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Making Dehydrated Bacon For The Trail

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IMG_0646

Bacon Loaded & Ready

Making Dehydrated Bacon For The Trail:

In my ongoing quest to continue to find methods of having low-weight/high-calorie food for the trail I recently decided to try dehydrating bacon – which is really not as easy as it sounds and really is as tedious as others have written about it being.  I thought I would share my own little adventure giving this a try.

My local store had a buy-one-get-one-free special so I bought two packets of bacon, each one pound. I got home and started cooking them up. Temptation got the best of me and I ate one piece. The rest spend about 20 minutes drying out on paper towels to help rid them of as much grease as possible, and to give my dehydrator time to build up some heat.

After cooking them all and trying to get as much grease off of them as possible I put the two pounds of bacon into the dehydrator, which took up three trays.

I set the timer on my Excalibur dehydrator at 16 hours. Every two or three hours I would pull out a tray and grab some paper towels and try to dry them off as much as possible. This is the “tedious” part of dehydrating bacon. I went to bed after about 12 hours into the cycle and when I woke up the next morning, I took out a tray and they were coated with yet another layer of grease, so I dried them all off again and threw them back into the dehydrator for another 12 hours, again drying them off every few hours.

When the timer  finally went off and the dehydrator shut off I let them sit for another hour or two. I just got a chance to pull them out and a few of the pieces had another coating of grease, but for the most part the bacon had finally dried out. Twenty eight (28) hours is the longest I have ever had anything in my dehydrator. I suspect the pieces with a bit of grease on them would probably need another 6-8 hours, and at this point I just decided to call it good and see what happens.

Weight:

IMG_0655

2 pound of bacon – ready to go into the excalibur dehydrator.

Once fully cooked and dehydrated I placed each tray of bacon into a separate bag.

The individual bags hit the scale at:

56.94 grams
72.69 grams
65.69 grams

This gives me a total of 195.32 grams from two pounds of bacon - minus the one piece that tempted me.

This works out to 6.88 ounce / 0.43 pounds of bacon, including the bags.

Factor out the weight of the three bags (each 1.81 grams / 0.063 oz) and I end up with 189.89 grams (6.698 oz) of pure bacon.

 

Nutrition:

Each pound of bacon is 660 calories and 48 grams of protein. I have no idea how many of those calories/protein have been lost during the process of cooking and dehydration.

The two pounds combined together results in somewhere around 1320 calories, and 96 grams of protein, for a total weight of 195.32 grams / 6.88 ounce / 0.43 pounds.

I suspect that each of the three packets would last me at least a section of a long distance trail, so per section I am looking at ~440 calories and 32 grams of protein, for ~65.12 grams (2.29 oz) of weight.

 

Challenges:

IMG_0657

Bacon bits after 28 hours in a dehydrator set at 155f/68c degrees.

I would say the biggest challenge to dehydrating bacon is the process of having to continue to remove the grease every few hours.

Ok, really the biggest challenge is of course not eating all the bacon along the way ;)

 

Storage/Rancidity:

My plan at this point is to leave these three initial batches in their bags and just see how long they last. I will keep one in a dark drawer that rarely gets opened. The other I will place in a window of my house that gets the most amount of sun. The third I am going to put into a second bag and then into a 5 gallon bucket, to simulate it being stored in a typical hikers box that would be shipped out to a trail town or that I would cache in the backwoods while I am developing a trail.

10 month follow-up: I kept two bags set aside to keep an eye on. Each bag was a normal ziplock sandwich bag, they were both full and were left unopened. As of this time, none of the bacon has gone rancid.

 

Other Ideas:

The next time that bacon goes on sale I will buy a couple more packs and cook them extra long so they are nice and crunchy. I will then put them into a food processor and grind them up into a consistency similar to masa cornbread. I am thinking that this will allow the bacon to be able to dehydrate much better, and give me a broader applicational use for them out on the trail.

 

Applicational Use:

So what are my plans to use the bacon for?

Oh come on… its bacon!!

 

Updated Notes:

It appears that this article has become rather popular and not just for those who are hikers. Folks at Pinterest have helped make this article I wrote rather popular – thanks!

Here are a few follow-up thoughts:

I should not have used “thick” bacon. This would have resolved a LOT of the issues I had.

I have had some of the bacon in ziplock bags for over 8 months and it is still looking the same as it was when it went into the bag – no mold.

I have had a lot of people suggest cooking the bacon in an oven and it resolves some of the issues I had – agreed. Just pull the bacon out of the package and slap it onto a cookie sheet and put it into your oven to cook, it will come out much better and while it will take longer, it is less work and you can do a lot more bacon at once than you can in a pan. You can easily cook up 10 pounds of bacon inside of an oven, vs maybe two or three pounds at a time in a huge pan like what I use to use.

I have gotten folks asking about bacon powder. My advice is to use a very good burr grinder and not some cheapo blade grinder. If you have an espresso burr grinder and are willing to have coffee that tastes likes bacon for a few cups (and how could that be bad??) after using it, you can make some very fine bacon powder that you can use in trail smoothies, throw into Idahoan Mashed Potatoes, or even turn an awesome vegetarian meal into a bacon-flavored non-vegetarian meal.

 

The dehydrator that I used/own is the Excalibur 3926TB.

 

Thanks everybody,
+John Abela
HikeLighter.Com

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Written by John Abela

June 23, 2013 at 3:41 am

Posted in Hiking Food

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27 Responses

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  1. It’s BAconnnn!!!! But seriously I have had bacon bits vacuum packed last a year in the pantry. I know it sounds crazy but try thinner bacon it works better IMHO.

    Dodge

    June 23, 2013 at 5:35 am

    • Hey Dodge, yeah I can see how going with some really cheap and thin bacon might make this whole process a lot easier. I bought the thick cut, thinking that after it went through the dehydrator there would still be something of substance, but thinking the thinner slices is going to be the better way to go. Thanks.

      John B. Abela

      June 23, 2013 at 8:59 pm

  2. When I dehydrated my bacon, I didn’t cook it first. I also didn’t do all that blotting. I also stored it in the refridgerator and ate it within a couple of weeks. lol I’ve never done it again because I didn’t see it make any real difference, it was SUCH a pain to do and clean up after, and for hiking, it’s easier just to buy the precooked bacon. Try making candied bacon, though. Yum. :D

    Heather H.

    June 23, 2013 at 6:25 am

    • Hey Heather, yeah totally understand. In my case, I am already making meals for the 2014 hiking season. But, it would be nice to make bacon to eat in a couple of weeks :-D

      John B. Abela

      June 23, 2013 at 9:01 pm

  3. Are you planning on using these in dinners or as trail snacks? Also, how awesome does your place smell now!

    Eric L.

    June 23, 2013 at 9:51 am

    • Yo Eric. OMG… every time I walk into my house I am like “Bacon!! Bacon!!!”… and then I realize I do not get to actually eat any LOLOL.

      For this batch I made it specifically to see how long it would last. Probably next week I will do up another batch and use it for hikes next month. My plan is to use it as a calorie/protein additive to help boost up meals a bit more.

      Though I suppose if a person did not like beef jerky, this could be a sweet trail alternative, huh!!

      John B. Abela

      June 23, 2013 at 9:03 pm

  4. It is too bad that they stopped making the Wilson’s Certified Bacon Bar. My dad and I took those on trips and we’d split half a bar each morning.

    http://davescupboard.blogspot.com/2009/10/wilsons-certified-campsite-bacon-bar.html

    Walter Underwood

    June 23, 2013 at 10:23 am

    • Hey Walter, I remember talking with a fellow a year or so ago that mentioned that stuff to me. So what was the consistency difference between that stuff, and say, spam ??

      John B. Abela

      June 23, 2013 at 9:05 pm

      • The Wilson’s bacon bar was nothing like Spam. It was cooked bacon, chopped and pressed into a small brick, then sealed in foil. They were about half the length of an energy bar and twice as thick, 3 ounces of bacon goodness. All that good high-calorie grease was preserved. It was the perfect thing for stirring into my instant grits.

        Colin Fletcher mentions them in the early editions of The Compleat Walker.

        Wilsons also made a meat bar, but that was kind of like pemmican without the fruits and nuts. Useful for cooking, but not much by itself.

        Walter Underwood

        June 24, 2013 at 8:18 am

  5. But without the grease is it really still even bacon?? :)

    I think something like that would work well in a rehydrated beef bourguignon style stew. I’ve never tried anything like that but in theory I think it would work.

    Stu

    June 23, 2013 at 10:58 am

    • lolol… good question Stu… bacon without all the grease, just ain’t bacon huh LOLOL.

      Yeah, throwing the bacon into my dinners is my go-to plan with all of this. Give it a nice bacon flavor (and that is always good) plus bounce up the calories another 100 calories or so, and ~12 grams of protein.

      If I can take a meal that I have made myself, such as this one that are ~220 calories and kick them up another 100 or so, that makes for a much more productive meal, at minimul weight costs.

      John B. Abela

      June 23, 2013 at 9:09 pm

  6. Thanks for experimenting when I buy a dehydrator, ill try this.

    Hawk

    June 24, 2013 at 3:59 am

  7. Just an idea, have you thought about fooling around with your Argon gas cannisters !!? A lot of ready to eat supermarket salad mixes here in Australia are in bags inflated with nitrogen to force out the oxygen and prolong the life of the food.

    Oh, and I know its not the same but … FERMENTED SALAMI = pure garlicky pig fat goodness that doesn’t go off! Just think ‘Italian shepherds grazing their flocks in the rugged Appenine hills’ and it becomes haute cuisine…

    Andy Jarman

    June 24, 2013 at 4:31 pm

    • lol probably not a good idea to give those guys over at Klymit any ideas… they are a crazy bunch when it comes to playing around with new ideas!!!

      John B. Abela

      June 25, 2013 at 11:15 am

  8. How did you cook the bacon in the first place? If you microwave it A LOT of the grease naturally cooks out. With thinner strips you could probably get rid of most of the grease and reduce the drying time considerably. Since microwaving doesn’t actually “burn” the bacon in my experience you may even be able to just “cook” it longer and save a lot of dehydrator time. Something to look into at least.

    Dustin

    June 30, 2013 at 6:07 pm

    • I cooked it all in a pan, like you are suppose too :-p

      Bacon + microwave… does not equal bacon LOL

      Yeah, thinner strips would have, it seems, solved a lot of the issues I encountered. This was my first time doing this, so, lesson learned on my part.

      John B. Abela

      July 1, 2013 at 3:45 pm

      • Cooking bacon in the oven works really well. If it was cooked on a broiler pan or wire grill, allowing the grease to drip, that could speed things up.

        Walter Underwood

        July 1, 2013 at 4:17 pm

        • I agree with you, Walter. When I have the time (and patience) I cook my bacon in the oven. It keeps them flat and crispy. I used to work at a burger joint years ago and that is how they did it. Never actually dehydrated anything myself, but I’m looking to get started. Bacon sounds like a great first step!!!!

          James Silva

          February 27, 2014 at 12:28 am

  9. Looking at bying a dehydrator looked on ebay saw the excalibur and other cheaper ones have u used any different brands and whats your take on excalibur ??? Darrin from down under…

    Darrin

    July 1, 2013 at 8:36 pm

    • I have only used an Excalibur. I have very high praise for it. Well worth the investment if you plan to dehydrate a LOT of food. During the winter season when I am not hiking it runs pretty much 24/7 making trail food for the summer/shoulder hiking season. I just got it in December and it has already paid for itself in the last six months.

      John B. Abela

      July 1, 2013 at 9:20 pm

  10. It would seem like you could save yourself a lot trouble by getting precooked bacon. On a per slice basis, precooked bacon is about the same price as uncooked bacon, and does not need refrigeration. You can find it in any grocery store.

    David Anderson

    August 19, 2013 at 5:51 pm

    • LOL, that it would David !!! But hey, having fun is, well, half the fun!! And come on… its bacon… nothing about bacon is every trouble!!! :-D

      John B. Abela

      August 19, 2013 at 5:52 pm

  11. How long did your bacon end up lasting ??

    Anon

    December 31, 2013 at 11:31 pm

    • I still have two bags that have not gotten any mold in them. Even opened one of them up every so often. Not sure I would eat them, but they have not grown anything yet :)

      John B. Abela

      January 1, 2014 at 8:20 am

  12. I am also on the dehydrator trail, albeit for different reasons – but we do like to hike up here in North Wales :) We have 3 Border Collies, 2 of them 8 months old. Having started to look into commercial dog food/treats I am now somewhat obsessed with trying to find different ways to make them homemade treats. One thing I came across when making beef jerkies (8 hours @ 70C) is that 70C is not high enough a temperature to eliminate the risk of ecoli & salmonella. I therefore placed my beef in the oven @ 135C for 10 minutes once finished dehydrating. Something to bear in mind perhaps for your next (?) batch of dehydrated meat. Also – next batch of beef jerkies will be for human consumption and marinated, yum! I think I might remove the fat from the bacon and see how it goes. But interesting read here on your blog and have promptly started following you. Result ;)
    Greetings from North Wales,
    Babs B

    MrsBoardwell

    March 3, 2014 at 1:53 pm

  13. […] You might also be interested in my article on making dehydrated bacon. […]

  14. A suggestion I have that might help: If you’re baking the bacon, do it in a roasting rack so that all the grease drips into the pan as opposed to the bacon just stewing in it. As far as the dehydrating process, I find that Viva (no I’m not a sponsor, they are just unique lol) tends to hold up if you use them as a liner in the dehydrator to soak up grease while it’s going.

    BethCBlake

    May 30, 2014 at 7:58 pm


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