Homemade Smoked Bacon

August 25, 2015

Homemade Bacon with Tenderquick

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.

Homemade Bacon in Cure

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.

Homemade Bacon after Cure

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

Homemade Bacon Pellicle

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.

Homemade Bacon on a Pellet Grill
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. Homemade Bacon on a Traeger

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.



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132 thoughts on “Homemade Smoked Bacon

  1. Hello! Just found your website and can’t wait to try some of your recipes! I just bought a Traeger and am attempting your bacon recipe as we speak. It is currently curing. I was just wondering as far as storing it once it is all said and done, can I freeze it in ziploc bags? I know some people vacuum seal it but I don’t have one. Just wondering what you did. Thanks so much!

    1. Hey Andrea- so sorry it took me a few days to get back to you!! Your comment ended up in my spam filter for some reason. I don’t have a vacuum sealer either, so I just placed the sliced bacon in a gallon freezer bag and removed as much air as possible before putting it in my deep freezer. I would say it lasts 1-2 months in the freezer, but ours was all consumed in about 2 weeks! haha. Hope you enjoy the bacon!! Once you go homemade, it is really difficult to go back to store bought.

      1. Thank you so much! I am going to smoke it tomorrow. Can’t wait! I will report back as to how delicious it turned out!

        1. Just wanted to let you know the bacon was AMAZING!! My dad even had me smoke a belly for him and he is picky about his bacon! Thanks again! You are right. I will never go back to store bought bacon again!

  2. We’Re trying it right now… we had it in the fridge for 3 days, turning it once a day…we did not use curing salt, but we brined it in 1/2 cup of kosher salt … I am restricted in salt. We plan to” food saver ” small packages and freeze them. As soon as it’s cooled and been in the freezer about 2 to 3 hrs. It will be easy to slice with our cutter. So excited and it’s hard to wait. Thank you for sharing the details. Ron

    1. The old timers (my parents & grandparents, uncles ) always used pure coarse salt to cure the bacon . the salt draws out the water/moisture from the pork belly. then they would wrap it in muslin & hang it from the rafters of the smoke house . then they would smoke it for several hours or days. then when they need some they would slice off what they wanted to cook. because they did not even make MORTONS QUICK CURE/salt back then. OR IF THEY DID IT WASN,T AVAILABLE.

  3. Just made this but could not get Tender Quick, used Bradley Maple Cure (at the recommended amounts). This was the only deviation from this recipe and both bacons turned out AWESOME!!

    1. Hey Greg! Thanks so much for stopping by and taking the time to comment! I always have people asking what they can use if they can’t find TenderQuick, so I am thrilled to know that the Bradley’s cure worked out for you. I actually just sliced up a huge batch of the peppered this morning. One of my favorite recipes ever!

  4. I have made bacon using Morton quik tender but after reading quik tender can be a cancer causing agents after frying I switched to prauge #1 it supposedly doesn’t . You should research it. prauge #1 is available at Amazon. Fairly cheap and you only use a little so it goes along way. I hope this helps. Homemade bacon is the bomb. Just made 7.5 lbs. Also some costcos carry pork belly.

    1. Hey John! I am definitely going to research more. I bet creating the conversions on the recipe for Prague powder would be super simple. I get pork belly at Costco also! Thanks for taking the time to comment. Have a great one!

      1. I’m a little confused. Your article says the following: “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.” That seems to me to be 1 tablespoon for 1 pound of pork. Is this not the case? Did I misunderstand your instructions?

        1. Hey Dale- each curing agent has a different ratio. TenderQuik is usually 1 Tablespoon per pound of meat. Instacure #1 is typically 1 teaspoon per 5 pounds of meat. TenderQuick has added salt and sugar to the cure, so when using another curing powder, I supplement with additional salt and sugar to get that same flavor profile.

    2. Pretty much everything causes cancer now a days, breathing the air here in the NYC area causes cancer too, but I will die a fat well fed person who loves bacon…but making my own bacon is awesome, and in a way we are committing suicide by food (technically) but then I am sarcastic and joke about everything, laughter is the best medicine. Happy cooking

    3. The supposed cancer causing agent in tender quick (sodium nitrite) is exactly what Prague powder or instant cure contains. I use the pink curing salt (Prague powder) for all of my meat cures, ham, bacon, pastrami sausages etc. The amount used is far below “dangerous levels. I’ve used tender quick if I don’t have curing salt on hand

      1. I have probably a dumb question, did you cure the bacon inside the plastic ziplock bags? I’ve read of people doing it in glass pans and I would much prefer a ziplock bag.

    4. how would you alter this recipe if using the Prague Powder? just ordered some but have this method in the cure in the fridge for next week. It says on the label you use just a tiny amount so would you leave everything else the same just reduce the tender quick amount down to the amount required by the prague?


  5. FYI, this recipe works really well for ham too! I discovered this by accident when I decided to try using pork loin instead of pork bellies because my husband complains about store bought bacon always having too much fat and not enough meat. So I thought why not try using this curing method to make our very own all meat-no fat bacon, right? Well we didn’t end up with bacon (turns out you need all that fat to get that bacony crispy crunch, duh). What we did get though was a super high quality, pure, all meat-no gristle, very low fat, tender, juicy, smoky, brown sugary frying ham! Omg sooooooo good! If you love ham and Canadian bacon, try this same curing method with some low fat pork! The results are incredible! Gonna try the pork bellies next time.

  6. Did you modify t your traeger for the low and slow? Ive seen that you can change the “P” stop, but wondered if you just left it on factory settings and on Smoke?

  7. Hey there! I have made this recipe several times now and this time I had to use a different salt due to my grocery being out of the tender quick. I ended up using Anthony’s pink curing salt and used 1 TBS per lb which I’m now realizing was too much for this particular salt. (There were no directions on the package) Apparently you are supposed to use around 1 tsp per 5 lbs of meat. Would you happen to know how this will affect the curing process and if it is still safe to eat? Thanks so much! Your recipes are the best!

    1. Hey Andrea- unfortunately it isn’t going to be safe to eat that bacon. You’ll be at almost 15 times the FDA recommended levels of nitrates if you cured a 5 pound slab. Pink curing salt is quite different than tenderquick and the ratios make a big difference. I’m so sorry!

      1. Thanks! What you’re saying makes perfect sense. I just really wanted to make sure that the belly is curing correctly. My other pork belly, a recipe I found and used Smoked Paprika with, wasn’t as moist.

  8. Hey Susie! Thanks for the recipe. One quick question on the Pepper Bacon. You say, “After the bacon is cured and rinsed, rub with an additional tablespoon of cracked black pepper.” Is that 1 TBS per pound, or 1 TBS total? Thanks!

    1. I used about a tablespoon total on my 3 pound slab. However, this one is kind of up to your preference and how strong you want the pepper flavor to be. Feel free to add as much or as little as you want.

  9. This is dry cure and not a brine? I’ve never tried a dry cure before, but every time I’ve used tender quick for bacon it finishes to salty.

    1. Yep, this is a dry cure. The tenderquick is salty, but I didn’t think it was too salty. If you’re worried about it, you can let the bacon soak overnight in cold water to draw out some of the saltiness before the drying/pellicle step.

  10. Just tried this recipe. I was apprehensive, but the bacon turned out great. Thank you for this recipe. I will do this again.

  11. I have used this recipe (with a couple of minor changes) and very good! The changes I make are a slightly less amount of Morton Tender Quick and I like a bit of whiskey added to it. I love the flavor it gives the bacon. But be warned it is real easy to get to much! Anyway I love the basic recipe that I go to for to start with!

  12. Hello, I plan to try this recipe and have all the necessary ingredients. I was wondering how flexible the time range for curing and drying can be? I have a 4.97 pound pork belly I plan to cure with the peppered cure. If you let it cure 8 or 9 days will that make it overly salty? Also if you let it dry in the fridge on a rack on a cookie sheet for 24-48 hours will that cause any issues? I want to plan it out so I can smoke it on a Saturday or Sunday and wanted to make sure I didn’t start the cure process too early. Or if I planned it out to be ready to smoke on a Saturday but something comes up and it doesn’t get in the smoker until Sunday is that a big issue? I appreciate any information you can provide. Looking forward to trying the process and enjoying the final product.

    1. Hey Brett- an extra day in the cure shouldn’t cause any dramatic change in he result. Pushing the drying phase to 48 hours wouldn’t be the best. It will dry out past the point where it is tacky to where it is just hard and then it won’t take on much smoke. I hope that helps!

        1. Should there be no liquid left in the bag by the end of the curing process? I have had the bacon in the bag curing for 8 days and there is still quite a bit of liquid in the bag. Make me worry I didn’t do something correct.

  13. The wait is finally over! It’s time to smoke, just put 5 lbs of pork belly on the Traeger. I cant wait to taste it! Thank you for sharing this recipe.

  14. Just tried this recipe and think I did something wrong. For some reason it didn’t really taste like bacon. It wasn’t very salty and the flavors were very faint. It was actually kind of bland. I did it just how you did with cutting a pork belly in half and doing both cures. I used Prague powder #1 so im not sure if that had anything to do with it. I cured it for 7 days, let it rest for 1 day then smoked it. Maybe it just needed another day of curing? Any help would be appreciated. Thanks!

  15. I love this article, and wanted to print it out for my records, but with all the ads, it is 26 pages! Is there not an option for a print friendly version? Thanks

  16. I live in the Northern Utah area and I can’t find the Morton’s Tender Quick or any of your other options anywhere. Where did you find the Tender Quick?

  17. Hello and thanks for sharing this recipe. Cant wait to try it. After smoking the bacon at 165 degrees for 6 hrs, is frying still required to consume safely? If yes, do you have any recommendations for smoking times so that the bacon is ready to slice and eat out of the smoker, withourr frying?

  18. Do you remove the skin? Most recipes I see tell you to cut off the skin after curing, but I don’t know the benefit or drawback of doing so. Thank you.

    1. This recipe calls for pork belly with the skin already removed. You don’t want to smoke or eat bacon with the skin on, so make sure it comes off either before the cure or before smoking.

  19. I just recently got into smoking. I have made several batches of smoked sausage, ribs, and pulled pork. I’ve been wanting to make homemade bacon since before I bought my smoker. I found your post and decided to give it a try. I’m currently sitting on my deck smoking my slab of bacon that I cured in your Maple brown sugar recipe. It was a hard decision whether to smoke over Maplewood or Applewood. I chose Applewood. I can’t wait to pull this out of the smoker and slice it and fry it up.

    1. John,
      Can you clarify how to substitute the Prague or pink salt for TQ?
      Is there an advantage to using one or the other

  20. Do you have a video of your process? I followed your recipe and my cure came out think like a paste. It has been in the fridge for about six days now, and I do have a good amount of liquid, but I am concerned about if it cured evenly. I am thinking it should have been more powdery like a rub when I started it.

    Any help or recommendations would be great!

    1. Hey Don- Unfortunately I don’t have a video for this one, but you are on the right track! The cure isn’t powdery, as it draws liquid out of the pork belly it creates a more wet cure. Just make sure you are flipping daily (and you can even give it an extra little rub in the bags) and it will cure evenly.

      1. Thanks for the quick reply!
        First batch completed and turned out amazing! Next batch is going into the cure tomorrow.
        Now to buy a slicer and try this maple cure on a ham and start making sandwiches!
        Keep up the great work and thank you for all the information you provide!

  21. I’m am so excited to try this bacon. I have done everything up to the smoke. I noticed when I had the bacon in the fridge for the last step that it never developed the sticky pellicle. It has now air dried in the fridge for about 22 hours and the outside is dry.

    Will that dryness prevent the smoke from penetrating the meat? Should I spritz it with water to soften that up before smoking?

  22. I’m in mourning after reading the comments and realizing I used WAY too much pink prague powder before popping it in the smoker. Now off to the butcher to start over!

  23. I just started the KETO diet. any idea how many carbs this might have (from the sugar). I’d love to do the maple one. I have a Vision kamado grill/smoker.

    this looks wonderful and would be perfect on keto diet (low carbs – under 20 per day –

  24. one more question: you suggest to have the butcher remove the skins. isn’t that what you use to make those cracklin things? my hubby LOVES those. I’d eat the bacon – he can have the fried skin. LOL

    not sure where to get the pork. Costco?

  25. just entered the ingredients into myfitness pal. this is what I came up with using 1 lb reference but 4oz serving. do remember the brine gets rinsed so the carbs and sugars would be lower than this. I gave credit to your website. hope that was OK?

    calories 628
    % Daily Value *
    Total Fat 60 g 93 %
    Saturated Fat 22 g 110 %
    Monounsaturated Fat 28 g
    Polyunsaturated Fat 6 g
    Trans Fat 0 g
    Cholesterol 82 mg 27 %
    Sodium 1378 mg 57 %
    Potassium 243 mg 7 %
    Total Carbohydrate 10 g 3 %
    Dietary Fiber 0 g 1 %
    Sugars 9 g
    Protein 11 g 21 %
    Vitamin A 0 %
    Vitamin C 1 %
    Calcium 2 %
    Iron 4

  26. So I followed the maple recipe to a T using the additional instructions for Prague Powder #1. I found that after rinsing it off and smoking it a day later, the bacon had no flavor.
    I ended up glazing it after the fact with some maple syrup and cayenne pepper. What am I doing wrong?

  27. I’m getting ready to try this, already bought my pork belly and Morton Tenderquick, question is, is there a point in this process where it is safe to stall….meaning I can only really finish it up on the smoker on the weekends, but if I start it and it takes longer than 7 days it could mess up my schedule. My pork belly from Costco is a little over an inch thick on one end.

  28. I’ve made this recipe lots of times. Thank you. I got thrown a cure ball, I now have sliced uncured pork belly. Can I use the same recipe? Also email me, I have a recipe I’d like to share.

  29. This sounds super good, just bought myself my first wood pellet grill and can’t wait to get started. As far as the is concerned you say you use apple wood which is great for smoking pork, but so is cherry wood (which I prefer for my pork butts), have you used cherry before? What other wood flavors have you used? Apple, cherry, maple, hickory, oak, alder or pecan, I know from other pork products they all bring something different to the table, but I’ve never done bacon, yet, so just wondering so I don’t kill my belly….

    1. 1/2 Cherry would be great with bacon! I’ve used pretty much ever flavor of wood and a majority of them have slim flavor differences. The strongest flavored wpods are Mesquite and Oak

  30. Thanks for putting me on to making bacon..I don’t have a smoker and don’t want to invest in one till i see how it turns out..gonna try my hydrated as I make a lot of jerky..any suggestions????

  31. two questions:
    (1) recipie states to rinse after cure. Possible to give more details? Is this a quick rinse under cold water or a dip in water bath then pat dry?
    (2) I have traeger pellet smoker. It only has smoke setting or 180. Recipe say cook it at 165.

  32. Hello, I realized after rubbing cure on pork belly, the weight is 10 lbs vs your 8. The maple cure seemed like it was barely covering. Should I make more to rub on maybe leave out the tenderquick?

  33. Hi I will be trying this soon and had a question. You mentioned, if using pink curing salt put an additional 1 tsp per pound of salt and sugar. But I didn’t see any salt in your ingredients list. Can you clarify?

  34. hey grill guys i have two questions. The first question is in your recipe it says per pound of belly so that would be 4 tablespoons mortons tenderquick for a 4 pound pork belly? The second question is do i put the rub on both sides and then into zip lock bag and then into the refrigerator for curing?

    1. That is correct! Yes, cover it with the cure mixture and cure in the fridge. Make sure you turn the slab over in the cure and massage once a day!

      1. Thanks for getting back to me so quickly. Now just have to wait for my local Meijers to get mortons tenderquick in so i can get it and do me some pork belly.

  35. Hello, looking forward to giving this a try. Got a original Bradley smoker. I think I understand the curing stage. When it comes to smoking it, do I continuously feed the wood chip pucks for 6 hours ? Or do I give it 3 hours of smoking and continue to cook without smoke for another 3 hours.?

  36. Hey Suzie, I just made this a week or so ago and the process was really easy but I had one problem. When I cooked the bacon up I couldn’t seem to get it cooked through before it was turning black and almost charring, and I was on low heat while cooking. Any thoughts as to what I did wrong or why it was doing that?

    1. Do you use a separate thermometer on your grill grate or are you going by what temp the grill is telling you?

  37. Is there a way to make bacon that is a lower sodium bacon? We have cut as much sodium out of our diet as possible. Thanks.

  38. Did I miss something? I’ve made up the recipe but there is so little liquid in the cure, I don’t see how it will distribute evenly to the meat. I’ve read and re-read but you don’t say whether you rubbed on the meat and then bagged or added to the bag after the meat.

  39. Wow, sounds like an awesome recipe! Can I use the exact same process but cold smoke my bacon instead of hot smoke like you did?

  40. Interesting comment from Morton’s website considering your conversation with them:

    “We cannot recommend Morton Tender Quick for use with pork belly or bacon. Due to the differing fat content of individual cuts, the curing time for these items may vary significantly. For this reason, we cannot recommend the appropriate amount of Tender Quick or curing time in this application.”

    Seems to work just fine! Lawyers!

  41. Did you re-pepper your bacon after rinsing and allowing the pellicule to form? My pepper bacon looks like the regular bacon after the rinse. Love the website and all the information.

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