Making Bacon at Home

February 8, 2008


 My first shot at making bacon seemed much less like cooking to me and more like an exotic collecting expedition.  First I had to come up with pork belly, then curing salts – neither of which was to be found at the local Food Kitty.

 The curing salts were easily enough found online under the name Insta-Cure #1, so I clicked through and impatiently waited for them to arrive on my doorstep.  I have read about the health concerns associated with nitrites, but my sources said they were crucial if I wanted to smoke the meat at low temperatures for any length of time, preventing the dread botulism.  And since I had decided early in the process that I would give smoking the bacon a shot, this seemed necessary. 

 (Apparently it’s not a deal breaker if you finish the bacon in a low oven, though I’m not sure how this would affect the need for the nitrites.  Another experiment for another time.) 

 The pork belly was a little more difficult, with no luck at the local grocery or on a trip to a couple of fancier places in the DC area.  (To be fair, I should have called ahead.)  But I hit pay dirt at an asian grocer, Lotte Plaza, in Ellicott City, MD.  I lunched out in front of a case of pork bellies for a good ten minutes before choosing two perfect pieces.

  At home, I started the process, using the basic cure recipe out of Charcuterie and adding maple syrup to one belly section and fresh ground black pepper to the other.  I adore peppered bacon, but I thought I try out the sweet cure and see how it worked.  This part took a total of ten minutes (including the dithering over the maple syrup and my amazement over how truly pink the pink curing salt really is), and the bellies went into the fridge to cure.

The next week consisted of me peering into the fridge and poking at the bellies to try and ascertain whether anything was actually happening in there.  R. was much better at actually remembering to turn (and occasionally massage) the bellies on a dailyish basis.  But really when it came down to it, flipping them every day or so was all that was required.  Not exactly high-maintenance.


Finally the week was up.  The bellies seemed to have firmed up upon poking, so I rinsed and dried them and fired up the grill for some smoking.  Full disclosure here – I own a gas grill, not exactly what anyone seemed to be calling for in the how-to-smoke sections of anything I read, but I decided try and see what happened.  I soaked some hickory chips I had been “aging” on my back porch for quite a while in hot water and made a packet for them out of aluminum foil.  I set half of my grill on the lowest setting, put the packet on that side and the bacon on the high rack on the other side, closed the lid and waited for the bacon to come up to 150°F.  Four hours later (and 15 minutes before I had to be at work), the thermometer alarm went off.  The bacon was beautiful and smelled, well, you can imagine, like smoky goodness.

18 Responses to “Making Bacon at Home”

  1. charcuteire Says:

    On Ruhlman/Polcyn dry cured ham no curing salt is used, but a lot of salt is, the ham is covered thickly in the stuff.

  2. charcuteire Says:

    Oh and I’ve done the maple syrup bacon, as a matter of fact it got used last night in the sausage stew and tonight in the liver, bacon and onions. Next time I get a pork belly, I try smoking both the maple syrup and the peppered, this was simply roasted.

  3. Becca Porter Says:

    I love your blog. It is very clean and streamlined. My husband and I have tried our hand at sausage making. I would love to try bacon. I even know an asian grocer in town that sells pork belly.

    I might have to start a new massive project. Thanks a lot. 🙂

  4. charcuterista Says:

    Becca Porter:

    I just finished merguez sausage, my first real sausage project. I’ll post about it soon, but I can definitely tell you that the bacon was easier. The curing time required a little more patience, but completely worth it!

  5. Matt Says:

    The bacon from Charctuerie is quite good. But, it’s nothing in comparison to the pancetta. I’d highly recommend you give that a try. It particularly works well in pasta dishes.

  6. charcuteire Says:

    I’ve done that pancetta and we found it very good and simple. You do need a cool room, dark, proper humidity and away from the animals. I show pictures of the one I just cut up.

    Sausage becomes a lot easier with a good stuffer. I’ve a link to Northern Industrial (or google) on my blog. They have the best prices on tools that I’ve found. Perhaps half of what some other places charge.

  7. Thanks for this great post. We have been looking into making our own bacon, but left it on the back burner and forgot about it. Your post is a great and simple way of making bacon! Thank you so much for the reminder and we’ll be writing about it after we do it. Wish us luck!

  8. Wow, you have been busy over here. Great post and great photos. I have been thinking about pork belly a lot. Gordon Ramsay had a great recipe on pressed pork belly–this really makes me want to make it.

    BTW, finally got my potato salad picts. i think you should make it but add bacon. tell me how it is.

  9. […] me if I fell asleep and the snow falling outside, I was looking for recipes to use some of the beautiful savory bacon I had cured.  Flipping through, I came across a recipe for potato salad that included bacon and had the added […]

  10. hshaw Says:

    Congrats on joining the ranks of the salumieri. Definitely try making the pancetta; I like it (gasp!) even more than smoked bacon…

  11. charcuterista Says:

    Pancetta is up next, literally. I picked up a nine pound pork belly this morning, so the bulk of that is becoming pancetta with a few pieces going to bacon curing. I just have to get it together to put it in the cure…thanks for all the encouragement and I’ll keep you all updated…

  12. […] Anyhow, this bacon in particular was made by Dittmer’s Wursthaus in Mountain View, CA, my local butcher. If you’re looking for ethical meat, try your local farmer’s market or natural foods store, butcher, Whole Foods, websites like, or if you’re feeling really adventurous, you can even make your own! […]

  13. Congratulations on your bacon! It’s quite a feeling of accomplishment. But then again, I also found myself wondering, “Why was this so easy?”

    I’m curious to know which cure you preferred, the maple or the pepper. Did you try them alone and in different recipes? My next bacon is probably going to be a sweet cure as my first was quite savory.

  14. charcuterista Says:

    I think my favorite was the maple-cured; it had just a hint of sweetness that I really liked. I currently have a couple more kinds in the fridge curing – one with toffee bits as the sweetener and one with cumin and smoked paprika. I’ll let you know how those turn out. But the big event this week is the pancetta, still in the cure as well, but exciting nonetheless…

  15. […] it was an opportunity to play with fresh clams, still in their shells, and use some more of my home-cured bacon.  For my first attempt at clam chowder, the results were stunning (and faster then going out).  […]

  16. Tim Collins Says:

    You should try Alton Brown’s recipe for bacon. I’ve made it several times now and it’s fantastic!!! I’m a beginning Charcuterista too working on Guanciale hoping it turns out. Living in the Chicago area, we have the Spice House which make it easy to find curing salt. My next bacon making project will be with Maple Syrup.

  17. Jeff Says:

    Congrats on entering the world of baconeering.
    I’ve going through several batches and iterations myself, using both Ruhlman and Polcyn as well as Alton Brown for sources of how to.
    As for your comment about the curing salt and what it does… mainly it preserves the pink quality of the meat when it’s cooked. The first few batches I did were salt/sugar/flavor only with no nitrites, and, while awesome when cooked, turned brown like any cooked pork will do. I routinely make my own Canadian Bacon, and the nitrates there really keep the pink quality of the pork loin all the way to the plate.

    Nice blog by the way. Very well laid out and organized, and a nice relaxing style of writing. Can’t wait to get some time to peruse your archives.

    And the Clam Chowder… looks awesome. I was where you were as well. Love the stuff, but was intimidated. Just break it down to the basics, and it falls into place.

  18. Jane Goody Says:

    My fellow on Facebook shared this link with me and I’m not dissapointed that I came here.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: