Homemade bacon is the best. Here's how to cure bacon at home. I've long commented on the fact that curing your own bacon is no more difficult than marinating a steak. Mix all the ingredients together and put them in a plastic bag with the meat. Refrigerate for 7 days, the roast or smoke in your grill. Use the recipe below. The aromatics, the bay leaves and everything else below can be considered optional. There’s nothing more satisfying to make than homemade bacon.
But there are other strategies for making homemade bacon. You could make a brine if you feel more comfortable with that. For those of you concerned about reaching the right salt and pink salt levels, you could use a technique called equilibrium brining, which I first read about in Nathan Myhrvold's Modernist Cuisine. To do this, combine the weight of the meat and the weight of the water, then add 2% of that weight in salt, and 0.25% pink salt, in addition to aromatics. This can cure from seven days up to twenty-one days (and maybe longer). This way you will never have bacon that's too salty, since 2% is what you're striving for. It also gives you great flexibility on how long you cure (say you're traveling or something comes up the day you intended to cook it).
The most common question I get is, "My bacon is too salty, what can i do?"
Answer: Slice as usual, cover the slices or lardons in water and bring to a simmer. Drain the water and continue cooking.
If, before you smoke or roast it, you fear that it might be too salty. Cut a piece from the center of the bacon, cook it and taste it. If it's too salty, submerge the belly in water for 8 to 24 hours. Then proceed with the smoking or roasting.
The recipe below is a concise primer and step-by-step for making homemade bacon, or rather curing your own bacon. Follow it and you should have perfect, delicious home-cured bacon every time.
And once you’ve done that, you’ll want to make your own pancetta!
- 4 tbsp coarse kosher salt (I like Morton or Diamond Crystal)
- 2 tsp pink curing salt (order from butcherpacker.com, sold under the name DQ Curing salt)
- 4 tbsp coarsely ground pepper
- 4 bay leaves crumbled
- 1 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
- ¼ cup brown sugar or honey or maple syrup
- 5 garlic cloves smashed with the flat side of a chef’s knife
- 2 tbsp juniper berries, lightly crushed (optional)
- 5-10 sprigs thyme (optional)
- 5 lbs pork belly
- Mix the salt and spices together in a bowl.
- Combine all the ingredients except the pork belly in a 2-gallon zip-top bag. Shake the bag to distribute the ingredients. Put your belly in the zip-top bag (you could also do this in a plastic container, or on a sheet tray with plastic wrap. Rub the salt and spice mixture all over the belly. Close the bag refrigerator it for seven days. Redistribute the seasoning twice or more throughout the week.
- After seven days, take it out of the fridge, rinse off all the seasonings under cold water and pat it dry.
- Cook the belly in a 300˚F oven to an internal temperature of 150˚F, about 40 minutes.
- Let it cool and refrigerate it until you’re ready to cook slice and cook. But I know. You won’t be able to wait. So cut off a piece and cook it. Taste it, savor it. Congratulations! It’s bacon!
Other links you may like:
- My post on making a classic Hollandaise sauce.
- Smitten Kitchen shares a twist on a breakfast classic, bacon corn hash.
- An oldie, but a goodie: Melissa Clark's recipe for sweet grits pie.