Bacon is a tasty treat that can be added to burgers, salads, or eaten on its own. Though it can be expensive to buy bacon in your local grocery store, there are ways to cut down on the cost. Learning how to smoke bacon is the best option for this since it allows you to make a lot of bacon for a fraction of the cost using the wood and spices you like best for the perfect flavor.
You can use any of the smokers on the market for smoking bacon, so you don’t need to worry about replacing the one you already have at home or buying a high-end model for this task. Home smoked bacon also has the added benefit of allowing you to use the cuts of meat you prefer and control the flavors while keeping it as healthy and nitrate-free as possible. If you’re interested in learning how to cure and smoke bacon but aren’t sure where to start, keep reading.
Though you may enjoy eating bacon regularly, this doesn’t mean that you know what cuts to use when making these delicious strips at home. Bacon is usually made from pork belly or pork loin, so you can choose which one works best for your budget. Neither of these cuts is overly expensive and it is cheaper to buy larger cuts than smaller cuts but this all depends on how much you’re going to use.
When choosing the cuts for your home-smoked bacon, there are a few options to choose from. You can choose meat from organic hogs, which means that they are raised on humane farms using no antibiotics or hormones. There are also heritage breeds that have a richer, more distinctive flavor than industrial-grown animals. These include Duroc, Berkshire, or Kurobuta pork bellies, so you can choose the perfect one for the bacon you want.
Before you can begin smoking your pork belly, the first thing you need to do is gather the items you need for this process. These include:
You also need a decent smoker. There is no set type to use, so you can choose either an electric smoker or an offset smoker. For the latter option, you’ll also need charcoal, wood chunks, or wood pellets to keep it going for the duration of the smoking process.
If you plan to smoke a lot of bacon or add some other cuts of meat to smoke at the same time, a model like the Weber 731001 Smokey Mountain Cooker 22-inch Charcoal Smoker has dual racks for more smoking room.
There are many different wood options to choose from, including maple, apple, and pecan, so you can pick a favorite or try out a few for different bacon flavors. You’ll also need a few large Ziploc bags for the curing process and a meat thermometer to monitor the pork belly’s temperature while it smokes.
Once you’ve gathered all the ingredients needed, it’s time to get to the smoking process. This will take a bit of time for the preparation and the actual smoking, so don’t assume you’ll have bacon ready to eat in an hour or two. You should begin this process a few days before you need the bacon to ensure it’s ready to eat when you want it.
The first thing to do when learning how to smoke bacon on a Trager or any other brand of smoker is to choose your essentials. The most important factor is the cut of meat that you want to use for the bacon. As we stated above, there are a few options to choose from when it comes to pork bellies. The one you choose should have a ratio of 50% fat and 50% muscle. The fat should be creamy white, while the meat should be a nice pink.
You’ll also need to get the wood you need for your smoker. You need to keep it smoking for a few hours, so be sure you have enough on hand to keep the smoker running the entire time. You’ll also need to gather your spices for the curing process, as well as the other items you’ll need.
Once you’ve gathered all your ingredients, it’s time to treat your pork cut. First, trim away the skin on the bottom of the pork belly. This piece is tougher than the rest of the meat, plus it prevents the meat from absorbing the cure and the smoke, so it is best removed. You can also trim away some of the fat if needed for leaner bacon.
Once you’ve prepared the meat, it’s time to get the cure ready. You can vary the spices and amounts that you use, though the main one you’ll need is salt since this is essential for removing the moisture from the meat.
Mix the salt, your chosen pepper and sugar, and any other spices you’d like to add to your cure recipe. It is a good idea to do this by hand since it allows you to break up any lumps in the sugars or spices with your fingers for even distribution when the cure is ready to go.
Once you’ve mixed all the ingredients, it is time to cure your pork belly. Place it on a rimmed baking sheet. Rub the cure into the top and sides of the meat, then flip the pork over and do the same on the bottom side.
When you’re cure is used up and the meat is thoroughly coated, place it into a large resealable plastic bag. Then lay the bag of meat into a foil or roasting pan and place it into the bottom shelf of your fridge. Leave it there for 5 days, turning the meat over each day to distribute the liquid that has gathered over the meat.
When the 5 days is up, transfer the meat from the bag to a colander. Rinse it well with cold water, turning it in the colander to remove any excess salt. Blot the pork belly dry, then place it on a wire rack over a baking sheet and replace it in your fridge. Leave it for a minimum of 4 hours, though it is best to let it dry overnight, turning it once or twice during this time.
When you’re meat has been cured and is ready to go, it is time to start your smoker. Set it up as instructed using the manual included with your smoker and preheat it to about 175 degrees. Charcoal smokers won’t maintain this temperature exactly and can vary between 160 and 180 degrees, so keep an eye on this to be sure it doesn’t drop too low or get too high.
Add your chosen smoking fuel to the smoker box. Then place your meat on the rack and close the lid. When it comes to how long to smoke bacon, this can vary, depending on the size and thickness of the pork belly you’re using. Usually, about 2 to 3 hours is enough but be sure to check the internal temperature of the meat before removing it from the smoker. It should reach 150 degrees to be fully cooked and safe to eat.
Once the meat is cooked to the perfect temperature, remove it from your smoker and place it on a wire rack to cool. Be sure to use a baking sheet beneath the rack to catch any drippings. When it has cooled, wrap it in plastic wrap and refrigerate it for a minimum of 4 hours, though overnight is best to set the texture and flavor.
Now it’s time to slice your bacon. You can slice it as thin or thick as you like, so there is no set thickness for this process. You can do this with a knife or a slicer if you happen to have one on hand. You can keep the sliced bacon in the fridge for up to 5 days or put it in the freezer to feed you and your family for a few months.
For another great recipe, you can watch the video below:
To smoke bacon in an electric smoker, the process for preparing the meat is exactly the same as in a charcoal or wood smoker. The only difference is how you use the smoker itself. Set the smoker to 175 degrees and preheat it the same way you would with other smoker types. Then add the meat and wood into the smoker box.
You’ll still need to check the meat using a thermometer now and then but you won’t need to worry about adjusting the heat since the electric smoker will maintain the temperature you’ve set for the duration of the smoking process.
If you’re going to smoke some precut Kurobuta Bacon or any other type that you like, you need to adjust some of the details a bit. First, you need something to lay the bacon on since it will likely fall through the wire racks in your smoker. A grill mat is a good choice since it is a wire mesh screen that lets the heat flow through for even cooking but a baking sheet or aluminum foil will also do for this.
Preheat the grill about 200 degrees. Soak the bacon strips in water, then lay the strips out on the mat, leaving small gaps between each slice to reduce sticking and close the smoker door. How long it takes to smoke bacon varies, depending on the thickness, but about 1 to 2 hours at this temperature should be enough. Check for an internal temperature of 150 degrees to be sure.
There are very few people who don’t enjoy eating bacon with their breakfast, on a sandwich, in a salad, or even added to a tasty dessert. The versatility of this food is almost unmatched, so keeping some of it on hand is a must.
Though it can cost quite a bit to buy pre-packaged bacon, learning how to smoke bacon at home can help you save a bit of money, plus it allows you to create the perfect flavor with each pork belly you smoke. You can mix up the spices and wood for varying tastes in your meat to match whatever meal you’re using the bacon for. This way, you can keep a few flavors on hand at all times.