“Bacon makes everything better” is an understatement.
Homemade bacon may not be the quickest thing to make, but it is certainly one of the tastiest and most satisfying.
There are many flavor options to try from your traditional hardwood smoked bacon, black pepper bacon, and maple bacon to name a few. Whichever flavor you choose, once you’ve cured and smoked your own bacon it’s hard to go back to regular store-bought bacon.
In this recipe, I’ll show you have to turn a whole pork belly into delicious bacon as well as how to slice and use a vacuum sealer to store and freeze.
Why should I make my own bacon?
Let’s be completely upfront here, it is MUCH easier to go to the local store and buy some bacon.
Making your own bacon does take time, and pork belly isn’t as cheap as it used to be. There are lots of pros though:
- You control exactly what goes into your bacon so if you are concerned about nitrates you can make your bacon nitrate free.
- Similarly, you choose the exact variety of pork to use so you can ensure your bacon is made from a high-quality, ethically raised product.
- Control of the flavors you put in and the level of smoke.
- Cut as thick or thin as you want, depending on what you use the bacon for.
It’s also a fun process that everyone should try at least once.
What cut of pork do I use?
Bacon generally comes from either the pork belly or loin, which is then cured and sometimes smoked – which is the method we’ll be using.
Look for a pork belly that is about 50:50% muscle to fat, with creamy white fat and pink meat.
Whole pork belly used to be difficult to get your hands on but is now common to find at good butchers or even Costco.
If your budget allows, look for a heritage breed like Berkshire, Duroc, or Kurobuta. For this recipe, we used an uncured pork belly from Porter Road.
What equipment do I need to make smoked bacon?
To make your own delicious bacon, you’ll need a smoker capable of low and slow smoking.
For this recipe, I’m using my Kamado Joe Classic II to indirectly smoke the bacon.
This smoker allows us to maintain a consistent temperature which in return will give us a nice clean smoke and a stronger smoke flavor.
Using a pellet grill is another great option as they are very consistent.
You’ll also need some large Ziploc bags to cure your bacon in, a large piece of pork belly, and a fridge to cure it in.
You’ll also need an instant read thermometer to check the temp of your pork belly throughout the cook, and a store-bought cure, or the ingredients for your own cure.
If you’ve got a vacuum sealer, then that will come in handy too.
How to make homemade smoked bacon
1. The cure
The purpose of a cure is to remove water from the meat as a method of preserving it.
The trick to the cure is to make sure you include the pink curing salt, but also make sure your seasonings have a nice balanced flavor.
You can stay basic, like what we have done or you can go after some crazy profiles like we’ll show you in upcoming recipes.
For this recipe we’ve used, light brown sugar, Kosher salt, coarse black pepper, garlic powder, paprika, and curing salt. Put it all into a bowl and combine well.
Just a quick pro tip, too much sugar will quickly ruin your bacon – when you fry it up in the pan the sugars will burn and your bacon will appear “burnt”.
2. The curing process
The curing process usually takes 7 full days for every inch of thickness.
Why? You are infusing flavor into your meat and you need to allow it to penetrate the meat as well as making sure that the cure does its job.
Apply the cure to the pork belly.
Place it in a vacuum seal bag or a Ziploc bag, making sure to seal it well because the cure will draw out a lot of liquid from the pork belly.
Put it in the refrigerator for 7 days. You want to make sure that you flip the pork belly every day so that the juices and flavors move throughout the whole cut and don’t just sit on one side of the meat the whole time.
You’ll know that your meat is cured when you can poke it and it has some resistance and starts to firm up.
After a week of flipping and massaging, remove it from the bag, and rinse it well, removing as much cure as you can.
Then place it on a wire rack, with a tray underneath to catch any dripping liquid, and put it back in the fridge, uncovered, overnight so that it can dry out and the pellicle can form.
What’s a pellicle you ask? A pellicle is a thin coating that forms on your pork belly that helps smoke stick to the meat allowing it to get a richer smokey flavor.
There are many different kinds of wood that can be used for smoke flavor on your bacon. I used cherry wood – this is by far one of my favorite flavors when it comes to smoking pork due to the deep fruity, rich flavor in the wood. Hickory and Apple wood are other popular smoke flavors to use for bacon.
The amount of smoke flavor you want to infuse into your meat is 100% up to you. When you buy bacon from the store, there is typically a very mild amount of flavor.
If you want a richer smoke flavor, you can add more wood which will in turn add some flavor once you fry up your bacon at the end.
The key to smoking your pork belly is to make sure that your temperature is kept low and slow – the lower your temp, the more smoke flavor you can infuse into your meat.
You want to set your smoker to a temperature of 200°F. Once your smoker is up to temp, and making sure you are seeing only thin blue smoke, add your pork belly.
Smoke for around 3 hours, or until the internal temp of your bacon is 160°F. Depending on the size of your pork belly this could either take more or less time.
5. Thick or thin?
Once the meat reaches 150°F internal temp, remove it from the smoker and rest for at least 30 minutes up to 2 hours.
At that point, you have a BIG decision to make. Are you looking for thin or thick cut bacon?
Personally, if I am making this to serve as meat with my breakfast, I love a good thick cut bacon. If you are looking to make sure it’s crispy and add it to a dish – a thinner cut is usually the way to go.
You can slice this with a Slicer knife or use a long knife like a brisket knife to slice into desired rashers.
How to cook your bacon
The trick to cooking up delicious bacon is to make sure that you cook it low enough and don’t burn the sugars infused into the bacon.
I typically fry this up on medium-low heat but I also know a lot of people that say the best bacon they make is in the oven. Either way, hot and fast is NOT the way to go.
Storing you bacon
You can easily store this in the refrigerator for about a week. Otherwise, you can make it last much longer by freezing it right away in a vacuum seal bag and it will remain fresh tasting for 6 months.
Here are more ways to eat that bacon
- Smoked bacon wrapped carrots
- Smoked baked beans with bacon
- Loaded smoked potato skins
- Bacon wrapped jalapeño poppers
Homemade Smoked Bacon
- 3 lb whole pork belly skinless
For the cure
- 1 cup light brown sugar
- ½ cup Kosher salt
- 2 tbsp black pepper course grind
- 1 tbsp paprika
- 1 tbsp garlic power
- 1 tsp pink curing salt (Note 1)
- Prepare curing rub by mixing all dry ingredients together until well combined.
- Apply the cure to pork belly, making sure to cover entirely.
- Place the pork belly in a vacuum seal bag or Ziplock and and seal well. Place in the refrigerator for 7 days and flip it over every day. There will be a liquid that forms in the bag – be sure to mix and massage this into the pork belly everyday when you flip it.
- After a week, remove from fridge and give it a thorough rinse to remove the cure.
- Pat dry, and return to fridge on a rack over a tray overnight to dry and for pellicle to form.
- Set up your smoker to run at 200°F, and smoke the pork belly until it hits an internal temp of 150°F, around 3 hours. Check internal temp regularly to avoid overcooking.
- Cool for at least 30 minutes to 2 hours.
- Slice to desired thickness and store.