How many times have you been dreaming of making some home-cured bacon in your own home and never got the courage to try? Well, how about smoking your bacon and getting a flavor that’s twice as intense? Well, wait no more friends, since it’s time to learn how smoking and grilling bacon starts with making yourself a nice cured slab!
Why Is Bacon Cured?
If you have seen bacon that says it’s uncured this is not the same as the fresh pork belly you find at Costco. This is simply pork belly that hasn’t gone through the process to become bacon. There are two types of bacon curing and this is where it gets silly. Uncured bacon is really just pork belly that’s been cured using all-natural ingredients (usually celery). Then there is cured bacon which is using special salts and sodium nitrates like Prague powder.
You can buy either of these at the store which will cost a pretty penny, or you can do it yourself using practical methods that have been used forever. Either method will get you closer to the finish line for smoking your bacon which will provide you with bacon that is ready for storing in the fridge or in your freezer. This gives you bacon that can essentially be enjoyed all throughout the year.
How To Cure Your Bacon
As mentioned before, you can find an affordable slab of pork belly at places like Costco fairly often. If there’s a sale then get yourself two because bacon is getting pretty expensive these days! If these are sold at the meat counter, ask the butcher to slice off the pigskin for you since that’s tricky if you’ve never skinned pork before. After this, all you really need are your curing ingredients and supplies. Keep in mind you don’t need much!
What you do need is to get some large Ziplock freezer bags to put your pork belly inside. If you have a vacuum-sealer machine even better, but just try to get out all the air inside your bag when it comes time to seal it. Once it gets covered with your curing rub, it will live in your fridge for 12-14 days. Two weeks is perfectly fine but up to 7 days is the absolute minimum. Remember to be patient, as making bacon isn’t just about making money…
How To Smoke Your Bacon
Smoking bacon is very simple to do if you have a kettle grill and some wood chips. The best wood chips are from hardwoods such as apple, maple, or even hickory. You can make smoker bags made from aluminum foil that work the best for any bacon flavor. To make a smoker pouch, here is a simple method that works perfectly each time. Always have a thermometer to check the temperature so the heat doesn’t go above 160-170 Fahrenheit.
The entire process of smoking takes at least 6 hours, so keep an eye on your smoke pouch and the temperature and you’ll be fine. Once the smoking is complete, you’re ready to enjoy your bacon right away or store it in the fridge for up to 2 weeks or more. You can also freeze it for up to one year. Always keep in mind that vacuum-sealed bacon lasts longer than anything that is just kept in a Ziplock bag.
Grilling Your Bacon
No matter how you decide to slice your bacon, you can go thick or thin, it’s really up to your liking. You need to have a nice sharp knife to get the best and cleanest cuts if you don’t happen to own a meat slicer that would give you perfectly even slabs each time. This is when you can put your slices directly onto a grill or on a skillet over an open flame. We recommend a cast-iron skillet to get evenly distributed heat. Buy a bacon press if you don’t already have one – you’ll love having it around.
Cast-iron skillets will have a seasoned surface that helps keep the bacon from sticking, but be careful when removing the leftover fat from your bacon when the skillet cools down. You don’t want to damage the seasoned coating that’s already on your cast-iron pan. To get crunchy results, place cooked bacon strips onto a cooling rack that has at least two paper towel layers to soak up excess grease that comes off them while they cool.
Scrape out anything in a cooled skillet using a wooden spatula and save that grease for later. It makes an excellent oil for all sorts of recipes with a flavor that’s already built in. Now you can enjoy making bacon more often at home for a fraction of the cost you pay for premade smoked bacon.
Grilling bacon is considered a heavenly experience when the smell of bacon fills the air. In fact, next to drinking coffee, cooking, and grilling bacon even has its own cult-like following that dedicates several ways to make bacon. It’s also very interesting to add that the expression ‘Bringing home the bacon’ doesn’t have anything to do with earning money.
Getting back to the religious aspect of bacon you’ve already noticed, that as far back as the 1100s in Essex, England – devote church couples who were happily married were awarded a portion of bacon each year just for being happily married. Yet the expression still has a very strong family connection. It seems that the very first African-American Joe Gans defeated Oliver Nelson in 1906 with the title of World Lightweight Boxing Championships.
Gans’ mother had sent a telegram on the day of the fight telling her son to bring home the bacon. For years afterward, this famous phrase was used by American-Americans when describing an action of doing something important. So what else could be more important than cooking bacon?
How long should bacon be grilled?
This has been a debated topic that many bacon lovers will argue about because bacon can be crispy or slightly chewy. Depending on the thickness of each slice it can cook for as little time as 5 minutes by cooking each side for 2 or 3 minutes on each side. Other recipes call for bacon to cook between 7 to 10 minutes which would be 4 or 5 minutes on each side depending on the thickness.
There are no real specifics for how long bacon is cooked as long as you get the desired effect that you like. So this merely comes down to personal taste rather than an actual cooking time. If you cook bacon too long you’ll likely start to have bacon that’s burnt and nobody likes eating burnt bacon… Grilling bacon on a barbecue grill is also a bit of a hazard for cooking too fast.
You do need to use an offset cooking method so it will cook slower and the grease dripping into the grill doesn’t fall onto hot coals or open flames.
What’s the secret to crispy bacon?
So many cooking tips come from experimentation to see which method will produce the best bacon strips. Some folks like to cook their bacon in the oven with parchment paper, so you get bacon that isn’t so soggy with grease. Others have mentioned that cooking bacon in an air fryer is a sure-fire way to get the best results. There is also an ongoing debate on whether microwave bacon is better than traditional skillet bacon too.
The best secret is always to have your bacon sliced to a thickness that is going to cook uniformly and quickly. Any slice of bacon that’s thicker than a paint stick is going to take longer to cook than you want. So if you get those hearty slices of Canadian bacon, you have to adjust the heat so you aren’t going to cook off the fat too quickly. You really want to let your bacon simmer so the fat will render down rather than make your bacon shrink too fast.
How do you keep bacon from sticking to the grill?
Grilling bacon can be tricky if you don’t take steps beforehand to reduce the chances of it sticking to portions of your grill grate. One simple method is to use oil that has a very high smoke point including canola oil or grapeseed oil. This should be brushed onto the heated grates before you put any strips down to get grilled. If you have a special grill that is specifically for items like bacon, this should be coated with oil also.
If you’re using a pan on the grill, it’s better to use a cast-iron pan that’s been seasoned so you have an effective barrier that won’t allow your bacon to stick. Some frying pans do have a Teflon coating, but this is not always the best pan to use on a grilling surface since this non-stick surface isn’t so effective after repeated washing.
Smoking Bacon Tips And Tricks
Making bacon is a satisfying experience and a labor of love for those who want to get better results from making home-based bacon. Here are some helpful tips and insider tricks that can improve your cooking methods once you’ve cured your slab.
Does adding water to bacon make it crispy?
If you’ve seen bacon cooked in water before, this is an interesting method to get bacon that doesn’t spatter as much once the fat is reduced and removed from each slice. What water does is simple, the water is poured into a pan, and bacon is basically boiling and rendering down the bacon fat so it becomes part of the water. Then once the fat is reduced and the water boils off in the pan, what is leftover is the oil that starts to cook the bacon.
This will make your bacon a bit plump as the water does tend to beef up the meat before it gets fried. The result is bacon that is slightly chewy and has all the crispiness that makes it so tasty for bacon lovers.
Do you have to rinse bacon before smoking?
There is an absolute need to rinse bacon before you smoke it because the surface will need to remove the special curing agents that were added during the curing stage. So, all of those added ingredients like salt, sugar, and curing powder are rinsed off. What this is doing is helping to have a clean surface that will be easier to smoke. It still needs to be patted dry and allowed to sit in your fridge for up to a whole night before you start to smoke the bacon.
Smoking the bacon will also turn the outer skin into that marvelous glossy appearance from the mixing of smoke and fat that seeps to the surface while it’s being smoked. These two elements then create bacon that is dry to the touch and isn’t sticky at all when you handle it later.
Is it OK to grill bacon?
Grilled bacon is always welcome for those who can’t get enough of that smoky flavor. Even if you don’t have bacon that is pre-smoked, grilling it over charcoal grills also tends to include smoke packs so foods can have a natural smoky flavor. Just cooking bacon in a pan doesn’t give you a smoky flavor unless it’s been smoked beforehand. Most people prefer to cook bacon on a grill rather than on a stovetop.
It’s simply a choice for those who love BBQ flavors where bacon adds infinite layers of new tastes for burgers, meats, and appetizers of all kinds. If you like jalapeno poppers, bacon simply makes sense to cook this up on a backyard grill.
Common Problems While Curing Bacon
Even if you’re new to curing your own bacon at home, you can be a real pro in a very short amount of time just by watching a few how-to videos and following the right steps. You can make some incredible noob mistakes that are often glazed-over in many tutorials. Here are the top 3 that you should know before you start curing bacon.
Can you cure bacon too long?
It does matter which curing method you’re using which can involve brine curing and dry curing. For brine curing, the amount of salt is typically 2% of the total weight of your meat. No matter how long you brine cure it, there is the risk of making this into salted pork instead of bacon. If you’re using nitrates, there is also the risk of getting nitrate burn likewise. So you do need to limit brine curing to 36 to 40 hours.
For dry curing, you can take your time for 7 to 10 days and in some cases, as many as 3 weeks. After this, the meat will risk going bad and shouldn’t push the envelope. Meat that is also dry-cured will have a saltier flavor. There is also the post-cure after the dry rub is rinsed off and allowed to dry in the fridge overnight and cured with low heat or smoke to finish your bacon for a couple of hours.
Can you cure bacon at home without smoking it?
Normally, most people won’t have a backyard smoker but everyone has a kitchen oven. You can easily cure your meat after it’s spent some time developing the pellicle in your fridge. After this, you place your meat into a baking pan and put it into the oven set to 175-200 degrees Fahrenheit and let this cure for 2 hours. The interior of the meat must reach 150 degrees before its considered cured.
If you want to get the smoky flavor, you can always rub liquid smoke onto the meat before it goes into the oven. It’s not going to have that deep smoky flavor that home-based smokers will get you, but that’s the drawback of using liquid smoke.
Can you cure bacon without nitrates?
Newbies who are looking to make bacon at home will be wondering if you have to use nitrates to help with curing. This is added to your rub when you initially start to cure your meat. There isn’t much need for adding nitrates if you don’t want to. All that nitrates are doing is helping to prevent bacteria from growing. Most people will use their rub as usual and allow the meat to cure for 7-10 days in their fridge.
After it’s spent this time allowing the salts and flavors from your rub to get into the meat, this is further cured using smoking or being placed into an oven so the meat is essentially cooked. After this, cured bacon can be frozen for several months. Cured bacon will also do just fine in your fridge for as long as 4 weeks. Even if you leave your bacon out of the fridge, it should be used within 10 days.