Bacon. Need I Say More?
Do you like bacon? Are you tired of thinly sliced store bought bacon in misleading packaging? Seriously, if the package says “thick cut” I expect it to be a thick slice of bacon. If you have the same bacon struggles as I do, then you are in luck.
I started curing and smoking my own cuts of pork belly to make bacon a few months after I purchased my Traeger Pro Series 34 grill. Originally I wanted to cure and smoke my own pork belly as an excuse to use my grill. Standard for any Man-Card holding grill owner. After that first batch I realized it was much better than any store bought bacon I have eaten before.
So, what is bacon? Simple, bacon is cured and smoked pork belly. Pork belly is one of the cuts of pork you can’t normally pick-up at most grocery stores. I get my pork belly from a local butcher for about $3.99 per pound (varies). I buy a whole slab at a time but I ask my butcher to cut it into fourths. My butcher will then seal each individual slab in Cryovac package. This is the most efficient way for me to save the belly and it lasts for months in the freezer.
There are multiple ways to smoke and cure pork belly. The following method is what I have used and has not disappointed yet:
2-3 lbs. of Pork Belly
½ cup of Sugar (Cane, Brown or Coconut Sugar)
1 tbs. of Honey, Agave Nectar or Maple Syrup
2 tbs. Sea Salt
2 tbs. Smoked Paprika
1 tsp. Curing Salt (pink salt)
1 tsp. Coarse Black pepper
1 tsp. White Pepper
1-2 tbs. Apple Juice
*Don’t be afraid to experiment with different flavors. This batch I added some Flavor Republic Sriracha Lime Rub*
Pat dry the pork belly with a paper towel and score the fat side with a knife. I use a diagonal pattern. Scoring helps the curing mixture penetrate the fat cap. Mix all ingredients together to form a wet paste. Coat all sides of the pork belly and seal in a plastic bag. I am partial to using a Food Saver. It seals the package and that helps to prevent leaks. Store the seasoned pork belly in the refrigerator for seven days. Each day flip and massage the mixture into the pork belly.
After seven days the curing process should be complete. The pork belly should be a little stiff and darker in color. After day seven rinse the pork belly under cold running water. Again pat dry with a paper towel and add additional pepper if you desire.
I prefer to smoke my pork belly using Traeger Grills real wood pellets. I normally use Apple Wood, Maple Wood, or Hickory. Use whatever wood or combination of wood flavors you like.
Place pork belly in Traeger fat side up and smoke on the smoke setting until internal temperature reaches 150 degrees. If you’re not using a Traeger, place the pork belly in a smoker and smoke in indirect heat between 180 and 225 degrees, until internal temperature reaches 150 degrees. I flip my pork belly after it reaches 145 degrees. This allows the fat that has ben rendered to drain off the scored side of the belly.
Your pork belly is now cured and smoked. Allow time for it to cool and place a plastic bag or food saver bag. Slice bacon to your preferred thickness, pan fry or bake to your liking and enjoy. If using a food saver don’t hesitate to cure and smoke a larger quantity of bacon at a time. Once completed cut them to size, package them and store in a freezer.
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