How to Cure and Smoke Bacon at Home
Bacon has remained a staple for generations, and people continue to buy it off the shelves. However, if you’re even the least bit curious, you’ve probably wondered if smoking your own bacon is possible. The short answer is yes, but you’ll need to be patient. Learning how to to make bacon takes time — yet, it’s mouthwateringly worth it.
The Best Bacon Starts With the Pork Belly
The bacon slices you know and love are simply pieces of pork belly. You can get a pork belly for yourself, although you’ll probably have to call ahead to see if your butcher can have one ready. Most grocers don’t carry pork belly because not everyone is an intrepid pitmaster like you.
The pork belly you get will probably weigh a few pounds. Hopefully, it comes from a high-quality hog who was grass-fed and humanely raised. Some types of hogs that offer succulent pork bellies include Kurobuta and Berkshire breeds.
If your pork belly comes with skin attached, use a sharp knife to cut it off carefully. Later, you can use the skin to make rich cracklings, which some cooks like to include in veggies and casseroles.
How to Cure Your Own Bacon
You can start curing your pork belly into bacon after skinning it. You’ll need at least salt, pepper and a bit of curing salt, which is sometimes called Prague Powder #1. Follow your recipe carefully, so you don’t overdo it with the curing salt, as it contains nitrates. At high levels, nitrates aren’t good for you or your food.
For a basic cure mixture, toss together:
- 2 tablespoons black pepper
- 3 tablespoons sea salt
- 1 teaspoon curing salt
- 1/2 cup brown sugar
- Smattering of smoked paprika
Rub the cure on the front and back of your pork belly. Then, place your pork belly in a heavy-duty, airtight bag. Put the pork belly in the refrigerator and turn it twice a day for five to seven days. By that point, the meat should be cured — don’t worry about the juices that build up in the bag.
How to Make Bacon on a Pellet Grill
After your pork belly has cured, bring it out of the bag. Run the pork belly under cold water to rinse off all the moisture and excess cure. Then, pat the belly dry. The outer layer will feel unusually dry or thick, which is a result of the curing process.
Now, it’s time to cook your bacon strips in a smoker. Heat up your smoker to around 180 degrees Fahrenheit. Place the pork belly on the pellet grill and cook it until its internal temperature reads 160 degrees Fahrenheit. Typically, cooking bacon in a smoker takes a few hours. Just babysit it, so you don’t overcook the pork belly.
Take the cooked pork belly off the grill and let it cool for 45 minutes. Wrap it tightly in plastic and use it between six hours and five days later. Slice your bacon strips as thick as you like. Though you can fry it, you’d be wise to smoke those bacon strips in a smoker grill filled with hickory, apple or pecan wood pellets. You’ll be amazed at how much tastier it is than anything you’ve ever bought in a store!