Learn How to Smoke Bacon Properly
It’s hard to beat my freshly cooked bacon. For those who are not familiar with it, you won’t require a degree in rocket science to make your own smoked bacon. Sure, it will take some time and efforts, but it would be totally worth it. When you make it yourself, you have total control over the quality of the meat, and the ingredients that are used to cure it. Personally, I also get a good sense from all of it, which is truly awesome for me.
So, are you ready to enjoy finger-licking, chemical-free goodness of homemade smoky bacon without throwing an arm and a leg?
Guide: How to Smoke Bacon
Step 1: Getting the Right Pork Belly
I can’t even begin to tell you how important it is to choose the right pork belly for the task. You don’t want to own pork from pigs that have been tortured seven days a week in industrial feedlots or shot up with antibiotics. Your best bet would be to get them from organic sources. Better yet, procure them from a farm that raises pigs naturally on forage and pasture. Remember, preparing homemade bacon is a few days process, so it should be worth the time and efforts. And, procuring the right pork belly will make the entire cooking process worthy of your efforts.
Step 2: Getting Rid of the Skin
Make sure that the meat is skinless because it can prevent the cure from preventing into the meat. It’s important that you don’t lose your patience over here. If you haven’t done it before, it will take you some time to separate the skin from the pork. As such, a sharp knife can do the trick over here. You need to run your knife under the skin. Remember, the blade of the knife should be pointing away from you. Also, the hand holding the skin should be behind the blade and not in its path to prevent injuries. Basically, the movement of the knife should be away from you. To save your time, you can also ask your butcher to peel the skin for you at the time of purchase. Once peeled off, don’t throw away the pork skin. You can use it for other purposes such as adding flavors.
Step 3: Curing the Pork Belly
Now, we are prepared for curing. Curing requires two things, salt and water. There are a couple of ways to curing, dry and wet curing. But, we won’t play with fire over here. Speaking from experience, wet curing can beat dry curing any day of the week. So, we will stick to wet curing. With wet curing, you will be making brine and soaking the pork in it. Remember to store it in your refrigerator inside a Ziploc bag after squeezing all the air out. Now comes the toughest part—waiting and daily maintenance. Yes, some amount of daily maintenance would be required over here as you will have to flip the slab over to the other side and massage the curing mix every day for at least a week.
Step 4: Rinse it off
Once the semi-long waiting period is over, one’s best bet would be to rinse both sides thoroughly with cold water to get rid of the salt. One can chop off a small piece of the meat and pan fry it to see how it comes out. If the flavor stands out, you should be ready to smoke the entire meat. The only way to screw this up is to make it too salty. If it’s too salty, you will have to put some more work over here. Soak the meat in cold water for a few more hours to take care of the salt. Now, dry the pork belly inside the refrigerator uncooked for the whole night to make it smoke-ready. Remember to turn it once or twice in between.
Step 5: Smoke the Bacon
Now, all that remains is to cook and enjoy the delicacy. So, fire up the smoker and preheat it to 175 degrees, assuming that you are using an electric or gas smoker. For smoking fuel, you can make use of apple, cherry, or any other desired hardwood. You can also go for something stronger such as hickory. The smoking duration will be 2-3 hours. It will require more cooking hours at lower temperature. Aim for an internal temperature of 150 degrees. When it attains this temperature, you should know that the bacon is finished. You can make use of a meat thermometer to accurately gauge the temperature under the hood.
Step 6: Getting Ready for the Tasty Reward
We are almost there. It’s time to rest the bacon at room temperature. Then wrap it in an airtight container and place it back in the refrigerator overnight. This will add more firmness to the meat. When you are ready to eat it, cook and serve. Cut the slices as thin or thick as you like. Before you eat it, trim the bits that are burnt. Whatever is left can be stored in the refrigerator for up to a week. For longer storage, you can make use of the freezer. Of course, they last even longer if vacuum sealed at the time of storage.
If you love meat, you should give a shot at homemade bacon at least once. It will definitely be a worthwhile experience for you. It’s not entirely easy to prepare them, but it’s highly rewarding and economical as well. If everything works out well, you could end up with some seriously amazing bacon. So, with a little bit of elbow grease and patience, you should do well. Moreover, the final outcome will be meaty enough to remind you that you deserve only the best. If cooked right, it will beat store-bought ones by a landslide. You might regret not trying it earlier. Maybe, you could end up with a new hobby. Better yet, you will never EVER buy supermarket bacon again!