There is no substitute for the flavors of smoked bacon, slowly made the old fashioned way. No here’s how to get it done!
Curing meats such as homemade bacon, ham, or pastrami is fun and the results are often better than store bought. But curing is very different from any other recipe because you are using a preservative, sodium nitrite. You must read and thoroughly understand my article on the Science Of Curing Meats before attempting to cure meat or before you ask any questions.
Note: This is a recipe for simple, basic all-American bacon.
- Disover my recipe for Maple Bacon here
- Click here for my recipe for Asian Style Bacon
- Find my recipes for Candied Bacon here
In case you have been hibernating, I’m here to tell you that smoked bacon has permeated everything from chocolate to mayonnaise. Unworthy is the upscale bar that doesn’t have a cocktail with a bacon swizzle stick. There’s a National Bacon Day and even Burger King bacon-ized a dessert. But until you’ve tasted real honest to goodness old fashioned, sweet, smoky, umami laden, real American-style homemade bacon, you’ve never really tasted it at its fullest. And now we’re going to provide you with the tools to make amazing homemade bacon!
In parallel to bacon’s rise, pork belly, from which American bacon is made, has moved from Asian menus to mainstream menus across the nation. The major difference between the two is that bacon is cured with a lot of salt, slightly sweet, and smoked, while belly is often just rubbed or marinated, and roasted without the smoke.
But when it comes to both, there’s room for a lot of creativity, and the lines are blurring. Check out this page for our glossary of all the different types of bacon around the world, including buckboard bacon, guanciale, lardons, and pancetta.
Although there are more and more artisanal bacon producers making killer (expensive) bacon out there, almost all the stuff in the grocery stores is made by huge manufacturers taking shortcuts designed to get the stuff onto the market as fast and cheaply as possible. That’s because, sadly, most shoppers see bacon as a commodity. As consumers, we reinforce this behavior when we shop by price alone. Even the labels with boutiquey names (like Farmer John) are usually made by the big mass producers (Hormel).
Homemade bacon is surprisingly easy and the results are quantum leaps better than the stuff from large commercial producers. Once you have the basic recipe down, you can vary the ingredients to make a flavor profile to suit your taste. It is a simple two-step process: (1) curing, and (2) smoking.
But pay attention to the raw material. Check out the notes below for important tips on ordering the meat for American style bacon.
This is a homemade bacon recipe that produces amazing results every time. But my favorite is Maple Bacon, essentially the same process but with pure maple syrup. The Maple Bacon recipe also has a cool video of the entire process of making homemade bacon. Or try Asian Style Bacon made with honey, hoisin, soy sauce, ginger, garlic, and Sriracha. Soooo good.Get a sneak peak at Meathead’s next book. He shares chapters with members of our Pitmaster Club as he finishes them. Click here for a free 30 day trial. No credit card needed. No spam. Click here to Be Amazing!
Makes:About 3 pounds
- Skin it. If the skin is still on the belly, remove it and use it to make cracklins. It is sometimes hard to tell if it is still there. It is usually a darker tan color compared to creamy colored fat. You should be able to make a cut in fat with your thumbnail. Your thumbnail will only make a dent in skin. Leaving skin on causes problems for salt penetration, and when you fry it, the skin gets very hard and you probably won't like the texture. Removing the skin can be tricky. Sometimes you can grip a corner with your fingers and run a knife under the skin to peel it back by running the knife between the skin and fat. Sometimes you just have to shave it off with a sharp knife.
- Cure it. Pour everything except the meat into a zipper bag large enough to hold the belly. A 1 gallon bag will hold a single 3 pound slab. Zip the bag and squish everything around until well mixed. Now add the belly, squeeze out the air as much as possible and squish some more rubbing the cure into the belly and coat all sides. Put the bag in a pan to catch leaks and place in the fridge at 34 to 38°F for 3 to 5 days. If the belly is thicker than 1.5" check the calculator here. The belly will release liquid so every day or two you want to gently massage the bag so the liquid and spices are well distributed, and flip the bag over. NOTE: If you use more than one slab in a bag it is crucial that the slabs do not overlap each other. Thickness matters!
- Rinse off the cure. Remove the belly from the bag, and throw the liquid away. Quick rinse it to wash off any thick deposits of salt on the surface. Most recipes tell you to let the slab dry for 24 hours so the smoke will stick better, but, as the AmazingRibs.com science advisor Dr. Greg Blonder has proven, smoke sticks better to wet surfaces, so this extra step isn't necessary.
- Fire up. If you are using a grill, set up for 2-zone cooking or fire up your smoker.
- Cook. Smoke over indirect heat at 225°F until the internal temp is 150°F, about 2 hours. You can use any wood you like. Hickory is the tried and true. I'm partial to cherry and applewood. After smoking you should slice off the ends, which may be very dark and more heavily seasoned, and taste them right away. They will be more salty than the innards and the fat will be a bit stringy, but you'll love it all the same. Just wait til you cook up an inside slice!
- Cool. Now let it cool on a plate in the fridge. Cold bacon is easier to slice. Use on a slicer if you have one, or use a long thin knife to slice it. Try some thin and some thick slices. You can also cut bacon in cubes to make lardons and use them like bacon bits in salads, mashed potatoes, mac and cheese, baked beans, in sauces or to garnish chops, or roasts.
- Wrap it tightly with several layers of plastic wrap, and then a layer of foil, and refrigerate for up to 2 weeks or freeze for up to 3 months. Do not wrap in foil alone because it can react with the salt.
- Slice. Slice it across the grain. For evenly thick slices, a slicing machine is the best choice, but I rarely use mine because it is a pain to clean. Besides, I like to keep the slab intact and tightly wrapped in the fridge or freezer to reduce exposure to oxygen which can make the fat taste funny in a week or two. When I make bacon I usually shoot for hunks 6 to 8" wide across the grain to make sure my thin 9" knife and frying pan fit. If you put a slab in the freezer for 15 minutes or so it gets stiffer and easier to slice.
- Cook. When you are hungry, cook it just like you do store bought bacon. Or make candied bacon like in this video.
- Save the bacon drippings. While your bacon is cooking lay out a section of newspaper several sheets thick, and cover it with a layer of paper towels. As soon as the bacon is done, move it to the paper towel to drain. Let the fat in the pan cool a bit and then pour it in a glass jar and refrigerate. Hot bacon can melt a plastic tub, so be careful. Save the fat for up to a month and use it to fry. Broccoli and potatoes are especially good cooked in bacon grease.