Homemade Bacon : Part 2 The Smoke
At the end of Part 1 we made sure we had our salt levels where we want them and our belly had dried uncovered in the fridge over night. Now it’s time to add one more layer of flavor. Infusing the belly with smoke is the pièce de résistance. In my opinion bacon just isn’t bacon without a nice kiss of smoke.
Right before the belly is placed in the smoker I like to add an optional coating of black pepper. While the pepper in the cure helps get some flavor into the meat, I’ve found that a nice coat of black pepper right before it goes on really punches it up. There really is no specific amount here. Use as much or as little as you like.
Playing with Pellets
If you do not have a dedicated smoker, a grill and smoking pellets work great. I use this Amazen Pellet Tube Smoker 12″ when I smoke bacon at home. It’s very inexpensive and works wonderfully. I typically get a 4-hour burn from a single load of hickory pellets, which gives me all of the smoke without the high temperatures.
Keep it cool
Your smoking chamber needs to be set to 165 degrees or less. Place the belly in the chamber for 4 hours. Keep an eye on the internal temperatures of the belly if you are having trouble keeping your smoking chamber below 165. If your belly is at an internal temperature of 150 degrees for 90 minutes go ahead and pull it off even if you haven’t gone the full 4 hours. You don’t want to run the risk of melting all the fat out of your bacon. Internal temps do not have to hit 150 degrees. Instead, think of 150 as the max.
Seasons make a difference
Personally, I like to smoke the belly at the lowest temperature possible. In the wintertime my chamber maybe all the way down at 40 degrees. The bacon will never get close to 150 degrees internal temp. Smoking at these lower temperatures allows the meat to stay in the smoker the entire 4 hours without running the risk of melting the fat. If you have to remove your bacon before the 4 hours are up it simply means you won’t get quite as much smoke flavor. I would rather have less smoke than melt the fat. In the summertime this may be a bit more difficult, especially if you are using a smoking chamber that generates lots of heat, such as a propane grill with smoke chips. It’s one more reason I like smoking with pellets. They provide lots of smoke without heating up the chamber. For this session my temps hovered around 90 degrees.
Show some restraint!
After the bacon is done smoking, it will be highly tempting to devour the whole thing like a giant bacon candy bar. Resist these urges as best you can and let the bacon cool in the fridge overnight. Not only will flavors intensify, but slicing cold bacon is much easier than hot bacon. I like to wrap my slabs in butcher paper so the oils from the bacon don’t make a mess. If no butcher paper is handy aluminum foil will work fine.
After a night in the refrigerator, it’s time to enjoy the fruits—err, bacon— of your labor. Congrats! You will never want to eat store-bought bacon again.
After you've tried this curing technique for homemade bacon you will never want the store-bought stuff again. You've been warned.
- 5 # Pork Belly skin removed
- 1 gallon of water
- 1 cup Kosher Salt
- 1 cup White Sugar
- 1 cup Brown Sugar
- 1 TBS Insta-Cure #1
In a large food-safe container, combine 1 gallon of water, 1 cup of Kosher 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.
Refrigerate for 14 days.
After 14 days remove and rinse cure and pat dry.
Leave uncovered in the refrigerator overnight.
Smoke for 4 hours at temperatures under 165 degrees F.
Remove and cool in the refrigerator overnight.
Slice and enjoy.
72 Comments Hide Comments
So……which did you like better – the wet or the dry cure?
Stacey, I like the dry cure if I’m trying to add in some different flavors like Sriracha, Maple, etc. If I just want a good classic bacon flavor with minimal fuss I like the wet cure.
Where you buy the slab uncured bacon?
Ask your local butcher for some pork belly. If you’re in the US I’ve found it at some big box stores like Costco and Sam’s as well.
Looks awesome! Do you use any charcoal in your egg or only the tube and pellets?
Stacey, I do not bother to light any charcoal because I’m usually trying to keep the temp as low as possible. The pellets give off a good amount of smoke without giving off much heat. If you didn’t want to invest in a pellet smoker you could try and smoke just using charcoal and some wood but you would need to be extra careful and watch your temperature like a hawk. I would normally use natural lump charcoal when I cook on my egg but in this instance I would change over to briquettes because lump burns hotter. IMO the tube of pellets is a relatively small investment, produces a superior product, and creates a more hassle free smoking experience. I’m not paid to endorse A-Maze-n Pellet Smokers I’ve just had great experiences using their product.
Thank you for all this information. Trying the dry cure method right now. Can’t wait to start smoking. Definitely going tp try the wet cure to compare the two different methods. Can’t wait to try the final product.
Awesome Martin. Report back and let me know how it turns out!
Andrew, this is by far the best bacon I have ever had. I accidentally missed the dry after cure step, but it is fabulous. This is definitely going to be some Christmas presents this year. Again Thank you.
Trying the whole home bacon curing thing for the first time – reading your blogs/methods have been really useful. Just a question tho – you say you try and keep the temps as low as 90℉/32℃ – at these temperatures I’m guessing that this does not fully cook through the pork is that correct? To fully cook through the pork wouldn’t you have to be getting the internal temp to at least 155℉ to have a cooked bacon product or is this not necessary? My only question is food safety or does tbd nitrate take care of that in the curing process? Would love to know your thoughts! Thanks heaps your site is really interesting. Dom from Downunder
You still fry the bacon after you slice it, so that’s the cooking stage. The smoke stage isn’t intended to cook the bacon, only to get the nice smokey flavor that’s needed.
the lower temp dose not fully cook the meat
If I go low on temp I like to cold smoke and then frezzing right after then use my slicer
And I personaly do not use a cure on my bacon for I’m keeping it frozen and all natural
Without a cure, it’s just pork.
when using the A-maze-N Products smoker with pellets, do you light the pellets at the open end with a lighter and then set it in the smoker and let it smolder?
I bought a small butane torch from harbor freight,($9.00) lit the open end for 2 minutes and it smoked perfect and lasted over 4 hours. The bacon turned out great!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Just took my 3 batch of bacon off the smoker. Each batch looks better than the first. I use the dry cure and smoke using pellets (hickory and cherry) and the A-maze-N smoker tube in a 30 gal trash can fired by a single burner hot plate covered with a Weber Kettle. The setup looks hokey but it keeps the heat below 150 degrees and the smoker tube works as advertised.
I haven’t used the wet-cure yet, why fix it if its not broken? Maybe next time. Great bacon, thanks for making the method so clear and easy.
That’s what the instructions say. If you have to lay it down, I’d put a piece of foil, with some holes poked in it, over the open end so the pellets don’t fall out. Today I set the tube standing up on the hot plate and the plate caused the pellets to smolder. It worked really well that way too .
I just finished my first batch of bacon. It is absolutely the best tasting bacon my tounge has ever had the privilege of meeting! I used a cure and some brown sugar and let it sit in the bottom of my fridge for seven days, flipping it once daily. I finished it in my electric smoker with apple and peach wood chips. I now know that the store bought stuff is a far cry from what bacon was meant to be! Thank you for all the great tips! I have already purchased another pork belly to continue to make my tounge happy and a whole bunch of my family members are lurking around as well 🙂
I have a Big Chief smoker, will this work? Plan to use the dry cure. Thanks for the good information.
I have both the tube and original A-Maze-N smokers. Best purchase ever for making sure you product gets a good smoke flavor!
I made some bacon with the dry brine with the honey as you did. I made a cold smoker out of my old offset smoker, my Traeger and a 4″ aluminum dryer hose. I was able to keep the temp at 121 F or lower so I smoked the belly for 6 hours using a Lumberjack Maple-Hickory-Cherry blend pellet. The flavor of the bacon is amazing, but I have to cook it at very low temps otherwise the bacon burns and turns black very quickly. This is probably caused from the honey (I’m guessing). Am I missing something or perhaps didn’t rinse off the belly good enough after removing it from the brine? Has anyone else run into this problem? This is my first go at making bacon so I thought I would ask for advice. I have the other half of the belly in the wet brine right not but it won’t be ready to smoke for another 6 days.
I had the issue of my bacon burning also and contributed it to a cheap honey I had. I made two different batches and one burnt and the other one did not using a different honey.
Interesting. Did you fry it in a skillet or bake it off in the oven?
very informative and easy to follow, thanks
I absolutely enjoyed reading all your instructions, and definitely appreciate all the instances of prose. Thank you! I live in a loft in downtown L.A….I have access only to an oven and a BBQ grill on the rooftop of our building. Is there any way to adapt the smoking process to either the over or the grill? Please advise—I’d love to try this recipe out!
Great article! I have been researching this for some time and am a bit confused on the whole meat temp. My goal is the finished product to be raw like bacon from the butcher. Does taking the internal temp to 150 give you cooked or partially cooked bacon? My though hads always been cold smooking as you mentioned making the finished bacon raw. I use a smoke generator which puts very little heat in the chamber. Based on your instructions, it would seem I could run just the generator with no addiaitonal heat.
What is that thing sticking out of your intake on your egg ? Long like bacon.
Thats a stoker fan. i.e. Computerized temp control.
Close, it’s a BBQ Guru. Basically accomplishes the same thing. I did have a stoker unit a few years ago but switched over.
It’s a BBQ guru. It’s a temperature sensor and a fan that stokes the fire. I can use it to regulate the temps in the egg a bit easier. The egg is generally pretty easy to use the Guru just makes it idiot proof. I can use all the help I can get 🙂
Good Morning Andrew
I’m an American living in Northern Ireland for past 15 years. I have only been able to get american style bacon when I go home once and year. I have just moved out to the country and have decided to end my isolation in a bacon free country (irish bacon not even considered to be real bacon). Yours was my first hit for how to make bacon. After reading your directions I now am looking forward to being liberated from bacon boredom. I need to purchase a smoker. Can you recommend one that would be available over hear?
just a quick note saying that your guidance in making bacon,
Could not be simpler,
For a person who raises there own pork and wants to make use
of the side pork without a big hassle , you have layed it out perfectly.
I use your method and have yet to hear a negetive responce…
Thank you for the knowledge. …
Hi I’ve been making beacon for years this is a very good article ! Thing I’ve seen that I don’t like myself are soaking chips ! I have a old time smoke house and can smoke 200lbs at a time . My buddy uses a smaller smoker and soaking his chips leave a musty taste in the meat . I taste this instantanly, not a good flavor . I told him about this and he stopped soaking the chips and his produced come out great .
One thing I liked about this article is that washing your beacon off and frying a piece before smoking is the only way to make sure your not to salty !! Job well done . Don’t be afraid to scub your sides with a bristle brush and let sock for a hour or so to remove the saltiness . The sausage maker . Com is a great book to help you get good food recipes and instructions. This will keep you and friends healthy
Thanks for the compliment Richard!
Was really informative. I use a masterbuilt electric smoker. I think it will work great for this. It has a temperature range from 30 degrees Fahrenheit to 275 degrees Fahrenheit. Someone mentioned musty taste when they soaked chips I use chips dry and gets plenty of smoke. Any way looking forward to trying this recipe out.
Let me know how it turns out! I love hearing about peoples experiences with the recipe.
I just finished getting the dry rub on. I can’t wait to smoke it and taste this bacon. This is a great tutorial. Thanks
mmmmm Bacon. Doing research is tricky when it comes to bacon. Everyone has their own way. Great piece of literature this! I loved reading through it. Your explanation; Excellent. Next step Youtube? You do not use heat and others do. You are the first person not using heat that I saw.
1 – To heat or not to heat? What will the difference be?
2 – No heat all year round or best just in winter?
3 – What about using one of these home made smoke generators and simply pumping out smoke (there does not seem to be any heat)?
Great job thanks Andrew. We appreciate people that share and to ask questions off of.
In your opinion how long is to long for pork belly to be in a wet or dry cure?
Joseph I wouldn’t go too many more days past what I call for in the recipes. The pork could end up being too salty. Be sure and slice a piece off and fry it before you put it in the smoke. If it’s already too salty try soaking it in water over night and then try and then refry a piece the following day to see if it’s improved for your tastes.
I tried the dry cure. After the first fry test it way too salty. I soaked it in cold water for an hour and tried another test fry. It seemed OK, so I went ahead and dried it overnight as recommended. Next day I smoked with Apple wood for four hours on the lowest heat I could get on my vertical smoker (about 198). I then cooled it and put it in a zip bag overnight. I fried some up today for BLTs. It was great with an heirloom tomato and no additional salt. Is there any way after the cure and smoke to reduce the saltiness?
Thank You so much Andrew for this easy to do recipe. Step by step with pictures. Trying this with Berkshire pork belly. You have inspired us backyard smokers and that is great! Followed the recipe and results were…WOW! I am just guessing here, but I bet you have a deli slicer. I need one now!
Great Stuff here Andrew. Im shopping for pork belly this week.
After paying mega bucks to have our self raised pork cured?? with little to no taste we are now about to take the lunge ….. I have 5 pigs to deal with I’ll be back and let you know how it goes we will be using my father inlaw’s old smoker “really a converted steel refrigerator at least the inside is all ready cured” and we plan to use hickory chips for smoke, Dad’s favorite!
I took my bacon out of the smoker last night and had some for breakfast this morning. Delicious!!
Thank you for the easy to follow step by step instructions it couldn’t have been easier.
Again the end product is AWSOME THANK YOU!!!!! for sharing your knowledge.
How long will the bacon keep in the refrigerator
I loved the curing recipe, I have a question. ….
Do you HAVE to smoke it? I understand about the flavor it adds, but after curing, can I slice and eat it?
Yep, totally safe to eat as long as you cook/fry it.
Just tried my first go at bacon. Know what I love about it?? I love that you can actually taste the pork and the smoke..and not just the salt. It is so good because it is NOT super salty!! I added some maple syrup into the brine, so it has a very nice sweet maple undertone. I made about 20 lbs, so Im really really glad it came out well. Froze it so I can slice it easier. Bought a slicer just for the bacon..lol.
This looks great. Looking forward to giving it a go. One question I have is how long will the bacon keep unsliced refrigerated? Is it ok to freeze?
I am glad I found your website. I was following a different recipe from a popular BBQer and it said to get the bacon up to 155-160. It got up to 130 and did not look right. A lot of the fat had rendered. So I did another search and found you. Thank you. I took mine off right away.
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Thanks for the article and helpful links. Garnering knowledge of charcuterie is a hobby of mine. I have made pops recipe several times, as well as recipes from Len Poli’s site. Canadian bacon rolled in cracked black pepper on an egg sandwich is one of our favorites. I hand cut my bacon with a Kullenschliff knife and usually cook the slices on parchment lined cookie sheet that is set on Dough-Joe stones (look that up on Amazon) on my Weber Spirit. Sunday mornings couldn’t be better with bacon, a cup of coffee and the cool New England air in autumn. This bacon recipe is also great for all things Rumaki or Rumaki style. Ever have bacon wrapped dates stuffed with goat cheese?
I’m guessing maybe you’re American. These days the world uses the centigrade temperature scale, so I’m wondering, does “150 degrees” mean 150 deg. centigrade, or are you folks still using Fahrenheit?
I used your wet cure for my maiden voyage. We actually bought two pork bellies at costco. Cut them in half and wet cured them both for 14 days. I read a lot of other recipes and curing salt #1 was optional in several, so I did leave that out. We rinsed and dried all the belly parts in the fridge overnight. But when it came to smoking, I only smoked one half yesterday with apple wood chunks. I was able to maintain a 175 degree temp for 3 hours and removed it at 150 degrees. Let is cool to room temperature and wrapped it well in plastic wrap. And chilled it. We were planning on slicing it tonight to make BLT’s. But then I read all the trash about the pink salt and how HAVE to have it in there. Should I re-cure the other 3 pieces?
Pink salt (Prague Powder #1) is absolutely not required! After 10 days in the brine, the meat is cured. You already have bacon, but without smoke and the drying in the fridge, it does not taste good.
If you like botulism feel free to leave it out. I won’t be responsible for telling my readers to do something that can kill them.
Excellent article. I just made 5-lbs and it is incredibly good.
This is not my 1st time smoking pork belly, but this time i’m using just smoke chamber filled with pellets, no heat other than what the smok puts out.
Just an absolutely fabulous article. Well written without a lot of the fluff of other articles I’ve seen. Just the straight out info on “how to”. Also very clear, concise, and easily read. I usually have to skip about 2 pages of fluff about how fabulous the dish is, how my “hubby” loved it, and the 2 days of useless of diary information that proceeds the only thing I am looking for, which is the “how to”. Well done my friend. Consider me a follower!
Quick question. Can I use the pellet smoker in drum smoker and just light the pellets without using charcoal ? Thanks !
I’m 4 days into my first homemade bacon adventure. I cut an 8 lb slab in half. One half is a more traditional maple and brown sugar and the other is a mango habanero experiment. I’m letting them cure for 10 days flipping every other day and my mouth is watering at the prospect of this amazing meat candy. Thank you for your recipe and tips. I’ll give an official rating once the smoking is done.
Awesome Tim! Take some pictures and tag me on social media @ilovemeatdotcom. I’d love to see how it turns out!
Doing my 2nd belly. First one went really fast. Since my daughter and son-in-law took it home. I just had the pieces and stems is what I like to call the small and end pieces. They were great. Did the wet cure I have an extra fridge so it’s possible. Ther is nothing better than tasting the fruits of ur labor. This time I cured with more brown sugar and am going to do the pepper dusting on a couple of slabs. What an excellent hobby for a retired man. Sit and keep an eye on smoker and have a couple of beers
Awesome Mark! Glad the recipe worked out for you.
Is letting it rest overnight after curing necessary?
William, resting uncovered lets the outside of the bacon develop what’s called the pellicle. It allows the bacon to absorb the smoke more easily. It’s not absolutely necessary. The bacon will still come out nicely but if you can have a bit of patience you will be rewarded with a better product. Hope that helps. Let me know how your bacon turns out either way!
OK, here we go! I just finished prepping and rubbing down the slabs with the dry cure method. Smoking it up next weekend, using a propane smoker, so keeping the temps down is always the hardest part. Thanks for all the tips! Fingers crossed she comes out delicious as everyone is saying!
Thanks for your very detailed instructions Andrew.
Awesome Becky! How’d it turn out?
Thank you very much for all the detail in these 2 posts. They’re very helpful and I’m relaly looking forward to my first attempt at making bacon with an 11# porkbelly ready to go in the fridge.
I have a question about the smoking step: I’ve seen other recipes that simply cook the slab in an oven after curing, when a smoker is unavailable, at 200 F until the internal temp is 150 F. And another recipe skips this oven cooking or smoking step all together. He simply dried the cured slab in the fridge after rinsing as you describe and then sliced it up to fry or froze the chunks. If either way works, what’s the purpose of the cooking step, whether it’s an oven or smoker? Is this really needed, or is it just for flavor and could be skipped if someone was content to eat it straight or freeze it for later after curing?
This are terrific posts, I really appreciate all the detail. I’ve noticed other recipes substitute cooking the slab after curing in an oven at 200F until the internal temp. is at 150F when a smoker isn’t available. Then another recipe skipped either of these steps and simply cooked it up straight or froze the bacon after it was done curing. Is the cooking/smoking step necessary or can it be skipped?
There are bacons that you don’t have to cook but that’s using a different curing salt. Cure #2 would be used and it would need a much longer curing time. Think Italian cured meats like pancetta and guanciale.