Cured Whole Muscle Meat 104 - Bacon Basics
Cured Whole Muscle Meat 104 - Bacon Basics
Attend this entry-level class from Meatgistics University by watching the video, reading the article and post any questions you have!
What Is Bacon?
Generally, Bacon is the Belly of a Pig that has been cured and smoked. Bacon is cured using nitrites and for commercial processors, the USDA has limited the amount of ingoing nitrates to 200 parts per million for dry rubbed bacon and 120 ppm for pickled or injected bacon.
1 Pork Belly
1 Bag of Dry Rub Bacon
Vacuum Sealer (Optional)
Dry Rubbed Bacon is the classic way to make bacon. In this process, the outside of the belly is coated in a bacon cure and we rely upon osmosis to bring the cure to the center of the meat and ensure that the entire belly is cured. We normally coat all sides of the bacon but the fat cap generally will not allow the cure to pass through so this is more of a taste thing than a requirement.
After the belly has been rubbed it should be placed in a cooler for 5-7 days to allow the cure to penetrate fully. Some people prefer turning the belly over every day but this is not truly necessary since as we said before, the fat cap will not pass the cure through but if you want to feel free to flip it daily. Place the belly in a large vacuum seal bag and seal it if you want, you can also wrap it tightly in plastic wrap or just put it in an airtight container. The bacon is going to excrete some water during this portion, this isn’t anything to worry about.
Once the 5-7 days have passed you need to rinse it before you smoke it, skip this step at your own peril as without rinsing it you are going to get a very salty bacon. I like to let fresh water run through a meat lug for 20 minutes but if you want to save on water you can fill up a lug, let it sit for 20 minutes and then dump that water, refill it with clean water and let it sit for another 20 minutes. If you skip the rinsing process you will end up with bacon that is too salty to be enjoyable. Even if you like salty bacon you should still rinse it, even if you only rinse it for 10 minutes.
Now, go ahead and hang it on your 9" bacon hanger, making sure to leave a few inches above the tines to secure the belly and make sure it doesn’t rip off. Now it’s time to fire up your smoker and cook it. To ensure that you have a safe product you should cook it until it is 138° internal temperature.
Thermal Processing & Smoking
Start your smoker at 120° with no smoke for one hour with dampers open, then 120° for an hour with smoke, then 1 hour at 135° then 150° for an hour, then 165° for 80 minutes with no smoke and finally at 180° with no smoke until it reaches 138°
Once the Bacon has reached 138° remove it from your smoker and put the bacon in an ice bath for 20 minutes to stop the cooking process. Let the bacon cool for 1-2 hours at room temperature before moving it to the fridge or freezer for packaging or slicing.
When done right homemade bacon can be a delicious addition to any meal or even a meal on its own. Being able to make your own homemade bacon is a good way to learn the smoking and curing process as it is fairly easy to do and at the end, you have a large amount of delicious, homemade bacon!
- A good slicer is going to save you a lot of grief if you like your bacon sliced thin for cooking
- If you Belly is too big to fit on your slicer you will need to cut it in half to get it to fit on the carriage
Watch WaltonsTV: Bacon Basics
Here is a link to a website that has a handy Excel spreadsheet. It is, as it says a free non-commercial site.
As for Waltons dropping the ball, I vote they are doing a great job.
I think for all of us there are general guidelines, but unless you have a temperature and humidity controlled environment, both for the preparation, cooking (if you cook them) smoking, hanging etc, the results are bound to vary from batch to batch.
Personally, I am searching how to get my home made smoked and dry cured pepperoni to the exact texture and firmness of Margarita pepperoni from the store.
Through trial and error I have the flavor where I want it, but not the texture or firmness. I know time, temperature and humidity are all crucial, but the best I can do is in the basement and then subject to the environment that is there.
I figure as long as I am not killing anyone or making anyone sick I am making progress. Thanks Waltons for all of the great information so far.
Having said that, it would be nice to have your chart in an Excel spreadsheet.
Thanks Jonathon! One question tho! You eluded to 178 being high for a temp! Don’t you guys recommend setting the temp at 175 during the final stage to completion to internal temp? Three degrees shouldn’t make that much difference should it??
Sounds reasonable. Thanks for your input. Pulling the meat at 152 will make a big difference I bet! Thanks again.
@Kinger Thanks for the information. Your process, other than going to 178, is on in my mind. The only thing I do differently is an ice bath for 20 minutes. Showering for 10 minutes, if you are running a cycle and a fan in your smoker can work, but I still think an ice bath would bring it down faster and more. Last time I did thick summer sausage it was down to 110 in 20 minutes, I also tried showering it at 2 minutes on 2 minutes off for 20 minutes and it was only down to 136 (ish) but i did not have a fan running on them.
One more thing you might want to try, if you are stalled towards the end you can finish them up by putting them in a vacuum bag (I have done then hot, right from the smoker, some condensation in the bag but it still gets a good vac) and get some water going at around 165, it should get up to temp in under an hour depending on the thickness.
@Newbe There might be some breaking down of the meat but this shouldnt cause you too many issues. I have bought pork butts fresh, then froze them then processed and froze the product again. The taste might not be the BEST possible but it certainly wont be bad.
@vjbutler no problem let us know