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I have come across a website in the UK which delivers bacon through the normal post. They claim that their bacon is cured by a process that does not require refrigeration.

Bacon through the post? Does it not need to be chilled? In a word - No. Bacon by its very nature was created to preserve pork long before we had refrigeration, however as today's modern process of manufacture is very much an industrial one most bacon needs to be refrigerated or it just won't keep. Cure & Simple bacon is handmade using an old fashioned process and has water actively removed which means if the seal remains intact on the packet our bacon doesn't need to be refrigerated. However we bow our heads to modern practise and choose to keep our products chilled, so that you have the peace of mind that when our bacon goes through your door it's in the best possible condition.

I am confused by this, since I understand that their bacon is not 'ready to eat' - it still requires cooking before you can consume it hence to my mind it is not a true cure (like for example Iberico Ham). Is there a way of curing bacon which still requires cooking before consumption but renders the product shelf stable?

  • Where do you get from this text that you need to cook it? – Luciano Jan 24 at 16:58
  • Traditionally bacon was cured (in salt) and then smoked. Both processes allow bacon to be preserved without refrigeration. – roetnig Jan 24 at 18:16
  • @Luciano It is not in this text - but it does give cooking instructions on the packet which you receive. – EdHunter Jan 25 at 8:41
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By USDA's own standards, dry cure bacon is room temperature safe, if sliced for 10 days, slab up to 3 weeks (see here). Would I do it, probably not, but it is classed as safe without refrigeration. The salt and nitrite levels in the product are high enough to keep pathogens killed for that long at levels the USDA calls safe and likely UK agencies are similar. Quality is another mater, and having cured plenty of my own bacon, I frankly would not do it. Posting it in sealed packages, sure, no problem, but once I received it, it would be refrigerated both to extend the safe life, and quality.

In the US, and I would assume in the UK as well, most streaky bacon sold today is not dry cured, it is injected with the curing agents and fast cured. These products are in no way shelf stable in the uncooked state.

These products are both fully cured, and may have been fully smoked or at least heated to safe temperatures. In the US, I cannot say the label is required, but I have seem plenty packaged with the label "fully cooked" meaning that through either smoking or other heating they have been taken to safe temperature. Not labeled this way they may not have been heated and only had liquid smoke applied so are still raw. Curing kills most pathogens, but cooking to temp is still needed to finish the job so without that labeling I would consider it unsafe to eat, but none would readily be considered ready to eat. This would be from a palatable standard though, not a safety standard. Most consumers would not find the un-rendered fat and chewiness of streaky bacon straight from a pack good.

There also remains many other definitions for bacon, some of which are hard cured and aged for months which are shelf stable, but by your quoted description, this product is most likely dry cured streaky bacon.

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According the the USDA bacon can be made shelf stable by the curing and a pre-cooking process at the factory. If water activity is reduced to at or below 0.85 it can be listed as "shelf stable." Bacon cured without nitrates or nitrates must have the label "Not Preserved, Keep Refrigerated Below 40 °F At All Times." While you might not enjoy it, you could safely eat properly cured (meaning the use of nitrates or nitrites, and low water activity) bacon raw. Of course, the safety risk increases once packages are opened, moisture from storage is present, and product is handled. Cooking mitigates these risks.

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