Homemade Bacon

Bacon is simply one of the most delicious foods on the planet and absolutely nothing beats homemade bacon!  Learning how to make bacon is easy and you will be positively thrilled at the results!

homemade bacon recipe how to make diy tutorial

How to Make Bacon

Before we get to the tutorial on how to make homemade bacon, I have to unleash to poet within.  Here it goes…

Ode to Bacon

How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.I love thee to the depth and breadth and heightMy soul can reach, when feeling out of sightFor the ends of being and ideal grace.I love thee to the level of every day’sMost quiet need, by sun and candle-light.I love thee freely, as men strive for right……I love thee with the breath, smiles, tears, of all my life….

Okay, yes, Elizabeth Barrett Browning really wrote that poem for her husband, Robert.  Not for a piece of cured pork.  But really, can anyone prove that bacon wasn’t the object of her affection?  Exactly.

But whatever the catalyst of her emotions, one thing is indisputable:  Bacon is sublime.  And by that I mean the literal definition of the word:  “Of such excellence, grandeur, or beauty as to inspire great admiration or awe.”

When it comes to bacon you just can’t beat homemade.  You have full control over every element:  The quality of the pork, the seasonings used, the curing method, the type of wood chips/smoke, the thickness of the slices.  There’s no mystery when it comes to making bacon.  It is simple and easy and even those minor efforts pay off BIG time!

homemade bacon recipe how to make diy tutorial

Before we get to how to make bacon, let’s address a couple of the most common questions: Should I dry cure or should I wet cure the bacon?  And what about those nitrates/nitrites?

Let’s start with the first question.

Should I Dry Cure or Wet Cure Homemade Bacon? 

Some experts insist dry-curing results in a more pronounced flavor and that the bacon fries up more crispy than when using the wet-curing method.  Other experts insist on the exact opposite.  The battle rages on.  The bottom line is that it comes down to personal interpretation and preference.  I’ve used both methods, they both yield excellent results, but I tend to lean on the side of dry-curing.  I’m including both methods for you to try.  Pick one or the other or try them both and see which one you prefer.

Now for the next question.

What About Those Nitrates/Nitrites?  

Nitrates and nitrites get a bad rap and are commonly associated with processed deli meats, hot dogs and bacon.  But they may be one of many examples of things that have been targeted and blown out of proportion by the media.  As is typical of medical research, there are so many conflicting studies on this topic with directly opposing conclusions that it’s enough to make one’s head spin.  Though the opponents to nitrates may argue, the fact is there is no definitive conclusion one way or the other.

What we do know is that not only have nitrates/nitrates been used for the last 12,000 years, nitrates/nitrites occur naturally in vegetables and in many cases in higher quantities than in cured meats.  One source observes that “one serving of arugula, two servings of butter lettuce, and four servings of celery or beets all have more nitrite than 467 hot dogs.

Another source notes, “those uncured hot dogs or bacon you’ve been conscientiously paying more for? Most are processed using celery or beet juice, whose nitrates turn into nitrites when they react with the saliva in your mouth [and] in many case…contain more nitrites than traditionally cured meats.”  The claim to be made “without nitrates or nitrites” is a marketing ploy, and the use of celery or beet juice is the FDA loophole that allows them to make that erroneous claim.

(On an important side note, all the sources I’ve read emphasize strongly the importance of using the right quantities of nitrates and nitrites.  Nitrates/nitrites can be toxic if the recommended quantities aren’t observed, so be sure to use exact measurements and correct ratio of curing salt to pounds of meat.)

Now I would never make the claim that bacon is healthy.  Nor would I say that it’s perfectly safe to eat an unlimited amount of nitrates and nitrites.  But I do personally maintain that a balanced diet that includes “all things in moderation” is a sound and a safe one.

So the question becomes less one of should I use nitrates/nitrites, and instead is one of why should I use them?  And the answer to that is the same one that people made 12,000 years ago when they found that meat remained safe to eat when they used it.

Bacon is smoked low and slow within a temperature zone that bacteria can grow and multiply.  The use of nitrites in bacon fights harmful bacteria and it also helps preserve the meat’s color.  (Imagine grayish-brown bacon or hot dogs…now you know why those manufacturers of “nitrate/nitrite-free” meats still sneak them in, just under a different name.)  So nitrates and nitrates help ensure both the safety of the meat as well as its pleasing aesthetics.

And the flavor and aesthetics of bacon are very pleasing indeed!

how to make bacon homemade diy recipe tutorial

But let’s stop the talkin’ and let’s start smokin’!

Ladies and gents, it’s time to make some homemade bacon!

how to make bacon homemade diy recipe tutorial

Homemade Bacon Recipe

As promised, I’m giving you both options for DIY bacon to choose from.

Better yet, try both and see which one you prefer.

The Wet Cure Method

preparing pork belly wet brine

Add all the cure ingredients together in a large bowl and stir.  Place the pork belly in gallon ziplock bag or container that just fits the size of the pork belly and pour the brine over it.  If using a ziplock bag, place the bag in a container in case there is any leakage.  Place it in the refrigerator for 7 days, flipping the bag over (or the pork belly itself if curing it in a container) every 2 days to ensure both sides of the pork belly are equally cured.

**A one-gallon bag will hold a 3-pound pork belly.  If you’re following the recipe to use a 5 pound pork belly and plan on using the wet cure method with ziplock bags you can cut the pork belly in half and divide the brine equally between the two bags.

After 7 days the pork belly will have firmed up.  Remove the pork belly from the brine, thoroughly rinse it off, and pat dry with paper towels.  Some people say you should let the slab of bacon air dry for up to 24 hours before you smoke it.  But many experts agree there is no need to do this.  These experts argue that in leaving it wet the smoke actually sticks to the bacon better than if it’s dry.

At this point if you like you can rub it down with some cracked peppercorns and, if you want it sweeter, some brown sugar, honey or maple syrup.

The Dry Cure Method 

preparing pork belly

Place all the dry cure ingredients in bowl and stir to thoroughly combine them.  It is essential that the pink curing salt is evenly distributed across the whole pork belly.  So I like to give the rub a quick buzz through a spice/coffee grinder or you can use a small blender or a mortar and pestle.

Thoroughly and evenly rub down all sides of the pork belly with the dry rub.  Place it in a ziplock bag or container (I’m using a casserole dish), with the fatty layer side down, and cover it with plastic wrap.  Refrigerate it for 5 days.  Flip the bacon over, redistribute the liquid that will have formed (if it’s in a ziplock bag simply turn the bag over and give it a good massage), and refrigerate for another 5 days.

After 10 days the pork belly will have become quite firm and stiff.  Remove it from the the container or bag , rinse thoroughly, pat dry with paper towels, and proceed to smoking.

preparing pork belly

How to Smoke Homemade Bacon

Whether you’re using the wet or the dry curing method, the next step for smoking the bacon is the same.

As already mentioned, it’s also at this point that you can also sprinkle some coarsely ground pepper (if using) onto your wet-brined pork belly and “top off” the pepper on your dry-cured pork belly.  You can also sprinkle on some extra brown sugar, maple syrup or honey.

preparing pork belly for smoking

Preheat your smoker to 175-180 degrees F (do not exceed 200 F).  I’ve used the Masterbuilt Digital Smoker the past 3 years. I love and highly recommend it.  You can buy it online buy it online HERE You can check out my full review HERE.  Smoke the bacon for 3+ hours or until the internal temperature of the bacon reaches 150 degrees F.  Add a handful of wood chips a couple of times during the smoking process.

If you’re using a grill, set up it up for 2-zone cooking and smoke the bacon fat side up (as the fat renders it will run down the meat) over indirect heat at 175-180 degrees F (don’t exceed 200 F) for about 3 hours or until the internal temperature of the bacon reaches 150 degrees F.  Add a handful of wood chips a couple of times during the smoking process.

You’ll need an instant read thermometer.  We use and recommend this one.

What kind of wood chips to use? 

This comes down to personal preference.  Hickory is the tried and true gold standard but cherry and apple are also excellent.

Once the bacon reaches an internal temperature of 150 degrees F, transfer the bacon to a plate and immediately place it in the fridge to cool down.

how to make bacon homemade diy recipe tutorial smoked

Slicing and Storing the Bacon

All you really need is a good sharp knife.  But if you want those perfectly uniform, professional slices of bacon, you’ll need a meat slicer.  Whichever you use, always slice across the grain.

slicing bacon

We found our 1970’s commercial Hobart slicer ten years ago on Craigslist.  It has some imperfections to be sure, but it was a steal of a deal.  For a meat slicer that won’t break the budget and that has excellent reviews, check out the Chef’s Choice Electric Meat Slicer.

homemade bacon recipe how to make diy tutorial

If you plan on using the bacon within 2 weeks, wrap it in several layers of plastic wrap followed by an outer layer of foil and keep it refrigerated.  If you’re not going to use it within 2 weeks you can freeze it for up to 3 months.

To Freeze the Bacon:   You can either use a vacuum sealer like Food Saver that will ensure its freshness, or you can do what I do (because my bacon never lasts beyond a couple of months anyway before it’s gobbled up):  Lay the slices out on wax paper in the same fashion as store-bought bacon and place another sheet of wax paper over it.  Fold the sides around the bacon.  Place the wrapped bacon in a ziplock bag.  I usually freeze the bacon in small amounts, the amount I know I usually need for one use.  If you prefer the pieces not to stick together you can cut strips of was paper and place them between each slice of bacon.

When you’re ready to use it, simply remove the bacon from the freezer and let it thaw.

how to make bacon homemade recipe tutorial

With your homemade bacon ready to go, now it’s time to EAT IT!


homemade bacon recipe diy how to make tutorial

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Originally published on The Daring Gourmet April 1, 2019

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