Bacon Jerky answers the call when you are looking for a delicious snack, a special treat, or a star for your charcuterie board. Smoked Bacon Jerky is easy to make and packs a ton of flavor.
One of our favorite ways to entertain is to make a large charcuterie board and add a few unique homemade items in addition to all the cheeses, crackers, and spreads. This bacon jerky is a great way to kick up a cheese board to a new level.
It is also a fun snack to bring camping or to a party. I recently brought it to a father-daughter camping trip I took my girls on and it was devoured in seconds.
What is Bacon Jerky?
Jerky is an ancient way to preserve meat that humans have been doing for thousands of years. As the moisture is removed from the meat, it is able to last longer without rotting. Beef, pork, poultry, and fish can all be made into jerky. Beef Jerky is one of the more common ones that we see in the United States. Bacon Jerky is no different. Bacon jerky, because of the amount of fat, is not able to be stored as long as others like beef. But it does make for a deliciously chewy treat.
We can marinade, season, and flavor the bacon in several different ways to achieve different options. Whether it be sweet, spicy, or a balance of both, Bacon Jerky is delicious.
How Do You Make Jerky?
In short, you cook the bacon at a low temperature for a long period of time to slowly remove the majority of moisture from the meat. You can do this in a food dehydrator, an oven, or in our case, we will cook it in our smoker to provide a great smoky flavor.
Ingredients for Bacon Jerky
Bacon - Thick-cut bacon strips are the best choice. Approximately ¼ inch is the best thickness. Too much thinner, the bacon can easily become too crispy and brittle for jerky. Any thicker, it gets very tough to remove all the moisture from the fat.
We will do the bacon two ways. We will make a sweet marinade, and then we will also make a sweet and spicy sauce that we will apply before we smoke it.
Combine balsamic vinegar, and brown sugar into a Ziplock bag along with bacon slices. Massage it to thoroughly coat the bacon in the marinade. Place it in the refrigerator overnight or for at least two hours to marinade and allow the bacon to absorb those flavors. After it is done marinading, remove the bacon from the bag and lay them out on a baking rack in preparation to place them on the smoker.
Sweet and Spicy Sauce
Combine honey and sriracha for a perfect balance of sweet and spicy. Here is my recipe for Honey Sriracha sauce. It is very easy to make. Lay the bacon out on a baking rack and using a basting brush, apply the sauce to the bacon. Flip the bacon to ensure you coat both sides. This is a great sweet sriracha bacon jerky recipe.
How to Smoke Bacon Jerky
Decide on the flavor you want for your bacon jerky. If you are going with the marinade, prep it earlier in the day or even the night before. If you weren't prepared to marinade the bacon, go with the sauce approach.
I do like to smoke bacon on a wire rack. Place the wire cooling rack over a baking sheet that is lined with aluminum foil. You don't need to do this, but it keeps all the bacon grease from creating a giant mess in your smoker that you will need to clean up later.
Preheat your smoker to not much more than 200 - 225 degrees F. Low and slow is important for this smoker. An electric smoker or pellet grill is easy to set a low temperature, if you are using a traditional smoker, you will need to adjust your vent to lower the air flow to keep a low temperature.
Can you also make Bacon Jerky in the oven? Yes. Just set the oven temperature to 200°F and follow the same instruction. Be sure to use a drip pan under the bacon or your oven will be an absolute mess.
Once the smoker is preheated, place the bacon on the wire rack and the tray beneath, onto the smoker and close the lid. After about two hours, flip the bacon over. This will ensure that the rendering fat is able to drip off of both sides.
Pro Tip: If you are looking for some added flavor, you can also reapply your sauce every three hours. If you want to have a strong smoky bacon flavor, then just let it be. Either way, this is delicious.
How do I know when the Jerky is done?
For this smoke, we will not monitor an internal temperature here, rather we are looking for a certain chewy texture for the bacon. We want the bacon to be able to bend and crack a bit. We do not want it to be brittle and crumble. The best way is to pick up a piece of bacon from the smoker and test it. I recommend starting to test the bacon after three to four hours on the smoker. This will all depend on the thickness of the bacon you are using. If it isn't done yet, give it another 40 minutes and test again. Testing every 40 to 60 minutes or so is a safe way to ensure you don't overcook it.
If you are using thin or regular cut bacon, you want to start checking the texture at about the two-hour mark.
When the Bacon Jerky is done, remove it from the smoker and place it on a bed of paper towels to allow any excess grease to be removed. Once it cools, go ahead and serve. If you are making this ahead of time, you can easily store the smoked Bacon Jerky in a Ziplock bag or airtight container and place it in the refrigerator. The beef jerky will easily keep for up to a week in the refrigerator.
Other Jerky Flavors
Maple Jerky - This sweet jerky uses just maple syrup as a sauce to coat the bacon before smoking it. This is a delicious, sweet treat, especially for those that don't like spicy heat.
Dry Rub Jerky - An easy dry rub of garlic powder, onion powder, dark brown sugar, sea salt, and smoked paprika to give this Bacon Jerky a wonderful classic BBQ taste.
Spicy Jerky - Use a mix of red pepper flakes, black pepper, and cayenne pepper to coat your bacon before smoking. This will have a high level of heat that is perfect for a hot element on your charcuterie board. Serve this with a cool dip for a great flavor combination.
Go Simple - If you are pressed on time and ingredients, you can always just use your favorite BBQ Sauce or Hot sauce to quickly flavor this bacon jerky before smoking it.
How to Serve Bacon Jerky
Homemade bacon jerky can be used in so many ways. Besides just munching on it as is here are a couple of other options:
- Chop it up and use it as a topping for Skrewball Whiskey Ice Cream.
- Or use it as a garnish on Loaded Baked Potatoes.
- 1.5 lbs bacon thick-cut
- ¼ cup balsamic vinegar
- ¼ cup brown sugar
Honey Sriracha Sauce
- 2 oz honey
- 1 teaspoon sriracha sauce
- ½ teaspoon salt
- First, decide if you are going to marinade the bacon or use a sauce.
- To marinate, combine brown sugar and balsamic vinegar in a ziplock bag and mix. Then add bacon slices and allow it to marinade in the refrigerator for at least two hours. Then remove the bacon slices from the marinade and place them on a wire cooling rack.
- If you are using a sauce, lay the bacon slices out on a wire cooling rack and apply sauce to both sides of the bacon.
- Line a baking pan with aluminon foil and place the rack of bacon over the pan. Then place the pan into your pre-heated smoker. Smoke the bacon at about 200°F, but no more than 225°F for four hours.
- At the four-hour mark, start to check the doneness of the bacon. The bacon jerky is done when it feels firm and dry but can still bend without breaking. If it cracks into several pieces, it is too brittle and that means it has overcooked. If it is not done at the four-hour mark, recheck it every 30 or 40 minutes. If you have thin bacon, you may want to start checking it at the three-hour mark.
- When the bacon is done, remove it from the smoker and place it on some paper towels to absorb any extra grease. You can store it in an air-tight container in the refrigerator for up to a week.