To put it simply, fresh bacon is pork belly that is rubbed down with a mixture of salt, sugar, and sodium nitrite (pink salt). The pork belly is then refrigerated for one to two weeks, after which it is hot smoked until its internal temperature is 145 degrees Fahrenheit. The mixture of salt, sugar, and pink salt is the “cure,” and the bacon is considered to be “fresh” because it must be stored at refrigeration and has a finite shelf life.

cured bacon ©igorstevanovic/Shutterstock.com

Curing is a slow process whereby the salts and sugars slowly work their way through the cells of the protein through a process called osmosis. Curing can take a few days to several weeks, depending on the size and thickness of the cut of meat.

The charcuterie recipes in this article all utilize a process known as equilibrium curing, or EQ curing. EQ curing is a precise way of measuring salt, sugar, and nitrite by percentage of mass of the protein being cured; this method allows you to completely control the amount of salt in your products. When a cut of meat is curing, it can stay in refrigeration for some time because the salt and nitrite dramatically slow the replication rate of spoilage bacteria.

Hot smoking serves multiple purposes:
  • Flavoring the meat with smoke. Different woods impart different flavors. Popular woods for smoking include hickory, cherry, pecan, maple, apple, alder, and oak.
  • Killing off all bacteria by raising the internal temperature to a target temperature for a prescribed amount of time.
  • Partial drying by rapidly evaporating water during the cooking process.
  • Enhancing the texture through cooking.
When hot smoking bacon, you are fully cooking it. Could you eat your own bacon without cooking it in the pan to crisp it up? Sure! But I wouldn’t suggest trying that with anyone else’s bacon.

Smoked Belly Bacon

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Curing Time: 7 days

Yield: 4 lbs.

Ingredients

34 grams (1.5%) sea salt

17 grams (.75%) white sugar

6 grams (.25%) pink salt #1

5 lbs. pork belly (skin off)

1 food-safe plastic bag

1 black Sharpie marker

  1. Combine the dry ingredients in a mixing bowl to make the EQ cure mixture.
  2. Place the pork belly in the plastic bag.
  3. With the bag open, ensure the belly is flat on your work surface, protein side up.
  4. Sprinkle approximately 70 percent of the EQ cure mixture on the protein side of the pork belly.
  5. Rub the EQ cure mixture into the pork belly, being sure to evenly coat the entire protein side.
  6. Leave the pork belly in the bag, and flip it over so that it is fat side up.
  7. Sprinkle the remaining EQ cure mixture over the fat side of the pork belly.
  8. Rub the EQ cure mixture into the pork belly, being sure to evenly coat the entire fat side.
  9. Wrap the pork belly in the bag, being sure to get as much air out as possible.
  10. Lay the wrapped pork belly in your refrigerator, making sure that it is lying flat.
  11. Wait at least 7 days.
  12. Remove the pork belly from the bag and rinse it under cold water.
  13. Pat the pork belly dry with single-use paper towels.
  14. Let the pork belly rest on a cooling rack in the fridge overnight. This will allow the pork belly to slightly dry out and form a pellicle.
  15. Place the pork belly in a smoker at 180–225 degrees Fahrenheit. Apply constant smoke to the pork belly for the duration of the cooking process.
  16. After 2 hours, check the internal temperature of the pork belly by inserting a digital temperature probe. Check the temperature every 45–60 minutes until the temperature in the middle of the pork belly reaches 145 degrees Fahrenheit.
  17. Once the pork belly has reached an internal temperature of 145 degrees Fahrenheit, remove it and place it on a cooling rack in a cool area in your kitchen.
  18. Once the pork belly has cooled below 100 degrees Fahrenheit, place it on a cooling rack in your refrigerator and cool it overnight.
  19. Once the pork belly has cooled below 41 degrees Fahrenheit, slice it. I prefer to do this on a meat slicer for uniformity; however, if you do not have one, you can use a knife and cutting board.

If your protein has a different weight than the prescribed weight in the recipe, update the recipe by using the percentages provided. Multiply the mass of your protein (in grams) by the percent of the ingredient. This will provide the mass of the ingredient in grams.

A pellicle is a slightly dry rind on the outside of your meat. Smoke will not stick to water, so it is important to dry your pork belly out before smoking. However, you can skip this step if you are in a hurry; the pork belly will dry in the smoker. Note that the end product will not be as smoky as it would if you let it dry a little prior to smoking.

Vary it! Try different woods to get different smoke flavors. Apple is a great mild flavor.

Cooling hot meat quickly is important. Be sure to use cooling racks, and don’t try to cool it in sealed containers. Use a fan if you want to speed up the cooling process. The USDA recommends that meat containing nitrites be cooled from 130°F to 80°F in 5 hours or less and from 80° to 45°F in 10 hours or less.

Maple Bacon

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Curing Time: 7 days

Yield: 4 lbs.

Ingredients

34 grams (1.5%) sea salt

17 grams (.75%) white sugar

68 grams (3%) brown sugar

6 grams (.25%) pink salt #1

5 lbs. pork belly (skin off)

1 food-safe plastic bag

1 black Sharpie marker

  1. Combine the dry ingredients in a mixing bowl to make the EQ cure mixture (with added brown sugar).
  2. Place the pork belly in the plastic bag.
  3. With the bag open, ensure the pork belly is flat on your work surface, protein side up.
  4. Sprinkle approximately 70 percent of the EQ cure mixture on the protein side of the pork belly.
  5. Rub the EQ cure mixture into the pork belly, being sure to evenly coat the entire protein side.
  6. Leave the pork belly in the bag and flip it over so that it is fat side up.
  7. Sprinkle the remaining EQ cure mixture over the fat side of the pork belly.
  8. Rub the EQ cure mixture into the pork belly, being sure to evenly coat the entire fat side.
  9. Wrap the pork belly in the bag, being sure to get as much air out as possible.
  10. Lay the wrapped pork belly in your refrigerator, making sure that it is lying flat.
  11. Wait at least 7 days.
  12. Remove the pork belly from the bag and rinse it under cold water.
  13. Pat the pork belly dry with single-use paper towels.
  14. Let the pork belly rest on a cooling rack in the fridge overnight. This will allow the pork belly to slightly dry out and form a pellicle.
  15. Place the pork belly in a smoker at 180–225 degrees Fahrenheit. Apply constant maple smoke to the pork belly for the duration of the cooking process.
  16. After 2 hours, check the internal temperature of the pork belly by inserting a digital temperature probe. Check the temperature every 45–60 minutes until the temperature in the middle of the pork belly reaches 145 degrees Fahrenheit.
  17. Once the pork belly has reached an internal temperature of 145 degrees Fahrenheit, remove it and place it on a cooling rack in a cool area in your kitchen.
  18. Once the pork belly has cooled below 100 degrees Fahrenheit, place it on a cooling rack in your refrigerator and cool it overnight.
  19. Once the pork belly has cooled below 41 degrees Fahrenheit, slice it. I prefer to do this on a meat slicer for uniformity; however, if you do not have one, you can use a knife and cutting board.

Smoke using a mixture of cherry and hickory.

Using your Sharpie, write on the bag the date the pork belly went into your fridge to cure and the date it can be removed to smoke.

Jowl Bacon

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Curing Time: 7 days

Yield: 4 lbs.

Ingredients

7 grams (1.5%) sea salt

4 grams (.75%) white sugar

1 gram (.25%) pink salt #1

18 grams (4%) coarse ground black pepper

18 grams (4%) coarse ground coriander

1 lb. pork jowl (skin off)

1 food-safe plastic bag

1 black Sharpie marker

  1. Combine the dry ingredients in a mixing bowl to make the EQ cure mixture (with added spices).
  2. Place the pork jowl in the plastic bag.
  3. With the bag open, ensure the pork jowl is flat on your work surface, protein side up.
  4. Sprinkle approximately 70 percent of the EQ cure mixture on the protein side of the pork jowl.
  5. Rub the EQ cure mixture into the pork jowl, being sure to evenly coat the entire protein side.
  6. Leave the pork jowl in the bag and flip it over so that is fat side up.
  7. Sprinkle the remaining EQ cure mixture over the fat side of the pork jowl.
  8. Rub the EQ cure mixture into the pork jowl, being sure to evenly coat the entire fat side.
  9. Wrap the pork jowl in the bag, being sure to get as much air out as possible.
  10. Lay the wrapped pork jowl in your refrigerator, making sure that it is lying flat.
  11. Wait at least 7 days.
  12. Remove the pork jowl from the bag. Don’t rinse it.
  13. Let the pork jowl rest on a cooling rack in the fridge overnight. This will allow the pork jowl to slightly dry out and form a pellicle.
  14. Place the pork jowl in a smoker at 180–225 degrees Fahrenheit. Apply constant smoke to the pork jowl for the duration of the cooking process.
  15. After 2 hours, check the internal temperature of the pork jowl by inserting a digital temperature probe in the thickest part. Check the temperature every 45–60 minutes until the temperature reaches 145 degrees Fahrenheit.
  16. Once the pork jowl has reached an internal temperature of 145 degrees Fahrenheit, remove it and place it on a cooling rack in a cool area in your kitchen.
  17. Once the pork jowl has cooled below 100 degrees Fahrenheit, place it on a cooling rack in your refrigerator and cool it overnight.
  18. Once the pork jowl has cooled below 41 degrees Fahrenheit, slice it. I prefer to do this on a meat slicer for uniformity; however, if you do not have one, you can use a knife and cutting board.

Smoked Rasher Bacon

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Curing Time: 7 days

Yield: 4 lbs.

Ingredients

34 grams (1.5%) sea salt

17 grams (.75%) white sugar

6 grams (.25%) pink salt #1

5 lbs. pork loin with 2–3 inches of the pork side still attached

1 food-safe plastic bag

1 black Sharpie marker

  1. Combine the dry ingredients in a mixing bowl to make the EQ cure mixture.
  2. Place the pork loin in the plastic bag.
  3. With the bag open, ensure the pork loin is flat on your work surface, protein side up.
  4. Sprinkle approximately 50 percent of the EQ cure mixture on the protein side of the pork loin.
  5. Rub the EQ cure mixture into the pork loin, being sure to evenly coat the entire protein side.
  6. Leave the pork loin in the bag and flip it over so that it is fat side up.
  7. Sprinkle the remaining EQ cure mixture over the fat side of the pork loin.
  8. Rub the EQ cure mixture into the pork loin, being sure to evenly coat the entire fat side.
  9. Wrap the pork loin in the bag, being sure to get as much air out as possible.
  10. Lay the wrapped pork loin in your refrigerator, making sure that it is lying flat.
  11. Wait at least 10 days.
  12. Remove the pork loin from the bag and rinse it under cold water.
  13. Pat the pork loin dry with single-use paper towels.
  14. Let the pork loin rest on a cooling rack in the fridge overnight. This will allow the pork loin to slightly dry out and form a pellicle.
  15. Place the pork loin in a smoker at 180–225 degrees Fahrenheit. Apply constant smoke to it for the duration of the cooking process.
  16. After 2 hours, check the internal temperature of the pork loin by inserting a digital temperature probe into the middle of the thickest part. Check the temperature every 45–60 minutes until the temperature reaches 145 degrees Fahrenheit.
  17. Once the pork loin has reached an internal temperature of 145 degrees Fahrenheit, remove it and place it on a cooling rack in a cool area in your kitchen.
  18. Once the pork loin has cooled below 100 degrees Fahrenheit, place it on a cooling rack in your refrigerator and cool it overnight.
  19. Once the pork loin has cooled below 41 degrees Fahrenheit, slice it. I prefer to do this on a meat slicer for uniformity; however, if you do not have one, you can use a knife and cutting board.

About This Article

This article is from the book:

About the book author:

Mark LaFay is a tenured entrepreneur. He started two successful businesses in the music industry and is the founder of Old Major Market, a virtual artisanal butcher shop in Indianapolis. LaFay is a serial entrepreneur, butcher, certified sommelier, the Abe Frohman of Indianapolis, and the 2015 and 2017 Indiana State Fair Backyard BBQ Grand Champion.

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