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Smoking bacon at home

post #1 of 66
Thread Starter 

Well I have about a half hour left on my bacon and thought I would share a photo.

 

 

IMAG0160.jpg

 

Smoking it in my weber with the bacon burner on medium low with a pie pan sitting on the flavor bars with some wood chips for smoking. Did two cures one with brown sugar and the other with maple syrup.

 

Looks like another perfect batch. 

 

Would like to hear your tips for smoking bacon or other meats at home. Do you use a smoker or a grill?

Thanks,

Nicko 
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Nicko 
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post #2 of 66

I've used both, Nicko, and prefer a smoker for bacon. I also think they come out better when held vertically. But that could be as much imagination as reality.

 

All mine have been done using cold-smoking techniques, however, after a standard salt/sugar cure. Basically, I do the bellies, jowls, and hams at the same time.

 

And fwiw, I would never let them overlap, as they appear to be doing in your photo.

They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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post #3 of 66
Thread Starter 

Yeah I know about the overlapping I had to do that in this case because I only have room for one pan. They came out fine you just have to rotate the overlapping bacon.

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Nicko 
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Thanks,

Nicko 
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All About Braising: The Art of Uncomplicated Cooking
All About Braising: The Art of Uncomplicated Cooking
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post #4 of 66

I would be very tempted to just take a hunk of that still warm out of the smoker, add lettuce, tomato, and mayo on toast.

 

post #5 of 66

   Hi Nicko,

 

 

   The bacon looks great!  There's really nothing quite as good as homemade bacon.  I've had Nueske's bacon, and while good...not too close to a good homemade belly licklips.gif

 

    In my earlier batches I would get more creative with three different cures with varying spices and separate smokes using different woods.  But I'm smoking up to 60lbs of pork belly's now and I tend to just do one single cure and smoke them all at once with the same wood.  The last batch was a simple cure, salt salt sugar and smoked with apple/cherry last time.

 

    I normally cure for a week, rinse/soak in cold water twice for 30 minutes then dry and set in the fridge for 24 hours to develop a nice pellicle.  I haven't done an actually cold smoke in my smoker yet, although I plan to just fill the entire bottom water pan with ice and the use my three pieces of lump and two pieces of wood as smoke/fuel.  What I have done for my bacon smokes was to use the three pieces of lump and two pieces of wood with a dry water pan.  Temp from 150f - 200f to an internal of 150f. 

 

    I haven't made jowls myself yet and salivate at the idea.  I've had them in restaurants but still want to try them at home...yum, yum!

 

 

   Nicko, if you're smoking bacon in the weber and need some more room for the belly's you can use the Weber standing rib holders, or make your own.

   41EW47NTPEL._SL500_AA300_.jpg

 

  Here's a pic of one of my earlier smokes, just one belly at a time.  I didn't get any pics of the 60lb bacon smoke...I still had room for another full belly toothumb.gif

 

   4152051002_65734678ef.jpg

 

  happy smokin'!

  dan

post #6 of 66
Quote:
Originally Posted by KYHeirloomer View Post

I've used both, Nicko, and prefer a smoker for bacon. I also think they come out better when held vertically. But that could be as much imagination as reality.

 

All mine have been done using cold-smoking techniques, however, after a standard salt/sugar cure. Basically, I do the bellies, jowls, and hams at the same time.

 

And fwiw, I would never let them overlap, as they appear to be doing in your photo.


 

If you don't mind my asking, what kind of smoker do you have?  Do you put them in , say, cages or just hang them on hooks? I'm very interested in that method.

I've only made bacon a handful of times and they all have been hot smoked, and not all have been pork.  How do bacons turn out differently by cold smoking?

post #7 of 66

I've never used a commercial smoker, Byrdie. All of mine have been home-made. I have also never used a water tray type smoker, and have no opinion about them.

 

I hang the bellies from hooks. Nothing wrong with the cages except they take up too much room, IMO. That's also why I don't like racks; they limit how full you can fill the smoker.

 

Like Dan, I cure for quite some time. At least a week, and as much as three. I don't go by the calendar so much as by how long the meats run liquid. The cuts are buried in the cure (salt, sugar, black pepper) and get turned daily, with more cure added as necessary. I brush off any excess cure, but do not rinse, as I believe it retards pellicle formation. The get hung overnight for the pelicle to form, then into the smoke at 90-110F.

 

Keep in mind that I'm preserving, rather than cooking. So my times and procedures may not be exactly what you're looking for. For instance, with my long curing times, the smoke is being used strictly for flavor, not as part of the preserving process. You could just as easily skip that stage.

 

BTW, while not important with bacon, if you do hams be sure and work the cure deeply into the bone pocket. That's a step beginners often skip, to their later chagrin, cuz that's where spoilage will begin. The pocket is a natural pathway for bacteria.

They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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post #8 of 66

I've been doing my own bacon for almost a year now.  I dry-cure in salt & sugar for 5-6 days, dry in the fridge for a day, and hot-smoke with orange wood @ ~225f in a Weber kettle. Once you get used to having home-made slab bacon around, there's no going back.

 

new 1075.jpg

 

Question:  I have put various spices in the cure, & it doesn't seem that the flavors penetrate the bacon enough to be noticed over the salt, sugar, smoke, & piggy goodness (a pepper crust on the surface, yes, that is noticeable).  Any thoughts?

 

Cut up some bacon into fat lardons, 3/8 - 1/2 inch (12-15 mm), fry them till nicely browned.  Add to a salad of mixed greens, cherry tomatoes, crumbled blue cheese, & green onions, with an appropriate vinaigrette - best salad ever.

The genesis of all the world's great cuisines can be summed up in a four word English phrase: Don't throw that away.
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The genesis of all the world's great cuisines can be summed up in a four word English phrase: Don't throw that away.
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post #9 of 66

The problem is, Grumio, that a pork belly is, for all intents and purposes, a solid block of fat---which acts as a barrior to absorbing flavors. Even injecting it, as you might do to add flavors to a ham, doesn't do all that much good.

 

Most times, people who want additional flavors on their bacon add them after it's been sliced. The same syndrome applies (i.e., the flavors are just on the surface), but, because the slices are so thin, your mouth is fooled into thinking they run all through it.

They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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post #10 of 66

I would like to try this warm smoking of bacon.

I actually though bacon was always cold smoked??

 

I hope you all can help me here.

 

I gather I can use belly pork (lean), put it in salt/sugar for a couple of days.

What ratio should I use here?

Are there other options for a cure (I'm not a big fan of sweet things).

 

I do have a webber braai, a charcoal one. Should I make an indirect fire?

What is the best way to use wood chips / saw dust?

How long would the smoking last approximately?

 

I have been smoking before but that was on a stove top smoker. I've never cured meat before.

All help will be appreciated!!!

 

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post #11 of 66

A couple of points, Butzy.

 

First off, the addition of sugar to a cure is not for sweetness. It's purpose is to help keep the protein from tightening up too much. In plain English, the final texture is softer. With straight salt, if you don't pre-soak the meat you'd need a chainsaw to cut it.

 

Here, for instance, is my basic sugar cure:

 

15 pounds salt

6 pounds brown sugar

8 oz ground black pepper

2 oz cayenne

1/2 oz (approx) rubbed sage

 

Next: There is a fundemental difference between hot smoking and cold smoking. In general, hot smoking is, essentially, a cooking method, used with foods destinied for more-or-less immediate consumption. Cold smoking is a drying process, used for foods destined for long-term, non-refrigerated preservation. Hot smoked foods not eaten immediately should be kept in the fridge, or frozen for long storage. Cold smoked foods can be hung just about anywhere, but cool conditions are better. Note: When you hang fall-cured foods, there will be, in the spring, a secondary sweat. This is normal and expected, and doesn't mean the food has turned.

 

Side comment: Lean pork belly? Isn't that an oxymoron?

 

Anyway, the procedure for dry curing: The protein should be totally covered by several inches of the cure, which should be rubbed in to the surface and any cavities. At least once a day, shift the cure, adding more if necessary (some of it will flush away with the drawn liquids), and again cover the protein. How long to continue this depends on the end-goal. For hot smoking, as little as one day will do. For long-term preservation, three weeks might be none too short.

 

Whenever you're ready, remove the protein from the cure. Brush it off (or even rinse it, if that's your inclination) and hang the protein overnight. Short-cured meat should be hung under refrigeration. Long time cure can be refrigerated or not, so long as it's kept cool. The liquid protein remaining on the surface will form a film, which is called a pellicle. At that point you're ready for smoking.

 

Hot smoking should always be done over indirect heat. How long to run it depends on your thermometer. Remember, we're actually cooking the pork.

 

The nature of smoke flavoring: This is perhaps the most misunderstood part of the process. On one hand, the longer the product is in the smoke, the smokier it will taste. But there's a proviso: Animal protein can only absorb so-much smoke at a time. After that, continuous smoking adds nothing to it. But if the protein rests in a smoke-free environment, it will then absorb more smoke. Because of this, some celebrity chefs have claimed that after two hours the meat won't take anymore smoke. But that's incorrect.

 

You can develop any schedule you like. Personally, I smoke for two hours, let it rest smoke-free for a half hour, then smoke again. You can rest for longer periods (I have a friend, for instance, who runs the smoke two hours on and two hours off), but a half hour is about the minium.

 

One thing to keep in mind: Like baking, smoking is as much an art as a science. So you've find yourself doing a lot of experimentation until finding the precise methodology that works for you.

 

And, just to confuse you even more, all of this can be done with a wet cure (i.e., brine) as well, but there are slight variations in the technique.

They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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post #12 of 66
Thread Starter 

 

 

Quote:
   Nicko, if you're smoking bacon in the weber and need some more room for the belly's you can use the Weber standing rib holders, or make your own.

 

Dan, that is an awesome idea thanks!!!!!

 

 

 

 

Grumio, 

Quote:
Question:  I have put various spices in the cure, & it doesn't seem that the flavors penetrate the bacon enough to be noticed over the salt, sugar, smoke, & piggy goodness (a pepper crust on the surface, yes, that is noticeable).  Any thoughts?

 

I have put spices and flavors but you have to put a lot. For example I did a garlic and black pepper bacon and put a good amount of garlic and I ended up with a nicely flavored bacon. I have yet to try the brine method which would probably impart more flavor.

 

I disagree (gently) with KY about two things. First fat is a fantastic absorber of flavors. In fact when I made chocolates we were very careful about how they were stored because chocolate is mostly fat and it would absorb any orders in the air (such as cigarette smoke). I also disagree with the reason for the addition of sugar. In the book Charcuterie by Brian Polcyn he suggest the use of of brown sugar or maple syrup for "added sweetness". 

 

 

One question for everyone:  Do you use just sugar and salt or do you add pink salt (curing salt, nitrate)? I do because it greatly reduces the risk of botulism.

 

 

 

Thanks,

Nicko 
ChefTalk.com Founder
All About Braising: The Art of Uncomplicated Cooking
All About Braising: The Art of Uncomplicated Cooking
Bacon (I made)
(26 photos)
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Thanks,

Nicko 
ChefTalk.com Founder
All About Braising: The Art of Uncomplicated Cooking
All About Braising: The Art of Uncomplicated Cooking
Bacon (I made)
(26 photos)
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post #13 of 66
Quote:
Originally Posted by Nicko View Post

 

One question for everyone:  Do you use just sugar and salt or do you add pink salt (curing salt, nitrate)? I do because it greatly reduces the risk of botulism.



   Hi Nicko,

 

basic bacon cure recipe

1.One 5lb slab of pork belly, rind removed
2.1 tsp pink salt (Prague Powder)
3.1/4 cup of salt
4.Generous half cup of maple syrup, honey or brown sugar. 

5.Any desired spices

 

 

  After I rinse, I'll cut a small piece of bacon off and then fry it up.  If it's too salty I do a cold soak for 30 minutes and then cut/fry up another piece and repeat the cold soak with fresh water if needed.  Usually 30 minutes will get it for my tastes. 

 

   Other than the above...KYH pretty much covered everything.

 

  dan

post #14 of 66

 I haven't anything to add except for the bacon looks awesome!  I wish I lived near Chicago so I could invite myself over for a BLT sans mayo of course. chef.gif

 

 

Happy  New year to you and yours!

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OK ... where am I going?.. and WHY am I in this handbasket??
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post #15 of 66

Hi Nicko, I use Ruhlmans recipe.

Salt,Pink salt, Maple sugar & maple syrup

 

Photobucket

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post #16 of 66

    Does anyone have advice for making pork rinds.  I usually make the bacon and my brother makes the rinds.  But he normally has some difficulties, only a few get that nice big puff and crunch...and the others just turn out ok.

 

   Thanks,

   dan

post #17 of 66
Quote:
Originally Posted by leeniek View Post

 I haven't anything to add except for the bacon looks awesome!  I wish I lived near Chicago so I could invite myself over for a BLT sans mayo of course. chef.gif

 

 

Happy  New year to you and yours!

 

 

   I may be a strange duck (Shhhhhhh)

 

    But I like my BLT with the "L" and the "T" on the side.  I know that it's supposed to go together like beans and cornbread, like red beans and rice, like strawberries and shortcakes...you know...they go hand and haaaaaaaaaaaaand!

 

   anyway...I always thought that bacon, lettuce and tomato better served each other sitting side by side rather than competing in the same bite.  That's just me though wink.gif

 

 dan
 

post #18 of 66

I disagree (gently) with KY about two things. First fat is a fantastic absorber of flavors. In fact when I made chocolates we were very careful about how they were stored because chocolate is mostly fat and it would absorb any orders in the air (such as cigarette smoke). I also disagree with the reason for the addition of sugar. In the book Charcuterie by Brian Polcyn he suggest the use of of brown sugar or maple syrup for "added sweetness". 

 

Anytime you add a sweetener to something it will, of course, affect the sweetness level. But I stand behind what I said: sugar in a dry cure is there premarily to soften the final texture of the meat, not to sweeten it per se. Some sweeteners---noteably corn syrup---actually promote water retention, which is why they are more likely found in uncured sausages than in something like cured bacon.

 

Try it yourself (although this will show up more in a ham than in a belly). Treat two of them exactly the same, but leave the sugar out of the cure with one of them. Then smoke them side by side. You'll be able to cut a slice out of the sugar cured one, but will have to hacksaw your way through the other.

 

If you're hot smoking, as you did, things might be different because the meat never gets a chance to harden. It hasn't been dried to that stage (less than 7% moisture). So there the sugar might be present primarily as a sweetening agent. This is a guess on my part because I've never hot smoked hams or bacon. The only hot smoking I do is for things like pulled pork and whole birds---where my intent is to cook with a smoke flavor, rather than preserve the meat.

 

As to the other. I would suggest that if you took one of those contaminated chocolates, broke it open, and tasted just the inside that the contaminent would not be present. Foreign odors and such do, indeed, settle on fatty surfaces, and are held there. But it takes an act of will to get them to penetrate very far. It's as I said with sliced bacon: your mouth is fooled into believing the added flavors have penetrated. Most chocolates are so thin that the same syndrome applies. You bite into it, and any foreign flavors appear to have penetrated the whole thing.

 

Ever notice that with commercial flavored bacons (i.e., pepper bacon, maple bacon, etc) that the flavoring agents are spread on the individual slices? If they could gain that effect by merely coating the belly they would, cuz it's a lot less expensive. But the fact is, the flavors would only appear on the surface if they did so.

They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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post #19 of 66
Quote:
Originally Posted by butzy View Post

I do have a webber braai, a charcoal one. Should I make an indirect fire?

What is the best way to use wood chips / saw dust?

How long would the smoking last approximately?


Here's a picture tutorial of how I smoke with my Weber kettle.  For this you want hardwood chunks, not chips.  You can smoke with most hardwoods; I have no idea what you have available in Zambia (btw, there is more hardwood than needed in the pictures).

 

I cook it to an internal temperature of 150f (66c), takes 3-4 hours.

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post #20 of 66
Thread Starter 

Great discussion everyone. Hey if we are going to address Dan's question about Pork rinds can we please do so in a separate thread? Thanks.

 

KY I think we are both right. Fat is a wonderful way to preserve so nothing get through like in the fashion of confit. A layer of fat sits over the duck or pork (in the old days) and it is a perfect seal for the food contained within. Actually how they used to store the food in the old days. So that being said Fat does not let anything in below a certain level. The surface fat however does an excellent job of absorbing any odors on the exterior. As for the sweetener I will have to try your experiment. I am sure your right in regards to certain types of charcuterie. With the bacon though I think it is all for sweetness.

 

Here is the finished product.

 

 

bacon1.jpg

 

bacon2.jpg

 

bacon3.jpg

Thanks,

Nicko 
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All About Braising: The Art of Uncomplicated Cooking
All About Braising: The Art of Uncomplicated Cooking
Bacon (I made)
(26 photos)
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Thanks,

Nicko 
ChefTalk.com Founder
All About Braising: The Art of Uncomplicated Cooking
All About Braising: The Art of Uncomplicated Cooking
Bacon (I made)
(26 photos)
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post #21 of 66

Thanks for all the info

Grumio: that link is really interesting. Pictures always work! Just one thing, that 250 degrees, that's Fahrenheit?

 

Hardwood around here: Mahogany, teak, mukwa Our charcoal is actually made from hardwood as well.

I have no idea how they would work flavour-wise.

 

Suppose I just have to try!

 

off topic: Sheep on a spit tomorrow night   !!!!!!!!!

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post #22 of 66

That's quite a few packages of great-looking bacon, Nicko. You have my address.......tongue.gif

 

Butzy: In theory, any hardwood---or even corncobs---can be used for smoking. But you want to watch those tropical woods. Many of them contain oils that can be toxic. I would definately not use mahagony. And teak is problematical at best. I'm not familiar with mukwa.

 

Do you have any sort of nut trees? They're almost always safe.

They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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post #23 of 66

Nicko, that bacon looks awesome!!!!  You know where I live!!! :)  (Actually I have a freezer full of my own homemade stuff).

 

With regards to pink salt.  I used to use it regularly when I worked in the restaurant business, for both bacon and sausage making.  Nowadays, I often just use Morton's "Tender Quick"  It is a premade mix using both nitrite and nitrate.  It has worked well for a number of things I have made.

 

Cold smoking vs. hot smoking.  I  understand KY's point about using cold smoking solely if looking to truly preserve your bacon, but I have a freezer that works well for that so I do a mix of hot and cold smoking.  I start my bacon off with a couple of hours of cold smoking then move to a hot smoke (around 180°F) until the internal temperature of my bacon reaches 150°F.  This makes for a really smoky bacon.

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http://www.onceachef.com/ is my personal blog where I share many recipes, my passion for cooking, and all things food.
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post #24 of 66

Butzy -  yes, Fahrenheit.  100-125 Celsius is the temperature range you want for smoking.  Btw, I've only used briquets with this method, lump charcoal burns hotter & faster, so if that's what you're using, you'll probably have to make some adjustments.  Also, KYH mentioned nut tree wood; fruit tree wood is also generally good.  OTOH, some of the most popular smoking woods in North America are hickory, oak & mesquite.  The tree doesn't have to bear something you can eat to be suitable for smoking.

 

Nitrite:  I've never used it, not from any objection to it, but because it isn't really necessary for the sorts of curing I've done.  Salt/sugar & reliable refrigeration will do for relatively short cures like bacon & corned beef.  I'd certainly use it for something cured outside a refrigerator.

The genesis of all the world's great cuisines can be summed up in a four word English phrase: Don't throw that away.
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The genesis of all the world's great cuisines can be summed up in a four word English phrase: Don't throw that away.
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post #25 of 66

Not for nothing, Grumio, but oak and hickory are nut trees.

They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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post #26 of 66

I stand corrected.

The genesis of all the world's great cuisines can be summed up in a four word English phrase: Don't throw that away.
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The genesis of all the world's great cuisines can be summed up in a four word English phrase: Don't throw that away.
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post #27 of 66

I saw a remark that you cook the belly pork with the rind taken off.

Is that really necessary?

 

If you would cook with the rind on, wouldn't it be an idea to sort of pre-slice up to the rind before flavouring?

 

I'm on the lookout for some nice wood to use.

I should be able to find pecan or macademia. Would soft wood work? Something like avocado or mango?

 

In the mean time, I got some smoking dust and shavings.

Would it be possible to use those in any way? I've seen people wetting them and putting in aluminium foil with holes in it.....

 

Nicko: that bacon looks great!

KY: yeah, lean belly pork is not a good description. Not too fatty would have been a better expression.....

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post #28 of 66

Pecan and macadamia would be perfect woods, Butzy. Of the other two, both would be suitable, but mango would be better than avocado, only because it lasts longer. Avocado---which is more a herbacious shrub than a tree---burns pretty quick, and you'll have to be constantly feeding the fire.

 

Softwoods (technicallly coniferous monocots, but generally called conifers or evergreens) should never be used, because their smoke contains great levels of creosote and other particulates that condense on the food. Creosote not only tastes bad, it's a carcinogen, so is to be avoided as much as possible.

They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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post #29 of 66

I was wondering if I could use frozen pork bellies with good results. I live in the far North and bought some pork bellies then the temperature dropped into the minus 40's for a couple weeks so I had to freeze them. Found lots of info on here but nothing about frozen bellies.

post #30 of 66
Quote:
Originally Posted by Grumio View Post

I've been doing my own bacon for almost a year now.  I dry-cure in salt & sugar for 5-6 days, dry in the fridge for a day, and hot-smoke with orange wood @ ~225f in a Weber kettle. Once you get used to having home-made slab bacon around, there's no going back.

 

new 1075.jpg

 

Question:  I have put various spices in the cure, & it doesn't seem that the flavors penetrate the bacon enough to be noticed over the salt, sugar, smoke, & piggy goodness (a pepper crust on the surface, yes, that is noticeable).  Any thoughts?

 

Cut up some bacon into fat lardons, 3/8 - 1/2 inch (12-15 mm), fry them till nicely browned.  Add to a salad of mixed greens, cherry tomatoes, crumbled blue cheese, & green onions, with an appropriate vinaigrette - best salad ever.

 

I cure my slabs for at least two weeks.  Should you cure with skin on, take a box cutter knife and score the backside, skin side of more complete penetration.

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Best and I'm a foodie.   I know very little but the little that I know I want to know very well.

 

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