Bacon is like the Samuel L. Jackson of meats. It’s always been awesome, it’s in everything, and even when it makes a surprise appearance, you’re always happy to see it. Bacon should get to do Capital One commercials.
I’ve seen bacon bras, flowers, tactical bacon, bacon taco shells, bacon on salad, bacon-flavored booze, bacon as garnish in booze, bacon with booze … you get the point. Rarely do I get surprised to see bacon anymore. I bet you feel the same. What you might not know is that homemade bacon is ridiculously good, and as I have just now come to know, homemade bacon is very easy to make. To make it easier to replicate at home with regular equipment, I wanted to see if I could make awesome homemade bacon without the aid of a big smoker. The results were very exciting.
My personal bacon journey started with my friend Heidi who lives in the ‘burbs. (Seriously, Heidi. Move downtown already). Heidi’s Dad built a legit butcher shop in his house. If you have a butcher shop in your house, you’re going to make good friends. So Heidi tells me that her Dad’s friend makes unreal homemade bacon. At the time I had no idea what that meant, but she brought me some during a trek into the city.
It was AWESOME. Like really awesome. It’s like trying a great beer after only drinking Milwaukee’s Best for years. My eyes were open, and homemade bacon had my full attention. After this I started buying bacon from butchers around town and came to find that there were a lot of places that sold some great house-made bacon. I rarely buy grocery store meat, so why buy grocery store bacon?
After researching bacon, which was delicious, I learned how easy it is to make. You start with a simple bacon cure consisting of salt, pink salt (a curing agent which prevents botulism), sugar, and pepper. You can get fancy from there, but you don’t have to. You leave the bacon in a ziplock bag in the fridge, flip it over every other day for a week or so, smoke it to 150 degrees, slice, and BOOM – you’ve got amazing bacon.
Recently, I decided to try to make a different kind of bacon, and as some of my first-time tries tend to, it didn’t go so well. My mind told me to apply rub similar to any other smoked meat and it came out very salty, a lot like pancetta. I knew I could do better, so I decided to really challenge myself and try to cook bacon in a stovetop smoker. I mean why not, right? Most of the people reading this don’t own smokers, and why should you be denied delicious homemade bacon?
I put together a nice honey-flavored bacon recipe (coming up later) and made two equal-sized portions. One I smoked in the stovetop smoker, the other in my favorite bad-ass Rebel 28 smoker. I then did a blind taste test with my wife and two culinary genius twins I admire. I’ll tell you what… it was close. Very close. Everyone picked the Rebel 28 smoker bacon, but not by much. I believe that as with all cooking contests, the guy who cooks the meat best always wins. If I had more experience on the stovetop smoker, I guarantee I could have made it a dead even match. In this case, I had overcooked the bacon in the stovetop smoker slightly. Not nearly enough to ruin it, but when frying it later it cooked much quicker.
Here’s the stovetop smoker I used. For 50 bucks, I say pull the trigger and try this recipe. Plus, you can use the stovetop smoker for fish, chicken, and a number of other tasty dishes. My parents swear by it, and they eat well.
And, of course, if you have the space and money for an amazing gravity-fed smoker check out the Rebel 28.
3 lbs of pork belly
27 grams of kosher salt
16 grams granulated honey (available at most spice shops)
5 grams Prague #1 pink curing salt
5 grams ground pepper
1/4 cup water
2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
2 tbsp honey
1. Wash and dry the pork belly with a paper towel.
2. Mix dry ingredients.
3. Rub half of the dry ingredients and one tbsp honey on one side of the pork belly to evenly coat the meat. Repeat on the other side of the pork belly.
3. Place the rubbed pork belly in a gallon-sized ziplock bag and add the water and apple cider vinegar, splashing both sides.
4. Close the ziplock bag, getting as much air out of the bag as possible, and place it in the fridge. Every other day, flip over the bag and massage it through the bag. Continue for 7-10 days.
5. Remove the pork belly from the bag and rinse thoroughly under cool water and pat dry with a paper towel.
(From here, I’ll detail the stovetop smoker. For you guys with smokers at home, 225-250 degrees fat side down until the internal meat temperature hits 150 degrees.)
6. Place 2-3 tbsp of wood chips in the center of the smoker base.
7. Place the drip tray on top and make sure to cover the drip tray in foil for easy cleanup. Place the rack on top of the foil-lined drip tray.
8. Place your pork belly fat side down on top of the rack and close the smoker.
9. Place on the stove on medium high heat for about 25 minutes and check the internal temperature. My bacon took about 40 minutes to get to 150 degrees.
5. Cool the bacon, slice, fry and enjoy.
If you have any questions please reach out to me on facebook.com/blackandbluebbq or on twitter @blackandbluebbq