Bacon Season has arrived

CaseT

TVWBB Gold Member
Well at least for me as I cold smoke all my bacon. Been in the 20's and lower at night and 40's during the day. Perfect for cold smoking bacon.



Costco had bellies on sale so I grabbed a couple. Back on the 17th I started the curing process.



As I normally do I used Digging Dog Farms universal cure calculator



For those not familiar with the Universal Calculator the only number you need to enter is the weight of the meat in grams. The only exception to this is if you want to change the salt or sugar ratio. I use the defaults (shown in photo) as I've found it is what we like the best. Don't mess with the cure #1 default, that is the recommended amount per the GOV.

I cut my bellies into thirds. Easier to weigh, fit into 1 gallon bags and fit in my fridge better for curing and aging.



Weigh each belly. I write the weight, cure ingredient amounts and date started on all of the bags.



I Vac pack mine for curing. I've been doing this for quite some time now and have never had an issue. I used to just use 1 gallon ziplocks. Had a few of those leak and haven't looked back.



I air dry my bacon for 4-5 days prior to smoking it. Mine has been in the fridge air drying this week.



Prior to air drying I season the slabs. I use white pepper. cracked black pepper and garlic powder.

Tomorrow, Saturday the slabs will go into the smoke. I plan on smoking 18 hours straight. When time doesn't permit for that long of a smoke I will break it into 6-8 hour sessions with a rest in the fridge in between.

Once smoked I will let the bacon age in the fridge for 5-7 days. Then I will cut each slab into thirds and package. I don't slice then package because I like to have the option of using it for other things besides just sliced bacon.

I'll update the post once the slabs are out of the smoke.

 

Rich Dahl

TVWBB 1-Star Olympian
That's quite a process Case. I use Bob Cs tender quick process and have been quite happy with it. I do a maple syrup, brown sugar and cinnamon cure with the tender quick. Simple and easy, but I do like the idea of being able to control the salt that you have. Might look into that.
Been really cold for this time of the year down into the teens and low twenties at night, It was 19 last night and instead of the 150 or so trick or treaters we got 8 last night, just too cold for the little ones.
 

MartinB

TVWBB Pro
Did 11 lb last week myself. My 4th belly this yr.

I've gotten to be a fan of just real maple syrup with the cure. No extra brown sugar. I expect to be sampling 3/4 pound of it on Sunday morning. That's my wife and I bacon and eggs morning. Although I did snack on the scraps that were left after slicing the other day , i had to fry them up just because. Couldn't let that stuff go to waste.
 
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CaseT

TVWBB Gold Member
Saturday was smoke day. Started the smoke at 5am, ended at 10pm. Ambient temps started at 23°f, hit a high of 66°f and ended at 34°f. Used a 50/50 mix of cherry and cob pellets. The bellies are aging in the fridge until friday. I cut them into thirds and vac-pac Friday.



Lighting the AmazeN expando tube. It burned 9 hours on the first load! That's a record. Longest I've had this tube burn was 8 hours.



Into the smoker.



Half way through time for more pellets



Done! Nice golden light smoke.





Resting in the fridge for 5 days, then vac-packed for the freezer
 

Dustin Dorsey

TVWBB Platinum Member
I'm wanting to do this soon. I worry about the timing. I wanna start on a weekend and end on a weekend but I need to time my thaw and then have the time to smoke them when they are done curing. For some reason, that alone has stopped me from doing it. How critical is it to do exactly 7 days? can you go over? My other question is how important is the sugar if you are doing a cure#1 process? I know that it comes into play If you are doing a cure#2 style cure that would require bacteria cultures or what not to convert the nitrate into nitrite over time. I probably should just use Bob's method. I've got a rather ancient pork belly packed in the bottom of my freezer. It's probably a few years old (possibly 3 or 4 years?) but shows no sign of freezer burn. I don't know if I'd be wasting my time with it or not.
 

CaseT

TVWBB Gold Member
I'm wanting to do this soon. I worry about the timing. I wanna start on a weekend and end on a weekend but I need to time my thaw and then have the time to smoke them when they are done curing. For some reason, that alone has stopped me from doing it. How critical is it to do exactly 7 days? can you go over? My other question is how important is the sugar if you are doing a cure#1 process? I know that it comes into play If you are doing a cure#2 style cure that would require bacteria cultures or what not to convert the nitrate into nitrite over time. I probably should just use Bob's method. I've got a rather ancient pork belly packed in the bottom of my freezer. It's probably a few years old (possibly 3 or 4 years?) but shows no sign of freezer burn. I don't know if I'd be wasting my time with it or not.
Dustin,

Seven days would have been the minimum cure time for the thickness of the slabs that I had. 1/4 thickness per day (then I add 2 days on top of that). These were approx 1 1/4" thick. This batch cured for 16 days. Life got in the way. I probably wouldn't go more than 20 days before smoking. I also dry aged the bacon in fridge after the cure for 5 days. Then smoked 18 hours straight. Followed by another 5 day dry age in the fridge before packing. Note that the second dry aging step can be skipped, but in my opinion you get a better product. The first drying step can be as little as 6-8 hours. Like with fish you are forming the pellicle (tacky surface) and removing any leftover moisture.

It all seems daunting at first but since it is spaced out its not horrible. The longest part of the process is letting the meat do its own thing in the fridge. Since you are cold smoking there is no worry about tending temps. As long as your smoke source is consistent there is no issue walking away and letting the smoker do its thing. With the AmaZeN pellet tube smoker I have no problem leaving for 6-8 hours while its chugging along.
 

CaseT

TVWBB Gold Member
Finally packed and ready for the freezer. 18 packs total. For us that's enough for 8 months. Which puts us almost back into bacon season again!



 

MartinB

TVWBB Pro
Looks good.
I slice before freezing, vacuum into layered packs like you buy at store. Thin packages defrost perfect in a couple minutes in microwave.
 
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Dustin Dorsey

TVWBB Platinum Member
I noticed my grocery store has started carrying pork belly, so I think it's catching on. I think I'm going to try it with that 6 lb belly I have in the freezer and do 3 lb sections with 2 different seasonings. I'm thinking I may just go with a fast 225 smoke. We'll see. I don't have a slicer, though so I need to figure that out. I don't really like my bacon too thick.
 

MartinB

TVWBB Pro
I noticed my grocery store has started carrying pork belly, so I think it's catching on. I think I'm going to try it with that 6 lb belly I have in the freezer and do 3 lb sections with 2 different seasonings. I'm thinking I may just go with a fast 225 smoke. We'll see. I don't have a slicer, though so I need to figure that out. I don't really like my bacon too thick.
225 is too hot
You will reach 140 internal in 1.5-2 hrs or less , and have no smoke flavor to your bacon. Youll also melt all the fat on outside...it melts about 140. And bacon is mostly fat.
You have to do it cooler and longer for good results.

Slicing is everything for bacon. It controls how evenly it cooks, how it crisps, all pieces cook same rate. Thin and uniform is a must, and you cannot get it by hand. You end up with under cooked and overcooked in same piece.....or half overcooked and hard/chewy.

Go ahead and try....youll be buying a craigslist slicer afterwards.. ...everybody starts there.:) No sense laying out $ till your hooked
 
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Bob Correll

TVWBB 1-Star Olympian
I agree with Martin about the temp, if you want smoked, not cooked, bacon I'd try to keep the smoker at around 160 F.

I have a slicer, but like to keep the slabs whole and slice as needed with a long slicing knife.
For frying, don't go above medium heat, and flip often.

 

MartinB

TVWBB Pro
One thing i havent seen discussed, is bellies vary from end to end. One 1/3 section, makes better bacon than the other two imo. The classic parallel alternating fat and meat layers. One part, likes to fall apart...fat runs between layers and its more meaty, like in bobs pic above. Different amounts of different muscles in each part.

When thickness is right...wavy...crispy . Bamboo tongs can squeeze middle up so ends dont go uncooked in small skillet. Lays down as shrinks



 
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Dustin Dorsey

TVWBB Platinum Member
225 is too hot
You will reach 140 internal in 1.5-2 hrs or less , and have no smoke flavor to your bacon. Youll also melt all the fat on outside...it melts about 140. And bacon is mostly fat.
You have to do it cooler and longer for good results.

Slicing is everything for bacon. It controls how evenly it cooks, how it crisps, all pieces cook same rate. Thin and uniform is a must, and you cannot get it by hand. You end up with under cooked and overcooked in same piece.....or half overcooked and hard/chewy.

Go ahead and try....youll be buying a craigslist slicer afterwards.. ...everybody starts there.:) No sense laying out $ till your hooked
Warm smoking it is then. I buy into the fat rendering part of what you said. My thinking on the 225 was that more smoke is not always better and I'd get a cleaner smoke. I BADLY oversmoked some cheese a while back doing a low heat smoke so I'm a little gun-shy. I cook sausage at 225 all the time and the smoke is perfect (Although I'm not freezing it which will probably mellow the smoke). But 1.5 hrs to 2 hours is pretty short. I've done plenty of medium heat smokes on the WSM using the snake method and chunks so I'll probably just stick with that. I'm pretty good with a brisket slicing knife. I'm probably going to try that and then totally cave and buy the meat slicer. We'll see. Thanks for the advice, Martin and Bob. Sorry for slightly hijacking your post, Case. That bacon was just inspirational!
 

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