We aren’t breaking any new ground by saying bacon is amazing.
But, what if we told you that the prepackaged, grocery-store bacon you’re used to is little more than a watered-down version of something truly incredible?
When large-scale producers create bacon, they take a lot of shortcuts.
Whether these shortcuts come in the form of additives or low-quality source meats, the impact on the final product can be huge... And sometimes, a huge letdown.
But, there’s good news. You can make a vastly superior, more flavorful bacon at home, without too much hassle -- preparing homemade bacon is a fairly straightforward process.
Step 1: Sourcing Your Pork Belly
As with any cooked food, quality begins from the get-go. And when you’re going through the process of creating homemade bacon, you would be doing yourself a disservice by using a low-quality belly.
Finding an organic, hormone-free pork belly isn’t too difficult. Whole Foods should sell these by the pound, but a local, speciality butcher is your best bet, and should be able to help you get a good, local pork belly pretty easily.
Step 2: Trim the Skin
The rind is typically going to be attached to the bottom of the pork belly. Not only is this going to be tougher and more difficult to eat than the rest of the belly, but it will also block absorption of flavor coming from the curing and and smoking processes.
To remove this, simply start at one corner and use a sharp, narrow blade to fillet the belly. The skin can then be fried or grilled for chicharrones or cracklins, if you so choose!
Step 3: Making the Cure & Curing the Pork Belly for Bacon
A cure is a simple sugar and salt mixture, created to add flavor and draw excess moisture out of the pork belly. Everything from brown sugar and maple syrup to chili flakes and whole black pepper can be included in your cure.
Basic salt cure recipes can be found all across the internet, but we encourage you to put your own spin on things!
Rub the belly with your salt cure, and place it in a large, resealable plastic bag. Place that bag in a pan or on a resting rack (to catch any leaks), and let the belly cure for five days. Make sure to turn the belly over every day!
Step 4: Rinsing and Drying
After five days, rinse all the cure off of the pork belly, and let it dry in your refrigerator overnight. This will create a sort of crust around the belly that the smoke flavor will be attracted to.
Step 5: Smoking the Bacon
You can use any type of wood chips you want -- applewood, hickory, and cherry are all great choices. Smoke the bacon at 175 degrees for about 2-3 hours, or until your belly reaches an internal temperature of 150.
After this, you’ll need to rest the bacon like any other cooked protein. However, bacon does best when rested overnight, in the fridge.
One super helpful product for smoking meats is the Grillaholics Mesh Grill Mat
which allows maximum smoke to meat contact, while providing a non-stick and easy to clean surface!
Step 6: Cooking the Bacon
Now the good part! Cooking. Homemade bacon is particularly enjoyable because you can avoid the paper-thin slices that large scale manufacturers tend to produce.
For us, anywhere between a quarter and a half inch is perfect. A nice, blazing-hot grill is a great way to crisp up the bacon and bring out that smoky flavor. Leave plenty of open grill space and watch out for flare ups!
Your bacon shouldn’t take more than 20 minutes to cook through completely.
Last but certainly not least...enjoy! You’ve earned it!