Last Updated on July 5, 2023 by Practical Cooks
People often think of turkey bacon as the almond milk of the bacon world. It looks and tastes like bacon. But what is it, really? These strips of meat come from a turkey rather than a pig, and they are prepared in ways similar to pork bacon. This leaves it with a similar taste to the stuff we usually mean when we say “bacon.”
Bacon’s cult-like popularity has led foodies to try it in a variety of ways, from breakfast sides to milkshake toppings. Eventually, some adventurous eaters want to try it raw. Is that a good idea?
No. You should never eat undercooked or raw bacon of any kind, including turkey bacon.
Why does turkey bacon have to be cooked?
Prepare to be somewhat grossed out, here.
Like all meats, both pork and turkey bacon have a high risk of food poisoning. This is because of certain bacteria that can grow easily in raw or undercooked meat.
In fact, many people don’t realize that their raw meat likely arrives at their door contaminated with dangerous bacteria. This goes for all meats and animal products, but we will focus on what happens to turkey before it becomes bacon.
Salmonella and campylobacter live in the guts of many birds. During slaughter, these bacteria will reach the meat and continue to live and grow there until the meat is properly cooked. It is only when the meat has reached a certain heat for a specific amount of time that the bacteria die, and the food becomes safe to eat.
In addition, there may be parasitic worms living in the meat that you won’t see before you eat it. The only way to be certain these worms are dead and can’t infect you is to cook them until they can’t survive.
What happens if you eat it raw or undercooked?
Salmonella poisoning and trichinosis are two common concerns when it comes to consuming undercooked meat. Food poisoning from raw meat can be severe and require immediate medical attention. It is never a good idea to attempt this.
If you have consumed undercooked turkey bacon, pay close attention to your health for the next several days. Yes, days. Trichinosis, which comes from worms, may take some time to develop symptoms in your body. If you experience pain or vomiting, it’s time to get to the doctor and let them know what you have eaten.
How should you cook turkey bacon?
There are a few things to consider.
- Some turkey bacon you can buy at the store has already been cooked. If the package indicates the turkey bacon is fully cooked, then you can worry less about bacteria and parasites. However, the taste and texture probably won’t be what you’re looking for until you cook it again.
- Safe handling of meat. Wash your hands before and after handling the meat. This is because any bacteria in uncooked meat can transfer to your hands and end up on countertops, your phone, or other places where it puts you and others at risk.
- Oven. Most people have success with turkey bacon on a baking sheet at around 400°F ( 204°C)
for fifteen minutes or so. You can adjust the time slightly to get the crispiness you’re looking for.
- Air fryer. Using a single layer of turkey bacon, cook it around 390°F (199°C) for five to ten minutes. Then flip the bacon and continue to cook until it’s thoroughly crispy.
- Skillet. With some oil on the skillet, cook the bacon and flip it regularly until it becomes as crispy as you like it.
How long does turkey bacon last?
If you haven’t opened the package yet, you should be able to keep it a week or two after its best-by date. If you are keeping it this long, though, it is good practice to check the food for signs of mold or other problems before preparing it. Do a visual test and then smell it. If it looks and smells good, it should be fine.
Once you’ve opened the package, you should take any unused turkey bacon and keep it in an air-tight container in your refrigerator. This way, your turkey bacon should last another three to five days. Again, before you eat it, you should double-check that it hasn’t deteriorated in the fridge.
Can you eat turkey bacon while pregnant?
Obviously, the first step is to ask your doctor about any dietary concerns. Everyone’s pregnancy experience will be unique in some ways, and it’s best to be sure.
That said, bacon of any kind is generally considered safe for moms-to-be. It is crucial to cook the meat thoroughly to avoid food poisoning.
If you’re still worried about consuming bacon during pregnancy, there are some pretty delicious meat-free options available these days that might hit the spot.
Is turkey bacon healthier than pork bacon?
Not by much. Turkey bacon tends to have fewer calories than pork bacon, but the difference is minimal. Also, the sodium and cholesterol content are too high for people to eat often on a healthy diet. Some doctors recommend turkey over pork for their patients who absolutely cannot give up bacon, but the leaner meat also provides less protein and is often higher in sodium.
For those who need to avoid pork due to religious or other dietary restrictions, turkey bacon is the go-to choice. Just remember, if you’re looking for healthy options, the healthiest choice is to have bacon only as an occasional treat.