Bacon can definitely taste like ham, and there is one main reason why this happens. It comes down to the technique that’s used to make the bacon.
I’ve been making bacon and ham for nearly 20 years and have tried many different techniques. Hams comes in many varieties and so does bacon!
But the main reason is this one below:
Bacon can taste like ham because one technique uses the same technique. Which is wet salt brined, hot smoking and low-temperature indirect cooking the bacon.
As opposed to dry cured bacon, which isn’t cooked or wet brined like smoked ham.
Dry cured bacon is dry cured and then dried out, not cooked and smoked.
That’s it in a nutshell!
If you use the same technique for making ham and also for streaky bacon, which is using the pork belly you’re going to get the same results.
Of course, bacon can be made from many different cuts. Pork belly is used most of the time but I’ve also tried it with shoulder or loin. It has a different taste and flavor profile depending on the cut of meat and the ratio of fat to meat.
What is Smoked Ham?
Ham is cooked and smoked. Yet, there are so many variations, and to make it really confusing – fresh ham which is just raw pork is done in the United States!
Now I’ll talk about the good old Xmas Ham which is customarily put into salt and some sugar wet brine.
For commercial purposes often the brine is injected using rows of needles to make sure that the cure is deep within the meat especially near any bones.
There is an uptake of water (& and sometimes extra ingredients to retain more moisture) that occurs which keeps the ham moist when it’s cooked and smoked at the same time. It also (sometimes) increases the profitability for the ham producing company, since they are selling the ham based on weight.
So basically there is the smoking and cooking stage but sometimes it is done with liquid smoke, too.
Liquid smoke is an essential oil reduction concentrated liquid and is used to give meat that smoke flavor. A shortcut to get the smokey flavor.
What is Bacon
Bacon is dry or wet salt cured and then either dried or hot smoked and cooked.
Dry Cured Bacon (Doesn’t Taste Like Ham)
Most people probably consider dry-cured bacon the real bacon by getting the right amount of salt into the bacon to preserve it, enhances flavor – I often use spices and sweeteners like honey or maple.
Then first off, there is a curing phase where the salt in the bacon inhibits most of the unwanted bacteria using the process of water binding and diffusion. These are the basics of the dry curing technique.
Then the meat is hung to dry out slightly so that smoke flavor adheres to it more easily.
Traditionally this is where cold smoking occurs, which is done under 86°F or 30°C. However, I prefer a lower temperature to prevent the risk of unwanted bacteria: I cold smoke my bacon at under 60°F or 15°C.
I will often do 5-8 hours of cold smoking on my homemade bacon.
Hot Smoked Bacon (Can Taste Like Ham)
Hot smoked bacon is one of the most popular ways of making bacon in the United States. I believe this is because people have been pushed away from cold smoking, maybe, due to some inaccurate information about the risks and process of cold smoking. Which I am trying to remedy with this site eatcuredmeat.com!
If the meat is salt-cured properly for cold smoking and then kept in a suitable environment, the risks can definitely be minimized.
With hot smoked bacon you use less salt for a salt cure and also less salt using a wet brine cure – like half approximately (1% vs 2% salt – equilibrium curing)
Most people prefer to brine since the moisture stays inside the meat, so when you move on to lower temperature indirect cooking and smoking you retain moisture.
At the end of the day, you are just doing a low and slow lightly salt-cured chunk of pork! Nothing wrong with it, but it tastes more like ham for many folks.
If you use the technique of brining, cooking, smoking the bacon, you’re using the same technique as producing a smoked ham.
Thanks for dropping by, I’ve been passionate about meat curing for around 20 years now. Having been lucky enough to learn inside fine dining kitchens through to backyard smoking sessions. From doing courses, trial & error and reading extensively – finally, I thought it was time to share my passion online.
My insatiable appetite and passion toward classic Italian dry-cured salumi and all forms of curing and smoking are what drives this website engine. All the best, Tom