I have done several videos on making bacon. However, it has been pointed out to me that I have never done a video on just plain bacon. I found this characterization a little concerning as dry cured bacon is a wonderful thing and not just plain but the point was taken. So, here is a post with step by step instructions and a video for making bacon.
To make dry cured bacon you need to understand the process of curing. You make a mixture of salt, curing salt and a sweetener.
The salt pulls the moisture out of the meat.
The curing salt is a mixture of salt and sodium nitrite that gives the bacon its cured flavour and red colour. It also inhibits bacterial growth. Bacon is cooked at low temperatures and cured for a long period of time. Without the curing salts, the meat may spoil. The curing salt usually used is called Prague Powder #1, Instacure #1 or many other names. Whatever it is called, you are looking for a product that is 93.75% salt and 6.25% sodium nitrite.
It is important that you don’t use too much curing salt as excessive sodium nitrite is bad for you. It is important to not use too little or the pork may spoil during smoking.
You start by buying a slab of what Canadians call side pork or what Americans call pork belly. This usually comes with the skin attached. The skin should be removed. You can ask the butcher to remove it or you can take it off with a sharp slicing knife.
After removing the skin, weigh the piece of meat and measure the thickest part of the slab.
You need to make a dry curing rub and the amount of the ingredients depend on the weight of the slab. For each kilogram of pork you need to mix three ingredients. You can use dry measures or weight to measure each ingredient and I include both. However, I really recommend using a scale and weighing the Prague powder #1 as it is more accurate.
- 30 ml/25.8 grams of brown sugar
- 15 ml/19.2 grams of kosher salt
- 2.3 ml/3 grams Prague powder #1
So, if you had 2 pounds of pork, you would double those amounts. In other words, multiply these amounts by the number of kilograms of pork.
For my American friends who haven’t joined the rest of the world, for each pound of pork you would use:
- 2 1/2 teaspoons/0.35 oz brown sugar
- 1 1/2 teaspoon/0.3 oz Kosher salt
- 1/5 teaspoon/0.04 oz Prague powder #1
Put the pork on a plate or tray so that any rub that falls off the pork is caught by the plate. Rub the mix into the surface of the pork.
Put the pork in a resealable plastic bag or a vacuum seal bag with one end sealed. Put any rub that fell on the plate in the bag. Seal the bag but do not suck the air out if using a vacuum bag.
For every inch of the thickness of the widest part of the pork, you will need to leave the pork to cure for 4 days plus two extra days. If the pork is 1 1/2 inch thick, it will cure for (1 1/2 times 4 plus 2) 8 days. Put the bag in the fridge for that length of time, turning daily and massaging the bag.
Take the pork out of the bag and soak the slab of pork in cold water for 60 minutes, changing the water once. This takes excess salt off the surface of the pork.
Put the pork on a rack and pat it dry with paper towels. Put it in the fridge, on the rack and uncovered, overnight to develop a dry surface. A dry surface is called pellicle and is needed for the meat to take smoke well.
Now you have to decide if you want a strong smoke taste or just a mild smoke. If you want a strong smoke, I recommend you double smoke the bacon. This involves cold smoking the bacon and then hot smoking it.
If you want a mild smoke taste, just hot smoke it and skip the following steps for cold smoking.
To cold smoke, you need a smoke generator that doesn’t generate a lot of heat. I use my A-Maze-N Tube Smoker. It is a perforated tube that you fill with pellets. You light one end and let it smolder and produce smoke.
I lit my tube smoker and put it in the smoker without lighting the smoker. I let it smoke for 4 to 5 hours.
I took the bacon out of the smoker and let it sit for two days to let the smoke even out.
I preheated my smoker to 180 F and hot smoked the bacon until the internal temperature was 130 to 140 F. I let it cool to room temperature and then put it in the fridge for a day.
You can use a slicing knife to cut the bacon but I have a rotary slicer that makes it easier. I recommend you cut it a bit thicker than commercial bacon, around 1/8 inch thick.
The bacon should be used within a week or frozen for longer storage.
Here is the video of the process.
This makes a great bacon. It has a great smoky taste with a touch of sweet. It will give off less liquid than most commercial bacon when cooking . You may never want to go back to buying bacon!
The Old Fat Guy
- side pork/pork belly, skin removed
- Metric for each KG of pork:
- 30 ml/25.8 grams brown sugar
- 15 ml/19.2 grams kosher salt
- 2.3 ml/3 grams Prague powder #1
- US Measures for each pound of pork:
- 2 1/2 tsp/0.35 oz brown sugar
- 1 1/2 tsp/0.3 oz kosher salt
- 1/5 tsp/0.04 oz Prague Powder #1
- Remove skin from pork, weigh, and measure the thickest part of the slab.
- Calculate the amount of brown sugar, salt and Prague powder #1 based on the weight. Mix these together.
- Put the meat on a plate or tray. Rub the mixture into the meat.
- Put the meat in a resealable bag or a vacuum bag with one end sealed. Scrape any rub that fell onto the plate into the bag.
- Seal the bag.
- Put the bag in the refrigerator for 2 days for each inch of thickness plus 2 days.
- Take the pork out and soak it in cold water for 60 minutes, changing the water once.
- Put the pork on a rack and pat dry with paper towels.
- Put the pork on the rack in the fridge overnight to dry the surface.
- If you want a strong smoke flavour, cold smoke for 4 to 5 hours. Then refrigerate for two days to let the smoke penetrate.Skip this step if you want a mild smoke.
- Heat a smoker to 180 F and smoke the bacon to an internal temperature between 130 F and 140 F.
- Let the pork cool to room temperature and then refrigerate overnight.
- Slice and use within a week or freeze for longer storage.
very nice job Dave … I am a Tampa buccaneer .. you are the Canadian baconeer … lol
Do you maple inject some sometimes ??
I was really happy with how this turned out Dave.
If I were to indulge in criticism of my own cook, I would say I found it just slightly too sweet. Have you ever attempted a belly cure with no/less sugar or is the sugar important chemically speaking to the curing process?
Any feedback would be appreciated.
The main reason to make your own bacon is to get it just the way you like it. I definitely like mine sweet. However, there is no problem reducing the sugar. I do not recommend using no sweetener at all. You need some to offset the salt. I would suggest you try with 1/2 the sugar I used and then increase or decrease to your tastes.
You can also change the type of sweetener. Maple sugar isn’t as sweet for the same volume. You can also cut the sugar back and inject with maple syrup (delicious by the way)! I have also tried molasses cut with equal parts water injected and liked it. I have just put some bacon in the curing container with some local honey from my nephew but I can’t report how it turns out yet.
I would really encourage you to branch out from this recipe to make bacon just the way you like it. The only things you must have in your bacon is the Prague powder #1, enough salt to draw out some liquid (I wouldn’t use less than 2/3 the amount in this recipe) and some sweetener to balance the salt.
After these, you can do many things! Try rubbing chipotle powder or cracked pepper on the surface before smoking. I have a friend who rubs cracked coriander seeds on the surface.
Now that you have the basics down, make it your bacon!
Let me know if you have any questions or want to discuss ideas.