It’s all about the Bacon – How to make the best bacon
So it’s been a while since my last post. Honestly, a lot has shifted since I started this blog almost 7 years ago. Today, I am most passionate about food. I’m a total Foodie and always have been. Lately, I’ve been playing with Pork Belly, trying to perfect making bacon. Before I hop into the How to’s for you to be able to make it yourself, let me give you a little background of my journey with food.
To give you a little background. I was working in restaurants at 15, got my B.A. in hotel restaurant management and went to the Culinary Institute of America, Napa Valley, Ca. To study there you have to already have a degree and they don’t offer degrees, they offer continuing education units. You work under Master Chefs. Today, there are only 67 CMC’s (Certified Master Chefs) and only 11 CMPC’s in the nation.
Yep, its hard as hell and The CMC level is the highest and most demanding level of achievement of all ACF certification levels, granted only after the candidate has passed an intensive 8-day test of culinary skills and knowledge.
I continued after my education to work in hotels as a food and beverage director, then a regional F&B director all the way up to becoming a General Manager working with both the Marriott and Hilton Brands. I left Hospitality about 9 years ago because I had gotten away from what I was most passionate about, FOOD!
I’ve worked from home for the past 8 years working with an IT Consulting group. It’s given me the time to concentrate on what I love, cooking, baking and preparing awesome meals for my family and friends. One of my favorite things to do is smoke meats.
I love smoking Chicken, Brisket, Pork Shoulder and Butt and yes, BACON. I’ll save my brisket recipe for another day. Bacon is a universal food, unless your Muslim or a strict Jew. If your Jewish, relax, so am I, however, I don’t follow the strict old testament clean vs. unclean eating.
The way to prepare pork belly to make the best bacon
- The first step in creating tasty bacon is getting good pork belly. I go to a local butcher here for it and get a 15-20 pound hog belly with the skin on. It’s literally one whole side of a pig.
Once I bring it home, I cut it into manageable cuts. There is sometimes a layer of film on the meat side which you need to cut off to ensure your cure and smoke penetrate the meat. With a 15 pound belly, I usually quarter it leaving 4 2-1/2 to 3-pound slabs.
2. The Second step is preparing your cure. It’s pretty simple as I use brown sugar, kosher salt and Prague powder (Sodium Nitrate and salt). Here is where you have to be careful to measure your ingredients. I found that having a scale handy helps you get the mixture right. (Caution: Prague Powder is poisonous and should be handled carefully and never ingested.) This is simply a curing agent that will prevent your meat from spoiling during the low smoking temperature in case your meat doesn’t get to temperature in a timely manner.
3. There are 3 ingredients for the mixture that will coat the pork belly and cure it. The amount varies depending on the weight of the pork belly.
- Kosher salt – 0.35 ounces per 1 pound of pork belly
- Brown sugar – 0.25 ounces per 1 pound of pork belly
- Cure #1 (Prague Powder #1) – 1 tsp for every 5 pounds of pork belly
Weigh the pork belly and then, in a separate bowl, measure out the amount of salt, brown sugar and cure needed. Use a fork to make sure that the mixture is well mixed. Set the bowl aside until needed.
If you are smoking more than one pork belly, measure out this mixture separately for each belly. This is very important!
Take the weight of your individual bellys and then use the proper amount of mixture.
Use a fork to sprinkle the cure mixture (kosher salt, brown sugar and cure #1) on the meat side of the belly. Try to cover all of the meat side and make sure to use all the mixture that you measured out, based on the weight of each pork belly.
Slide the pork belly into a freezer bag or food safe vacuum sealer bag. Sliding it in the bag while on butcher paper or parchment paper makes it easier as it prevents the meat from sticking to the bag. Pull the paper out of the bag. Remove as much air as possible from the bag and seal it.
4. Once you have them sealed, place them in the fridge for 4 days. Turn them over once a day.
5. After 4-5 days of curing, take them out of the bags and rinse them for a minute each under cold water.
6. Place them back on racks ontop of a pan and put back in fridge for at least 8 hours to dry the meat before smoking.
7. When ready to smoke, I like to use my Big Chief smoker which is low temp and only gets up to 160 degrees if I’m lucky. I like to use Hickory chips for Bacon but you can use whatever flavor you like.
8. I then hang each piece with a hook (I took a hanger and cut it into 4 hangers for the meat. You want to hang them over the smoke in your box making sure they don’t touch each other. Cook them until they have an internal temperature of at least 150 degrees Fahrenheit.
9. When done, let them cool, wrap them in saran wrap and freeze for 2 hours before slicing. This will make it easier to slice.
10. Enjoy your bacon. Around the holidays I like to dip slices of bacon in chocolate, make little goodie bags and give to my friends. Everyone loves bacon.
I hope you enjoyed this end to end tutorial on how to make bacon.