Smoking bacon at home

Discussion in 'Food & Cooking' started by nicko, Dec 28, 2010.

  1. nicko

    nicko Founder of Cheftalk.com Staff Member

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

    [​IMG]

    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?
     
  2. kyheirloomer

    kyheirloomer

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    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.
     
  3. nicko

    nicko Founder of Cheftalk.com Staff Member

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    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.
     
  4. bishop

    bishop

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    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.
     
  5. gonefishin

    gonefishin

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       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 /img/vbsmilies/smilies/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.

       [​IMG]

      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 too/img/vbsmilies/smilies/thumb.gif

       [​IMG]

      happy smokin'!

      dan
     
  6. byrdie

    byrdie

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    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?
     
  7. kyheirloomer

    kyheirloomer

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    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.
     
  8. grumio

    grumio

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    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.

    [​IMG]

    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.
     
  9. kyheirloomer

    kyheirloomer

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    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.
     
  10. butzy

    butzy

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    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!!!
     
  11. kyheirloomer

    kyheirloomer

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    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.
     
  12. nicko

    nicko Founder of Cheftalk.com Staff Member

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

    Grumio, 
    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.
     
  13. gonefishin

    gonefishin

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       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
     
  14. leeniek

    leeniek

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     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. /img/vbsmilies/smilies/chef.gif

    Happy  New year to you and yours!
     
  15. cape chef

    cape chef

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    Hi Nicko, I use Ruhlmans recipe.

    Salt,Pink salt, Maple sugar & maple syrup

     
  16. gonefishin

    gonefishin

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        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
     
  17. gonefishin

    gonefishin

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       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 /img/vbsmilies/smilies/wink.gif

     dan
     
     
  18. kyheirloomer

    kyheirloomer

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    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.
     
  19. grumio

    grumio

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    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.
     
  20. nicko

    nicko Founder of Cheftalk.com Staff Member

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    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.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]