I don’t think I’ve ever cooked anything that made me as excited as this homemade smoked bacon. I mean…. it’s bacon. Which is awesome enough. But the fact that I bought this giant whole 8 lb slab of pork belly and turned it into beautifully seasoned and smoked homemade bacon made me near giddy. I can’t even wait to share the process with you and watch the proud homemade bacon glow wash over you.
I’m not going to pretend that I am the first person to attempt to make bacon, I did a lot of reading on proper cure times, ratios of curing salt to bacon thickness, etc. I did, however, create these two awesome cure recipes from all of the knowledge I gleaned from those who have made bacon before me. I hope you give them a try! The maple cure is the perfect mixture of sweet and salty and it just screams breakfast! The peppered cure is a little more sophisticated with some added spice. It is amazing on BLTs and cheeseburgers.
Making homemade bacon is a several day process, but it is totally worth it. I’m going to detail my steps for you here so you can follow along and venture into beautiful, homemade smoked bacon territory. First, you need to pick up a piece of pork belly. Thickness will vary, but lately Costco has been stocking beautiful, already skinned slabs of pork belly. If you are buying from a butcher, see if you can get them to remove the skin from the belly for you, I would recommend it. It can be a bit of a nasty job and it also increases your cure time since it is typically not removed until after the time spent in the cure. I like to divide my large slab of pork belly into smaller pieces so it is easier to handle in the cure. For this recipe, I just cut it in half so I had 2, 4 pound slabs. The perfect size for gallon zip top bags.
Next, it is time to make the cure. I made my bacon cure with Morton Tenderquick. This isn’t the most common method, most people use Prague Powder #1 or “Pink Salt” but I could never find this curing salt in stores and I was too lazy to order some online. I was worried that Tenderquick wouldn’t cure properly, but it was absolutely perfect. After talking to a Morton representative, they told me that it was just fine to use Tenderquick as a bacon cure as long as the bacon was cured long enough to allow for full penetration. If you are using other curing agents (Prague powder #1 or #2) you can follow the recipe as written, but substitute the TenderQuick for the correct amount of cure according to the manufacturer’s directions and add an additional 1 teaspoon of both salt and sugar per pound of pork belly. My pork belly sat in the cure for 7 days. A general rule is to cure your bacon 7 days for every inch of thickness and since my belly was about an inch thick it worked out great! Make sure you flip your pork belly over in the cure and massage once a day. If you hit the 7 day mark, you can test your bacon by slicing through the middle to be sure the pork belly is pink all of the way through with no gray left at all. If it isn’t pink through, put it back in the cure for another day and test again. The texture should also feel like a well done steak when it is done curing.
Peppered Bacon Cure (per pound of belly)
1 Tbsp Morton’s Tender Quick
1 Tbsp brown sugar
2 tsp maple syrup
2 tsp cracked black pepper
1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
After the bacon is cured and rinsed, rub with an additional tablespoon of cracked black pepper.
Maple Bacon Cure (per pound of pork belly)
1 Tbsp Morton’s Tender Quick
1 Tbsp maple syrup
1 Tbsp brown sugar
1 tsp cracked black pepper
After the cure, the pork belly needs to be rinsed and returned to the fridge to develop a sticky skin called a pellicle. I like to place my pork belly on a wire cooling rack on top of a cookie sheet before returning to the fridge. You need to leave your bacon in the fridge for 12-24 hours, I usually leave mine overnight. This air drying time in the fridge will help the smoke really cling to the meat by creating that tacky exterior.
Now it’s smoke time! I like to use apple wood to smoke my bacon. I cook mine on a Traeger Pellet Grill, but you can use whatever smoker you’ve got! Keep the temperature as low as possible (I was smoking around 165 degrees) and smoke for about 6 hours or until the internal temperature is up to 155 degrees F. Invest in a GOOD quality thermometer! It will make all the difference in the finished product if you have an accurate temperature reading. I always recommend ThermoWorks thermometers because they are insanely accurate and very durable.
Fun tip: If you don’t own a smoker and don’t want to buy one, you can actually make a smoker out of your propane grill. You can buy hardwood chips at almost any grocery store, usually in the outdoor cooking aisle. Fold up a large square of aluminum foil into a pouch around the hardwood chips. Use a knife to punch a bunch of holes in the top of the pouch. Turn on one of your grill’s burners to High and place the pouch over the burner. Once your wood starts to smoke, turn the temperature down to medium. Place the cured pork belly on the un-lit side of the grill and close the lid. Allow the wood chips to smoke and smolder until the internal temperature of the bacon reaches 155 degrees F. You may need to add a new pouch of wood chips if your first burns out before you get your bacon up to temperature.
Once it is smoked, you are ready to slice and fry it up!! Finally after all of that waiting, it is time to eat that glorious, salty sweet piece of meat heaven. You can use a meat slicer if you’ve got one, but I just used a really really sharp knife and went to work! If you feel intimidated, come try a piece of my homemade bacon. It’ll pluck up your courage. Venture out of your comfort zone and try something new, you got this!! I’m always here if you’ve got more questions, or you can find me on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter.
Or if you need some inspiration for how to use up the beautiful bacon, check out these Epic Stuffed Hot Dogs, Bacon Wrapped Stuffed Jalapenos, Bacon Mac & Cheese, or Drunk Brisket with Bacon BBQ Sauce. Not sure if you can tell, but we kind of have a thing for bacon.