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Bacon is easy and fun to make at home. It's just pork belly that's been cured and smoked; both are things you can do with a minimum of ingredients and equipment.

The process takes about a week: 7 days of curing and 2 hours of smoking. The effort is minimal. 20 minutes to apply the cure and package up the bacon-to-be, a few minutes each day to flip the bags in the fridge, and then about half an hour of work to smoke it.

The pork belly is obtained at any Asian grocery, or ask your local butcher if they have it. The recipe scales pretty well. The main limitation is how much bacon you can fit in your BBQ, smoker, or oven.

You're going to need:

  • Kosher salt
  • Dextrose or sugar
  • Pink salt (optional, see step 2)
  • Pork belly (see step 1)
  • BBQ or Smoker with smoking wood (I usually use applewood), or you can use an oven
  • Plastic bags to fit the pork belly in
  • Fridge space for the pork belly while it cures

Step 1: Get the Pork Belly

My biggest obstacle to making bacon was getting the pork belly. My butcher said they could order it in but I didn't know what it would look like or if I was asking for the right thing.

I knew I could get it Asian grocery stores which are plentiful where I work, but I was hesitant to go into them because I had no idea what to expect. Fortunately I have a co-worker who knows this stuff, so he took me there. In the end, it was very simple.

Go to the grocery store, find the meat counter, and ask for some pork belly. If you've never seen it before, check out the picture in this step of the meat counter. I usually get 3 and it costs between $30 and $40 Canadian based on the weight. They'll ask you if you want any ones in particular. You can either point out the ones you like or just tell them to grab the 3 closest to them. Even the worst pork belly makes very good bacon, and eventually you'll start to figure out what you like.

Usually you pay at the counter in cash. The place I go also throws in a bag of pork bones if you spend over $35, so I'll have to make an Instructable for soup later!

The 3 pork bellies in the second picture are the ones I'll be using for the rest of this tutorial.

Step 2: Cure

Bacon is cured before it is smoked. This means that it is covered in a salt and sugar mix in order to preserve the meat. Liquid comes out of the meat and the salt, sugar, and any flavourings go in. At the same time we use some nitrites in order to prevent any bacteria from growing on it while we are processing it.

Make the cure

I use a basic dry cure that I learned from the book "Charcuterie". The recipe is either:

  • 450g kosher salt
  • 225 grams sugar
  • 50 grams pink salt

or

  • 450g kosher salt
  • 425g dextrose
  • 75g pink salt

I use the dextrose method as it's supposed to be less sweet than using regular sugar. I get my dextrose at a bulk food store. The pink salt came from Butcher-Packer. One pound will last you a long time and it's cheap. Pink salt is regular salt with 6.25% sodium nitrite. Don't confuse it with sodium nitrate, which is a different preserving agent. The stuff you want also goes by the name Prague Powder #1.

Mix your dry cure in a resealable bag. One recipe does around 10 pork bellies, so feel free to scale up or down as needed. It stores fine, just make sure to get all the air you can out of the bag before you seal it up so it doesn't clump.

Apply the cure

After you have the cure, place the pork belly on a tray and put 1/4c of cure on it. Gently ruby the belly to cover it entirely. You may need to add some more cure. Place the belly along with any cure that fell off into a plastic bag and set aside. Repeat with the remaining bellies.

At this point you can add some flavouring if you want. It's fine without, but you can try:

  • Maple syrup (30ml)
  • Add lots of black pepper
  • Brown sugar
  • Garlic

Add your flavouring if you want, get all the air you can out of the bag so that it makes good contact, and seal. Put it in the refrigerator for 7 days.

Step 3: Turn It Every Day

Step 3 is pretty easy. It doesn't need any pictures.

Every day, take the bags out of your fridge, rub it around to redistribute any cure and liquid, and put it back in the fridge.

In 7 days the bellies should be noticeably firmer and there should be liquid in the bag.

Step 4: Smoke

I have a kamodo style grill which runs on charcoal and can double as a smoker. You may have a dedicated smoker, or a propane BBQ. What you want is to cook at 200F/93C for about 2 hours on indirect heat.

For propane BBQs you want the fire on one side with the smoking chips in a foil bag (poke some holes in the bag). The pork bellies will go on the other side.

For a charcoal grill, same idea. Fire goes on one side, chips can go right on top, food goes on the other side.

Alternatively, just do it in the oven.

Clean off the pork belly

Take the pork belly out of the fridge, rinse off the brine, and set aside. I leave the skin on.

Prep the BBQ

Do whatever you need to in order to get your BBQ ready. For me that means using a chimney starter to get the charcoal going and making a nice bed of charcoal and smoking wood while that goes. I normally use lump charcoal but I ran out so used briquettes this time.

After the briquettes in the chimney are red hot I dump them on one side of my grill to get the rest of them going. Close the lid and wait for the smoke.

Add the pork belly

Simply put the pork belly on your grill or in your oven. Try to space it so that it doesn't sit right on top of the fire. You want an even 200F/93C heat on it.

You're cooking it for about 2 hours until it hits 150F/66C.

Step 5: Take Off the Heat and Final Work.O

When the bacon hits 150F you want to take it off the BBQ and bring it inside.

Use a sharp knife to separate a corner of the skin from the layer of fat. Grab hold of the skin and pull. You'll be left with a delicious slab of bacon an a greasy hand. Repeat for the remaining slabs.

Storage

I cut my bellies into two which gives me roughly 500g pieces. I wrap them tightly in plastic wrap and freeze

In the fridge this will last you a couple of weeks.

<p>Yes! Oh yes! Awesome!</p>
Just finished my 1st batch. I will be trying a maple version next. Plain &amp; cracked pepper encrusted fat
Oh and I used a vacuum sealer so I could cut my belly into sections and try different flavors.
<p>I'm sorry, I missed this update... That is a thing of beauty. Good work!</p><p>Did you use the vacuum sealer when brining or for storage?</p>
<p>Definitely have to do this. </p>
<p>Cool</p>
<p>There is a local sandwich shop here that makes a Pork Belly Cubano. Best sandwich I've ever had.</p><p>http://www.portlandmonthlymag.com/eat-and-drink/eat-beat/articles/january-12-bunk-cubano</p>
<p>Could you make back bacon this way? After all that effort I would like a better quality bacon. I will try it.</p><p>&acute;&acute;&acute;&acute;</p>
I lent out my copy of Charcuterie, but I seem to remember the back bacon being a wet brine.
<p>Streaky bacon (like this) is the poor mans version of proper back bacon. When will they learn!</p>
<p>I've only recently experimented with pork bellies, and they come out fantastic when you roast them. They have 3 distinct layers when taste just amazing. I'll be trying this in the coming months.</p>
<p>Great guide! Looks almost exactly like the process I documented on my site: <a href="http://cookingcircuits.com/home/2014/1/18/homemade-bacon" rel="nofollow">http://cookingcircuits.com/home/2014/1/18/homemade-bacon</a></p><p>I also did an experiment with skin on vs skin off. I feel that it's not worth the time it takes to skin the bellies, like the method you use. Took way too long to get that skin off a full belly... Unfortunately around here I can't find a good source for belly. Places have it but It's usually $4.00+ a lb. It is some of the best bacon I've ever had though...</p>
<p>I'm going to try both of these recipes. I have made two pork bellies in the past using recipes found online. Both came out exceptionally salty, people would not eat it. Not eating bacon is crazy talk, I know, but that's how salty it was. I used this recipe: <a href="http://coolmaterial.com/roundup/how-to-make-bacon-from-scratch/" rel="nofollow"> http://coolmaterial.com/roundup/how-to-make-bacon...</a> </p><p>Would removing the skin prior to curing cause this?</p>
Wow, that recipe uses a lot of salt. I did mine by weight, but just as a guess, that's at least 10x the amount of salt as the procedure I gave here. We're just trying to draw out some liquid, not preserve it for our grandchildren :)
<p>Kosher Salt? or Curing Salt? </p>
<p>I think that coolmaterial uses way too much kosher salt. The curing salt is for the nitrites and you only use a bit of it.</p>
<p>Would removing the skin prior to curing cause extra saltiness? I don't think so. What this guide is missing is a soak in water prior to smoking. I've made bacon a few times now. The one time I skipped a long soak in water after curing, it came out really salty. I usually cure for 6 days, flipping once a day, and then soak in water for 24 hours, swapping the water out once. </p>
I agree. I've made pancetta in the past and trying to skin the belly before it's cooked is really hard.
<p>Thanks gentlemen for the analysis and tips! I'll use your recipes for my future bacon makin. </p>
<p>Would there be any benefit to using a vacuum sealer while brining/curing?</p>
<p>I'm not sure. Since it's a dry brine it might even make it more difficult for the liquid to come out of the meat. Anyone tried it?</p>
<p>Here are the pics. Until I found the NESCO at Amazon the only slicers for a pork belly to slice bacon were professional and priced from $300 up to $8,000 that Oscar Meyer uses.</p>
<p>I'm jealous. I'd probably use something like that but I'm trying to reduce the amount of kitchen gear I have. So tempting!</p>
<p>Google is your friend. Search &quot;pork belly pictures&quot; and take a look! </p>
<p>Don't waste that bacon rind! Even if you don't want to eat it the rind (skin) makes a great flavoring for beans or soup. We like to leave it on the bacon and enjoy its chewiness.</p><p>Incidentally, we use 12-24 hours in a wet brine and cold smoke it for a day. </p>
<p>This sounds so different - care to elaborate or make an instructable about it? I don't know anythign about cold smoking but I'd like to.</p>
https://www.instructables.com/id/Cold-Smoked-Salmon-With-A-Soldering-Iron/ shows how to do cold smoking of salmon with a minimum of equipment.
<p>Excelent write up. I have basically done the same thing for the past two years with excellent results, and was planning to contribute my experiences to Instructables, but you beat me to it. The only thing I would add would be to use a meat slicer to slice you bacon. My Rival meat slicer did not have a large enough carriage to slice a belly properly. I finally found the NESCO F10 slicer at an economical price that will do the job. Pictures attached</p>
<p>at what temp you put the oven on and how long do you leave it in the oven</p>
Hi Frank,<br><br>Same as the 'Q. 200F for about 2 hours until the internal temp hits 150F.<br><br>Sean
<p>FYI: that's Slow Cook or &quot;1/4&quot; in a gas oven. :)</p>
<p>Mmmm bacon&hellip; *drooling* :P</p><p>Lovely sounding recipe, I will be trying it over the next week. :)</p><p>It's worth mentioning that companies such as Surfy's (homecuring.co.uk) here in the UK (and many others, I don't work for them) sell pre-mixed salt + curing salt mixes that ensure you don't use to much pink salt/curing salt. To be honest I always use pre-mixed to be on the safe side.</p>
<p>can you do it without the pink sugar?????? i cant do nitrites</p>
<p>Yes, you can leave out the pink salt. I usually brine my bacon in water, salt, brown sugar, and molasses. Use enough water to cover the pork belly, and mix in 1 cup salt, 1 cup brown sugar, 8 oz of molasses. I have a plastic storage container with a tight fitting lid. I fill it right up to the brim and seal it. Then place it in my refrigerator for the next 7 days. I then smoke it as in the recipe above and a local butcher cuts it for me into regular strips. I freeze most of it, but any that I don't freeze I use within a week. Since it doesn't have the nitrates, I treat it like any other raw meat. </p>
I don't see why not. My understanding is that it's primarily for safety during the cooking phase and to help preserve colour. You would want to be extra clean while working to help mitigate the potential for botulism.<br><br>I found some information about the role of nitrites at http://www.fsis.usda.gov/wps/portal/fsis/topics/food-safety-education/get-answers/food-safety-fact-sheets/meat-preparation/bacon-and-food-safety/CT_Index
<p>Curses! I had thoughts of doing an 'ible on making bacon but you beat me to it. Well done by the way. I have done it before and it turned out great- I did not smoke mine but did include a bit of liquid smoke in the cure. I made maple, cayenne, bourbon bacon with a hint of smoke. </p>
Thanks! That flavour combination sounds delicious!
<p>Sorry if this is a daft question, but after its smoked you slice it and cook it like regular shop bought bacon? or is this fully cooked and ready to eat?</p>
<p>Not a daft question at all, I should have explained it.</p><p>Yes, you'll have to slice and cook the bacon before eating it. The cooking at this point is more about the smoke. The fat barely renders out at 66C/150F.</p>
in not sure though
you probably have to cook it just 2 hours at 200 degrees seems a bit small for all that meat but no it was a good question
Great Instructable! I enjoyed it almost as much as I enjoy eating bacon :). Wonderful!

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