Chuck’s Food Shack: How to make your own bacon at home, starting with curing a pork belly


Michigan chef Brian Polcyn, a professional chef since 1980, said it took about 150 proofs of work with pork belly before his maple smoked bacon recipe was perfected. The recipe was one of the main reasons why his 2005 book “Charcuterie: The Craft of Salting, Smoking and Curing” (co-authored by Michael Ruhlman) sold nearly 300,000 copies according to his latest estimate. Many online recipe sites and YouTube videos cite it as the primary source for making bacon.

“I approached the recipe from a chef’s perspective, but I wanted to do it in a way that was done with simple ingredients and the process was easy to understand,” Polcyn said. “Now, it’s bulletproof. If you follow the steps, you will make excellent bacon.”

Making your own bacon can change your life. I classify it with smoking a perfect breast. There’s also tremendous satisfaction in gifting your finished bacon to friends and family.

“Bacon is the perfect starting point to understand how the curing process works,” said Joe Sáenz, who opened his Swine House Bodega restaurant in downtown San Antonio in 2019. “It’s pretty hard to screw up, and even if you do. you do a little bit, chances are you still end up with something delicious. “

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The biggest impediment to making homemade bacon was acquiring the meat necessary to make it, but that is no longer the case, as the pork belly has increased in popularity. Most meat boxes now stock 4-5 pound slabs at prices around $ 4 per pound. That’s on par with the cost of more commercially packaged bacon brands.

After you have acquired the belly, the process is a simple mixture of salts, sugar and patience. Most cured bacon recipes call for the addition of pink cured salt, which contains sodium nitrite. Sodium nitrite is toxic when consumed at high levels, but in the amounts used to make bacon, it is harmless.

“Curing salt kills botulism and does much more good than it will ever do wrong,” said Saenz.

Outside of the gallon and salt freezer bags, the other ingredients needed to make bacon are probably already in your pantry. You can add extra flavor with sliced ​​or chopped jalapeños or other spices, but for beginners, I don’t recommend departing from the Polcyn recipe.

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Polcyn’s method takes seven days in the refrigerator, turning the bagged tummy every other day for adequate salt distribution throughout the meat. It should be firm to the touch through the bag.

“If you feel anxious and don’t give it a full week, it won’t heal completely. And if you spend a lot more than 10 days, the meat will become too salty,” Polcyn said. “A week is also an easy time frame to remember. Prepare on Saturdays or whatever your bacon day is.

Another benefit of bacon is that it is a great way to use your smoker. The belly needs to be cooked to an internal temperature of 150 degrees, which takes about three hours in a 200 to 225 degree smoker. Fruit forests and Texas favorites like oak and pecan work well.

“I’m a huge fan of using whatever is free,” said Saenz. “Any hardwood will give off that good smoky flavor. I think people might think about it too much (with bacon). “

Once the pork belly is finished in the smoker, it’s time to get your hands dirty. Slide a knife over the belly skin to remove it, cutting the fat layer as little as possible.

Then it is up to you how you choose to proceed. Finished belly bacon can be sliced ​​while hot, but you can get cleaner slices by letting it cool for 30 minutes or so. If you have a meat slicer, there is no better time to use it.

A 5 pound slab will drop to about 4 pounds when finished, and that’s a lot. Bagged bacon can be frozen, but since it has been through a curing process, it will keep well in the refrigerator for about two weeks.

“There is nothing more rewarding than seeing your work valued. It’s a pleasure, “Polcyn said. You ask any real or real chef … the point is to share. This is how food movements happen.”

Recipe: Homemade Maple Cured Smoked Bacon

Chuck Blount is a food writer and columnist who covers all the grilled and smoked things in the San Antonio area. Find your Chuck’s Food Shack columns on our subscriber site, To read more about Chuck, subscribe. [email protected] | Twitter: @chuck_blount | Instagram: @bbqdiver