Homemade Bacon





Introduction: Homemade Bacon

About: Ever since I was 3 years old I've been in the garden and the kitchen stomping worms, stirring pots, and peeling potatoes with my family on our little hobby farm. They started the food and DIY spark in me at ...

This instructable is to teach you how to make homemade bacon - completely from scratch. It's a really simple process that just requires patience and a bit of space in the fridge.

Bacon is made from pork belly, salt, sugar and seasonings. The salt, sugar and seasonings make up the bacon cure. The salt draws out the water in the meat and performs the actual curing and the sugar cuts the salty flavour so that the finished bacon is edible. The seasonings can be anything, in this recipe I use chili and garlic. I use a 1:1 ratio of salt to sugar but a 2:1 ratio can be used for saltier bacon.

Salt is important with bacon. Soduim nitrate (NaNO3), is usually used in a small percentage with a main salt, like sea, kosher or table salt, to cure meats. No-nitrate bacon can be made with just sea salt but there is a risk of bacterial infection. The nitrates kill the bacteria in the bacon helping it stay preserved for longer. Table salt can be used too, the main salt in the cure is really a matter of taste.

Image: Bacon and curing mix ready to cure in a baggie.

Step 1: Making a Cure

To make the cure just mix your seasonings with the salt. Use a main salt with a small amount of Sodium nitrate or use an already blended curing salt. For my cure I mixed my seasonings with Morton's Tender Quick curing salt. I used about 40 ml or 6.5 tbsp cure for a little over a pound (618 g) pork belly. You only need enough cure to cover your bacon.

If you don't want chili garlic bacon, you can use almost anything. The possibilities are endless!

Chili and Garlic Bacon
618 g pork belly
18 ml (3 heaping tsp) Morton's Tender Quick curing salt
18 ml (3 heaping tsp) brown sugar
3 ml (1/2 tsp) mystery black chili powder
pinch black pepper
2 crushed cloves of garlic, including the skins

Note: I left the skins in because the cure gets rinsed off anyway and the skins contain LOTS of flavour. Yum!

Maple Bacon Cure
18 ml (3 heaping tsp) Morton's Tender Quick curing salt
18 ml (3 heaping tsp) maple syrup

Herby Cure
18 ml (3 heaping tsp) Morton's Tender Quick curing salt
18 ml (3 heaping tsp) brown sugar
15 ml (1 tbsp) chopped fresh rosemary
15 ml (1 tbsp) chopped fresh thyme
2 crushed cloves of garlic, including the skins

Images: The ingredients for the cure, The mixed and ready cure.

Step 2: Curing the Bacon

To cure the bacon you need an airtight container that's just big enough to hold the bacon. There should be as little air in the container as possible. I like to use a large Ziploc bag because you can move the cure around when you flip the bacon and squeeze all the air out.

First, rinse off the pork and pat it dry with a towel. Then, cover the pork belly in your prepared cure, patting it into the meat, and place it all in your airtight container. Squeeze out as much air as you can and date it. Put it in the fridge and wait patiently for a week. The bacon will need to be flipped every day to evenly distribute the cure. After the first day you'll notice some liquid being drained from the pork. This is what we want!

At the end of the week take the bacon out, rinse off the cure, and pat the bacon dry. It can now be baked or smoked to an internal temperature of 71°C (160°F). As soon as the bacon is out of the oven or smoker remove the pork skin and save it. It is soooo good in soup. Let the bacon cool then cut it up and use as you would any other bacon!

Images: A nitrate-free and baked batch of finished bacon waiting to fry, Pork belly and curing mix ready to cure, Pork belly curing in the fridge on day 1

Step 3: Smoking at Home

Smoking without a smoker is easy and doable at home! All you need for equipment is a heat source, a meat thermometer, a pot with a lid and a cake rack that fits in the pot. If you want your pot to stay clean, layer a few layers of aluminum foil on the bottom of the pan. If you want to use a rice cooker make sure it doesn't have an auto shutoff.

To smoke, you'll also need some wood chips and a piece of bacon to smoke. You'll need to boil some water and pour it over your wood chips. Let the wood chips soak for at least an hour before you set up and get smoking so that the chips smolder instead of burn away. It'll save you money in wood chips. I like to buy chips specifically for smoking but untreated sawdust works too. You can try soaking the wood chips in juice, wine or whiskey for added flavour.

Before you smoke the meat it needs to form a 'pellicle' so that the smoke can stick to it. What's a pellicle? It's what happens to the outside of the meat when you leave it to dry for a day. A little more moisture leaves the outside of the meat and the surface becomes a little bit tacky and translucent - all the better to help smoke stick to it. To form a pellicle, Put the meat on a rack and leave it uncovered in the fridge overnight before you smoke the meat. I like to very loosely cover mine in plastic wrap just in case something leaks.

To set up your smokin' rig:
  1. Boil a few cups of water (or juice, or wine!) and soak 1/2 C wood chips for at least an hour.
  2. Line the bottom of a heavy, lidded pot or wok with a few layers of aluminum foil.
  3. Drain the wood chips and put a layer of them over the aluminum foil then put the rack on the wood chips.
  4. Add the lid and put the smoking rig on the heat source. Turn it up on high and wait 5-10 minutes for the chips to ignite.
  5. Once the chips are smoldering and there's some smoke in the rig, lift the lid and place the meat on the rack. Add the thermometer, replace the lid, and wait. Make sure the meat has airflow all around it and isn't touching anything but the rack.
  6. Take a deep breath, enjoy the smell!
  7. When the thermometer reads a safe temp for pork, remove the bacon and cut off the skin to use in soup. Let the bacon cool and then slice it and use as you would anything else.
Mmmmm, bacon.

Images: The dried bacon with it's newly formed pellicle, A finished smoked bacon, A smoking rig set up in a wok with a portable heating element, A smoking rig set up in a rice cooker, The bacon for the rice-cooker-smoker set up on the steaming rack that came with the rice-cooker.



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    Can i cure the pork belly and smoke it before slicing it into bacon, and is there a special tool/knife used to cut pork belly? Im afriad i will have very uneven thickness of my bacon slices if left to the demise of my hand and butcher's knife.

    I'm preparing to smoke bacon for the first time. I really appreciate the thorough article you have written and the discussion between you and kizz246.

    I do have a question, however. I am using the Morton's Tender Quick to cure the pork belly. The instructions state a 24-hour cure, but your article states 7-day curing period. Is the 7-days a must from a safety perspective or a flavor perspective?

    Thank you, again, for your article. I look forward to using your method and enjoying the "fruits of my labor" with some AWESOME home-made bacon!!

    Interesting post, I would say I'm surprised there are no comments, but I'm not surprised. Most people don't make their food any more, especially when it comes to charcuterie. I have found this out in other forums.

    On your part about nitrates/nitrates, they are also used to keep the color of the meat, but not needed. I prefer to just use plain salt, which means less of a shelf life.

    I am a bit skeptical about using aluminum in the smoking process, it may add free form aluminum to the finished product. When it comes to smoking, you can use the wood from any fruit tree, berry shrub, and fruit rinds if ya want as well.

    If you have a cold smoker, you can do some cold smoke after the hot smoke to seal in the flavors and moisture better.

    Just some FYI, maybe I do a bacon or ham post =D

    5 replies

    Thanks for the comments!
    In addition, the nitrate does help to curb bacteria as it is poisonous to them which is why the meat without nitrate has a lower shelf life. Nitrate soaks into the meat and helps to stave off any microorganisms that may form. For me, keeping the meat red is a side effect! I drink alcohol, why not eat a small amount of nitrate? It won't kill me. A small amount of botulism might. Source: http://ruhlman.com/2011/02/meat-curing-safety-issues/

    But there are many schools of thought on nitrate, And anyway, hot smoking the bacon kills off the bacteria. it's really a personal choice with cooked curing as long as you consume the cured goods within a week, everything should be OK. So, while I do agree with you in this instance that nitrates have no real effect past keeping it pink and maybe adding a day to the shelf life after cooking, in other applications not using nitrate could be dangerous.

    Many cured goods that market themselves as nitrate free actually do contain nitrate in the form of celery salt, which contains naturally occurring nitrates. They can market as nitrate free since nitrate isn't an added ingredient. Source: http://www.agroecology.org/documents/Joji/leafnitrate.pdf (Just ctrl+F celery on that bad boy)

    Whew, what a relief to talk to someone who knows what they're eating. In most "bacon appreciation" conversations I get involved in, 99% of the time no one knows how to make it or what cut of the pig it comes from.

    Nitrates aside, glad you know your stuff! What other charcuterie do you do?

    None yet, I went to college for culinary arts and got my certificate and got half my red seal, but then switched professions (it's more fun at home!) and there we made sausages and bacon, gravlax, and the whole lot of it except hams. I just have a small apartment and not a whole lot of space to hang meats and the like, so for now it's just bacon and salt pork. I'm hoping to get a Cuisinart mixer soon with a sausage attachment and open up the possibilities some more. :)

    Do you have a favorite cure?

    Hey there, sorry for taking so long to respond... The cure of more of a concept than a recipe. I generally stick with 30g salt per 1kg boneless meat. From there I decide if I want sugar or any other flavors. I do not wash/rinse the meat after the brine, and put it into the hot smoker, then out for a cooldown and rub, and into wax paper, newspaper, and the ref =D

    A cure to suit every taste on any day! I like it. :)

    I love the look of this - it's similar to a recipe for gravlax I made a while ago.

    However, without the smoking (which obviously gives it an amazing flavour), does it still taste alright? Obviously I could use liquid smoke, but if it tastes nice without, I'm happy to try...

    1 reply

    I didn't smoke the first one I made and it was still delicious! It was the herby flavoured one. Just bake it in the oven until it's the good pork temp. (71? I forget, my thermometer just says pork on it.)

    I forgot about it for a few days and cured it for 10 days by accident so it was way too salty to just fry up, oops! I put it in an unsalted split pea soup and it was awesome! This bacon will be way meatier than anything in the store but the most expensive stuff.

    The title was misleading. I really thought you'd start with "How to pick and raise a pig..." :-D

    Good ible. I've always wondered how difficult this would be, but never put enough brain power into doing it.

    1 reply

    It's even easier than pie!

    2 questions, can you use turkey instead of pork, and can you use a 1:2 ratio for Salt to Sugar?

    1 reply

    I'm sure you could try turkey! I haven't myself but it sounds tasty. The only thing to worry about is the fat content letting your "bacon" get a bit dry. I saw a blog post somewhere for duck prosciutto where the skin of the breasts was left on to help with that.

    You can definitely use a 1:2 ratio if you want, but that's the lowest I would go.

    This looks really good! I realise salting/smoking are used to preserve meat but how long is this homemade bacon good?

    1 reply

    I'm not sure, honestly. I think it varies based on the quality of the meat, the type of salt you use (nitrates last longer) and how long you smoke it. I've never left it around long enough to go bad, but I'd say eat it within 7-10 days of finishing making it.

    And if it does smell bad before the week is up just toss it. Our noses are pretty amazing things!