My husband decided he wanted to make bacon. We had been eating a lot of it lately, and well, what meat-eater doesn’t like bacon?
It turns out that making bacon is easy. It takes a little bit of time, but it’s not hard at all, and well worth the effort.
On top of that, making your own bacon is fairly frugal. Good bacon–the thick-cut, apple- or hickory-smoked, lower-fat bacon–costs about $6-$8 a pound. Our bacon ended up being around $3 a pound, and I would say it is as good as most of the fancy stuff from the grocery story.
Of course, if you are content with the stringy $1/pound bacon, then you are not going to come out ahead on price here. However, you will come out ahead on quality.
Bacon is made from the belly of the pig.
We bought the belly from our local grocery store. We asked at the butcher counter and it turned out they had an 8 pound belly in the back that they were willing to sell us for $2/pound. That sounded okay to us, so we ended up with a long thick slab of belly with the pork skin still on it.
We also used “pink salt,” a curing salt otherwise known as sodium nitrite. You use pink salt in meat curing to prevent botulism. A pound of pink salt costs $2.50. (More on sodium nitrite here.)
Aside from that, it was just a matter of time–9 days to be exact–plus seasoning, heat, and smoke until we had bacon.
A couple of notes before I give the recipe. we adapted the recipe from Charcuterie: The Craft of Salting, Smoking, and Curing by Michael Ruhlman and Brian Polcyn. I really can’t say enough about how awesome this book is. If you are interested at all in curing meats, go out and buy it.
Secondly, we used our smoker to make the bacon. According to Charcuterie, if you don’t have a smoker, you can use the oven, although of course then the bacon won’t be smoked.
Check out the book for more information if you’re interested.
Okay enough talking.
How To Make Your Own Smoked Bacon
(in this case, it is more accurate to weigh the ingredients, so get out the kitchen scale)
- 1 8 pound pork belly
- 75 grams (approx. 3 oz) kosher salt
- 18 grams (approx. 3 tsp) pink salt
- 75 grams (approx. 3/8 cup) packed dark brown sugar
- 90 milliliters (approx. 2 1/10 cup) maple syrup
- Kitchen scale
- 1-2 3-gallon ziploc plastic bags
- Wire rack
- Meat thermometer
- A good sharp knife
First, trim excess meat from either end of the pork belly so it is a rectangle. I froze the excess as pork belly is wonderful to cook with.
Create the cure. Combine all the ingredients together in a bowl. Rub the cure over the meat side of the belly. (There’s no point in rubbing it on the skin since you are just going to cut it off.) Put the whole thing in a big ziploc bag and put it in the fridge.
Now, you wait. It takes about a week (we waited 8 days) for the cure to penetrate the meat. Every day, flip the bag over so that the cure is redistributed. During this time, you will notice liquid leeching out of the belly. This means the salt is doing its job.
After a week, remove the belly from the fridge. Congratulations, you have just made fresh bacon. If you want, you can slice a little off and fry it up–it’s good. It tastes like pork belly.
But we want to make smoked bacon, so onward! Next, rinse the cure off the pork belly:
And then set it on a wire rack. Put the belly, uncovered and meat-side-up, in the fridge overnight. During this time, a pellicle will form over the meat, which is a gooey film that comes from the salt cure pulling water out of the meat. This is an important step because the pellicle helps the smoke penetrate the meat.
The next day, you finally get to smoke the bacon. We used almond wood instead of traditional apple or hickory wood because that is what we had lying around. My husband smoked the whole pork belly at around 185-190F for about 2 hours, until the thickest part of the belly registered 150F on the meat thermometer.
After it cools, remove the skin off the belly. This is the hardest part because it requires you to cut along the line where the skin meets the fat of the belly. Using a knife, carefully slice the skin off, trying not to remove the fat in the process. Discard the skin.
What you have left is a nice slab of freshly smoked bacon!
We ended up with 5 pounds of bacon after the skin was removed. It is much leaner than the stuff in the store–I ended up needing a bit of oil to cook it, which is a first for bacon. It is neither too sweet nor too salty, just the right amount of crispy, and very delicious:
My husband says that the only thing he would do differently next time is to divide the pork belly in half because that would have been easier to work with. Otherwise, I would say our bacon adventure is a success.
14 thoughts on “Make Your Own Bacon”
This is a must try for me…Hubby goes bear hunting, and while I don’t like the taste of fresh bear meat, bear bacon is really good(we had some done by a butcher), so making my own bacon would be a wonderful skill to have!
WOW is all I have to say.
mmm bear bacon….
You don’t have to leave the skin on–you can just use “side meat”. We also don’t use sodium nitrate, we just use plain old salt. But nothing is better than homemade bacon.
Could you use the skin for flavoring a soup before throwing it out, or do you think it would be too fatty? I’m getting ready to try this on my flower pot smoker. I just made an impromptu beef jerky last night, and it didn’t turn out too badly… We’re thinking about visiting Bud’s for the pork belly tomorrow!
Christy, I asked my husband and he said he read that you can use the skin to wrap fish to keep moisture in, like some people do with banana leaves. I don’t know if I would bother with that, though. Otherwise, make a football out of it? 🙂
Let me know how your bacon turned out.
OH! Don’t discard the skin! There is something we do up here (Canada) where instead of taking off the skin, we slice it into the bacon. Slice it thick and cook it slow and you get the most wonderful breakfast meat with the fat rendered down to a spongy texture and it is bursting with flavour! They call it side pork here, but that might just be the Ottawa Valley where I was raised or Northern Quebec where my Step-father grew up. It isn’t the healthiest due to the fat and skin, but oh man is it worth it! So crunchy.
Joelle, that’s fascinating. Thanks for the tip.
That is cool. When I was a kid we had a couple of pigs, and the best part was the bacon. It would be a special treat, usually for supper’s on Saturday nights. Very different than the store bought bacon for sure.
Skinning it before you cure it allows the flavours and smoke to penetrate even better!