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Mar 1, 2007 05:34 AM

Nitrate Free Bacon- what's the difference?

Is there any noticeable difference between regular bacon and nitrate free bacon? I see nitrate free bacon at Trader Joe's all the time and have been tempted to try it. What brand should I try? Thanks, Richie

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  1. America's Test Kitchen had the results of their bacon testing and they disliked the nitrite free sample because it was too pale and didn't taste like bacon.

    The winner with nitrites was Farmland.

    13 Replies
    1. re: sharonanne

      Niman Ranch Dry Cured Center Cut Bacon won the taste test for Premium Brands ($5/12 oz. at TJ's); Farmland ($4/lb) won the taste test for Supermarket Brands.

      Niman Ranch was the "hands-down winner over Farmland."


      1. re: maria lorraine

        Yeah, I wasn't impressed by the other Niman Ranch bacons, but I recently tried the Dry Cured, Applewood Smoked at TJ's and it was excellent.

      2. re: sharonanne

        Of course they did. Most people like fake foods that taste good, but I like real food that taste even better and that goes for bacon too! I wish the FDA would stop chemically making so called food. I am so sick of them adding extra stuff to the foods we eat. Let's start eating the foods that GOD put on this earth for us without the added nitrites. FDA stop playing with are food!

        1. re: nongmos

          What form of bacon has "GOD put on this earth for us without the added nitrites"?

          Or, nitrates?

          Cured bacon has nitrates and nitrites. Uncured bacon has nitrates and nitrites from celery juice. Either way you're getting them.

          1. re: maria lorraine

            No so, you are mistaken. Uncured bacon does not have to contain celery juice. you do not always get nitrates.

            1. re: Kathy Schroeder

              Happy to check out brands that contain no nitrates or nitrites. Please recommend them so I can follow up.

          2. re: nongmos

            Using nitrates to preserve food long predates the existence of the FDA, even before the existence of the USA. Saltpeter (potasium nitrate) has been used as a preservative for hundreds of years. Remember that widespread refrigeration only became available in the last century. Without preserving by some process (e.g. curing, smoking, drying) there would have been no way to keep the meat from a slaughtered animal safe and edible for very long after the kill.

            Welcome to Chowhound but I think you should research traditional methods of food preservation a bit more before declaring nitrates some sort of evil government conspiracy.

            1. re: kmcarr

              Plain salt works for food preservation (without the nitrates.) It has also been used for 100s of years also. It is not the only choice.

              1. re: Kathy Schroeder

                I've checked the USDA website on bacon and nitrites/nitrates. You can read it here:


                Looks like nitrites are mandated, but nitrates are not.

                Obviously, this is bacon produced commercially for sale, not homemade bacon.

                Others will certainly have additional insight, and -- as mentioned earlier -- I would love to know the brand names of bacon that have no nitrites or nitrates and no naturally occurring form of those, as in celery juice/powder/salt, etc.

                1. re: maria lorraine

                  From your link

                  Can bacon be made without the use of nitrite?
                  Bacon can be manufactured without the use of nitrite, but must be labeled "Uncured Bacon, No Nitrates or Nitrites added" and bear the statement "Not Preserved, Keep Refrigerated Below 40 °F At All Times" — unless the final product has been dried according to USDA regulations, or if the product contains an amount of salt sufficient to achieve an internal brine concentration of 10% or more, the label does not have to carry the handle statement of "Not Preserved, Keep Refrigerated below ___" etc. Recent research studies have shown for products labeled as uncured, certain ingredients added during formulation can naturally produce small amounts of nitrates in bacon and, therefore, have to be labeled with the explanatory statement "no nitrates or nitrites added except for those naturally occurring in ingredients such as celery juice powder, parsley, cherry powder, beet powder, spinach, sea salt etc."

                  1. re: paulj

                    The point is the nitrites are still there in the celery-cured bacon, and it's just deceptive labeling calling the bacon nitrite-free or uncured.

                    1. re: maria lorraine

                      Regulated deception.

                      But is 'uncured' a good thing or not? Is 'nitrate free' good or bad? Like 'gluten free' it's all in the faddish perception.

                      They can't say 'nitrate free' if celery is added.

              2. re: kmcarr

                Nitrates is diffinetly a evil has a economic purpose. In fact, most of our food is nothing but poison and that's why other countries will not buy American fake bull××××. You got companies protesting against labeling. Go figure that one out folks!!!

          3. The original comment has been removed
            1. In my experience it is the difference between tasty bacon and fake. Nitrite, whatever the health issues, make a superior tasting bacon. I wish it weren't the case but...

              7 Replies
              1. re: JudiAU

                fair enough. i suppose the question is where you draw the line between eating something based PRIMARILY upon the taste and eating it thinking something about how it affects your body.

                1. re: ben61820

                  Yep. Go figure. We don't eat processed foods generally and we eat organic foods almost exclusively but I make an exception for those lovely nitrites. We also cure a lot of our own meats and use them at home.

                  1. re: JudiAU

                    I grew up on a farm, we cured our own meats. Dad did not use nitrates for the hams and bacon. we used salt,brown sugar, apple woodchips. (not saltpeter) Nitrates are not necessary.

                    1. re: Kathy Schroeder

                      What was the color of the bacon after curing? How salty, compared to modern store bought stuff?

                      " It just so happens that sodium nitrite is especially effective at preventing the growth of Clostridium botulinum."

                      If your family air dried and smoked the meat, and never wrapped in plastic, then the salt was probably sufficient for long term storage.

                      "It appears that compounds present in wood smoke have anti-microbial actions that prevent the growth of organisms that cause spoilage.

                      Read more: Food Preservation - Scientific Principles, Historical Methods Of Preservation, Thermal Processes, Packaging, Chemical Additives, Irradiation - Drying, Foods, Freezing, and Product - JRank Articles"
                      I haven't found a description of these smoke produced chemicals. I wouldn't be surprised if they included nitrites. If vegetables like celery contain nitrates, it is possible that wood does as well. Plus burning uses air, which contains nitrogen.

                      Keep in mind that commercial curing mixes are mostly salt and sugar. Morton's Tenderquick is only 1% nitrates/nitrites.

                      1. re: paulj

                        Nitrogen oxides are formed in wood smoke combining with myoglobin in the meat to form nitric acids giving smoked meat it's characteristic pink color. In cured meats there are nitrates. Added or naturally occurring.

                      2. re: Kathy Schroeder

                        Kathy, your family hams/bacon sound tasty, but my sense was the thread was about commercially produced bacon without nitrites/nitrates consumers can buy, rather than make.

                  2. re: JudiAU

                    I love Trader Joe's Nitrite-free (except for the celery juice) pre cooked bacon. Just good rich bacony flavor. And it keeps so well. Longer than regular bacon. So handy, too.

                  3. Nitrite-free bacon usually has much more sodium, because they add more salt to compensate. I always find it too salty. And the worst thing out there is nitite-free turkey bacon -- it is so awful that I wonder who in the world buys that stuff.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: pitterpatter

                      I was going to mention the same thing. I remember looking it over in TJ's and thinking I am just substituting one no-no for another. I ended up sticking with the Niman Ranch product.

                    2. NOBODY better mess with my bacon. It's one of my last vices and I'll guard it until my heart stops beating. Purveyors of fakon, be forewarned!!!

                      5 Replies
                      1. re: bkhuna

                        Actually, they are linking more disseases to smaller amounts of nitrites every day. It is a dangerous gamble. If you are eating them in lunch meat, bacon, ham etc., it tends to add up. A huge study was published this month about increased heart attack rates with only a few servings a week...keep in mind, nitrites are almost always the last ingredient. That makes it barely present in a serving of food.

                          1. re: hsirrapyesdnil

                            I've just combed through the medical studies from the National Library of Medicine on nitrites in foods, and my sense is that the danger of nitrites in food is overstated. Nitrites are in all plants, especially celery, in our drinking water; nitrities are commonly used in beneficial medicines. My take on things is that a little delicious bacon every now and then is not overconsumption of nitrites, and that perhaps any alarm about nitrities should first be addressed to their presence in our tap water. A search of naturally occurring nitrites in plants is also interesting.

                            1. re: maria lorraine

                              Intersting you mentioned celery...

                              It reminded me that a few months ago I read an article that claimed some nitrate-free bacon makers cheated by using celery powder (which as you stated contains high levels of nitrates) instead of sodium nitrate. Since the producer didn't use sodium nitrate, they can claim it to be nitrate-free, even though they added nitrates via the celery powder. Also, you won't necessarily see celery powder on the ingredients list it can be listed as a "natural flavoring".

                              Kind of weasely in my book if that is the case.

                              1. re: maria lorraine

                                Just because it's found in water and the plants doesn't mean it's innocuous:

                                "Primary sources of organic nitrates include human sewage and livestock manure, especially from feedlots. The primary inorganic nitrates which may contaminate drinking water are potassium nitrate and ammonium nitrate both of which are widely used as fertilizers."

                                They are present in such amounts as a result of industrial agricultural practices, not because it's normal and healthy.