Bacon strips on counter
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How to Cure and Smoke Bacon

After years of searching for the perfect recipe for how to cure and smoke bacon we have a winner! This is the BEST way to make homemade bacon!


Learn how to cure and smoke your own homemade bacon! After years of searching for the perfect recipe for how to cure and smoke bacon we have a winner! This is the BEST way to make homemade bacon!

I mean, this is what it’s all about isn’t it folks?

It’s all for the love of bacon! All those months of feeding hogs, saving scraps, skimming milk, hauling water, chasing them through broken fences… it’s all about the bacon.

However, since we started butchering our own hogs, and therefore curing and smoking our own bacon, we never struck gold with a bacon recipe. Sure the bacon we made was pretty tasty. It was meaty enough to remind you that you were eating real food. It was not some overly processed artificial tasting store bought bacon. There was a salty smoky goodness to it, but we knew we could do better. We wanted nothing less than the best bacon recipe ever!

Well we finally found our winner!


Check out the Homestead Hog Butchering page for video how-tos for butchering your own meat.


This year, we experimented with various methods and cures on those 50 or so pounds of pork belly flesh. We dedicated two slabs of belly to experiment with one method & basic salt, sugar, and pepper cure. Using 2 ½ parts salt to 1 part sweetener, and a generous pinch of black pepper, we tried 4 different types of sweetener:

1.) Sugar
2.) Brown Sugar
3.) Evaporated Cane Juice
4.) Sucanat

One-third was allocated to experimenting with the River Cottage bacon recipe, and a quarter was set aside for additional trials based on the outcomes of these experiments.

What we discovered through blind taste testing (only one party knew what they were sampling) was that we unanimously preferred the River Cottage bacon, followed by the bacon cured with evaporated cane juice.

Simply using different sweeteners made a surprising difference in taste. Sugar gave the bacon a not-so-surprisingly artificial taste. We agreed that while we didn’t like it the best, it tasted the most like store bought bacon. Brown sugar and Sucanat were nearly indistinguishable from one another. We used brown sugar for cures in the past, so I wasn’t surprised that it resulted in the most meaty-tasting bacon. Evaporated cane juice fell right in the middle – just sweet enough to be flavorful and just meaty enough to be real.

Now, with the River Cottage bacon, I made a slight change and used evaporated cane juice instead of the called-for brown sugar. Perhaps that along with the flavor boost lent to it by the herbs was what made it a winner. I don’t know.

*UPDATE*

I have updated the recipe in this post from the original method.

How to Cure and Smoke Bacon

During the Homestead Hog Butchering Workshop we hosted, the educators from Hand Hewn Farm introduced a new method for making bacon. In this approach, the salt and sugar are calculated based on the weight of the pork belly. This eliminates the issues of over-salting, the need for curing salt, and the daily attention to turning and re-seasoning the bacon for a week. Additionally, because it’s vacuum-sealed in an exact curing ratio, you can smoke it whenever convenient. Our bacon is better than ever.

One of the other fun things we did at the workshop is open up our spice cabinet and let everyone take a section of pork belly and season it in creative ways, so get adventurous! While this seasoning combination in the recipe is a classic and our favorite, we have tried some really delicious combinations using herbs like rosemary, parsley, sage. Spices like cloves and ginger (which made it taste surprisingly sweet.) Dijon mustard, bourbon, sorghum, maple syrup. The combination of chipotle pepper powder, cumin, and paprika was so good we’ll be making it every year from now on!

Learn how to cure and smoke your own homemade bacon! After years of searching for the perfect recipe for how to cure and smoke bacon we have a winner! This is the BEST way to make homemade bacon!

How to Cure and Smoke Bacon: Equipment You Will Need

  • Scale
  • Vacuum Sealer and bags – you can use gallon zip seal bags, instead of vacuum sealing, however, you will need to flip the bags once a day until you smoke the meat. The rest of the process is the same.
  • Thermometer
  • Smoker
  • Wood
  • Very Sharp Knife or Meat Slicer
  • Salt
  • Sweetener
  • Any other ingredients/spices you would like to add – I have my favorite recipe below, but feel free to experiment with your own spices. The salt and sweetener ratio for the meat must remain the same, but try mixing up the rest to find your own favorite recipe.

How to Cure Bacon

Cut your slab of pork belly into 4 equal pieces. Before we get curing, make sure you have bags that the meat will fit in. It is easier to do this now than to put the rubs on it only find out the meat won’t fit in the bag.

slabs of pork belly ready to be cured and smoked for bacon

Weigh each section meat separately. Calculate the amount of both salt and sweetener needed for each section. You want 2.25% of the weight of the meat section in both ingredients.

For example, if one section of meat is 3.25lbs, multiple that by 0.0225, you will need 0.073lbs (1.17oz) of salt and the same amount of sweetener for that section.

Mix the proper amounts of salt and sweetener in a bowl. Rub it into that meat section. Completely cover every surface and edge until you have used all of it.

Then do the same for the other two sections of meat.

Then mix the spices and seasoning in a bowl and rub a quarter of this on each section of meat.

Place each section into its own bag. Make sure you also put in any seasoning or curing that may have fallen off it. Vacuum seal each bag.

Refrigerate the bags for at least 7 days. The general rule of thumb is 7 days per inch of meat thickness so adjust accordingly.

What if I don’t have a vacuum sealer?

As mentioned earlier, you can use gallon zip seal bags, instead of vacuum sealing. If you choose this method, before sealing the bags, press out as much air as possibly. Be very careful not to squeeze out any curing mixture or liquid. Fold over the empty flap of the bag around the sealed meat. This will help keep the curing mixture and seasoning close to the meat.

curing bacon in bags

You then need to flip each bag once a day until you smoke the meat. The rest of the process is the same. I find vacuum sealing to be so much easier and less work.

By vacuum sealing, the bag presses the curing mixture and seasoning tight against the meat. The salt draws moisture out of the meat, but it has no where to go so the cure and seasoning stays on the meat. This eliminates the need to flip it each day.

How to Smoke Bacon

When you are ready to get smoking, remove the bacon from the bag and lay it out in the refrigerator for a day. This will make a slightly tacky skin to which the smoke will adhere better.

smoking bacon

We smoked our bacon using oak wood for the first hour or so and then switch to cherry. Apple wood works really well if harvested from an untreated tree.

Smoke the bacon at 200 degrees until it reaches an internal temperature of 155 degrees.

Slicing Smoked Bacon

Chill the smoked slabs prior to slicing to make it easier. Slice according to desired thickness.

cured and smoked bacon

To slice the bacon, you will want a very sharp knife and a cutting board. It does get a little tricky, doing it by hand, to get an consistent thickness of each slice and between slices. This doesn’t hurt anything, but the thinner slices will cook faster than the ticker ones. Just watch for this when cooking.

If you are making bacon year after year, you may want to invest in a meat slicer. You can set the thickness you want for the slices and they will all cut the same. This is much easier and faster, but it is not necessary to purchase a slicer.

slicing cured and smoked bacon

Enjoy the Bacon

By the time we are curing and smoking more bacon, our bacon supply from the previous year has long disappeared. Everyone is eager to enjoy the smokey bacon goodness again so we immediately put some aside to devour.

Cook the bacon in an oven preheated to 400 degrees for about 15 minutes depending on the thickness of the slices. We find that homemade bacon retains more flavor and cooks more evenly during oven baking than in a skillet.

We weigh the rest of the bacon into one pound piles, wrap tightly in freezer paper, label and date, and store in the freezer. The hard part is not using it for everything and eating it all in the first month!

Conclusion

Now that you have learned how to cure and smoke bacon, seen how simple and delicious it is, you will find it very hard to go back to store bought bacon. This recipe is our favorite. You may find that you like this one also, or you can experience with different seasonings until you find your family’s favorite. I would love to hear what you seasonings you like. Feel free to share in the comments below.

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Bacon strips on counter

Homemade Bacon Recipe

Ingredients

Scale
  • 1 whole belly, cut into 3 sections
  • 2.25% of the weight of each section Sea Salt
  • 2.25% of the weight of each section sweetener, such as evaporated cane juice or brown sugar (Buy Cane Juice here.)
  • 2 Tablespoons coarse black pepper
  • a few bay leaves, finely crushed
  • 25 juniper berries, lightly crushed (Buy Juniper Berries here)

Instructions

  1. Prepare the black pepper, bay leaves, and juniper berries and mix them together in a bowl.
  2. Weigh each section of pork belly and calculate 2.25% of their weight. This number is how much salt and sugar you will need.
  3. Measure out the the salt and sweetener according to your calculations into a separate bowl for each section.
  4. Thoroughly rub the cure all over your belly sections, making sure to get every little bit covered with the salt & sugar mix.
  5. Rub ⅓ of the seasoning (pepper, bay, and juniper) mixture onto each slab.
  6. Place each belly slab into a separate vacuum seal bag along with any remaining portion of cure and seasoning that didn’t adhere to the slab.
  7. Seal each bag with a vacuum sealer and refrigerate for at least 7 days. (The rule of thumb is 7 days per inch of meat thickness.)
  8. Remove the bacon from the bag and lay it out in the refrigerator for a day to allow the exterior skin to prepare for smoking. This will make a slightly tacky skin to which the smoke will adhere better.
  9. We smoked our bacon using oak wood for the first hour or so and then switch to cherry. Apple would work really well if harvested from an untreated tree.
  10. Smoke the bacon at 200 degrees until it reaches an internal temperature of 155 degrees.
  11. Chill the smoked slabs prior to slicing to make it easier.
  12. Slice according to desired thickness.
  13. Cook the bacon in an oven preheated to 400 degrees for about 15 minutes depending on the thickness of the slices. (We find that homemade bacon retains more flavor and cooks more evenly during oven baking than in a skillet.)
  • Author: Reformation Acres
Learn how to cure and smoke your own homemade bacon!

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7 Comments

  1. Have you tried it with apple cider instead? I had that once in a store and it was hands down the best bacon I have ever tried. You should add that to your experiment and see how it rates…I would love to know!

  2. have you ever tryed eating fresh bacon?I always cut a piece off one of the sides and slice it and fry with a little salt and pepper to taste,YUMMY

  3. Thanks so much for sharing your recipe! We don’t eat pork but we made sheep bacon form a sheep that we slaughtered. I never knew sheep bacon could be so good! We just used evaporated cane juice, black pepper, paprika, and garlic powder. I will have to try your recipe on our next batch.

    I must say that I love reading your blog. It is hard to find families similar to ours locally, so I read your blog to remind myself that there are others on the same path. I have 6 little ones and we are in the process of moving from our productive acre to 10 acres in another state. I just reread your post on moving to calm my nerves a bit. Thank you for sharing and being so honest in your post.

    1. I recently heard of duck bacon, but this is the first I’ve heard of sheep! Maybe we will raise ourselves a lamb or two now 😉

      Thank you, thank you Roxanne for this comment. Really it is such an encouragement to persevere with my work here when I get tired and count it as just another thing on my to-do list. (Even though I do enjoy it.) I need the reminder that there are other large family, homesteading mama’s out there feeling very much alone and odd for their choices and need the support of knowing there are others who choose to live such a life full of hard and yet satisfying and important work. Blessings to you!!!

  4. Hi Quinn! I’m wondering how many hogs your family butchered to end up with 50 lbs of bacon. We just had our first two sent off to the butcher (not quite ready to do it ourselves) and out of 405 lbs of meat we only ended up with 27 lbs of bacon. I’m wondering if we should have specified to the butcher that we wanted as much bacon as possible, or if this is about right for two pigs?

    1. Hi Stephanie,
      Definitely ask the butcher for more bacon! No matter what breed we’ve raised, we’ve gotten an average of maybe 13-14 pounds of bacon *per half*. They probably left some of it on the ribs to make them meatier. Still though, that’s 7# per half. I shudder to think they put any of it into the ground meat…

      At first I was thinking maybe you sent in small pigs but you specified and I’m guessing your 405# is hanging weight so they were decent sized. Sure, there was a lot of bones/scrap that came off that total so you didn’t actually bring home that much, but still there should be a lot more bacon than that. Yeah, I can’t think of what they could have done to come up with so little of everyone’s favorite part of the pig! So sorry to hear that, it’s got to be disappointing.