Breakfast | Pantry Basics | Recipes

Backyard Smoked Bacon

Curing and smoking my own bacon has been on my to-do list for at least a year and a half.

It was always in the back of my mind, though things like making yet another flavor of ice cream or figuring out a cardoon recipe kept taking precedence.

But after testing recipes from the grilling, bbq, and smoking primer She-Smoke earlier this spring, I realized my gas grill just wouldn’t be able to produce the rich flavor that I love so much in Niman Ranch’s applewood smoked bacon.

Nevertheless, when I saw two luscious pounds of Niman Ranch pork belly, I snagged them from the butcher and promptly stashed ’em in the freezer until I could figure out which of my charcoal grill-owning friends I could hit up for some sweet smoker action.

smoked bacon

Generous husband Dan, who’s quickly overfilling the basement with Mike Piazza figurines, gave me that opportunity when he let me tag along on a lunch date with fellow sports and memorabilia enthusiast Paul Lukas of Uni Watch.

See, Paul owns a Big Green Egg, one of the best (maybe the best) smoking apparatus available and had semi-successfully smoked bacon before.

Plus, he was the only person I talked to about this who actually seemed enthusiastic about having me come over and play around with fire.

So over a plate of kolbassi at Clifton’s Rutt’s Hut, we made a vague plan for summer smoking.

The weather turned balmy; the date was set for a sunny Tuesday in July.

A week before the day of the big smoke, I applied the maple-smoked bacon cure from Michael Ruhlman and Brian Polcyn’s meaty book Charcuterie, tucked in gently into a Ziploc bag, and let it firm up in its self-brine (full recipe below).

big green egg, smoker

All that was left to do after a week in the cure was to throw the pork belly under the lid of the Big Green Egg for about an hour and a half to luxuriate in the fragrant smoke of hickory wood.

(Oh, and we also threw a brined pork loin, a few handfuls of almonds, pecans and dates, some cherry tomatoes, potatoes and peaches, and an ear of corn in the smoker for good measure. Nothing like loading it up for experimentation while the smoke is billowing.)

That was it. All my mental buildup about this big culinary exercise for a few hours of drinking beer in Paul’s backyard.

The smoked bacon was a wonder, well-lacquered like Valentino’s skin.

We sliced some off and ate it fresh; some ended up in yet another round of carbonara, and the rest in fried green tomato BLTs.

But now it’s gone, and the price of pork belly has skyrocketed since my last purchase. I can neither afford more pork belly nor a Big Green Egg of my own. Can we set up a fund?

smoked bacon

Maple-Cured Smoked Bacon

Yield: 1 1/2 to 2 pounds bacon
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 3 hours
Additional Time: 8 days
Total Time: 8 days 3 hours 30 minutes

Curing and smoking bacon at home is easy if you've got the right equipment. Here's a recipe for smoked bacon you can make on a smoker.

Ingredients

  • One 2 1/2 to 3-pound slab of pork belly
  • 2 tablespoons kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon pink salt, AKA curing salt (see Notes section)
  • 2 tablespoons maple sugar or packed brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons maple syrup

Instructions

  1. Open a gallon-size Ziploc bag and have it at the ready on the counter. Place the pork belly on a large baking sheet.
  2. Whisk the two salts and the sugar together in a small bowl, then stir in the maple syrup until a wet paste forms.
  3. Rub the paste evenly over the pork belly, then place the meat into the Ziploc bag and seal.
  4. Refrigerate the bagged pork belly for 1 week.
  5. The meat will start to self-brine as it releases liquid throughout the process; turn the bag over every other day to keep the brine evenly distributed.

    You may need to squeeze additional air out of the bag to make sure the meat is in contact with the brine at all times.
  6. Remove the pork belly from the bag, rinse, and dry.
  7. Set a metal cooling rack on a sheet pan and place the meat on the rack.
  8. Leave uncovered in the refrigerator for 12-24 hours.
  9. Prepare your smoker according to manufacturer instructions, and hot-smoke the pork belly at 200 degrees F until the meat reaches an internal temperature of 150 degrees F. This can take anywhere from 90 minutes to 3 hours depending on the size of your slab, so monitor carefully.
  10. Should you not devour your bacon immediately, it will keep in the fridge for about a week and in the freezer for about three months.

Notes

Pink salt, aka curing salt, Insta-Cure #1 can be purchased online from various retailers. It's sodium nitrite, which inhibits the growth of botulism-causing bacteria in a warm environment.

The amounts used in the recipe are small, so you shouldn't worry about cancer-causing compounds (unless you subsist entirely on a diet of processed foods, in which case, why are you reading this site?).

I urge you, if you're going to smoke your own bacon, don't skip this ingredient. Please stick to the recipe for proper food safety.

Recipe adapted from Charcuterie

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11 Comments

  1. that’s all it took to make bacon? Tomorrow I’m getting estimates to repave my patio – I’m taking out some worthless flower beds so I can have a better space for my grill, and now maybe a smoker or Big green egg.

  2. WOW. That looks amazing. BTW as soon as I saw the magic words “Rutt’s Hut,” my stomach started growling. Absolutely Pavlovian.

  3. Ok, so you just made my mouth water, it is too early to even have breakfast at this point. You have one of *those* fabulous smokers, I have seen one of those at a friends house. You know you are going to have me wanting to try to do this. I would totally put this into some hot bacon dressing, or on a BLAT, Bacon-Lettuce-Avocado-Tomato sandwich!

  4. I recently butchered and i have two slaps of belly meat. i put my cure on it for about 7 days the took them and rinsed them off and coated them with coarse ground pepper and smoked them for about 4 to 5 hours at 200 degrees on my gas smoker with cherry wood and they turned out great. homemade bacon is so much better and has no preservatives. i can keep my bacon in the freezer for over a year

    1. Zack, so glad you’re loving homemade bacon! I completely agree – it IS so much better.

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