Best Easy Smoked Bacon Recipe

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So you want to bring home the bacon? Not sure if I can help you with that, But I sure can show you how to make best smoked bacon recipe at home. The process itself is pretty straight forward, you need only a few ingredients and some patience as the curing takes 7-10 days. 

It is so worth it. You will have delicious homemade bacon to enjoy for weeks. 

So, ready to smoke your own bacon at home? Let’s jump in.

I guarantee this Easy Homemade Bacon will taste better than anything you ever tried before.

Don’t skip the FAQ section for tips and suggestions on how to successfully make your own bacon at home.

Why should you make bacon at home?

  • You are in control of the ingredients and the process
  • You can customize it to your liking; use different cures, spices, herbs or wood pellets to create flavor you like
  • Cost savings – you get much more bacon for cheaper
  • Customize the thickness of the cut – thin or thick slice, you are holding the knife; 
  • Sharing is caring – yes, I encourage you to gift wrap some of the homemade bacon and share with family and friends

Ingredients, Variations and Substitutions 

ingredients to make bacon; slab of pork belly with small dishes around

Pork belly – Pork shoulder, loin or belly are the cuts used most often for making bacon; When buying the meat look for a 50-50 muscle to fat ratio. If you can, source locally. Leaving the skin on is up to you.

Coarse kosher salt – large crystal salt It’s often preferred for curing meats due to its purity and lack of additives. The coarser texture of kosher salt is important for even curing. If using table salt, reduce the quantity by about half, as table salt is denser. Sea salt can be used as a substitute for kosher salt. Adjust the quantity based on the salt’s coarseness.

Pink curing salt (sodium nitrite/nitrate) – it is a mixture of salt and sodium nitrite or nitrate. It’s used in curing meats to prevent bacterial growth and add a characteristic pink color. Use curing salt specifically designed for meat curing. Follow recommended guidelines carefully, as using too much can be harmful. Don’t confuse it with pink salt, those are two very different kinds. If you prefer a more natural approach, some recipes use celery juice or powder, which naturally contains nitrates. However, this requires careful measurement and adjustment.

Brown sugar – sweetener with a hint of molasses. It will nicely balance the saltines of the bacon. Brown sugar also contributes to the color of the bacon. You can also use white sugar, honey, agave syrup.

Maple syrup – sweet, natural syrup made from the sap of sugar maple trees. It adds a rich, caramelized sweetness to the bacon. If you can choose real maple syrup. Adjust the quantity based on your sweetness preference. Honey or agave syrup can be used as alternatives. 

Freshly Crushed Peppercorns – will add robust and spicy flavor to the bacon, complementing the sweetness and saltiness. For best results use freshly crushed  peppercorns. Adjust the quantity based on your preference for spiciness. Ground black can be used as a substitute. 

Equipment you will need

  • Wood Pellet Smoker, or oven
  • Baking sheet
  • Mixing bowl
  • Measuring cups and spoons
  • Large spoons for mixing
  • Plastic wrap, zip lock bag or vacuum seal bag  
  • Chef’s knife
  • Wire rack
  • Vacuum sealer (optional)
close up of cured and smoked bacon slices

Mistakes to avoid when making bacon at home

  • Uneven Application of Cure: you must apply the cure evenly on the entire surface of the pork belly. Uneven application can result in variations in flavor and texture.
  • Insufficient Curing Time: allow enough time for the pork belly to cure properly. Follow the recommended curing time. This will result in bacon that has the right flavor and texture. Typically curing takes between 7-10 days. Thickness of the pork belly may affect the curing time
  • Inadequate Rinsing: after the curing process make sure to rinse the pork belly thoroughly to remove excess salt. Nobody likes salty bacon
  • Skipping the drying step: pellicle that develops during the drying process helps the smoke adhere to the meat during the smoking process. Flavor enhancer
  • Inconsistent smoking temperature: Fluctuations in temperature can impact the flavor and texture of the bacon. Use a reliable thermometer to monitor the smoking process. The recommended internal temperature of fully cooked bacon should be 145F
  • Ignoring Safety Precautions: when using curing salts, follow the recommended guidelines to prevent the risk of nitrite/nitrate toxicity. These salts are potent, and using too much can be harmful.

What is Pink Curing salt and how to use it safely:

Pink curing salt, known as Prague Powder or Insta Cure. It is a curing agent used in the preservation and preparation of various meats.

Good to know facts about Pink Curing Salt:

  • Pink curing salt is a mixture of salt and sodium nitrite, sometimes with the addition of sodium nitrate. Both nitrite and nitrate are crucial for the preservation and safety of cured meats.
  • The distinctive pink color is added to the curing salt to prevent confusion with regular salt.
  • Pink curing salt prevents the growth of harmful bacteria, preserving the meat, enhancing the flavor.
  • Proper use of pink curing salt is essential for safety. Always use curing salt in the correct proportions.
  • As a general rule, use 1 tsp Prague Powder #1 per every pound of meat.
  • There are two basic formulations of pink curing salt: Prague Powder #1 (containing 6.25% sodium nitrite) and Prague Powder #2 (containing both sodium nitrite and sodium nitrate). The choice between them depends on the specific requirements of the curing process. YOU CANNOT Substitute Cure #2 for Cure #1 (Prague Powder).

Step by step instructions for the smoker:

  • remove the pork belly form packaging; using paper towel pat dry the surface of the meat
  • in a medium size bowl mix the cure ingredients
  • using your hands or spoon apply the cure mixture evenly to the entire surface of pork belly, don’t skip on the nooks and crannies

  • transfer the pork belly into a plastic zip lock bag. You can also vacuum seal, use plastic wrap or tight fitting container with a lid.
  • Place the sealed meat in the refrigerator and cure for the next 7-10 days. Turn over the belly every day to ensure even curing.
  • After the curing period, remove the pork belly from the bag and rinse it thoroughly under cold water.
  • Pat it dry with paper towels.
  • Air Dry – optional, but recommended: let the pork belly air dry in the refrigerator for a day to develop a pellicle (a tacky surface that helps smoke adhere).
  • Preheat your smoker to around 200-225°F (93-107°C). Smoke the pork belly until it reaches an internal temperature of 150-160°F (65-71°C).
  • This can take several hours, depending on your smoker and the thickness of the bacon.
  • Allow the bacon to cool before slicing it into your desired thickness.
pork belly cooked and sliced; cutting knife and serving fork

How do I know the bacon has cured?

You need to allow enough time for the salt and curing agents to penetrate the meat and create the desired flavor and texture. 

Here are general guidelines to help you determine if the belly has cured long enough:

  • Follow the recommended curing times. Typically, curing bacon takes from 7 to 10 days. This time can vary depending on factors such as the thickness of the pork belly and the specific curing method.
  • As the curing process progresses, the pork belly will firm up. Gently press on the meat after a few days of curing. If it feels noticeably firmer than when you started, it’s a positive sign that the curing process is underway.
  • The pork belly should develop an even color throughout the curing process. If you notice discolored areas, it may indicate uneven curing. Evenly applying the cure is the key to proper curing.
  • Salt Absorption: during the curing process you will notice the salt has been mostly absorbed or dissolved. This is a sign the curing is happening
  • appearance – during the curing process the pork belly will change how it looks. It will become darker and firmer to the touch
  • temperature – Internal temperature of 38-40°F (3-4°C) is generally sufficient for curing.

If you are not sure, gage on the slightly longer curing time rather than not enough. Patience is the key when making bacon at home.  

sliders with slices of bacon and pickles

Wood pellets recommended for smoking bacon:

  • Applewood: Sweet and mild with a subtle fruity aroma. Poultry or pork. Applewood adds a delicate smoke flavor that won’t overpower the natural taste of the meat.
  • Cherrywood: Sweet and fruity, providing a milder smoke flavor. Works well with a beef, pork, and poultry. It adds a touch of sweetness.
  • Maple: Sweet and light with a subtle maple essence. Ideal for pork or poultry. Maple adds a delicate sweetness that enhances the overall flavor.
  • Pecan: Mild, slightly sweet, with a nutty undertone. Pecan is a versatile option that pairs well with a variety of meats, including ground meats in meatballs.
  • Hickory: strong and robust, slightly sweet flavor; great for ground beef or a combination of beef and pork.
  • Mesquite: Intensely smoky and earthy. If you enjoy a bold, southwestern flavor, mesquite can be a good choice. Use it sparingly, as it can be overpowering.

Step by step for the oven:

  • Preheat the Oven to 325°F (163°C).
  • Remove the cured pork belly from the refrigerator and let it come to room temperature.
  • If the pork belly has skin on, you can score it with a sharp knife. This helps the fat render more effectively and allows for a crispy skin.
  • Use a roasting rack to cook the pork belly. Air circulations around the meat will help it cook more evenly. You can also place the pork belly directly on a baking sheet lined with aluminum foil.
  • Bake for approximately 2 to 2.5 hours. Aim for an internal temperature of at least 145°F (63°C). Use a meat thermometer to check the thickest part of the meat.
  • If you scored the skin, you can turn on the broiler for the last 5-10 minutes to crisp it up. Keep a close eye on it to prevent burning.
  • Slice the baked cured pork belly into portions and serve. Enjoy the flavorful and crispy results!

sliced pork belly on a cutting board, few pieces of bread, pickles

You may also like:

Storing and Reheating Homemade Smoked Bacon

  • Refrigeration:
    • After cooking, allow the cured and cooked pork belly to cool to room temperature.
    • Store the pork belly in an airtight container or wrap it tightly in plastic wrap.
    • Refrigerate the pork belly promptly, within 2 hours of cooking.
    • Use within 3-4 days for optimal quality and freshness. Homemade bacon may have a shorter shelf life compared to commercially produced bacon.
  • Freezing:
    • Portion pork belly and either wrap in plastic wrap, or foil and place in a freezer-safe bags or containers
    • You can also vacuum seal sliced bacon
    • Label each package with the date
    • Use within 2-3 months for the best quality and taste.  
  • Thawing Frozen Pork Belly: thaw it in the refrigerator overnight.
  • Reheating:
    • Oven: preheat oven to 250F; place the pork belly on a baking sheet, cover with foil and reheat for 20-30 minutes until the internal temperature is 165F
    • Pan reheating: heat a non-stick skillet, place sliced pork belly in the pan, don’t crowd it; cook to desired crispiness.
    • Microwave: always use microwave – safe container; reheat in short intervals
close up of bacon slices, raw

Best Easy Smoked Bacon Recipe

Let me show you how easy it is to make bacon at home. It takes some time, but it is so worth the result.
No ratings yet
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 6 hours
curing time 10 days
Total Time 10 days 6 hours 15 minutes
Course Dinner, Side Dish, Snack
Cuisine American
Servings 29
Calories 337 kcal

Equipment

  • 1 wood pellet smoker
  • 1 small bowl
  • 1 measuring cups and spoons
  • 1 scale
  • 1 chef's knife
  • 1 baking sheet
  • 1 cooling rack
  • 1 plastic wrap
  • 1 vacuum sealer

Ingredients
  

  • 4-5 pounds pork belly
  • 1/4 cup coarse kosher salt
  • Pink curing salt Prague Powder #1
  • 3 tbsp brown sugar sub: white sugar
  • 3 tbsp maple syrup sub: honey, agave syrup
  • 3 tbs freshly crushed peppercorns sub: black pepper

Instructions
 

  • Remove the pork belly form packaging; using paper towel pat dry the surface of the meat.
  • In a medium size bowl mix the cure ingredients.
  • Using your hands or spoon apply the cure mixture evenly to the entire surface of pork belly, don’t skip on the nooks and crannies.
  • Transfer the pork belly into a plastic zip lock bag. You can also vacuum seal, use plastic wrap or tight fitting container with a lid.
  • Place the sealed meat in the refrigerator and cure for the next 7-10 days. Turn over the belly every day to ensure even curing.
  • After the curing period, remove the pork belly from the bag and rinse it thoroughly under cold water.
  • Pat it dry with paper towels.
  • Air Dry – optional, but recommended: let the pork belly air dry in the refrigerator for a day to develop a pellicle (a tacky surface that helps smoke adhere).
  • Preheat your smoker to around 200-225°F (93-107°C). Smoke the pork belly until it reaches an internal temperature of 150-160°F (65-71°C).
  • This can take several hours, depending on your smoker and the thickness of the bacon.
  • Allow the bacon to cool before slicing it into your desired thickness.

Nutrition

Serving: 3pieceCalories: 337kcalCarbohydrates: 3gProtein: 6gFat: 33gSaturated Fat: 12gPolyunsaturated Fat: 4gMonounsaturated Fat: 15gCholesterol: 45mgSodium: 996mgPotassium: 136mgFiber: 0.3gSugar: 2gVitamin A: 12IUVitamin C: 0.2mgCalcium: 12mgIron: 0.4mg
Keyword bacon, home made bacon, smoked bacon
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Conclusion

So, are you on the way to the store to get pork belly and make your own smoked bacon? I bet you are. Yes, the process is lengthy, but we know, we cannot rush the good stuff. Making bacon at home gives you freedom to experiment. Who does not like that idea? Make sure you take good notes during your process. It is very useful to be able to refer back to them to decide on adjustments for the next time.

FAQ about Homemade Smoked Bacon

What is curing, and why is it necessary for making bacon at home?

Curing is the process of preserving meat by using salt and often other ingredients. It enhances flavor, inhibits bacterial growth, and adds the characteristic texture to bacon.

What is pink curing salt, and why is it used in bacon curing?

Pink curing salt is a mixture of salt and sodium nitrite/nitrate used in curing. It prevents the growth of harmful bacteria, enhances flavor, and gives cured meats their characteristic pink color. Click HERE to read more Good to know facts about Pink Curing Salt.

How long should I cure pork belly to make bacon at home?

Curing times vary, but a common range is 7 to 10 days. Follow your recipe’s guidelines, as factors like the thickness of the pork belly can influence curing time. Read more information about the curing here.

Can I adjust the flavors in the curing mixture for personalized bacon?

Yes, you can customize the curing mixture. Adjust the amounts of sugar, salt, and additional spices to suit your taste.

What’s the purpose of developing a pellicle before smoking bacon?

The pellicle is a tacky surface formed during air drying after curing. It helps the smoked flavor adhere to the bacon, enhancing the overall taste.

Can I smoke bacon at home without a dedicated smoker?

Yes, you can use a stovetop smoker, a charcoal grill, or oven to smoke bacon at home. Click here for oven instructions.

How do I store homemade bacon, and what is its shelf life?

Store homemade bacon in the refrigerator, tightly wrapped or in an airtight container. Consume it within 3-4 days or freeze for longer storage. Click here to find more information about storing Homemade Bacon.

Can I use different types of wood for smoking bacon, and how does it affect the flavor?

Yes, this is the best part of making bacon at home. You can personalize it to your liking. Don’t be afraid to experiment. Click here to read more about the types of wood pellets to use.

What common mistakes should I avoid when making bacon at home?

Two most important things to pay attention to are: cuttings short the curing time and uneven application of cure. Click here to read more about common mistakes to avoid.

Can I use alternative sweeteners or salts for curing bacon?

Yes, you can experiment with different sweeteners (honey, maple syrup) and salts (sea salt). However, be mindful of their impact on flavor and adjust quantities accordingly.

What cut of meat is best for homemade bacon?

The best cut of meat for homemade bacon is pork belly. It is a fatty and flavorful cut that perfect for curing and smoking.

Do you have to cure bacon before you smoke it?

Yes, curing is a crucial step before smoking bacon. Curing involves using a mixture of salt, sugar, and curing salt to preserve the meat. All this enhances flavor, and develops the characteristic texture of bacon. Curing also helps prevent the growth of harmful bacteria during the smoking process.

Do I need curing salt for bacon?

Yes, curing salt is recommended for making bacon. It contains sodium nitrite or a combination of sodium nitrite and sodium nitrate. Curing salt preserves the meat, prevents bacterial growth, and enhances the flavor. It is an essential ingredient for safe and effective bacon curing.

What is the secret to crispy bacon?

  • Cooking Method: Use an oven or a stovetop skillet for even heat distribution.
  • Starting with a Cold Pan: Place bacon in a cold pan and gradually heat it. This allows the fat to render slowly, resulting in crispiness.
  • Cooling rack in the Oven: place bacon slices on cooling rack on a baking sheet. This method allows air circulation and even cooking.
  • Flipping and Draining: Flip the bacon occasionally and drain excess fat to promote crispiness.
  • Monitoring Doneness: Watch the bacon closely in the final minutes to avoid overcooking. Remove it when it reaches your desired level of crispiness.

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