Makin' Bacon - a Guide to Cold Smoking Bacon





Introduction: Makin' Bacon - a Guide to Cold Smoking Bacon

About: I love making cooking videos in particular BBQ grilling videos, but a lot of what I do can be done in the kitchen too. Check out my page and subscribe if you like it!

This Instructable is all about cold smoked bacon.

A lot of warmer climates will hot smoke their pork bellies but here in the UK Autumn/Winter is the ideal time to let the cold smoke do it's magic.

Effectively you cure your meat and then smoke in in low temps so the smoked takes to the protein but doesn't cook it. You can then slice and store for many days/weeks and simply grill/bake when you're ready to eat it.

The full guide follows the Video (next step).

Step 1: Video Guide - Cold Smoked Bacon

Here's the full Youtube guide to Cold Smoked Bacon.

Please take a look and if you like, subscribe to my channel!

Full Guide next step.

Step 2: Curing Your Pork

I simply used a dry cure from Weschenfelder Direct (Supracure) Mixed with sea salt (the actual Supracure should only account for 5% or less of the weight of the meat you're curing).

This is a salt cure containing nitrates that can be used at home or professionally and allows you to make cured bacon within about 5-7 days.

You can add sugars, aromatics and spices to your cure to give a slightly different taste to your finished bacon, as long as the majority of the mixture is salt (i.e. putting more sugar and aromatics in may effect the cure doing it's work).

  1. Take a dish and place a layer of cure at the base of the dish.
  2. Place your raw pork belly on the top of the cure
  3. Add more cure on top of the pork
  4. Thoroughly rub the cure all over the meat until it's totally covered
  5. Place bowl in the refridgerator

Step 3: Letting the Pork Cure

Once you have coated the meat in your cure you need to let all the moisture be drawn out by the salt. For meat such as pork this will take several days (fish can be a matter of hours).

Based on the thickness of the pork you need to allow 4-6 days of cure time - you will see the moisture start to pool in the bowl and effectively turn the dry cure into a wet cure as the process continues.

Make sure to turn your pork each day of the curing process and to ensure the meat is fully covered by spooning over the (now wet) salt mix over the pork before returning it to the refrigerator.

You'll notice the pork will stiffen up and be much more rigid as the water leaves the protein.

Step 4: Washing Off the Cure

After the allotted time when most of the moisture has left the pork belly and is in the bowl you will have BACON.

Now at this stage you need to thoroughly wash the salt cure off the bacon.

Put the dish under a running cold tap and, with your hands ensure that no salt trace remains. It is recommended to even soak the bacon first for an hour in cold water then rinse, so the bacon doesn't become too salty when you cook it.

Once complete, place the bacon back in a dish as shown in the picture and leave it uncovered overnight in the fridge. This will allow a pellicle to form, greatly improving the next stage - Cold Smoking!

Step 5: Cold Smoking

To cold smoke you need a chamber to keep the food and smoke in. You can actually cold smoke in cardboard box but it's best to have something a little more solid to protect your food.

A barbecue grill with lid and air vents or a dedicated Smoking cabinet is best.

Once you have this you need to produce cold smoke. This can be done in a number of ways.

  1. Smoke Generator that burns wood dust/pellets outside your smoking chamber and allows the smoke to cool before entering the smoker. These can be around $100 so are not cheap
  2. Maze style Cold Smoke Generator that allows wood dust to smoulder inside your smoking chamber a release smoke over a period of 6-8 hours a time.
  3. Individual Briquettes that can be lit and smoulder inside cabinet just as the maze unit would do. These are the cheapest at first, but will cost more the more times you use them.

Or you could visit our other COLD SMOKE GENERATOR HACK (below) to see how you can DIY the job yourself.

Step 6: Cold Smoking (cont.)

You can place you bacon on racks within the BBQ/Smoker or, if it allows, use Meat Hooks to hang the pork bellies from the top of the smoker. This allows the smoke to get full access to the meat ensuring a good even smoke flavour.

Don't cold smoke when your equipment is in direct contact with the suns rays. You need to keep the temps ambient and any external heat source can raise the cabinets temperature and over the course of a cold smoking session, may cause the meat to spoil

You'll need to choose your wood flavour (Alder was used in our recipe) but Beech, oak, fruit based trees like apple are all good to smoke Bacon with - as does Hickory but this is a very strong flavour too it so don't overdo the smoke.

Generally when cold smoking you'll need to do about 6 hours to get a good hint of smoke in your meat. You can do much longer and if you need to break it down into two sessions - for example cold smoke for 4-5 hours and then do another 4-5 hours the next day (returning to the fridge in between).

Once you have the desired level of smoke take the bacon inside - shrink wrap it and place in in the fridge for a day or two (you can cook it straight away but it's best to let the smoke flavour permeate the meat).

Step 7: Slicing Your Bacon

Take a large, sharp knife or if you have it a meat slicer and slice the bacon lengthways leaving you with long thin strips of bacon. You can choose just how thick or thin you want it.

You can now cook the bacon as you would usually but if you are looking to store it make sure it's tightly covered and left in the fridge.

If you're giving some to friends/family you can use foil mats to lay your bacon on then shrink-wrap them closed. This will create a real visual feast before the actual feast begins




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    20 Discussions

    is it just me, or is the bacon green? don't get me wrong.... i love bacon!

    1 reply

    Haha, I assure you it's not. Beautifully pink throughout.

    First, I'd like to apologize for all those who decry nitrates, but think nothing of having a nice celery snack once in awhile...
    Celery is a natural source of nitrates, and is often used, and in fact recommended, in conjunction with non-iodine salt in curing all types of meat.
    I grow, dehydrate, and powder my own celery as an additive in all my cured meats.
    As of the time of this writing, I haven't died yet....

    1 reply

    It really has been a wave of (constructive) criticism about not using nitrates. Mainly from US citizens too, like it is a hot topic.... Thanks for your balanced views.

    This looks a bit like American bacon. British (well, Danish) is much wider.

    Still, it looks interesting enough to try out. Perhaps using Loin.

    It is difficult to get real smoked bacon, just about all of the packaged smoked products have never seen smoke, but use a smoke taste additive.

    Nitrates are used in Bacon, Sausages, Hams etc. I wonder if there is an alternative, but I doubt it. That would really be something special.

    This worries me.

    When I see sodium and nitrate in the same breath, I think of the health implications.

    Yes, I know Sodium Nitrate is used commercially in pork products, but sodium is implicated in hypertension and nitrates in stomach cancers - nitrates, nitrites, nitrosamines - it's something to avoid.

    I know you say you rinse it, but that would not convince me. Your heart is in the right place, but adding these known risk agents is not good practice.

    If the purpose is to take moisture out of the raw meat, there must be better ways.

    It's a long time since I consumed chemically cured bacon, or salmon etc.

    4 replies

    A bit of a learning curve for me. So many sites recommend the type of cure and I think I went that way to be "safe" route at the time because the dreaded Botulism word is mentioned (as @Henmarsh says below, risks are v v low).

    So next time I'll be making my own cure, but I don't think there's anything really bad about what I did in the recipe. All IMHO and thanks again for your comments.

    Just an bit more information from an area that I had quite a lot of experience in.

    Nitrates and nitrites are just a couple of items in a long list of items like pesticides and heavy metals that are monitored regularly in drinking water as part of the EU directive on drinking water quality.

    Both have limits for drinking water at the parts per million (ppm) or milligrams per litre level and nitrate levels were a concern back in the 70's.

    The main concern was the potential carcinoma evidence, plus the known "blue baby" syndrome, where nitrates and nitrites affect the red blood cells.

    Sodium nitrate and possibly nitrite have been used in products like Spam (spiced ham) etc. for years.

    The water companies have an obligation to reduce harmful materials in water, both chemical and bacteriological, but the rules for foodstuffs might be different. There is pressure for consumers to limit their intake of so-called processed meats.

    Like all things, it's moderation that counts and I still like Chorizo. It's a risk choice like smoking.

    All I could advise is to look at salt (sodium chloride) as an alternative, but the key bit would be to rinse with tap water, not once, but several times .

    Methods that used to be acceptacble change as evidence stacks up.

    It's not so long ago that mercury salts, BHC and DDT pesticides were in regular use in gardens.

    Yes, I would consider drinking water to be of the upmost concern and certain foodtuffs, ingested on a much smaller scale to be less so, but it's still worth monitoring and limiting.

    I did also state to soak the cured bacon in water for an hour after, however I initially did this for taste reason, I wonder how much is helps with the reduction of Nitrates...

    One rinse or soak might reduce the nitrates by say 75%. A second rinse will reduce the remaining 25% by another 75% - this is called serial dilution - a bit like homeopathy. On the plus side, sodium nitrate, indeed all nitrates and all sodium salts are soluble so will dissolve out.

    Looking at the Chorizo packet I see the preservative is not sodium nitrate, but sodium nitrite which is chemically much more reactive. Nitrates do not react much at all, but nitrites will react with stomach acid to produce nitrous acid, bacterial action then goes on to potentially produce things like nitrosamines.

    What I would suggest is a sodium chloride (table salt) as the moisture remover, and small amount of sodium nitrite as the perseverative. This would reduce the overwhelming nitrate content. At least then you would not run the nitrate risk and only have to assess the sodium risk. If I had to place a bet, I would chance the sodium way ahead of the nitrate risk.

    You take this advice at your own risk, but in general terms, I would avoid sodium nitrate. I certainly would not want to consume bacon cured with it.

    As for smoking (bacon), that's another issue, but all these methods were in place years ago, like smoked fish (kippers) and salted cod. But that was in a time when food had to last throughout winter and a long time before fridges and freezers.

    Nice Instructable! I've been smoking bacon (from my own pigs) and all sorts of other things for years. I'm not a fan of nitrates (due to their implication in the development of some cancers) so use a simple home-blended dry cure mix. This is 50/50 medium rock salt and dark Muscovado sugar. I add a tub of ground black pepper to a kilo of this mix. Nitrates are used to preserve the pinkness of the meat (I don't mind my bacon being the colour of cooked pork!) and to prevent Botulism. We get less than one case of this a year in the UK so the risk of not using it is very low indeed.

    The other difference between our methods is that I drain off and discard the liquid that the cure draws from the meat. As you explain, it is important to allow a pellicule to form on the surface of the meat in order that the flavour of the smoke is absorbed. This can take a little time and I use a tall larder fridge I picked up from Freecycle. I've taken all but the top the rack out and use stainless steel hooks to suspend full flitches of bacon to dry for 24 hours hours at a controlled temperature.

    I use another (non working) free fridge to do the smoking in!

    Fridge Smoker.jpg
    2 replies

    Are you on any social media in the U.K.? Your set-up sounds great. However if you ever want to collab I run the grill co that make those little Smokers!

    I thought long and hard about using sea salt but that as I could see why the nitrate salt is used. The trouble is with the B word I just knew I'd get loads on the other side saying "you need to use nitrates" but after doing this I totally agree with you and I'd do my own cure from scratch.

    David I'm on FB as Charles Pearmain. I used to make a lot of bacon, sausages and sell them with lamb and game on the (VERY) early Internet before it became the Web! I'd be interested in seeing what you do and am keen to finally take the time to develop Arduino or Pi - based systems to control and monitor both hot and cold smokers! Here's my old smoker filled with cheese, prawns and mussels.

    Cheese and seafood in smoke.jpg

    Just the Instructabl;e I had been waiting for! Got to try it soon!

    2 replies

    I know, right time of the year. Check the salmon one too!

    Looks incredible :) Plan on trying it some time.

    Nice instructable! Very well documented with pictures as well...and who doesn't like bacon? :D

    1 reply

    Thanks Michael! I know right, everyone except a vegan lady earlier on youtube :-)