I RECENTLY TOOK UP SMOKING. MAKIN’ BACON.

After much debate about the benefits and drawbacks, my boyfriend and I jointly decided to take up smoking about a month ago.  It’s totally worth it and completely cool. Don’t let anyone tell you different. Sure … it stinks up the house a little bit, but that’s a small price to pay for something that’s so mindnumbingly enjoyable.

And I can tell you right now, no way, no how am I going to quit. Ever. We all know it’s addictive but I had no idea how quickly it would take hold. Like, instantly! It really isn’t surprising that you rarely see people smoking in movies and on television. If people saw more of it, EVERYONE would take up the habit.

The very best part and worst part about it is, smoking becomes your best friend. A part of the family. Something that makes the hard times easier and the fun times even MORE fun!

Everyone has different tastes but this is my favourite thing to smoke.

how-to-smoke-bacon

 

Yup.  Today we’re going to be Makin’ Bacon.

A Step by Step Guide on How to Smoke Bacon

You’ll need a pork belly.

You’ll need a curing mixture like ReadyCure or Morton’s Tender Quick.

You’ll need brown sugar.

You’ll need a smoker.

(It is possible to do this on a regular BBQ as well, but I’m just giving instructions for a smoker here)

(January and February are popular months for making products out of pork, so bellies are readily available in supermarkets at this time)

title-pin-how-to-smoke-bacon

pork-belly

 

Your package of Cure  will tell you how much you need to use per pound of meat. For me, it was 1/4 lb of Ready Cure for the 12.5 lbs of meat I had.

bacon-preservative

 

Mix the Ready Cure (or whatever curing salt you have bought) with an equal amount of brown sugar and set aside.

how-to-make-bacon-1

 

As you can see … the pork belly comes with its skin attached.  Sometimes as an added bonus, you also get nipples.

pork-belly-2

 

Before you cure your pork belly, you need to remove the skin.  As long as you have a really sharp knife you’ll be fine.  It’s easier to remove the skin if you cut your pork belly into 3 pieces.  Just cut it into 3rds, running widthwise.  (not the length of the belly)

Slip your knife under the skin, trying not to remove too much of the fat.

pork-belly-3

 

That’s a butcher’s glove I’m wearing.  It’s cut resistant.  As I am cut prone.

how-to-make-bacon-2

 

Once you have the skin removed you can sprinkle the salt/sugar mixture over the entire pork belly.  Do it the same way you’d put any dry rub on.

 

Sprinkle it on, then rub it in.

bacon-rub

 

Once all your pieces are covered in rub, wrap then up tightly in a plastic bag, or put them in a large Tupperware container.  They now go in the fridge for 5-7 days.  I cured mine for 7 full days.  Every day flip the bags/Tupperware over. Juices will form and settle in the bottom of the container.  You want to make sure every side of the bacon is getting an even coating, so flip, flip, flip.

Once the 7 days of curing are up, remove the bacon from the fridge and rinse the pork belly under water.  Once it’s rinsed, let it soak in a sink full of water for 2-4 hours.  The longer you soak the bacon, the less salty it will be.  I accidentally soaked mine for 4 hours.  I would have preferred 2.  The bacon is still quite salty after 4 hours … just not quite as salty as it would be if you only soaked it for 2 hours.

drying-pork-belly

 

Your pork belly now needs to air dry.  After removing it from the water in the sink, dry it with paper towels or a clean cloth.

Elevate it on a cookie cooling rack or something.  It needs to get good air circulation all the way around it.  Put it back in the fridge on the racks for another 1/2 day.  (I did this step overnight so the bacon was ready to start smoking in the morning)  The reason you dry the pork belly like this is so the meat forms a layer of pectin.  Or something like that.  I’m not really sure.  It has to do with pig science.  Also, wet meat won’t take smoke.  So in order to smoke your pork belly, you need meat that is dried.

 

By now you have approximately 8 days into this fiasco and you’re thinking, I believe I will just buy a pound of bacon next time. That’s only because you haven’t had the fun part yet. The smoking. Well today, day 8 is fun day. Get your smoker fired up!

smoker

You want to slowly bring the smoker up to 180 degrees. Give it about an hour, with your drafts only open a minuscule amount.

temperature-to-smoke-bacon

Once your smoker is at temperature and a stream of nice blue smoke it coming out add 1 or 2 pieces of your favourite fruitwood. Bacon loves fruitwood. Apple and Cherry are the most popular. I chose Cherry. Because that’s what I had in the shed.
And a quick note here about smoking with wood. Unless you’re some kind of freakish smoke connoisseur you are not going to be able to tell what kind of wood your meat was smoked with. Your bacon will not taste like Apple or Cherry. It’ll taste like bacon. So don’t fret too much about the wood you use. Any piece of hardwood will work quite frankly.

Go ahead … add your wood.

how-to-make-bacon-4

 

Now it’s fun time. Time to put your pork belly on the smoker.  I had both one full pork belly and 2 smaller centre cut pieces.  The centre cut is the prized cut because it has the best distribution of fat to meat.  It is literally the hunk of meat in the centre of the pork belly.

smoking-yoru-own-bacon

 

Since I had several pieces of pork belly, and not a lot of surface area on my smoker, I improvised a rack with my cookie cooling racks.

how-to-smoke-your-own-bacon

 

 

Now the difficult part. You have to close the lid and leave it alone. Do not open the lid. Do not be tempted to look at it. Just leave it. Keep an eye on your temperature. You need to smoke the bacon at 180 for 3 hours. At the end of 3 hours, slowly bring the temperature up to 220 by opening your bottom vent a little bit. Smoke for another 2 hours.

At this time (if you aren’t using a remote meat thermometer) you can go out and check your bacon. You are looking for an internal temperature of 145°.

You DO NOT want your bacon to reach a higher temperature than this because the fat will start to render.  And that is bad for your bacon.

I checked my bacon after 3 hours at 180° and 2 hours at 220°.  It was over 150°!!!  HOLY CRAP!  Off it came.

smoking-bacon

 

Bring your bacon inside and admire it.  If you’re anything like me (and I think you are) you’ll be shocked  … because it looks just like bacon.

homemade-bacon

 

 

 

This is where you can see the fat that has rendered.  It’s drippy.  Luckily I caught the meat in time … I SAVED THE BACON.

rendered-fat

 

 

Now it’ll probably be late at night so you can  just stick the bacon in the fridge until you’re ready to slice it tomorrow.

To slice the bacon, either partially freeze it and slice it with a very sharp knife by hand or use a meat slicer.  We used a meat slicer.

slicing-homemade-bacon

 

When you cut the bacon, you’re cutting it across the width.  Not the length.

homemade-bacon-4

 

 

 

Once you have your bacon all cut into pieces, wrap it in plastic wrap in the amounts you eat at once.  Nothing says you HAVE to wrap it in pound packages, like you buy it in the grocery store.  I find for us, 7 pieces is about the right number.

home-made-bacon-6

 

 

Put it all in the freezer, unless you CANNOT wait to try it.  Obviously … because I’m of sound mind and body … I could not wait to try it.

how-to-smoke-bacon-yourself

 

DIY-bacon

 

bacon-sandwich

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And there you have it.  From the pig to the pan.  How to make a bacon sandwich.

Please note.  Smoking is addictive and habit forming.

Special thanks to Mike Callaghan from The Black Pig BBQ team.  Whenever I had a bacon makin’ question … he was right there to answer it.


52 Comments

  1. YUM! That sandwich looks DIVINE. Hmmm, I may like this smokin thing 🙂

  2. Alexandra says:

    I knew you were going to be ironic.

    Phew.

  3. Rebecca says:

    Okay, questions…

    “January and February are popular months for making products out of pork, so bellies are readily available in supermarkets at this time.” Umm, is that a joke, or is it true? And if it’s true, why January and February? Huh?

    You actually have a meat slicer? Like in your kitchen? Are you a closet butcher, or does everyone have these nowadays and I’m the loser?

    Seven slices for two people is the right amount? You are clearly not very devoted to bacon.

    • Karen says:

      Rebecca! Not a joke! January and February are pork heavy months in grocery stores! I had a meat slicer, but returned it. That one is my nieces. The entire family is filled with whack jobs like me. The bacon is served on the weekend with a stack of pancakes, orange juice and coffee. He gets 4 slices, I get 3. Today I ate 7 slices myself ’cause I was taking pictures for the post. And yes, I ate the sandwich. ~ karen

    • Beatrice says:

      You are missing out on the meat slicer thing. We’ve had one for about 7 years, and I just lent it to my future daughter-in-law. It helps in saving money, buying larger cuts of meat, and slicing up into more reasonable sizes to store or freeze for later use. We’re all about saving and not spending if we don’t have to.

  4. How do you zero in on such fascinating things to do. You have a gift Karen – use it wisely.

    • Karen says:

      Tricia! Where ya been?! I’m not fascinating, nor do I do fascinating things. I do mundane things then surround them with colourful words. Clearly my illusion is working. ~ karen p.s. I wish my “gift” was something that could pay the bills. Ya know … I literally need to bring home the bacon with this site! ~ karen

      • Crone 1: “Where hast thou been sister?”
        Crone 2: “Killing swine – and thou, sister?” (Thank you MacBeth).

        I’ve been doing the normal – sewing myself blind, tomorrow The World! Very California.

        • Karen says:

          Crone 1 – I am quite obviously Crone 2 in this scenario. Good to hear you’re busy sewing. Busy means productive and productive means money and money means … well whatever you want it to mean I guess. Big screen televisions and new cookware, or mattress stuffing. Take your pick. ~ karen

  5. Alisa says:

    Really had me going there for a minute, but I can tell you that I’m happy for you that you’re now a smoker. Salud!

  6. isea says:

    it’s really too bad my boyfriend is more interested in nonproductive smoking. the kind that isn’t anything close to yummy. 🙁

  7. marilyn says:

    wow that bacon looked good! i’m salivating on my keyboard. our family shares a meatslicer, they are invaluable and the only way to go when you have to feed a crowd which in our family is always! imagine what the smoker could do to a hunk of salmon or trout..ooh the possibilities..perhaps another blog?

  8. Amy Schmucker says:

    What amazing abilitys you have. I bet you have a cape too and big red boots for days when you just have to fly?

    Smoking in the snow?? This is an addiction.

    Is the bacon more smoky flavor than store bought? I guess what I am asking is, does it taste like its been barbaqued?

    • While it doesn’t snow (often) in S. TX, I smoke mostly in the fall and winter. It’s a little trickier to keep the fire at temp, but it’s doable with some practice.

      • Karen says:

        Hi Todd – No KIDDING! It really is difficult to keep the temp where you want it. It was -21 the day we did this bacon. MINUS 21!!! ~ karen

  9. ann says:

    I am a vegan and have not eaten meat in over 20 years…..and man did that look good! If I ever go down, it’ll be bacon – the gateway meat……

    • Karen says:

      Ann – LOL. “the gateway” meat. I like that! I have a vegan friend who says his gateway meat is pepperoni. I guess cured meats are the crystal meth of the meat world. ~ karen

  10. Jo says:

    Karen you should do a DIY smoker post! Out of dollarama objects!… um, perhaps not.

  11. Traci says:

    Oh! I have so many questions now! Does making your own bacon mean there are fewer nitrates in it or are nitrates just a part of bacon? Since you smoke the bacon for 5 hours, does that mean that bacon is really “cooked” already? I’m sorry for all the questions, while I thought I knew bacon, clearly eating a pound of it at one sitting doesn’t make me an expert!

    • Karen says:

      Traci! Thx. for the questions. The curing agent you buy (Ready Cure … whatever else your store carries) will contain Salt, Sodium Nitrite and Sodium Bicarbonate. Sodium Nitrate is a naturally occurring chemical compound found in fruits and vegetables. When broken down it becomes Sodium Nitrite. In the 70’s a study was done that showed Nitrates gave lab rats cancer. There was a big stink over the results with everyone poo pooing nitrates. As it turns out … the study was wrong. (this was not widely publicized … so people continue to think nitrates are bad for them) The truth is the Sodium Nitrate (or Nitrite) is used in curing foods to prevent botulism. Which absolutely will do even worse than give you cancer, it will kill you. So … yes there are Nitrites in the bacon you make at home, and you should be thankful for that! 🙂 Your bacon can be as “smoky” or as “unsmoky” as you want. The large piece of belly I had ended up more smoky than the stuff on the top rack because more of the smoke hit it, whereas it tended to billow up and around belly on the upper rack. I used 2 pieces of wood. If you only want a little smoke (which the storebought bacon has) you would just use a small piece of wood. By curing it and cooking it to 145 the bacon is partially preserved in order to make it taste better and last longer. It is not thoroughly cooked. If you want to “fancy up” your home smoked bacon you can include fresh ground pepper in your salt/sugar mix. You can also drizzle it with maple syrup before you put it on the smoker to have maple sugar glazed bacon. I prefer to add those things just prior to cooking it ’cause I don’t always want maple flavoured bacon. The end. 🙂 ~ karen

  12. susan w says:

    That pork skin, including the nipples could now be turned into witty little ballet flats. I’m looking forward to that tute next.

    That is a beautiful smoker; it’s lovely garden art as well. I’d never seen them i ceramic.

  13. I’m only 25 days into my new years resolutions and you had to draw me back in (or bacon, so to speak)! Arghhhhhh!

  14. Jason says:

    Loved this article….”Smoking” is one of favorite things to do. My Big Green Egg is like my child. I dont know what I would do with out it.

    • Karen says:

      Jason – I’m starting to think smoking is a boy thing. Like Monster Truck Rallys. It’s my goal to draw more women over to the smoking corner. It’s shockingly fun! Next on the list is Mike Callaghan’s recipe for Pulled Pork made from a large Pork Butt. Very exciting! ~ karen

  15. Jacque says:

    I was okay with this post until I seen the pork… ew…

    • Karen says:

      Jacque – LOL. Really? I guess a lot of people like the food but don’t like to see the animal. My boyfriend’s like that. Ya know, squeamish. 🙂 ~ karen

  16. Kathryn says:

    This is fantastic! I love reading your blog because you do have such an art for doing stuff. I like doing stuff too. But I have a two-year old and not very much time to do stuff, so I like to read about you doing stuff and file the ideas away for later. I might try this though since it would put food in the freezer! How many packages did you get from the one pork belly? Can you use a grill as a smoker somehow?

    • Karen says:

      Hi Kathryn! If I remember correctly we got about 10 or 11 pounds of bacon for $23. I bought 1 large, whole belly for $17. And 2 smaller centre cut pieces for around $3 each. You can use a grill as a smoker but it will be a bit of a pain because trying to keep the temperature as low as 180 might be close to impossible. You’d be better with some kind of camping grill or small charcoal Weber grill. ~ karen

  17. Paulina J! says:

    Thank God it’s this kind of smoking! Is that Big Green Egg worth it? A friend tried to sell me one and I was doubting, but I might have to reconsider. Thanks for making me hungry so early in the morning!

    • Karen says:

      Hi Paulina! The smoker I own is a Bayou Classic. It’s the same concept as the Big Green Egg in terms of it’s shape and how it smokes. There are advantages and disadvantages. It can smoke as well as grill up to 800 degrees! But there is definitely a bit of an art to it. It takes some work to figure out how much wood to add for smoke, how to arrange the charcoal, how to adjust the vents etc. etc. Other smokers use pellets instead of lump charcoal. The pellet smokers tend to be easier to use in terms of maintaining temperatures etc., but they’re usually more expensive. If you’re looking for a good mid priced smoker, I’ve heard good things about this Weber Smokey Mountain smoker. ~ karen

  18. Jaym says:

    That blog intro was awesome! When I read the blurb on the homepage, I was like, “No she did not start smoking!”

    My dad would love this post. He just got one of those meat slicers and he has a smoker. Unfortunately, he IS a real smoker.

  19. Jayme says:

    Crap! I spelled my own name wrong.

  20. Jeanne says:

    I love your enthusiastic and energetic ideas. However, I have to draw the line with this one, like hammering a bottle of wine against a tree trunk to open. I would probably christen the tree with a good vintage and see it die from pollution.
    The expense of buying a ceramic smoker plus the beautiful steel meat slicer, gloves and a sharp knife, would take me 10 years to get my monies worth. Sorry. I go to an organic food store and buy my no nitrate bacon whenever on sale. I can enjoy the free coffee and appetizer of the day. Besides, my cholesterol and high blood pressure won’t allow me to indulge in such fantasies as
    cutting off the nipples on a pigs belly. But, I love you! Keep up with more wild ideas.

    • Karen says:

      Jeanne – Oh please. Who are you kidding. You could probably buy all those things plus a twin engine plane for the cost of a pound of organic bacon. 🙂 Just jokin. However … to get serious here for a moment … be very careful about buying nitrate free bacon. Nitrates have gotten a bad rap due to an inaccurate study done in the 70’s. They do not cause cancer. The study was proven to be wrong! Nitrates are naturally occurring compounds found in fruits and vegetables. They’re essential for preserving foods and preventing the formation of bacteria and things like botulism. And yes. The pig nipples made for quite an … interesting experience. 🙂 ~ karen

  21. Robbin says:

    Karen:

    I am forwarding this post to my husband. He has the exact same smoker and LOVES it! He is also going to try your Award Losing BBQ Sauce too!

  22. stephchows says:

    OMG that looks amazing!! now I want BLT’s for dinner…

  23. Bev says:

    Just so you know… Last line second paragraph “IT people saw more of it, EVERYONE would take up the habit”. Should be ‘If’. Sorry to be the spelling nazi, cause heck I know mine is atrocious. But many, many people read yours. Not mine. If you don’t care, don’t change it, I’m good with that. I’d want someone to tell me, that’s all.

    Ps. OMG I WANT BACON!!! Proper non-water-injected, dry cured divine bacon like you made! Drool drool drool…

    (Triple checks own spelling in the vain hope of catching them all!)

    • Karen says:

      Bev – Thanks! LOL. Technically it wasn’t a spellcheck you did on me so much as a word check. I can spell words like the dickens. I just can’t put them on the page properly apparently! ~ karen

  24. Love the smoker. Very cool looking. I still use my old ECB (El Cheapo Brinkman), but am about to step up to a manly side box unit.

    I’ve never smoked bacon. Pork is one of my faves because of the amount of fat that is on it. Tends to smoke up really nice. Of course, ribs and brisket are always a favorite around here also. I’ve only used fruit woods sparingly, and almost always go with mesquite.

  25. I’ve never smoked before but you’ve certainly made it look attractive.

    I’ve seen chicken smoked in a wok over a mixture of tea leaves – that looked pretty interesting.

    Who knew smoking could be so enticing!

    • Karen says:

      Deborah! After I smoked the bacon I kindda thought … huh … kind of anti-climactic in a way. But tonight I went into my freezer and took out some bacon to use in dinner tonight and it was one of the most exciting things I’ve ever done! LOL. Using bacon I knew I cured and smoked myself. Super-fun. ~ karen

  26. Maggie says:

    You are a total diva. Now, did the bacon get better with age as I suspect it did or was the whole thing kind of meh?

    • Karen says:

      Maggie – I was kind of suspicious about making my own bacon. Was it going to be worth the work? After having my first slice I didn’t think so. Meh. HOWEVER … on the weekend when I pull out bacon that I made from SCRATCH all myself … it pretty much rocks. Honestly. Shockingly fun! ~ karen

  27. pve says:

    next thing you’ll be doing is roasting…..
    your coffee beans…or maybe you are ahead of the game on that one… we have a manifesto, everything is better with bacon.
    pve

    • angie says:

      Maybe you could put together a DIY for Kopi Luwak, or Civet Coffee? You know the most expensive coffee in the world…the one that’s “made from the beans of coffee berries which have been eaten by the Asian Palm Civet, then passed through its digestive tract.”
      Yeah, cat poop coffee. You could teach us all how to make that stuff, then we could open up our own ETSY stores and sell it for $160.00 per pound! (That’s the real price. I swear.)
      Oh, and you’d better buy extra pork this year, I heard on the news that there was going to be a bacon shortage next year, not enough corn crops this year so not so much bacon next year.

  28. Gknee says:

    Damn I love bacon and now I gotta try this.

  29. Andrea Meyers says:

    Do you have a cold smoker too? I had a friend smoke chocolate and butter. DIVINE. The chocolate was oddly better as a milk chocolate, even though I prefer dark. And the butter! Well, let’s just say that smoked butter when cooking down some baby greens, you’ll never go back! And smoked salt…..oooohhh. Just sayin’.

  30. John Tanner says:

    Wet meat takes MORE smoke….after you rinse it at the end of curing, sure dry it quickly with paper towels but just start smoking…..want to see the science? Go to the best bbq site on the web, http://www.amazingribs.com and check out “smoking” and “bacon”…..amazing stuff. From my personal experience, they’re right, “wet” and cold meat takes more smoke…the moisture transfers it far better.

    jt

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Optionally add an image (JPEG only)

  • About Karen

  • My Latest Videos

40 Shares
Share1
Pin39
Tweet
Buffer
Flip
The Art of Doing Stuff