Homemade Bacon : Part 1 The Cure


Pork_logoIf bacon had it’s own Twitter account it would have more followers than Katy Perry, Justin Bieber, and Barack Obama combined. Everyone loves those slabs of salty goodness. Even those forbidden to eat it have been known to long for it. I cured more than 20 pounds to get the photos below, and all of it was consumed before I finished my first draft a week later (With the help of family and friends of course – I’m not that big of a glutton).

I hold bacon’s many virtues on such a high pedestal that I struggled to write about it because the words always felt unworthy. Then I remembered: Bacon is awesome, and you aren’t here to read my attempts at witty prose, you are here because you love it too, so let’s get on with it!


There is so much to say about bacon, I’ve divided the process into two parts: curing and smoking. In this post I’ll cover two methods of curing. I’ll cover smoking in part 2.

Bacon was the first meat I cured myself, and it’s absolutely the best cut for a newbie to enter the world of curing. It’s incredibly easy and doesn’t require any fancy equipment to churn out a fabulous product that puts everything in your local supermarket to shame. All that’s needed is access to a refrigerator, a smoker, and a handful of ingredients.bacon-13

Procuring the pork belly is the hardest part of curing bacon at home. Most big box grocery stores do not carry pork bellies. There is simply not enough demand to keep them in stock. This is where a local butcher or farmers market comes in handy. Local butchers have an advantage over super markets because they work with local farmers to source their meat. Nine times out of ten, local sources of pork are a much higher quality. If you can get heritage breed pork from Berkshire, Duroc, Red Wattle, or Mangalitsa pigs that were raised with love and care it will absolutely show in the final product. Yes, it’s likely to cost a bit more but taste and texture will be of a much higher quality, the animals were much more likely to be raised in superior conditions, and the money goes back into supporting your local farming community. It’s a win all the way around.

If you don’t have access to a local butcher or farmers market, big restaurant supply stores will likely have bellies. They are also likely to have the best prices. However, it’s commonplace for these stores to only sell pork bellies by the case, which is 50 pounds, and the pork is usually a lower quality. A case of pork might not be a problem for some, but for others it may be too much of an investment or take up too much space.

Yet another option is to try a local ethnic grocery store. Latino and Asian grocery stores are very likely to keep bellies in stock and will be selling much more manageable sizes. I recommend buying at least a five-pound slab, which is normally half a belly. The thicker the better.

For this walkthrough I lucked out at my local butcher shop. I told the butcher I wanted a nice, thick pork belly because I was going to cure some bacon. He went in the back and popped out a few minutes later with the biggest pork belly I’ve ever seen. He tossed it up on the scale and it came in at 25 pounds. Yahtzee!bacon-12

Trying to cure a whole belly this size is generally too much to handle. It gets unwieldy when trying to wrap it up and most home cooks do not have enough room in their fridge or smoker for such a large cut. I had plans to try a couple more recipes with pork belly, so I divided the massive hunk of pork into five pound sections. I recommend slicing bellies into five-pound chunks because they are just the right size to handle easily and will be enough for yourself, friends, and family should you choose to be so generous.bacon-1


After slicing the belly, the first step in the process is to remove the skin. A sharp fillet knife and a slow and steady pace are key. Leave as much fat as possible on the belly. Once the skin is removed don’t throw it away. It will make an excellent batch of chicharrones.  Put it in a ziplock bag and toss it in the freezer until you need it.bacon-2bacon-3bacon-4


Now it’s time to cure. If you were to slice off a piece of the belly at this stage and fry it up it would not taste like bacon. It would have a delicious fatty porky taste. That’s not what we are after here. In order to get that salty pink colored goodness, it needs to be placed in a cure.  Your pork belly is like a caterpillar that needs to go into a cocoon of cure before it’s transformed into a beautiful bacon butterfly. 

Your pork belly is like a caterpillar that needs to go into a cocoon of cure before it’s transformed into a beautiful bacon butterfly.


So what is a cure exactly? Essentially a cure is salt, sugar, and sodium nitrite. Insta-Cure #1 is the most commonly used type of sodium nitrite. The Insta-Cure is what gives bacon that pink color we all know and love. The benefit of adding Insta-Cure #1 is food safety. It prevents nasty things like botulism that can grow in warm and moist environments with low oxygen. Sounds a lot like a warm smoking cabinet doesn’t it?


Nitrite and nitrate nutritional safety has been debated back and forth. Both are naturally occurring in vegetables like celery and beets. Some of the best ham and sausage makers I know use nitrites and nitrates. After consulting local experts and doing my own research I have no problem eating food containing either.bacon-7


I usually purchase my Insta-Cure #1 from The Sausage Maker. A five-pound tub will last you a long time. Be sure to get Insta-Cure #1 and not Insta-Cure #2. #2 is for long duration cures like salumi. Any cure lasting less than 30 days would need #1 and anything more would need #2.


There are two curing methods to choose from: Dry and wet. Both have their pros and cons. A dry cure is just like it sounds – dry. Salt, sugar, pepper, and Insta-cure are rubbed all over every surface of the belly. It’s then wrapped up and set in a refrigerator for 6-7 days to cure. With a wet cure, the belly is instead placed in a water-based cure solution and refrigerated for 10-14 days.



Dry Cure


  •  Shorter cure duration
  • Easier to store in smaller refrigerators
  • Exotic flavor profiles are easier to achieve



  •  Can be a bit messier
  • Can be prone to hot or cold spots due to too much or too little cure in areas of your bacon


Wet Cure


  • Not as messy
  • Cure is distributed more evenly



  •  Can take up a considerable amount of space in the refrigerator
  • Takes up to twice as long to cure as a dry cure method
  • Exotic flavor profiles are hard to achieve



Dry Cure Method

Since I purchased a giant belly I used both methods.  For the dry cure I prefer to use honey and brown sugar to punch up the sweetness.   Start by combining ½ cup of salt ½ cup of brown sugar, 1 TBS of black pepper, and 1 tsp of Insta-Cure #1. This amount of Insta-Cure is specific to a five-pound belly. Please be sure and use correct amounts for the size you have.



After the dry rub is mixed set it aside. Pour the honey over the belly and coat evenly. Then sprinkle the cure over all parts of the meat front and back. After it is completely coated using all the cure and honey, wrap up the soon-to-be bacon. Plastic wrap is perfectly acceptable to use. I found jumbo 2.5 gallon Ziplock bags to be much easier than wrestling a thick slab of bacon inside a bunch of plastic wrap.bacon-8bacon-9


After the bacon is covered stick it in the refrigerator for 6-7 days. During this time the cure will pull moisture out of the pork. It’s a good idea to put the belly on a rimmed cookie sheet just in case it leaks. After 3 days flip the bacon over to the other side. This ensures the cure is evenly distributed. After 6-7 days the belly should feel firm and there will likely be a good amount of liquid pulled from the slab. Unwrap the belly and wash off the excess cure under a faucet.

At this point we need to check to see how our flavors have matured. Slice off a small piece from one end of the bacon and fry it up in a pan. Hopefully the bacon has the perfect amount of saltiness. If the bacon has too much for your taste, fear not. Simply soak the slab for an hour in cold water and re-check with a fry test. After you are happy with the flavor profile pat the slab dry and rest the slab in the refrigerator uncovered over night. If you have a wire cooling rack use it to elevate the slab to allow cool air to circulate around the belly. This is ideal as you want the slab to be as dry as possible so the smoke “sticks” to the meat when we put it in the smoker in part 2.



Wet Cure Method

The process for wet cure bacon is very similar. I find Pops6927’s recipe from the Smoking Meat forums to be a great place to start.

In a large food-safe container, combine 1 gallon of water, 1 cup of plain (non-iodized) table salt, 1 cup of white sugar, 1 cup of brown sugar, and 1 TBS of Insta-Cure #1. Mix together until dissolved. Drop in the pork belly and make sure it stays submerged. I used a plastic container filled with water to weigh mine down.bacon-10bacon-11


Next, place the container and meat in the refrigerator for 14 days. Unlike the dry cure, there is no need to rotate the slab as it cures. After the 14 days are up, wash off the excess cure and pat dry.

From here, check the slab with a fry test to ensure the flavors are where you want them. If they are correct, rest the slab in the fridge uncovered overnight.

At this point we are in the home stretch. Whether you dry cured or wet cured we have one last important step to achieving bacon bliss. It’s time to add some of that fantastic smoke flavor to our cured slab of belly.  Now let’s head over to part 2 to wrap things up!bacon-15


  1. Pingback: Homemade Bacon

  2. Memoria   •  

    Wow. What a detailed process you’ve outlined here. One day I hope to cure my own bacon and when I do, I will refer back to your page. Thank you for sharing the photos and instructions. Enjoy your bacon (if there still is some haha).

    • Andrew Armstrong   •     Author

      Thanks Memoria! Be sure and stop back in and let me know how your bacon turns out.

  3. Pingback: Pork rinds. Cracklins. Grattons. Chicharrones. - I Love Meat

  4. Lindsey   •  

    Were the measurements in the wet cure for all 25lbs? We’re smoking our own bacon for the second year in a row and are looking for a new recipe. We’re butchering our pigs today and would like to get all the bacon from two pigs into brine tonight.

    • Andrew Armstrong   •     Author

      Hello Lindsey. The Wet Cure and Dry Cure measurements are both for five pound chunks of belly. Depending on the thickness you may be able to fit more than one chunk down in the wet brine. As long as they stay submerged and have enough room for the cure to penetrate on all sides you should be fine. I’ve cured two 5 pound chunks in one batch of wet brine before. Good luck with your cure!

  5. Lisa   •  

    First time making bacon, found your recipe – used the dry cure method – WOW! super delicious. I’m going to have to keep a continual batch going so I don’t ever run out .

  6. cg   •  

    Are you supposed to cover both sides of meat with honey and spice/cure?

    • Andrew Armstrong   •     Author

      cg if you elect to remove the skin then yes you can rub down both sides. What you will find is that once the cure is on, moisture will be drawn out and it will create a slurry. When you flip the slab over after a few days the mixture will absorb in both sides while it is in the fridge. Basically rubbing it in on both sides is good in practice but if you happen to forget it will still be fine.

  7. Karen   •  

    we raise our pigs on a grain diet with no antibiotics or steroids. We make our own feed from corn we have grown in the garden our process is different. My 87 year od father in law taught the men how to kill the hogs, skin an/or scrape them then complete the butcher process we then make our own sausage with seasonings we have finally perfected for our taste but low sipodium. Then the big day. We have a smokehouse and all the meat is smoked the old fashioned way. It’s the best sausage you could eat and its low fat and low sodium. We use peco wood for smoking.

  8. Nathan   •  

    Could you use less than 5lbs of pork belly in the brine? If you wanted to do a smaller batch. Or will insta-cure measurements be off?

    • Andrew Armstrong   •     Author

      Nathan if you are doing a wet cure you will be fine. If you are doing the dry cure you would want to weigh the IC and then go from there according to how much belly you are going to be using.

  9. Jhana   •  

    Is it alright to use frozen bellies?

  10. Luis   •  

    Epic post Andrew! I have a question for you…Do you know how long it will take to expire a portion of bacon like this vacuum packed?

  11. Jason Capelle   •  

    Hi Andrew,

    Great post! Thank you! Some questions if I may: I tried both your dry and wet cure recipes using approximately two 2.5 pound cuts of pork belly for each cure. So I had about five pounds total for each but in two pieces rather than one. Both cures turned out too salty for my taste. So my question is whether that saltiness is a function of the time I let them cure (both dry and wet) or the size of the cuts…or both? In other words if using smaller than five pound cuts of pork belly would you recommend reducing the cure time to achieve less saltiness? Or is the cure time kind of required for proper preservation (and/or moisture reduction) and then soaking in fresh water is the the best way to reduce saltiness?

  12. Jason C   •  

    One other thing and it is really just an observation. I noticed that the saltiness seemed to intensify from when I pulled it out of the cure until it was done smoking. I did the fry test before drying/smoking and it seemed just slightly too salty and I went ahead without soaking in fresh water. But after I dryed it then smoked it, it was more than just slightly too salty. I am not sure the reason but I suspect that leaving it over night to dry then smoking it reduces moisture even more thus increasing the saltiness. All this said…it is still delicious. The good thing about the saltiness is I use less at each serving and therefore it is lasting longer!!!

  13. Jeff   •  

    Andrew, I have done the dry cure with great success and I want to thank you for taking the time to share this with the world. I wanted to try the wet cure, but I have a question. In the dry cure portion you point out (and so does the jar) that 1 tsp of insta-cure covers 5 pounds. In the wet cure method I notice it says 1 Tbsp. Is that also for 5 pounds of belly? Thanks.

  14. Hendo   •  

    Hi Andrew,
    Very easy to follow guide and the result is great
    How about a duck breast proscuitto recipe
    Many thanks

  15. Tiago   •  

    Started the curing process today and It’s going to be some long 7 days ahead. Hope it works out and I will be enjoying my own home made piece of heaven in a week. I shall let you know!!

  16. Imran nadeem   •  

    Hi andrew thats an excellent job youve done there very elaborate and neat i must say! Well done! I was wondering if there is any other method for smoking say using a grill and could not find smoking pellets, perhaps coal will do. Do you have any suggestions?

  17. Anuj Sharma   •  

    Sir, I can not get nitrates here in Nepal. Is there any alternative ?

    • chas   •  

      Try celery juice 1 large bunch jucied will work fine in the wet prep. You can buy dry celery powder but im not sure how much to use in the dry rub process.

  18. Mark A. Jackson   •  

    I followed your method to dry cure. The bacon turned out great. I just to a bunch on a fishing trip with some buddies this weekend. They want me to open a bacon shop!


  19. farrier's wife   •  

    We butchered our free range organic pig yesterday and will be cutting it up today. I love the sound of your dry rub recipe but can’t find an amount for the honey. I could guess at ~4 ounces for a 1 pound slab. Am I close?
    Also, I don’t have Prague powder. I have TenderQuick. How much TQ do I use instead of Prague?
    I want to put my slabs in the cure tomorrow morning. Thanks.

  20. Steve McKinley   •  

    Bought my pork belly and cured and smoked it. Turned out great. Did the dry cure. My only question is in your listed ingredients for the dry cure you list 1 TBS of black pepper and 1 tsp of insta cure. The pic looks like it’s equal amount of black pepper and insta cure. Just trying to make sure I am doing this correctly. Thanks,

  21. Viki   •  

    Hello: Pork belly, for bacon. If I brine for two days, in a salt and brown sugar. and then make a cure of spices with salt sugar and other “stuff” do I still have to use the Nitrite salt? Will smoke to 200 and internal temp 150. for 3 hours. Is this o.k.? I don’t want to hurt anyone.

    • Kliph   •  

      Was 200 too high temp? How did that turn out for you? From my understanding that temp would melt all the fat.

  22. Kliph   •  

    For a test run I asked the butcher for 2 lbs of pork belly. However, when I got home I found out that the butcher had already sliced the pork nicely thick. Does that change the directions being the pork is already sliced? I went ahead a followed the whole meat steps with the individual slices so I guess in a week I’ll find out myself. lol

    • Kliph   •  

      FYI from my earlier comment. Cured for 1 week as directed in slices. Test fried a couple of those slices and they turned out pretty good although it was not yet bacon good since not smoked. They slices were overly sugary and burned easily as I expected they would be. Kids loved it though and insisted I fry up the rest. They were gone in no time. I didn’t bother with the smoke process since the pork was presliced but I will next time with a whole belly. I look forward to doing it up proper next time!

  23. Matt   •  

    Does anyone know if curing bacon for longer than 14 days, say 16 days, is a problem or will make bad bacon or make people sick? I tried to cure about 14 pounds over the Christmas break and never got a chance to smoke it. Thoughts? The slabs are all pretty good and firm.

  24. Tania Gooding   •  

    Would a brown sugar bacon/ham cure blend by Sausage Maker make any difference?

  25. Tania Gooding   •  

    Would a brown sugar bacon/ham cure blend by Sausage Maker make any difference in your instructions (measurements)?

    • Andrew Armstrong   •     Author

      I would follow the directions on the Sausage Maker recipe. I’ve never tried that product so I can’t say how it would effect this recipe.

  26. Steve Palmer   •  

    This is my first time to make bacon when using the cold smoking method do you have to have any heat at all, I have a 12″ pellet smoking tube which they say produces 7- 15 degrees. I was going to set this in my bbq pit to smoke the bacon. Thank You Steve Palmer

    • Andrew Armstrong   •     Author

      No heat is needed. I actually like smoking when it’s cold so I get as little heat on the bacon as possible.

  27. Nathan   •  

    Followed this recipie to try to make my first bacon, and used honey on 1 side and molasses on the other but coated both with the seasoning mix, and it’s in the smoker right now but the initial fry test pieces….this is the best bacon I’ve ever had! Plan on buying a belly and making my own from now on! Thank you for sharing this recipie and the awesome write up to explain it all!

    • Andrew Armstrong   •     Author

      No problem Nathan. I’m glad it turned out well for you!

  28. Andrew   •  

    Thanks a lot for the recipe.On my first attempt, I got about an 8 pound belly and used the dry cure for one half and the wet for the other.Both turned out so well that family and friends keep bugging me to make more so I picked up a 13 pound belly today.Back at it !!!

    • Andrew Armstrong   •     Author

      When you start making bacon friends suddenly come out of the woodwork!

  29. Gary   •  

    can I use Morton salt Tender Quick for curring bacon?

    • Andrew Armstrong   •     Author

      Gary, I know that people do use Tender Quick for curing bacon. I personally have never tried so I can’t say that the amount would be a 1:1 replacement.

  30. Compost   •  

    Today’s the second time I give this a try. It is so magnificently simple. Last time, I forgot to use honey, and this time, I decided I’d use it in the smoking process, just to see if more smoke will stick to it all. All in all, you are a hero of the Interwebs, since your contributions enlighten and enrich our lives and you help us remember that not all of it is fat free.

    Thank you.


    can I get the name and website to buy that insta cure#1 PLEASE

  32. Beth   •  

    Thank you!!!!

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