We’re always looking for more ways to consume bacon, right? This smoked bacon jerky is spicy, sweet, and absolutely impossible to stop eating. Oh, you don’t believe me? I dare you to make some. Do yourself a favor and buy a few packs of thick cut bacon, you’re going to need them.
Bacon Lovers, Rejoice!
There’s no question that I really love bacon. I’ve certainly created a few recipes celebrating bacon such as wrapping pickles and even topping burgers, but the smoked bacon jerky might be the best. Or worst, if you have a problem with bacon restraint. I’ve definitely shown my weakness during the process of recipe development here.
Isn’t this just candied bacon?
Let’s throw this question out there and address it right away. Bacon jerky is a cousin of candied bacon, same family but they have very individual personalities.
Candied bacon is cooked in the same way as traditional bacon, but with the addition of brown sugar. One of the most popular recipes on the web from Food & Wine shows you can simply make it in the oven at 400°F. You’ll have nice, crisp bacon you can chop up for pretty much any topping you’d like. It will be crisp, sugary, and greasy.
Bacon jerky takes that theory and amplifies it. The concept of jerky is to dehydrate cured meat, preventing bacteria growth and allowing the meat to have a longer shelf life. Drying out the bacon in the smoker or oven will do just that. You’ll have a snack that can definitely last for days, stored in a cool, dark place until you’re ready to enjoy. Which will be all the time.
The texture of bacon jerky is what you’d expect: slight crisp, perfect chew, not stringy. Candied bacon tends to be stickier, and tends to shatter due to the crispiness. Each of them has its place in the kitchen, but today we’re focused on the longer-lasting snack.
Thick Cut Bacon vs Regular Bacon
Choosing the right type of bacon might be obvious, but this is very important to point out. I highly recommend using thick cut bacon for the best results. You can pull it off with traditional bacon, but times will definitely vary, and you’ll need to be watching it much more closely.
Typical bacon tends to vary in thickness depending on which package you purchase. Different brands also show quite a bit of variance, from paper-thin slices to almost thick cut.
You’ll likely find that the best results will be purchasing thick cut bacon at the butcher counter. Yes, you can also use your own homemade bacon for this recipe.
What do I need to make smoked bacon jerky?
No surprise, I’m going to recommend that you use a smoker. This is a situation where a pellet grill will do the job very well, keeping it simple with a constant stream of very low temperature smoke. You’re going to want to smoke the bacon at 180-200 °F. This will slow the cooking process, drawing out the moisture from the bacon without crisping it first. The key for jerky.
You’ll also need to pick up some Sriracha, or your preferred hot sauce. I recommend a thicker hot sauce, otherwise, the glaze might be too thin. There aren’t too many ingredients which means that there are fewer variables.
Can I use an oven to make bacon jerky?
Yes, you absolutely can make bacon jerky in the oven. There are a few tips I’ll share to make sure you are successful.
Make sure you set the oven to 200 °F for the entire cook. Use a wire rack with a baking sheet underneath to catch all of the grease coming off. The baking pan from USA Pan is a perfect example, also large enough for quite a bit of bacon.
Read along for the rest of the process, which will walk you through tips and tricks for both the oven and the smoker.
Simple Bacon Glaze
Bacon is cured already, so it’s loaded with sodium. Many recipes out there will recommend for you to add your favorite BBQ seasoning or spices. I’m here to tell you not to use premade BBQ rubs, unless you really love salt.
You’re welcome to use your own rub, but realize that the end results will be very different. The glaze below is super key for creating that shiny, sugary coating encapsulating the delicious smoked bacon. BBQ rubs will likely have a form of sugar as well, so read the ingredients carefully if you choose to use one.
This glaze is the way, keep it simple and delicious with spicy, tangy, and sweet.
Bacon Jerky Glaze
- 2 tbsp Sriracha, or other thick hot sauce
- 1 tbsp Dijon mustard
- 1/4 cup brown sugar
Surprised? Yeah, that’s it. Mixing the 3 ingredients will create just enough of a glaze for a very thin coat. Trust me that’s all you need. There’s plenty of spice and sugar in each bite, and you won’t have a sticky mess at the end.
If you feel that this is too spicy, adjust the ratio of Dijon to Sriracha accordingly. The Dijon is not overpowering and gives the smoked bacon jerky this honey mustard profile, which is crazy delicious.
Tips for Cooking the Bacon Jerky
Keep the bacon separated, making sure it’s not touching. This is tough when you want to load up your smoker or oven with pounds upon pounds, but it’s very crucial when making jerky. You need the airflow to dry out the meat properly. Overlapping bacon will create spots of still-moist areas, improperly dried. While this would be a tasty bite regardless, it will spoil much quicker due to the potential for rancid fat. Be safe, spread it out.
Blot the grease, and flip halfway through. As the bacon dries out, it will squeeze out some of the grease. Far less than you think too, due to the extremely low cooking temperature. Just take a paper towel and blot it lightly, flipping as well to cover both sides. (See below image)
You are the judge, so check it after 3-4 hours to make sure it’s cooked to your preference. After much testing, I’ve found that 4 hours is the sweet spot for me. The bacon is firm, yet fairly pliable. It stands up on its own with a slight bend before it snaps. Look for those features, and if nothing else, take a bite and test it out.
See the image below for a peek after 4 hours of smoking low, around 200 °F. It’s darker, still pliable yet crisp.
Every slice could be slightly different, depending on the hotspots of your smoker, the glaze you put on, or the variance in thickness. Pull pieces off if you see they are done.
Frequently Asked Questions
Yes, but if you’re using a liquid sweetener such as honey, maple syrup, or molasses I would use a little less than 1/4 cup of brown sugar from the recipe. The key is the thickness of the glaze, so try out different combinations and see what works for you. 1/4 cup of molasses is incredibly strong and sweet, where 1/4 cup honey is much milder.
Probably. I have not tested this out, but if I were going to I’d likely smoke the bacon for 2 hours, blot it, and then add it into a dehydrator. It would take much longer to dry out in a dehydrator, closer to 4-6 hours overall.
Absolutely. Try a thin glaze of your favorite sweet BBQ sauce. Whatever you choose to use, make sure to pay attention to the added salt.