Making homemade bacon is a fun and rewarding experience for any meat lover. Not only do you get to customize the flavor to your liking, but you also get to control the quality of the ingredients used. With a little bit of patience and some basic ingredients, you can create delicious bacon that will rival any store-bought variety.
The process of making homemade bacon involves curing pork belly with a mixture of salt, sugar, and spices, and then smoking it to perfection. While the process may seem intimidating at first, it is actually quite simple and can be done with minimal equipment. Whether you have a smoker or not, there are several methods you can use to achieve the desired smoky flavor. From liquid smoke to tea leaves, there are plenty of options to choose from. By following a few basic steps, you can create bacon that is not only delicious but also healthier than the store-bought variety, as it contains no added preservatives or chemicals.
Selecting the Pork Belly
When it comes to making homemade bacon, selecting the right pork belly is crucial. Here are a few key things to keep in mind when choosing your cut:
Choosing the Right Cut
When selecting a pork belly, it’s important to look for one that is uniform in thickness and squared off. Avoid any bellies that are gouged or look old. It’s also important to note that most of the time, the belly will have the skin (called the rind) still attached.
Slabs are better for making bacon than strips, as they provide a larger surface area for the curing process. A whole pork belly will typically weigh around 10 pounds, so keep this in mind when selecting your cut.
If possible, opt for a pork belly from organic hogs or from a heritage breed like Berkshire, Duroc, or Kurobuta. These types of pork bellies tend to have a higher fat content, which is ideal for making bacon.
When selecting your pork belly, it’s also important to consider the curing process. If you plan on dry curing your bacon, look for a belly that is relatively lean. If you plan on wet curing your bacon, a fattier belly will work better.
Overall, selecting the right pork belly is key to making delicious homemade bacon. Keep these tips in mind when choosing your cut, and you’ll be well on your way to bacon success!
Curing the Pork Belly
Mixing the Cure
Before you start curing the pork belly, you need to prepare the cure. The cure is a mixture of kosher salt, brown sugar, pink curing salt, and other spices that will give the bacon its distinct flavor and texture. You can customize the cure to your liking by adding other spices like red pepper flakes or garlic powder.
To mix the cure, combine the kosher salt, brown sugar, pink curing salt, and other spices in a bowl. Use a whisk or a fork to combine the ingredients thoroughly. Make sure there are no lumps in the mixture.
Applying the Cure
Once you have mixed the cure, it’s time to apply it to the pork belly. Place the pork belly on a large sheet of plastic wrap or in a large plastic bag. Sprinkle the cure mixture evenly over the surface of the pork belly, making sure to cover all sides.
Rub the cure mixture into the pork belly, making sure to coat it evenly. You can use your hands or a brush to do this. Make sure to get the cure mixture into all the nooks and crannies of the pork belly.
Once the pork belly is coated in the cure mixture, wrap it tightly in the plastic wrap or seal it in the plastic bag. Make sure there are no air pockets in the bag. This will help the pork belly cure evenly.
Refrigerating the Pork Belly
Now that the pork belly is coated in the cure mixture and wrapped tightly, it’s time to refrigerate it. Place the pork belly in the refrigerator for 7-14 days, depending on the size of the pork belly and how thick it is.
During this time, the cure mixture will penetrate the pork belly, giving it its distinct flavor and texture. Turn the pork belly over every couple of days to make sure it cures evenly.
After the pork belly has cured for the desired amount of time, remove it from the plastic wrap or bag and rinse it thoroughly under cold water. Pat it dry with paper towels and it’s ready to be cooked.
Remember to always handle cured pork products safely and cook them thoroughly before eating.
Smoking the Pork Belly
Preparing the Smoker
Before smoking the pork belly, it is important to prepare the smoker. This involves selecting the type of wood chips or pellets to use, as well as setting the temperature and ensuring the smoker is clean and ready to use. For this recipe, hickory or applewood chips are recommended for a rich, smoky flavor.
To prepare the smoker, fill the wood chip tray or hopper with the desired wood chips or pellets. Preheat the smoker to 200-225°F and allow it to reach the desired temperature before adding the pork belly.
Smoking the Pork Belly
Once the smoker is ready, it’s time to smoke the pork belly. Remove the pork belly from the plastic bag and rinse it under cold water. Pat it dry with paper towels and place it on the smoker rack, fat side up.
Insert a meat thermometer into the thickest part of the pork belly, making sure it doesn’t touch the bone. Close the smoker lid and let the pork belly smoke for 2-3 hours, or until it reaches an internal temperature of 150-155°F.
During the smoking process, a pellicle will form on the surface of the pork belly. This is a thin, tacky layer that helps the smoke flavor adhere to the meat. To encourage the formation of the pellicle, leave the pork belly uncovered in the refrigerator for 1-2 hours before smoking.
Slicing and Storing the Bacon
Once the pork belly has finished smoking, remove it from the smoker and let it cool to room temperature. Wrap it tightly in plastic wrap or place it in a zip-top bag and refrigerate it overnight.
When you’re ready to slice the bacon, use a sharp knife or meat slicer to cut it into thin, even slices. Store the sliced bacon in the refrigerator for up to a week, or freeze it for later use.
Making Candied Bacon
For an extra special treat, try making candied bacon. To make the candied bacon, mix together 1/4 cup brown sugar, 2 tablespoons honey, and 1/2 teaspoon black pepper in a bowl.
Lay the bacon slices on a wire rack set over a foil-lined baking sheet. Brush the bacon slices with the brown sugar mixture and bake them in a preheated 375°F oven for 15-20 minutes, or until the bacon is crispy and caramelized.
Enjoy the homemade smoked bacon and candied bacon as a delicious breakfast treat or use it in your favorite recipes for added flavor and protein.