Home Made Smoked Bacon is delicious and if done right can rival even the best gourmet and boutique bacons on the market. And they absolutely blow away anything you can get in most average supermarkets!
I’ve posted the basic technique and recipe I use to make homemade bacon on my How to Make Home Made Bacon page. It explains how to cure bacon including the recipe for a basic curing salt. However, that recipe and instructions is for basic oven-made bacon. It is delicious, but doesn’t have that rich smokey flavor that smoked bacons have.
Smoked home made bacon isn’t that different. In fact, its exactly the same up to a point. While some people prefer and some recipes using bacon are best with a pure home made bacon without smoke flavor, the smoking process adds a ton of complex flavor. And it is customizable! You can use any of a number of different smoking woods to flavor your bacon, each giving their own different nuances. For a darker, smokier bacon, you can use nut woods like hickory or pecan. For a bit sweeter, more aromatic wood, try fruit woods like apple, pear or plum woods. Maple also works wonderfully. Cure a bunch of different pork bellies and smoke each one differently, you’ll be amazed at the delicious differences between them.
How to Make Home Made Smoked Bacon?
Well, the first step to making smoked homemade bacon is to cure the pork belly the same way you would for any bacon. The recipe and instructions can be found on the How to Make Bacon page. You can alter the curing salt a bit if you so desire, add more sugar if you want it sweeter, etc. Once you have cured the pork, rinsed it thoroughly, and let it rest, it is ready to gently cook. This is the point at which the process for smoked homemade bacon differs. Read on…
Instead of cooking the homemade bacon in your oven on low heat, you are going to smoke it in your grill or smoker over low heat until the interior temperature reaches 150 degrees F. To do this, you need to be fanatical about controlling the temperature in your grill so that it stays low, around 200 degrees F. You will also need plenty of smoking wood that has been soaked in water. You’ll have to occasionally add charcoal during the process too, to keep your temperature where you want it.
Some Important Tips:
- Use a digital, remote meat thermometer: You are going to smoke the home made bacon over a low temperature over a long period of time, likely 1-1/2 to over 2 hours. So you’ll need a way to follow the internal temperature of your bacon. The final decision that it is done is not based on appearance or time, it is based on temperature. You only want the interior to get up to 150, no more, no less. The easiest way to do that is to insert the probe of a digital thermometer into the thickest portion of meat at the very start. The heat-proof cord comes out the grill to the thermometer. On most of these you can set an alarm to go off when the desired temperature is reached.
- Use a Reliable Grill Thermometer: It is very important when smoking home made bacon to keep the temperature low and constant. The only way to be sure you are in the right range is to have a grill thermometer that gives an accurate reading of the heat inside your grill or smoker while the lid is closed.
- Control Your Temperature Tightly:This can be the trickiest part of this process. If you are well-seasoned in the art of slow, low-heat grill or smoker cooking, this will be old hat to you. But if you aren’t, here are a few tips. First of all, you need a good grill thermometer as mentioned above. Second, don’t use too much charcoal from the get go. If you use a big ol’ pile of charcoal the inside of your grill will be cookin’! It will be very hard to get the temperature down to anywhere close to 200 degrees. Instead, start with only half or less of the charcoal you’d usually use. Third, use indirect heat. If you put your bacon directly over hot coals, it will be burnt and over-cooked in no time. The way I like to do it in a regular charcoal grill is to push all your coals to one side and then put the meat on the far other side as pictured below. When you close the lid, the vents on top should be over the meat. This situation will help draw the smoke from the coal and smoking woods on one side, across and over the cooking bacon. If you have a grill thermometer through the vent it will also help to keep that near your cooking space so you know you have an accurate estimate of your cooking temperature. Fourth, use the vents to control your temperature. Start with the bottom vents open and the top ones just a bit open and check the temp after a few minutes. If it is still too high, close the bottom vents partially too. Continue closing the vents until you get a consistent 200 degrees in the closed grill, or close to that range. Finally, occasionally add charcoal to keep your temperature constant. The original charcoal you start with will only last a while. After half an hour or more of cooking and periodically thereafter, add a handful of charcoal to your hot coals to help keep the temp up.
- Use Plenty of Smoking Wood: From the start to the end, you want as much flavorful, aromatic smoke to bathe your bacon as possible. The more the merrier. Periodically, when you notice the smoke coming out of the vents and around the lid diminish significantly, scatter another handful (or a few large chunks) over the hot coals to keep up that smoke output.
- Take Your Time: Just as in the oven, this will take some time, usually at least 2 hours. Don’t rush and don’t let your heat get too high or it will dry out and cook your bacon improperly. Take a bit of time to ensure the temperature in your grill is right before you even put the bacon in. Try to keep the lid closed as much as possible to retain heat and smoke, only opening periodically to add charcoal and smoking woods as needed. But don’t just walk away from your smoker/grill for too long, keep checking the temperature and your progress. If you leave for an hour you may find when you come back that your temperature crept up or dropped way down or even that you overshot your finished internal meat temperature. So hang out around the grill, have a few beers, and relax. Enjoy the aromatic smoke and dream about the wonderful bacon you will soon be enjoying!