Homemade bacon – how to cure and dry your own bacon?
Homemade Bacon! If it’s not on your bucket list you should add it right now! In this post I will tell you how to dry age your smoked pork belly in your fridge. I did hesitate way to long. I’m actually writing this post before making the pictures because I couldn’t wait to taste… I actually couldn’t believe my taste buds. This homemade bacon is smooth and tastes pretty awesome! It’s well worth the wait! Take a time to read on and find out how you can do this project at home!
Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. All opinions shared are my own.
So what’s making bacon typical and different from a smoked pork belly? It’s a question I’m still not sure I get it correctly. Yet I know Bacon is a piece of cured pork that’s often smoked. As far as I find some information it can be fresh or dried. Some can even be boiled. But forget about the last part! This is a BBQ blog so we don’t boil our ingredients! In most cases bacon should be cooked or grilled before eating. Yet some versions of the smoked dry aged bacon are ready to eat. For the curing process you can chose between the dry cured version or using a brine. Further in this post I’ll explain what version I made and why. We all know bacon makes a lot of good things even better. Though I’m a huge fan, I think we should honour this product by NOT using it in every meal we make! Feel free to disagree and discuss this subject with me.
Homemade Bacon – is it safe?
The biggest question that kept me hesitating to dry age bacon at home. No matter how much people told me it was perfectly save to make bacon at home, I didn’t dare to try it. Simply because I don’t like to throw away food. Most people told me I would see if it turned bad… Though it’s a good point, it still means a piece of meat needs to be thrown away. So you might be wondering what convinced me to give it a try? Well I saw this movie explaining well how to do the process at home and somehow the guy made it look easy and clear enough to challenge me and give it a go! With a result I couldn’t imagine at the start of this process. I followed the steps in the movie and added a cold smoking session. Not only because smoke kills the bad micro-organisms, but mostly because it adds a lot of flavor. So let me go through the process I followed step by step and explain why I did those steps.
Selecting the meat
Well obviously for bacon we go for a piece of pork. For other dry aging projects you can use other animals. I’m actually dry aging a duck breast at the moment. But that’s no bacon so we stick with the pork! Pick a piece of pork that contains quite some fat. It’s not only safer to preserve but fat also gives a lot of taste to the end product! But if you have the chance to chose between different pieces you need to look for a piece that’s well marbled with fat. Mostly races of pork like Iberico, duke of berkshire, … that has been fed with grains, nuts, fruit, … and had a pieceful live deliver nice pieces of meat. So for this project I spent a tiny bit more money and bought myself a 500 gr. duke of berkshire pork belly.
Curing the meat
Like explained in the movie there are 3 options for the curing process. You can brine the meat. This means you’ll be curing the pork belly in a large amount of liquid with spices and a huge amount of salt and sugar. Since we want to dry age the meat afterwards we’ll skip this one. So we’re left with the excess salt method or the equilibrium curing method. What method you should follow depends on whether you have a vacuum sealer at home or not. If you own a foodsaver I would advice to go for the equilibrium curing method. This method is easier to control and requires less salt and sugar to get a well flavored piece of bacon. For this technique you wheigh the meat before curing it and add 4% of nitrite salt/curing salt to the meat! This needs to be exact. You can also add some other spices and sugar like I did. When adding spices early in the process your homemade bacon will be spiced to the core. Put the piece of meat and salt in a vacuum bag and seal it for 4-5 days or a couple of weeks when using a big piece of meat. I used spices from some leftover curing salt I had left from the cuban style pulled pork I made some time ago.
Smoking homemade bacon
When smoking bacon you can go for the hot smoking process or opt for the cold smoking process. Since we want to dry age the meat we go for the second part. Our bacon doesn’t need to be cooked at this stage. Like mentioned before smoke kills the bad bacteria but also adds a lot of flavor. You can chose what wood you use and how long you smoke the meat. Bacon is often smoked on hickory which leads to a deeper sweeter taste. I cold smoke the homemade bacon (500 gr.) for 10 hours using my cold smoker and hickory wood dust. Meanwhile the meat is drying a bit. Make sure the dome temperature doesn’t pass the limit of 25°C/77°F. Going higher in temperature might give the few remaining bacteria the chance to grow. Though they should be killed by now by the salt and sugar. But better safe than sorry.
Dry aging process
So this was the scariest part for me. I don’t dare to dry age my meat outdoors and don’t own a cellar or something like that where I can hang my pieces of meat. The mentioned video however showed me a technique to dry age in the refrigerator. And I guess most of you own a refrigerator at home. Most refrigerators have the right circumstances to dry age your meat. I actually don’t know what amount of humidity and air flow you need but it worked perfectly. To prevent the meat from growing molds I wrapped them in cheese cloth and hang them on a wire in the refrigerator. Make sure when aging different pieces of meat they don’t touch each other. From that moment on you need to be very patient. Your homemade bacon needs to lose 30% weight. These are the juices that evaporate. For a small piece it can take about 3 weeks. But it’s well worth waiting!
So here you go! Three weeks later it’s time to taste! And like mentioned before you’ll be quite impatient by now. I actually tasted immediately before I thought about taking pictures. The result was stunning! It’s like I’m cutting through a piece of butter and the taste is phenomenal and well balanced. Would you dare to try this project? I’d like to hear your thoughts. So take a moment to join us on social media and share your opinion.
You’ve been dreaming of homemade bacon and don’t know where to start? You’re scared you might do something wrong? I recognize the feeling! But when I found out you can dry age the bacon in the fridge I gave it a go! What are you waiting for?
- 500 gr. Pork Belly well marbled
- 20 gr. Nitrite salt Nitrite salt is salt with 0.6%nitrite/100gr. salt. Not to be confused with cure#1 or cure#2.
- 10 gr. dark sugar
- 5 gr. cilantro
- 5 gr. basil
- 2 gr. ground black pepper
- 2 gr. dried cumin
- 1 gr. onion powder
- 1 gr. garlic powder
- 1 vacuum sealer
- 1 vacuum bag
- 1 cheese cloth
- kitchen rope
- 1 cold smoke generator
- Hickory smoke dust
Mix all cure ingredients! You can experiment with the flavors by adding or mixing in different spices. However you must keep at least 3-4 procent of the total meat weight in nitrite salt
Rub the pork belly thoroughly with the salt cure and add it to a vacuum bag. Make sure all of the salt is in the bag!
Vacuum seal the bagwith a foodsaver and put in the fridge for 4-5 days.
Remove the pork belly from the bag and pat it dry. Now you’re ready to smoke
Lit the cold smoker using a blow torch and once it’s smoking add your cured homemade bacon to the smoker. Smoke for 10 hours (or more). Warning: make sure the temperature doesn’t cross the 25°C/77°F limit.
Once smoked remove the homemade bacon from your smoker. Wrap it in a clean cheese cloth and tie it up with kitchen rope.
Hang the homemade bacon in the fridge for dry aging. You need to lose 30% of weight before it’s ready to serve (in this case it’s done when you’re left with a piece of homemade bacon that weighs 350 gr.). In this process the meat juices are evaporated causing the weight loss and intensifying the flavour!
NOTE: Nitrite salt 0.6 % is only apparantly only known in Europe. When using pink cure 1 containing 6% sodium nitrite you need to add (per 500 gr. meat):
1 gr. Pink salt
19 gr. kosher salt