To say that bacon is trendy would be a ridiculous understatement, but despite its popularity, really great bacon can be difficult to find in supermarkets. Well, forget about buying it—I’m going to show you just how easy it is to make bacon from scratch, right in your own backyard. You won’t believe how much better the flavor and texture of homemade bacon are compared to its store-bought counterpart. Plus, my Applewood-Smoked Bacon recipe doesn’t require any nitrates or curing salts, so your bacon will be all natural.
The process is simple: First, you’ll need to buy fresh pork belly and soak it for two days in a salt and sugar brine to season it inside and out. Next, you’ll gently smoke the pork belly until it’s infused with the rich flavor we all expect from great bacon. That’s it! All that remains is to cook and enjoy it, just as you would store-bought bacon.
Once you’ve gotten the hang of my method, you can vary your bacon’s flavor by using different sweeteners or adding whiskey or dried spices to the brine; see the bourbon and maple variations at the bottom of my recipe for two delicious examples. You can also use different kinds of hardwood sawdust to create unique smoky notes. The choices are all yours, and the resulting bacon will be out of this world.
The bacon tool kit
You’ll need the following items to make bacon at home:
• Charcoal or gas grill
• 12-quart plastic storage tub or stainless-steel pot or bowl
• 4×8-inch disposable aluminum loaf pan
• Hardwood sawdust
• Charcoal briquettes
• Chimney starter
• Instant-read thermometer
Brining the pork belly infuses it with flavor and prevents bacterial growth, too. After rinsing the brined pork, be sure to thoroughly dry it so the smoke can penetrate the meat.
The key to smoking bacon is to use hardwood sawdust, which smolders with ease, as opposed to hardwood chips, which tend to catch fire. All it takes to get the smoke going is five charcoal briquettes.
Position the pork belly near but not over the pan of lit sawdust. Once you cover the grill, look for a good amount of smoke rising out of the vents. If it’s billowing out, the smoking time may be less than five hours. If it’s coming out in gentle wisps, add another lit briquette to the sawdust.
After smoking, the bacon may or may not change color and will still appear to be raw (as does store-bought bacon). Cold-smoking doesn’t cook the bacon; it removes moisture from the pork, firms its texture, and flavors it.