Remember working with bacon will often result in a lot more fat drippings. So as it cooks you might need to interrupt occasionally with a paper towel to blot out the excess grease. Two to three rounds will suffice depending on how much fat renders. If need be, you could go over as many times as possible to get the bacon looking stably dry. On the flip side don’t overdo it because then you’ll lose too much heat.
To get the best flavors, consider using hickory along with fruitwood such as maple, cherry, apple, or peach. The combination blends a sweet yet earthy flavor to the bacon. Still, on the tools, a smoker thermometer is your best bet to avoiding an unexpected spike. Get one with an instant read and you will be safe.
Favorite Bacon Jerky Recipes
Because bacon jerky is a whole world of possibilities, we narrowed it down to some of the finest recipes out there. From sugary to peppery and everything in between, here are some of the much-loved varieties.
- Brown sugar candied
- Roasted garlic
- Maple chipotle
- Cajun creole
- Pecan rosemary
- Coffee and chocolate
- Honey sriracha sweet
- Sweet BBQ
You may have already guessed it but the Honey Sriracha recipe stands a shoulder tall above the rest. It’s the perfect combination of sweet and spicy and you’re likely going to enjoy snacking on this one.
How to Store Bacon Jerky
When you’ve prepared your jerky in bulk, having the right storage tools comes in handy. Invest in zipper bags or airtight glass jars that can clip down with ease. The whole point is to keep away air or moisture that would otherwise cause it to go bad.
In that case, after your bacon has cooled off, pack a couple of ounces in a single bag. A weighing machine will help keep track of the measurements. And if you want to double-check that all air is driven out, apply a vacuum sealer machine.
Dried bacon jerky can last for days even months, at room temperature, without freezing. But if you want it to last longer then it might be a good idea to store it away in the refrigerator.
When your bacon jerky tears apart with a bit of resistance you hit the jackpot! Now you can enjoy your nutritious yet tantalizing feast for days on end, at any time.
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