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Apr 19, 2011 08:57 PM

Home cured bacon not quite right

So I just cooked up a batch of home cured bacon, closely following the Ruhlman recipe, with some slight variations. When I cut into it I was a little disappointed. One of the meaty streaks had something close to the nice dark pinkish/red color I was expecting but the rest of the meat just kind of looked like a ham. Light pink and with a hammy consistency.

As tasty as my pork belly ham was, it wasn't quite what I was looking for. I mixed up a curing mixture with the following proportions:

9 parts salt
4.5 parts sugar
1 part pink salt (from the spice house)

I used 20g per lb of pork belly (this was about 1.5 lbs), and had it in the fridge for a week. I'm guessing at most there was 1/3c of liquid in the ziploc bag, and I had overhauled it every other day as instructed. Cooked at 200F until it hit 150F internal. I had added maple syrup and some five spice.

Is this indicative that it didn't cure long enough? I was a little concerned about that, wasn't sure how firm it was supposed to be. Did I not use enough pink salt? Something else perhaps?

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  1. did you measure parts by volume or with a scale? I don't have the book in front of me to say what the proper percentages should be so i can't say if what you did was correct. anyway, a scale is the best way to do it.

    a week is plenty for a piece that size.

    honestly this sounds pretty successful to me. bad results would be grey spots that weren't cured or way too salty taste.

    5 Replies
    1. re: j8715

      scale, using grams. measuring out hops and such for homebrewing has made me fairly anal about that stuff :) I think the proportions that I used are not 100% what ruhlman had but pretty close (I cribbed from a recipe that cribbed from him). I'm assuming all pink salts are uniform in terms of how much nitrite they have in them and that wouldn't throw things off.

      it's not bad, in fact I like the pork belly "ham" quite a bit and would make it again. It's just not at all what I was looking for. Maybe it was the lack of smoke & cooking in the oven, but mine doesn't look like the pictures I've seen online, it looks ... hammy.

      1. re: jgg13

        I use the spice house pink salt too, its good stuff.

        I scale everything with percentages when I make stuff. cure weight should be a certain % of the weight of the meat.

        Have you fried the slices? It will get darker when you do that.

        1. re: j8715

          Yeah, I cooked up a slice last night. The ham analogy held, although it did darken.

          There are two main streaks of lean. The one on the skin side is a lot more ham looking and the one closer to the non-skin side is a bit closer to bacon color.

          One possibility is that maybe by chance when I the cure wasn't mixed up well enough (I made a big batch) and I just got an under pink salt'd part? Although I would think that would make it a different color.

          1. re: jgg13

            I find that often the case with pork belly/bacon -- one of the streaks o' lean is just darker, and sometimes a slightly different texture, than the others. Think it's just a characteristic of the meat, really.

            Pretty much, if you didn't smoke it, it's going to taste like fatty ham, like you're saying. Which ain't a bad thing, but it's not quite bacon until it's smoked.

            1. re: Whats_For_Dinner

              Ok. My worrying is abated :) One bad thing about the proliferation of all these fancy food blogs is that they only show their good sides and everything looks amazing. Then I look at my tepid not-quite-bacon and think, "Self, I did something wrong!".

              I'd been figuring too many people use the oven for it to make a huge difference (obviously no smokiness) but I've been very wrong with the "figuring too many people ...." theory before.

              Speaking of smoke, I wonder how liquid smoke in the cure mix would work.

    2. Did you smoke the pork belly? Does the recipe call for smoking?
      When I think of bacon, I think of smoked meats.

      The hammy-ness makes sense since you are essentially making pork belly ham.
      Just like pastrami is essentially a seasoned smoked corned beef. Bacon is essentially smoked pork belly ham.

      3 Replies
      1. re: dave_c

        No, the basic ruhlman recipe that a lot of people seem to follow uses the oven, as a nod to the fact that smoking isn't always possible, but obviously superior. I'm certainly in the "not possible" category as I live in a high rise apartment building ;)

        It was more the color that I was concerned about. I've seen pictures of cured pork belly that wasn't smoke that had a very deep red color in the lean, and mine just looked like supermarket ham.

        1. re: jgg13

          You could try tea smoking it in the oven. Maybe with some Lapsang Souchong?

          1. re: jgg13

            I tried the recipe twice smoking it on my Weber Smokey Mountain and I got amazing results. I remember apartment living and the limitations that it you have to live with. You could try a stove top smoker. I know Nordicware has one and it is available online.

        2. Okay, I'm going to call false alarm on this. Maybe it was just the late hour, maybe it was just the particular piece I had, but I cooked some up tonight and it was pretty damned good. Could have used some smoke (thanks for the oven smoking suggestions!) but was still good. Who knows, maybe sitting in the fridge for a day or two helped it out some (drying?)

          1 Reply
          1. re: jgg13

            Yep, probably was the drying. I like most of the Ruhlman/Polcyn recipes, but my opinion is the only time you cook bacon is right before you eat it. I've never come across another recipe for bacon that says cook it after hanging only 3 days. If you don't have a way to cold smoke, use their recipe for pancetta, which is nothing more than unsmoked bacon cured with some extra herbs and spices (which you can modify or leave out entirely). Hot smoking for just 15 minutes won't add much flavor, but it will reduce the chance of nasty molds growing on the surface while the bacon is hanging (or sitting in the fridge). In any case you want to smoke the outside of the slab, not cook it through. As Dave_c said, that's just making pork belly into rather fatty ham.