Smoked Bacon Came Out Tough (What Went Wrong + Fixes)

We can all agree that bacon’s umami, salty, melt-in-your-mouth fatty flavor is entirely addicting. 

At its best, it has the perfect texture balance of chewy, soft, and crispy.

But, for all those that have had a go at smoking their own bacon, we can tell you it doesn’t always come out at this perfect, desired texture. No, no.

So if your smoked bacon came out a bit tougher than you’d hoped for, don’t worry, it’s all part of the learning process.

Here are all the possible causes of tough smoked bacon, a few small fixes, and what you can do to prevent it from happening!

Most people would agree that bacon is the best part of breakfast. But, to many of us, we say bacon can be the best part of breakfast, lunch, or dinner!

Unfortunately, not all bacon comes out equal. When you’re smoking your own bacon there are a few things you need to get right, otherwise, you risk your bacon coming out tough, chewy, or rubbery.

I guarantee it’s happened to all of us at least once. 

Don’t stress, it’s all part of the learning process.

When smoking your own bacon you need to adopt some strategies to avoid it going tough, but also equally adopt some strategies to help it become tender. It’s a two-part process.

Here’s everything in detail.

What Causes Tough Smoked Bacon

Smoking bacon isn’t at easy as smoking other typical barbecue meats, like ribs or pork shoulder.

There are a few more steps to get right in the preparation and cooking of the bacon to ensure it remains soft and flavorful, and not tough and chewy.

Even if all the other steps have been done right, there are a few mistakes that can easily cause your smoked bacon to end up tough. The most common mistakes that lead to tough smoked bacon are:

  • Smoking Bacon At Too High Of A Heat
  • Not Enough Fat In The Bacon
  • You Didn’t Take The Skin Off
  • You Didn’t Let It Rest
  • The Bacon Is Not Sliced Across The Grain
  • The Bacons Cut Too Thick
  • You’ve Cooked The Bacon Straight Out Of The Fridge Or Freezer

Smoking Bacon In Too High Heat

Like most meats that you smoke, bacon benefits from low and slow cooking. 

This low and slow cooking allows time for all the fat and connective tissue within the pork to break down and become tender.

In order to allow enough time for this process to fully take effect, you should be smoking your bacon at temperatures between 200°F and 225°F.

If you smoke your bacon at higher temperatures, it will reach the desired internal temperature of 170°F-180°F before all the fat and connective tissue has properly broken down.

The result? Tough and chewy bacon.

Not Enough Fat

Fat is flavor. But, too much fat can be a bit too oily and gelatinous too. So where do you draw the line?

Well, when it comes to bacon, you certainly need a good portion of fat within the meat for it to become tender. Using the right cut of pork helps a tonne. 

Always use pork belly. Try to use the middle or side belly for maximum flavor, with the right amount of fat.

Before marinating or partially curing your bacon, be sure to remove all the skin on the belly, along with SOME of the excess fat. There’s normally enough fat within the meat for that prime, delicious, tenderness you want.

Tip: Keep all the excess pork fat and use it to make some amazing lard.

You Didn’t Take The Skin Off

When the topic of pork skin comes up you immediately think of crackling.

But, in order to make crackling you need high heat to remove all the moisture from the skin, allowing it to dehydrate and crispen up.

When you cook pork skin low and slow, it doesn’t dehydrate quick enough and the moist is effectively locked in, causing things to become very tough and chewy!

That’s why you take the skin off pork belly before making burnt ends too!

Whenever you’re smoking bacon it’s imperative to remove that skin!

You Didn’t Let It Rest

Think of bacon like a middle-aged father, he needs a bit of a rest when he’s finished work!

In the same way, after the bacon has been smoking away for hours, it needs to relax and let the fat continue to render and for the moisture to redistribute and become reabsorbed into the meat.

Don’t feel tempted to cut up the bacon right then and there, it actually benefits from at least 4 hours of resting, if not overnight.

Plus, slicing bacon when it’s cold is a lot easier and better than when it’s hot!

Not Sliced Across The Grain

We’ve all heard the story about the one that sliced their bacon with the grain. They’re still chewing.

Really, slicing your bacon against the grain couldn’t be more important when it comes to texture.

Slicing against the grain will shorten the muscle fibers, making them much easier to break down when you chew them. It also ensures that there is an even amount of fat and meat running through the slice. 

If you can’t see the grain, slice off one of the edges and look at which way the fibers are running!

Bacon Is Cut Too Thick

As simple as it seems, slicing bacon too thick can often turn something ordinarily tender, into something a bit more tough and chewy.

If you’ve cooked yourself a beautifully soft and tender slab of bacon, then you can get away with slightly thicker slices.

But, if it has come out a bit tough, your best bet is to slice them a bit thinner and you’ll really feel the difference.

Cooking Bacon Straight Out Of The Fridge

Just like when cooking any meat, you need to let it come down to room temperature before you start to cook it.

If you toss your smoked bacon onto a hot pan straight out of the fridge, the fat will actually seize up, rather than rendering down.

If the fat seizes up, it becomes gummy and chewy, and a lot harder to bite through.

How to Fix Tough Smoked Bacon

Unfortunately, there’s not much you can do to immediately turn tough bacon into tender bacon once it’s cooked.

If your smoked bacon came out a little tougher than you’d hoped, you can try slicing it slightly thinner than normal. This will help by making each bite that much easier to chew. But it’s not game-changing.

Instead, the best way to fix tough smoked bacon is to learn from your mistakes, and remember the three key steps to smoking tender, juicy, bacon:

  1. Low and slow: Temperatures between 200-225°F slowly smoke the bacon, allowing enough time for all the fat to break down.
  2. Take the skin off, and trim back a fit of the fat. It helps to use middle or side-cut pork belly!
  3. Slice your bacon thinly, against the grain, after letting it rest for at least 4 hours.

Quick Summary

You want your bacon tender, fatty, and utterly addicting.

To avoid tough smoked bacon, make sure you avoid smoking at high temperatures, allow your smoked bacon to rest for an adequate time, and slice it properly.

If you use the right cut of pork, are patient with the cook, and have prepared your meat correctly then you’ll enjoy delicious tender homemade bacon.  That’s for sure.

Save me a bite!

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