How to Make Bacon in Your Own Home

Bacon

The Spruce

 

  • Total: 2 hrs 10 mins
  • Prep: 10 mins
  • Cook: 2 hrs
  • Curing: 336 hrs
  • Servings: 6 to 8 servings
  • Yield: 1 to 1 1/2 pounds

Making bacon is easy, inexpensive, and the result is even tastier than store-bought. Beyond that, there are several reasons to make your own bacon: You get to decide what goes into it (meat from pastured, organically fed animals) and what doesn't go into it (nitrites, which are added to most commercial bacon). While you can make bacon without sugar by just using salt, it won't have a very impressive flavor.

While most commercial bacon in the United States is smoked, bacon and many of its cured meat cousins in other countries are cured, but not smoked. With bacon, the smoking step is more about adding flavor than it is about preserving the meat. Smoked or unsmoked? That's up to you.

Since curing meat requires such a specific skill set that without practice can lead to illness, we highly recommend consulting with an expert to teach you proper techniques. Make sure you are following the USDA's guidelines for cured and dried meats.

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Click Play to See This Savory, Smoked Bacon Recipe Come Together

Ingredients

  • 2 to 3 pounds pork belly
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 3 tablespoons kosher salt (or other coarse, non-iodized salt)
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons ground black pepper
  • Optional: 1/2 teaspoon curing salt

Steps to Make It

Note: Cured bacon can either be smoked (using a couple of different methods) or baked. Both options are presented below. You do not need to bake and smoke the cured bacon—just one or the other.

Cure the Bacon

  1. Gather the ingredients.

    How to Make Bacon ingredients
     The Spruce
  2. Pat the pork belly dry with paper towels.

    How to Make Bacon
     The Spruce
  3. In a small bowl, combine the brown sugar, salt, pepper, and optional curing salt in a small bowl.

    How to Make Bacon
    The Spruce
  4. Rub the seasoning mixture into all sides of the pork belly using very clean hands. Spend a couple of minutes massaging the seasoning/curing mixture into the meat.

    How to Make Bacon
     The Spruce
  5. Place the pork belly, along with any leftover curing mixture, into a plastic bag and seal it shut. Store it lengthwise in the refrigerator for 10 to 14 days, turning the bag over occasionally. The bacon should be fully cured at this point, with a firm texture and no soft spots.

    How to Make Bacon
    The Spruce
  6. Rinse the bacon and again pat it thoroughly dry with paper towels. 

    How to Make Bacon
     The Spruce
  7. Cook or smoke the cured bacon.

Cook the Unsmoked and Cured Bacon in the Oven

  1. Roast the cured bacon in a 200 F/93 C oven until the internal temperature reaches 150 F/66 C. This should take about 2 hours.

  2. Store the bacon in a tightly sealed container or bag in the refrigerator for up to 1 month or in the freezer for up to 1 year.

Smoking Cured Bacon

If you prefer a smoked flavor, use one of these two methods using a cured but uncooked bacon.

Using Real Smoke

  1. If you have a smoker or want to make a simple smoker, you can use that to smoke your bacon. Use hickory or applewood shavings for the best flavor. 

  2. After rinsing off the cure, place the bacon on a rack and let it dry for 1 to 2 hours to form a pellicle (sticky surface layer of proteins that forms on the surface of the meat: the smoke will cling to it resulting in more flavorful bacon).

  3. Smoke the cured, air-dried bacon at approximately 200 F until it reaches an internal temperature of 150 F/66 C, which should take between 1 and 2 hours.

Using Liquid Smoke

  1. Alternatively, you can "cheat" by using liquid smoke. If you opt for this version, be sure to buy liquid smoke made from natural (usually hickory) smoke and not one of the harsh-tasting synthetic versions.

  2. Roast the cured bacon in a 200 F/93 C oven until the internal temperature reaches 150 F/66 C. This should take about 2 hours.

  3. Baste the cured and roasted bacon with the liquid smoke. Use a pastry brush to evenly coat all sides.

  4. Place the bacon on a rack over a pan (to catch any liquid smoke drippings) and air dry for 30 minutes. Transfer to a tightly sealed container or bag and refrigerate for up to 1 month, or freeze for up to 1 year.

Curing Meat Warning

Curing meat requires specific expertise and failure to cure meat properly may result in sickness or death. If you have no experience in this area, we advise you to consult an expert to teach you proper techniques and applications.

Tips

  • Nowadays, so few people cure their own bacon or salt pork at home that some butchers don't carry fresh pork belly. Order yours from a local farm or ask the butcher at your local supermarket if it is possible for them to order it for you. Pork belly is usually a very inexpensive cut.
  • Once baked or smoked, the bacon can be sliced or cut into chunks for cooking. You can fry bacon in a skillet, crisp slices in the oven, or even microwave it.
  • Once cooked or smoked, cut the bacon into several pieces and then freeze those individually for the most convenient use later on.
  • Don't throw out your bacon grease, and definitely don't pour it down the drain. Use it as cooking oil to add meaty flavor to savory dishes.

About Nitrates

Most commercial bacon contains nitrates, which are sold to the home cook in blends called "curing salt" or "Prague powder." Nitrates preserve the bright pink color of the layers of meat in bacon and other preserved meats, as well as help to eliminate bacteria.

In very small amounts they are considered safe to consume, but they are a potential health hazard, so many people choose to leave them out. If you are concerned about bacteria in your homemade bacon and don't mind having some added nitrates, including the curing salt.