Friday, April 23, 2010

Home-Cured Smoked Bacon

I'm taking soft steps into the world of charcuterie. I have been enjoying the processes of brining and curing and smoking. I recognize that is does take some practice to get it to the right point and it takes time to perfect the art of charcuterie.

I had to try to making some homemade bacon. There was a slab of pork belly in the fridge and I had all the fixings so I took the challenge.  The idea of making my own bacon was non-existent when I began this blog but I'm excited I've moved on to more challenging tasks of the pig. I think any home cook should try this process. Ok, lets go!

This is my adaptation of the recipe from Charcuterie: The Craft of Salting, Smoking, and Curing. Of course, you need a slab of pork belly.

This is a 4 lb. belly that I split in half so I started with a 2 lb pork belly. I love bacon but I didn't need 4 lbs of it.  The cure is what helps to create the magic.

  • 2 teaspoons pink salt
  • 1/4 cup kosher salt
  • 1/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
Combine the cure ingredients together in a bowl and mix thoroughly to evenly distribute them.

Rub the cure mixture over the entire pork belly. Get it all over and don't be shy.

Place skin-side down in in a 2-gallon Ziploc bag. Refridgerate it for 7 days. Turn the belly and redistribute the cure every other day. The pork will release water into the cure, creating a brine. It is important to keep it in contact with the liquid throughout the curing process.

The pork belly should be firm to the touch after curing for 7 days. Remove the belly from the cure, rinse it thoroughly, and pat it dry. Place on a rack over a baking tray and dry it in the fridge for 12-24 hours.

Once it has dried, it is time to hot-smoke it in the grill. But first, lets take a look at this guy after 7 days of curing.

The colors have darkened. It looks good to eat at this point but the smoking process adds a lot of flavor and is a must step.  I love the layers of fat and meat. It is starting to look like bacon!

Hot-smoke the pork belly in the grill until it reaches an internal temperature of 150 degrees. Since mine was only 2 lbs and my grill was a little too hot, the bacon was done in 1.5 hours. I think you want your grill around 200 degrees temp. I use a charcoal grill for smoking and I am still learning that trick. The temp was definitely over 200 degrees but I was carefully watching the belly so I didn't over shoot my internal temp.

Let cool slightly, and when the belly is cool enough to handle, cut the skin off by sliding a knife between the fat and the skin. Don't take off too much fat though. I saved the smoky skin and fried it up in the pan and made some Crispy Pork Skins.

Crispy pork skins on the left, smoked pork belly, fresh-cut pan-friend bacon on the right. I don't know if I executed the process with success or perfection. Maybe I did overcook the belly a little, but after frying up the bacon, it was fatty, juicy, tasty, very pleasing. The crispy pork skin was also a self-indulgent treat.

I will try curing my own pork belly to make bacon again. This is a process I want to get good at and fine tune my smoking skills with the charcoal grill. But overall, I think I did ok. It looks good and tastes like bacon so I must have done something right.

Pork people, try this at home. It wasn't too difficult. The only real speciality ingredient you need is the pink salt and you need a smoker or grill. And you have to forget about it for 7 days as it cures, the patience is hard but it is important.

Awesome, I have 2 lbs of home-cured smoked bacon in the fridge, time to have some friends over to eat it!


  1. I'm curious if you have ever tried doing this without the nitrate/nitrite pink salt? Can you just substitute more salt in place of the pink salt if I want to avoid nitrates?

    P.S. Stoked that you are doing this in Milwaukee! I have to hit Bunzels for some pork belly now!

  2. Did you find pink salt in Milwaukee? If so, can you tell me where? I got a ham I need to start curing, so I'm hoping I don't have to order it.

  3. i was told you can get it from Spice House downtown, Old World Third St. id call first and check though.

  4. And yes, indeed. The Spice House does carry it. Thanks!

  5. It's better to do it with some grey celtic salt or any sea salt

  6. you do not need nitrates or nitrites the only purpose for big companies is to control botulism food lovers should only use quality ingredients I just used grey sea salt rosemary and pepper and it turned out amazing sure the sea salt is more expensive but it's real salt

  7. I've done it since I was a kid so I don't bother with measurements anymore but it's around 1/2 cup of coarse salt, 2 cups demarra brown sugar and around 1/3-1/2 cup of pure maple syrup for a whole belly depending on it's size. Put it skin side down on a rack in a cooler for 4-7 days depending on how thick it is, rinse, pat dry and let sit for a couple hours then smoke it. As for temperature if it's too hot it'll drip, too cool and it takes all day. Nobody's died yet and if your immune system doesn't get use it gets weak.

    1. Thanks for the info.

  8. thanks for sharing..

  9. I got mine at William Sonoma $9.95