Made-from-Scratch BaconSteven Raichlen
When it comes to the cool factor—not to mention bragging rights—few home-smoked foods can beat bacon. And by smoking your own, you get to control the quality of the pork belly, the seasonings in the cure, the flavor profile of the wood smoke, and even the thickness of the slice. When you pull your first homemade bacon off the smoker—and this is a common sentiment—your heart will swell with pride. Below are your general marching orders for made-from-scratch bacon, with suggestions for how to customize the bacon to suit your taste.
Use your bacon in these recipes:
- Candied Bacon Sundaes
- Bacon-Grilled Dates
- Bacon-Cheddar Poppers (Stuffed Jalapenos)
- PB&J (Pepper Jack, Bacon, and Jalapeño) Corn Bread
- Equipment: You’ll also need: hickory, apple, and/or cherry chips, chunks, sawdust or pellets (use the amount recommended by your smoker manufacturer); a large resealable plastic bag
- 1 4- to 5-pound pork belly, skinned
For the cure:
- 1/3 cup kosher salt
- 3 tablespoons freshly ground black pepper or cracked black peppercorns
- 2 teaspoons pink curing salt, such as Prague Powder #1
- 1/3 cup brown sugar, granulated sugar, maple sugar, freeze-dried sugar cane juice (Sucanat), or a mixture of these sweeteners
Step 1: Place the salt, pepper, and pink salt in a mixing bowl and mix well with your fingers. Mix in the sugar, breaking up any lumps in brown sugar with your fingers.
Step 2: Place the pork belly on a rimmed baking sheet. Sprinkle half of the cure on top and rub it into the belly. Invert and sprinkle the remaining cure on the bottom and rub it in. Place the belly (plus any excess cure) in a large, sturdy, resealable plastic bag in a foil pan or roasting pan on the bottom shelf of your refrigerator.
Step 3: Cure the belly for 5 days, turning it over each day to redistribute the liquid that will accumulate.
Step 4: Drain the pork belly in a colander and rinse well with cold water. Blot it dry with paper towels. Place the belly on a wire rack over a rimmed baking sheet in the refrigerator or in a cool place in front of a fan (the goal is to create good airflow) and let it dry until the surface feels papery and tacky, at least 4 hours, or as long as overnight.
Step 5: Set up your smoker following the manufacturer’s instructions and preheat it to 175 degrees F. Add hickory, apple, or cherry chips or chunks to the coals. Lay the pork belly directly on the grill grate. Smoke the pork belly until bronzed with wood smoke and firm, 2 to 3 hours. The internal temperature should reach 150 degrees F. (Insert an instant-read thermometer probe through the side of the bacon at one end.)
Step 6: Transfer the bacon to a wire rack over a baking sheet and let it cool to room temperature. Tightly wrap it in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 4 hours, ideally overnight.
Step 7: Slice and cook (grill, panfry, or bake in the oven) and serve. You’ll rock the hood with this one.