Nothing beats the taste of freshly cooked bacon. Believe it or not, making your own smoked bacon at home is really very simple. If you already have an electric smoker, you only need a few essential ingredients and some time to create your own bacon right in your kitchen.
For the purpose of this guide, we’re going to discuss how to cure and smoke American-style bacon or slab bacon. Feel free to choose any cut you wish as the process is the same regardless of which type you choose.
What You’ll Need
Before you can get started, you’ll need to purchase a few ingredients. Here’s what you’ll need:
1. Pork Belly
In order to get your hands on some pork belly, you will need to visit a local butcher. Depending on your location, pork belly may cost you anywhere between $4 and $5 or more per pound. Whole bellies can weigh ten pounds or more, so be prepared to spend quite a bit. While it may seem like a big investment, keep in mind that each belly will provide you with a lot of bacon.
2. Pink Salt
Pink salt, or Prague powder, is a special curing salt used for the preservation and/or curing of meat. This salt is comprised primarily of table salt with sodium nitrite or nitrate mixed in. The nitrite and nitrate are what inhibit the growth of bacteria, in particular the bacteria that causes botulism. It also helps preserve the color of the meat.
3. Spices and Herbs
In addition to the curing salts, you’ll want to add in spices and herbs to make the bacon more flavorful.
For basic bacon, use the following ingredients:
- 5lbs. of pork belly
- 2 tsp. curing salt
- 1/4 cup kosher salt
- 2 tbsp. smoked paprika
- 1/4 cup of honey
- 1/4 cup dark brown sugar
- 1 tsp. cumin seeds
- 1 tbsp. crack black peppercorn
Feel free to substitute other spices and herbs as you see fit.
4. An Electric Smoker
This is the single most important component to the bacon-making process. Without a smoker, you won’t be able to create bacon as you know it. If absolutely necessary, you can rig a charcoal grill to double as a smoker, but you really need the real thing if you want to smoke delicious bacon.
In addition to the smoker, you’ll also need some wood chips. Apple wood works great for bacon, but you can also choose mesquite, alter or whichever other type of wood you prefer.
Now that you have everything you need, the bacon making process can begin.
How to Cure and Smoke Bacon
Curing and smoking is surprisingly simple. Just follow the steps below.
- Trim the pork belly. If you purchased a belly with the skin on, you’ll need to trim it away. Try to leave as much fat as you can behind. Also, trim thick membranes as these will not break down when cooking.
- Cut the belly into smaller pieces. Unless you have a heavy-duty, commercial-grade smoker, you’ll need to cut it down into smaller, manageable pieces. Cutting the belly in half or into thirds is ideal.
- Combine curing salt, spices and herbs. Be sure to measure the curing salt precisely.
- Rub the curing salt/spice combination on the pork belly.
- Bag the belly, flip and wait. Place the belly in a large Ziploc bag and squeeze out as much air as possible. Place the belly in the fridge, and flip the bag over every day. Allow the belly to cure for seven to ten days.
- Rinse and test. Rinse the pork belly to remove the salt. Slice off a small piece of the belly and pan fry it to test out the flavor. Please Note: For safety reasons, do not eat the meat raw. If the cooked slice tastes like bacon, then you’re ready to start smoking. If it’s too salty, soak the pork belly in cold water for a few hours to remove the salt.
- Dry the pork in the refrigerator uncooked overnight. This creates a dry, tacky surface that’s great for smoking.
- Smoke your bacon. Remember to soak your wood chips before starting this step. You want the smoker temperature to be between 200 and 225 degrees. Keep an eye on your bacon and the wood chips as it smokes. The bacon will be finished smoking when it reaches an internal temperature of 148 degrees Fahrenheit. This can take anywhere between two and four hours.
Now, you can eat your bacon as it is, or you can pan-fry it to give it that chewy, crispy texture American-style bacon is known for.