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Making Bacon

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Bacontep Feb 21, 2014 06:00 AM

I am planning on making my own Bacon once the snow and ice melt. Any thoughts on the following:

1) Should I cure and/or smoke with the skin on?
2) Dry cure of wet cure
3) Suggestions for a cure
4) Length of time smoking (I have a propane smoker) and what wood?

Cheers!

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7 Replies and 15 Comments . Latest Mar 1, 2014 by JMF
  1. 4
    JMF 02/21/14  6:45AM

    2) Dry Cure vs. Wet Cure

    Remember you will be curing the meat in your fridge for 7-21 days.

    Personally I like to dry cure, in vacuum sealed bags. It makes it so much easier, cleaner, and drastically less fridge space during the cure.

    Dry Cure:
    A. Accuracy of weighing the meat and using the correct amount of cure is important.
    B. You use less cure, sugar, salt, curing/pink salt, spices, etc.
    C. Less room in fridge is needed.
    D. Can produce saltier bacon. Definitely a 30 minute to three hour soak in changes of fresh, cool water is needed post-cure. (I like to do a 3+ hour soak to remove as much salt as possible.)
    E. Firmer bacon with better texture. Especially if after the post-cure fresh water soak you let the meat sit uncovered in fridge to dry for 12-24+ hours. You need at least 8-12 hours of drying to form the sticky pellicle on the surface for good smoke absorption. (I like to let sit at least 24 hours. This lets the cure even out in the meat once again, post-soak.)

    Wet Cure:
    A. Easy to measure and mix up brine. Then you just need enough brine to fully immerse the meat.
    B. Brine uses much more cure. Salt, sugar, spices, curing/pink salt, etc.
    C. More room in fridge is needed for the container to hold the curing meat.
    D. It is easier to control the amount of salt in a brine. You can take the salt levels down to the absolute minimum safe amounts of salt. Also you can then soak in plain, cool water post-cure. (I recommend at least 30 minutes.)
    E. Texture is softer and more like inexpensive store bacon. Sometimes even mushy. But after the post-cure fresh water soak if you let the meat sit uncovered in fridge to dry for 24+ hours, it will firm up a bit, just not as much as with a dry cure. (You need at least 8-12 hours of drying to form the pellicle on the surface for good smoke absorption.)

    1. The texture notes are very well put.

      The texture notes are very well put.


      MGZ Feb 21, 2014 06:48 AM
  2. 4
    MGZ 02/21/14  6:28AM

    From my own experiences and learned preferences:

    1) Skin on

    2) Dry

    3) Salt and sugar (turbinado) in a 2 to 1 ratio. Black pepper to taste (whole corns, roughly crushed, finely ground, etc, all make it hard to measure) and a bay leaf or four. I like to throw some very roughly chopped, dried chiles in too. I let the belly sit in doubled-up ziplocks for a week or so.

    4) Smoking time is really tied to temperature and temperature constancy. Three or four hours seems about right for me* as I try to keep the fire at more of a smolder between say 150 and 200.

    I use mostly fruit woods - cherry, apple, peach - as well as walnut and maple, but that's due primarily to the fact that they are mild and I get 'em free. I'll admit, however, I use an offset and have never even seen a propane smoker up close as my religion prevents it.

    Also, this link is to an old Saveur recipe that it may help to peruse: http://www.saveur.com/article/Recipes...

    *I try to measure time cooking outside by empty cans stacked up behind the cooler.

  3. 3
    JMF 02/21/14  6:29AM

    1) Skin: There are pro's and con's to curing and smoking with/without skin.

    Skin on slightly slows down the cure, and the smoke. But not a huge amount. Although many folks swear that it cures and smokes easier. I feel this way after the first few times I smoked with skin on vs. skin off. I also think the bacon looks better smoked skin off.

    Removing the skin can be a bit of a hassle if your knife skills need some work.

    I don't recommend leaving the skin on after the smoke and slicing/cooking it with the skin on. The skin isn't really edible like that, and has many better uses in cooking.

    When to remove skin-

    You can remove the skin before the cure, or after the cure or after the smoke.

    It is easiest to remove the skin after the smoke, while the bacon is still warm, but not hot. (Also you have the benefit of using the smoked skin as a flavoring agent when cooking beans and other long cooking items.)

    I personally like to remove the skin before the cure. I do it right after I have mixed up the cure. I wash the belly, dry it well, then let the belly come up to room temp. first, so the fat is a bit softer compared to the firmer skin. I skin it slowly with a sharp, long, thin knife. Doing a nice, neat job, taking off only the skin, with as little fat as possible. (I then cure the skin separately and smoke it to use in cooking.)

    I have mixed feelings about removing the skin post cure, pre-smoking. It can be a very slippery piece of meat unless it is very well soaked in plain water, and dried well, and allowed to sit for awhile. It's been so long since the 1-2 times I removed the skin at this point, I can't really remember how difficult/easy it was. For some reason I think it was more difficult, but it's been a long time.

  4. 3
    JMF 02/21/14  7:14AM

    3) Dry Cure recipe

    I use Michael Ruhlman’s recipe from "Charcuterie"

    Basic Dry Cure with granulated sugar
    1 pound/450 grams pickling salt/Kosher salt
    8 ounces/225 grams granulated sugar
    8 tsp./2 ounces/56 grams pink salt (InstaCure #1; or DQ Powder; or Prague Powder #1; or Cure #1; or TCM)
    Makes about 3-1/2 cups

    Basic Dry Cure with dextrose (less sweet than granulated sugar)
    1 pound/450 grams pickling salt/Kosher salt
    13 ounces/425 grams dextrose
    8 tsp./2 ounces/56 grams pink salt (InstaCure #1; or DQ Powder; or Prague Powder #1; or Cure #1; or TCM)
    Makes about 3-1/2 cups

    Process-

    Use apx. 2 oz./56 gm. per five lbs./2268 gm. meat. (You can add additional sugar and spices after measuring out the correct amount of cure. I like cracked black pepper and a little bit, just a large pinch, or whatever herbs I fancy.)

    Wash meat well. Dry well. Then roll/coat in dry cure in a large bowl thoroughly. Or place in a large freezer zip lock, add 1/4 cup = 2 oz. = 56 gm. of cure and shake to coat thoroughly. Pour out, or leave in excess. (I measure by weight using above amounts and leave any excess in.)

    You can remove and well wrap tightly in several layers of plastic wrap. But this can lead to leaks.

    Or, my preference, vacuum seal.

    Or put in/leave in large freezer zip lock, all air squeezed out.

    Cure in fridge for at last seven days, and up to 21 for a more pronounced flavor. (Most people like 7-10 days.)

    Turn over on a regular basis, at least 4-5 times, preferably every day.

    1. Show all 4 Comments
    2. Have you gone beyond the 10 day mark? I would expect a very fragrant bacon at that point

      Have you gone beyond the 10 day mark? I would expect a very fragrant bacon at that point


      Bacontep Feb 21, 2014 07:19 AM
    3. I've taken it up to 21. Very good, but you have to like long cured meat. I think that if your smoker is large enough to do several pork bellies, which most are, you should start 21 days in advance and cure one, then a week later another, then a week later a third for one week. Then smoke all on the same day and compare. This way you have 7, 14, and 21 day bacon.

      I've taken it up to 21. Very good, but you have to like long cured meat. I think that if your smoker is large enough to do several ... Read more


      JMF Feb 21, 2014 07:24 AM
    4. I like that idea...perhaps I will stick to a 12 day dry cure for the first go at it.

      I like that idea...perhaps I will stick to a 12 day dry cure for the first go at it.


      Bacontep Feb 21, 2014 07:29 AM
    5. .

      .


      JMF Feb 21, 2014 07:49 AM
  5. 3
    JMF 02/21/14  7:52AM

    4) Smoking

    I like both hot smoking and cold smoking. They produce a different product. Hot smoking means that the bacon is fully cooked and can be eaten cold, or cooked to crisp it up.

    If you want to, you can coat the bacon, after the pellicle has formed from drying, and just before smoking, with maple syrup, dark sugar, cracked pepper, herbs and spices, etc.

    A. Hot smoking: as MGZ says, between 150-200F external/smoker/cabinet temp. and 3-4 hours of smoke, or more. Smoke until IT is 150F. (I recommend hot smoking unless you are very familiar with cold smoking.)

    B. Cold smoking: This has to be done in winter or at least cooler temps., and you need an offset smoker. The smoker temp. needs to be below 90F and above 35F. This keeps any fat from rendering and produces a great product. But not every smoker can cold smoke.

    Four to six hours of smoke minimum, but easily up to eight, or even more.

    Just remember that cold smoked bacon is cured, but not cooked, so it needs to be fully cooked like store bacon before eating.

    C. Cold & Hot Smoking:
    You can cold smoke for several hours 2-6 hours of smoke, then hot smoke 3-4 hours of smoke, for a heavy smoke flavor.

    After Smoking:

    Wrap well in plastic and chill for 2-3 days before using for the smoke to distribute throughout the bacon. This leads to a much better product.

    Keep in fridge for up to two weeks, or freeze well wrapped in plastic, or vacuum sealed for up to a year.

    1. JMF, this is awesome. Thank you so much!

      JMF, this is awesome. Thank you so much!


      Bacontep Feb 21, 2014 08:00 AM
  6. -1
    JMF 02/21/14  6:01AM

    What brand smoker? How much curing and smoking experience do you have?

    1. Show all 4 Comments
    2. I am using a relatively cheap smoker, $150 Master Forge. I have above average smoking, and about average curing experience. I make and cure my own sausages, so I am equipped with the proper nitrites for curing. I have never smoked or cured pork belly, so on that front I am a novice.

      I am using a relatively cheap smoker, $150 Master Forge. I have above average smoking, and about average curing experience. I make and ... Read more


      Bacontep Feb 21, 2014 06:09 AM
    3. I should also add, I am wondering about cold versus warm smoking, I am leaning towards warm smoking, if just to better ensure a botulism free project

      I should also add, I am wondering about cold versus warm smoking, I am leaning towards warm smoking, if just to better ensure a botulism free project


      Bacontep Feb 21, 2014 06:12 AM
    4. Botulism prevention is in no way related to hot vs. cold smoking. The cure prevents bacteria build up. Botulism is anaerobic, in other words in the absence of air.

      There is no such thing as safe warm smoking. Hot or cold. Hot smoking means external temp. above 140F. Cold smoking means external temp. under 90F (for cured meats. There is no safe cold smoking for uncured meats.)

      In the case of bacon, hot smoking to an Internal Temp. (IT) of 150F.

      Botulism prevention is in no way related to hot vs. cold smoking. The cure prevents bacteria build up. Botulism is anaerobic, in other words ... Read more


      JMF Feb 21, 2014 06:47 AM
    5. Bacon is probably the easiest thing to cure/smoke.

      Bacon is probably the easiest thing to cure/smoke.


      JMF Feb 21, 2014 07:20 AM
  7. r
    -1
    RSharood 03/01/14  6:14AM

    5) Cut of meat to use

    Don't limit yourself to only pork belly. Pork cheek bacon, skin off, maple dry cured, Chaga smoke 200 F until 150 F in center. This is my favorite. Always cook bacon.

     
    1. Show all 5 Comments
    2. I agree. Pork cheek may be hard to find in many places, but it makes good bacon.

      Curious though, what's "maple dry cured"? Maple sugar instead of other sugar?

      I agree. Pork cheek may be hard to find in many places, but it makes good bacon.

      Curious though, what's "maple dry cured"? Maple sugar instead of other sugar?


      MGZ Mar 1, 2014 06:17 AM
    3. Yes, maple sugar. I use same 2:1 ratio salt to sugar. I make the maple sugar by crystallizing maple syrup. I'm tapping trees here in Maine this month. You could always add some syrup to cane sugar. This is similar to making brown sugar using molasses and cane sugar.

      Yes, maple sugar. I use same 2:1 ratio salt to sugar. I make the maple sugar by crystallizing maple syrup. I'm tapping trees here in ... Read more


      RSharood Mar 1, 2014 06:51 AM
    4. I love it! I have used maple butter in lieu of a baste/mop on ribs before. I think I will try the maple sugar in a dry rub on a pork leg I am barbecuing next weekend.

      I love it! I have used maple butter in lieu of a baste/mop on ribs before. I think I will try the maple sugar in a dry rub on a pork leg I am barbecuing next weekend.


      MGZ Mar 1, 2014 07:07 AM
    5. Maple Syrup Powder is fantastic, better than Maple Sugar. More intense flavor. I've been using Frontier brand. Both dry cure and wet. http://www.amazon.com/Frontier-Maple-...

      Maple Syrup Powder is fantastic, better than Maple Sugar. More intense flavor. I've been using Frontier brand. Both dry cure and wet ... Read more


      JMF Mar 1, 2014 07:23 AM
    6. Pork Loin, not pork tenderloin, is fantastic. For Canadian bacon, and smoked pork chops.

      Pork Loin, not pork tenderloin, is fantastic. For Canadian bacon, and smoked pork chops.


      JMF Mar 1, 2014 07:24 AM
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