Bacon goes well with almost anything. It’s used in everything from sandwiches to chocolate—we haven’t found anything this versatile treat can’t do!
The art of curing meat dates back to ancient civilizations as a way to preserve meat for long periods of time before the dawn of refrigeration. Since then it’s been perfected and made into an art form. Knowing the key temps makes this a project simple.
Curing and Smoking Your Own Bacon
Ingredients and Supplies:
Recipe from Steven Raichlen
- 1 pork belly, 10-12 lbs.
- 1/3 cup kosher salt
- 3 tablespoons freshly ground black pepper
- 1/3 cup brown sugar, granulated sugar, or maple sugar (we used brown sugar)
- 2 teaspoons pink curing salt, such as prague powder #1 (optional)
- Applewood chunks
- Cherry wood chips
8 Simple Steps:
1. Find the Right Pork Belly
Purchase a pork belly with the skin removed. It can be difficult to tell if the skin is on or removed, but an easy way to check is to make an indent on the fat side with your fingernail. If the skin is still on, your fingernail will only make a small indent. If the skin is removed properly, you will see a deep nail imprint in the fat of your pork belly.
2. Prepare the Dry Cure
Mix together salt, pepper, and brown sugar, making sure to break up any brown sugar lumps with your fingers.
Rub half of the cure onto each side of the pork belly. Be sure to cover the entire exterior.
Place the belly and any excess cure mixture in a large, sturdy zipper-lock bag and place on a rimmed baking sheet to catch any drips.
Refrigerate the pork belly on the bottom shelf in your fridge for 5-7 days. Turn the sealed bag over once a day to redistribute the liquid that will accumulate on the bottom.
4. Rinse and Chill
After curing, rinse the curing liquid off the pork belly before smoking. Pat the meat dry and refrigerate, uncovered, for at least 4 hours and up to overnight.
It’s time for smoking! When making bacon very slow, cool smoke is needed. This step isn’t to cook the pork belly all the way through and render the fat, but to achieve smoke penetration for flavor. Heat your smoker to between 150-190°F (65-88°C). Hickory, apple, and cherry are all woods that work well with pork belly (the wood chunks were added to the smoker dry).
Place a DOT® with an air probe at the back of the grill grate. This will measure your smoker’s ambient temperature. Place the second DOT probe into the thickest part of the center of the meat, setting the DOT’s high alarm to 150°F (65°C). Set the pork belly meat side down on the grill grate. Remember to keep your grill’s temperature below 200°F (93°C)
6. Cook Time
Our pork belly took about 4 hours to reach its target temperature of 150°F (65°C).
7. Refrigerate Overnight
When the DOT‘s alarm sounds, remove the pork belly from the smoker. Cool to room temperature on a cooling rack set over a rimmed baking sheet. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap and place bacon onto a clean baking sheet, and refrigerate overnight. This step serves two purposes:
- Allows smoke to fully penetrate and set, and
- Chills the pork belly making it firm and easier to slice.
8. Slice, Cook, and Serve!
Once the bacon has chilled overnight, slice thinly, and cook as desired. The week-long prep time is worth the wait.
➤ Thermal Tip: The Best Way to Cook Bacon
Achieving perfectly crisp, evenly cooked bacon is all about patience. You see, bacon is made up of two distinct elements—the fat (which is actually a mixture of fat and connective tissue) and the lean—and each cooks differently. By cooking bacon over low heat, it [cooks] more evenly. Do it in the oven. An oven heats more evenly than a skillet does, delivering perfectly crisp bacon by the trayful. —The Food Lab, by J. Kenji Lopez-Alt
A bit of planning and patience is needed to tackle the 5-7 day curing, but it may just be the best bacon you’ve ever had. Knowing the key temps for your smoker and the meat and tracking those temps with DOT makes the process nearly foolproof.