One of the keys to making great homemade bacon is to source high-quality pork belly from your local butcher or Asian grocery store.
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Our methods, steeped in tradition yet infused with modern twists, offer a comprehensive guide to creating bacon that's not only delicious but also a testament to your culinary skills.
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Homemade Bacon Instructions
Selecting The Pork Belly
The foundation of great bacon is the pork belly. Look for a fresh, high-quality piece with a balanced ratio of fat to meat – this is crucial for flavor and texture. The fat should be creamy white, and the meat a vibrant pink. A thickness of about 1.5 to 2 inches is ideal for even curing and smoking.
Preparing The Pork Belly
Before curing, prepare the pork belly by removing the skin, which can hinder the curing process and affect the texture. If you're up for an extra treat, save the skin to make cracklings later. Pat the belly dry and trim any excessively thick fat to ensure even curing.
TIP: You can ask your local butcher or Asian grocery store representative to remove the skin for you. Some people like to use the skin to make crackling, chicharrones. (Crispy Pork Skin/ Pork Rinds)
How To Cure Bacon
Chemistry of Curing:
Curing is a chemical process that preserves and flavors the meat. The key ingredient, Prague Powder #1, contains sodium nitrite, which serves two primary functions.
First, it acts as a preservative by inhibiting the growth of bacteria, particularly Clostridium botulinum, which causes botulism. Second, nitrite helps in color fixation, giving bacon its characteristic pink hue.
During curing, sodium reacts with the meat's myoglobin, stabilizing the color and contributing to a distinct flavor.
Method #1 Dry Cure
Homemade Bacon Cure Recipe
- 1+ Cups Brown Sugar
- 1 Box Kosher Salt 48oz
- 1 T Chipotle Powder
- 1 T Cumin
- 2 teaspoon Red Pepper Flake
- 2 teaspoon Prague powder (Pink Salt), which is Sodium Chloride (Salt), Sodium Nitrite (6.25%), and FD&C Red #3 (for color).
Here is a weight calculator for bacon ingredient measurements.
- Precise Measurements: Use exact measurements for curing salts to ensure safety. Overuse can lead to high nitrite consumption, a health risk.
- Proper Handling: Wear gloves when handling curing salts and avoid direct skin contact.
- Storage: Keep curing salts away from children and store them separately from regular cooking ingredients to avoid confusion.
Prague Powder Warning:
- Toxicity: Prague Powder is intended for use in food preservation, specifically in curing meats. It is not to be used as table salt. Sodium nitrite, a key component, is toxic in high quantities and must be used according to specific recipes and guidelines.
- Mix the curing ingredients thoroughly.
- For dry curing, coat the pork belly evenly with the cure mixture. For wet curing, submerge the pork belly in the brine.
- Place the pork belly in a large resealable bag or container, ensuring it's well-covered.
- Refrigerate for 7-10 days, flipping and massaging the meat daily.
- After curing, rinse the pork belly and pat it dry.
Method #2 Wet Cure
- Kosher salt
- Brown sugar
- Prague Powder #1
- Optional flavorings (maple syrup, honey, herbs)
Wet Curing, also known as brining, submerges the pork belly in a seasoned saltwater solution. This method can impart more subtle flavors and a slightly softer texture compared to dry curing.
How To Smoke Bacon
Smoking bacon transforms the cured pork belly into a rich, flavorful delight. Preheat your smoker to 200-225°F and use woods like hickory, apple, or cherry for a nuanced flavor.
Smoke the pork belly until it reaches an internal temperature of 150°F, typically taking 2-3 hours.
In-Depth Bacon Smoking Techniques:
Temperature Control: Maintain a consistent low temperature, typically around 200°F to 225°F.
Wood Chip Selection: Choose wood chips based on the desired flavor profile, such as hickory for a strong flavor or applewood for a sweeter touch.
Duration: Smoking time varies but generally takes several hours. The goal is to infuse the bacon with smoke flavor without overcooking.
Smoke Density: Manage the amount of smoke for a balanced flavor.
Consistent Temperature: Keep a steady temperature for even cooking.
Use of Thermometer: Regularly check the internal temperature of the bacon to avoid under or overcooking.
🔥 How Long Does It Take To Smoke
The smoking process is a slow and steady one, usually taking 2-3 hours. The key is maintaining a consistent temperature and letting the smoke gently permeate the meat.
Liquid Smoke Method
If you don't have a smoker, you can use liquid smoke. Mix a small amount of liquid smoke into your curing process, and then cook the bacon in the oven at a low temperature to achieve a similar smoky flavor.
How To Store Bacon
After smoking, let the bacon cool and then wrap it tightly in plastic wrap or butcher paper.
Store it in the refrigerator for up to two weeks or freeze it for up to three months. When freezing, consider slicing the bacon first and separating the slices with parchment paper for easy portioning later.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can I make bacon without Prague Powder #1?
While it's possible to make bacon without curing salts, Prague Powder #1 is recommended for safety reasons, as it helps prevent the growth of bacteria.
How thick should I slice my homemade bacon?
This is a matter of personal preference. Thicker slices are great for a chewier, more robust bite, while thinner slices crisp up nicely.
Can I add different flavors to my bacon?
Absolutely! Experiment with additional spices and flavorings in your cure. Maple syrup, honey, bourbon, and various herbs and spices can create unique flavor profiles.
How do I know when my bacon is properly cured?
The pork belly should feel firm to the touch, and its color should be a bit darker. The curing time of 7-10 days is generally sufficient for a piece of pork belly of standard size.
Is homemade bacon healthier than store-bought?
Homemade bacon gives you control over the ingredients and the quality of the pork, potentially making it a healthier option compared to some commercially processed bacon.
Can I cure bacon without sugar?
Yes, you can cure bacon without sugar, but sugar helps balance the saltiness and adds a slight sweetness that complements the pork flavor.
What's the best way to cook homemade bacon?
Homemade bacon can be cooked just like store-bought bacon - in a skillet, oven, or even grilled. Cooking it on medium heat allows the fat to render slowly, resulting in crispy, flavorful slices.
Can I reuse the curing mixture?
It's not recommended to reuse curing mixtures because they lose their efficacy and can become contaminated.
How do I achieve crispy bacon?
For crispy bacon, slice it thin and cook it at a higher temperature, but watch it closely to prevent burning.
Can I make bacon from other cuts of pork?
Yes, while pork belly is traditional, other cuts like pork loin (to make Canadian bacon) or pork shoulder (for cottage bacon) can also be used.
- 1 Pork Belly Buy what looks good to you
Dry Ingredients - Cure Ingredients
- 1 48 oz Box Coarse Kosher Salt 3 Pound Box
- 2 teaspoon Prague Powder Sodium Nitrite + Table Salt
- 1 Cups Brown Sugar
- 1 T Chipotle Powder
- 1 T Cumin
- 2 teaspoon Red Pepper Flake
Purchasing & Preparing the Pork Belly
- You can find pork belly at your local butcher shop or Asian grocery store.
- You can save yourself some effort and ask the butcher to remove the pork belly skin. The skin is way too tough to make bacon with. You will not be able to chew it.
- Choosing your piece of pork belly, look for a new piece with a high amount of meat and a low amount of fat (the white stuff).
The Dry Cure Ingredients
- Combine all dry ingredients together in a large bowl.
- Add about ( ⅓ ) third of the dry cure to a large casserole dish or you could use a large plastic bag. I’m not a fan of using plastic bags for this process. We will be curing the bacon for 7 days and I feel like salt and plastic touching for 7 days or more sounds off to me.
- Rub the curing mix all over the pork belly very well. Add the remaining curing mix to the top of the pork belly and make sure zero pork belly is exposed to air.
- Place the pork belly on the lower shelf in your refrigerator at the very back. The bacon will cure for 7 days.
- After 7 days rinse off the pork belly under warm water. To dry, place on a roasting rack into the refrigerator for a few hours or overnight.
Adding Smoke To Your Bacon
- A natural and traditional method is cold smoking. Keeping the temperature der 110/115 degree. The idea is you are NOT cooking the bacon. Only kissing it with a little smoke flavor.
- Second MethodTake 1 ½ cups of water and mix in 1 tablespoon of liquid smoke. Then spray or pour over the bacon. I would slice the bacon before this step to increase the surface area for more flavor.
- Third MethodIncreasing the amount of chipotle powder and even adding more ingredients like smoked paprika some high-quality chili powder. Anything with a smokey note to it. Experiment around.