Monday, October 8, 2012

Homemade Bacon

Homemade bacon is the best thing ever.  Ever.

Before I tell you how I made it, let me tell you how I ate it.  Right after I pulled the cured and smoked belly off the barbeque, I decided to slice off a piece, cube it, fry the cubes and then... wait for it...  put the fried bacon on some bread with a drizzle of maple syrup.  It's like happiness on a piece of bread.  Salty, sweet, smoky, crispy, fatty...  I am 100% sold on making my own bacon.

So why did I decide to make my own bacon?  Well, it fits my pattern of interests considering I've made pancetta and guanciale already.  It also gives me an opportunity to try smoking.  Lastly, I need bacon for my famous Thanksgiving brussels sprouts.  Yeah they're famous, and I will be posting the recipe soon.

Here is how the bacon-makin' went.

1. I bought a gorgeous 2-pound piece of pork belly.  Funnily enough I was just reading the other day not to freak out if your pork belly had nipples and guess what???  My pork belly had two nipples.  Off they came, along with the rest of the pork skin.  When I made pancetta, I left the skin on, but with the bacon I decided to cut it off.  The easiest way to do this is to start with a sharp knife.  With the belly lying on your counter, skin-side up, make a cut between the skin and the fat, as close to the skin as possible, down one entire side of the belly.

To imagine what you are about to do, your hand is on top of the skin and the knife is just below the skin.  The knife blade is held parallel to the counter (and pork belly).  Your hand should be able to feel the knife through the skin - this will help you take off a minimum of fat.  Go slowly and check periodically to make sure you aren't taking off too much fat with the skin.

Don't throw away the fat-covered skin!  I am using mine in an upcoming braised dish.  All you do is put the skin, fat side down, in a hot pan and render the fat out.  You can then use the fat to saute whatever your heart desires.  Freeze it in a ziploc bag until you need it.

2. Pour the ingredients for the curing mix into a bowl and combine well.  All you really need is salt and sugar.  I decided to add thyme, coriander seed and hot pepper.  The thyme has anti-microbial properties and a delicious taste.  I am in love with coriander seed and the hot pepper just goes well with everything.  I mean, spicy bacon...  Mmmm...

Curing Mix
2/3 salt
1/3 sugar
A few sprigs of thyme (optional)
1 tablespoon of coriander seed
2 tablespoons of hot pepper (optional) 

At the start of the curing process
Spread a good amount of the curing mix on the bottom of a ceramic or glass dish.  Nestle the pork belly on top and then spread the rest of the curing mix on top.  I like to massage it in a little bit.  Just a little bit, gently, using my fingertips.  Then pop it in the fridge.  It sits in the fridge for about a week, being turned every day or so.

The day before the smoking, take the pork out of the salt/sugar mix, rinse it and let it sit on a rack in the fridge.  This allows the pork belly to develop a pellicle or coating on the outside.  The pellicle helps the belly absorb the smoke.

3. Now, it is time for the smoking.  I decided to do a hot smoke.  Mostly because I am using a BBQ so I don't really have the option of doing a cold smoke.  As well, though, I didn't use nitrites in my curing mix.  Nitrites kill botulism and I felt uncomfortable holding a piece of pork at a warm temperature for an extended period of time (8-12 hours) without this botulism killing power.  The last thing I want to do on Thanksgiving is give my family food poisoning.

At the end of the curing process
I turned one burner on as low as it could go, and placed a packet of hickory wood chips, two star anise pods, a teaspoon of black peppercorns, and two bay leaves in an aluminum foil packet on top.  The pork sat as far away from the heat as possible, but even still, it reached 150 degrees Fahrenheit in about an hour and a half.  I would have liked to smoke it out for longer, but fate would not allow this.  Once it reached temperature, I pulled it off, let it cool a bit, wrapped it in foil, and then popped it in the fridge.  It will sit in there for a couple days to rest in anticipation of Thanksgiving.

Verdict: As I mentioned earlier, I did sample the bacon and it was amazing.  The smoke flavour from the BBQ is so much better than the injected smoke flavour found in store bought bacon.  So much better.  It is ultra-luscious and fatty.  I don't think I will ever eat store-bought bacon again.

Now I just need to buy a proper smoker.


  • Smoking as a method to cure meats came about an accident.  I guess that's what happens when you live in a smoke-filled cave with no fridge!
  • If you do decide to experiment with cold smoke, you need to properly cure the flesh.  And you might want to use nitrites.  Just sayin'.
  • I love bacon.

Shonagh explores the guts of food in An Offal Experiment.


  1. Replies
    1. I highly recommend making it yourself. It would be a great Christmas present for a bacon lover!

  2. So this has made me want to make my own bacon!!

    1. Awesome! It is so easy and so tasty. Get John to build you a smoker!

  3. The brussel sprouts were AMAZING, and I'm really glad you decided not to cold smoke the bacon...

    1. What? You ate the brussels sprouts! I guess you are no longer vegetarian. Mwa-ha-ha bacon does it every time!

  4. I've found that I need to soak the belly, after curing, for a couple of hours or it come out way too salty. The flavor has penetrated enough not to be affected but the salt needs to be diluted a bit. I made a little smoker with a Weber Lil Smokey sitting on top of a No. 10 can with a few pieces of good wood in it. Then just put it on an outdoor burner on low and smoke away.

    1. You are a real McGyver! Does soaking it affect the texture of the bacon? Do you use sugar in the cure? I've heard that cuts the salt.

      Thanks for checking out my blog! Let me know if you're local to Vancouver because I have a thought brewing in my mind for an artisan bacon gathering/competition.

    2. I do about a 50/50 sugar and salt plus whatever random herbs I have around. I notice no difference in texture. I do rest it overnight and uncovered in the fridge.

    3. Very interesting! I might try that next time.