How to Make Bacon at Home

homemade-bacon-recipe

Curing bacon at home has been a pretty popular topic for food blogs over the past couple years.  Unfortunately,  every time I thought about making bacon myself the inevitable “It’s too hard” tape would start playing in the back of my mind.  Curing bacon is something that butchers, chefs, and guys who want to be butchers or chefs but actually work at a computer desk all day do.  No way am I good enough or brave enough to try such a culinary feat. (But I did! Video below!)

ruhlman-dianasaur-matt-adam

Then in comes my friend Michael Ruhlman.  You may remember Michael from my trip to Mexico for Food Blogger Camp back in January.  Yeah he’s the awesome chef/writer who I knew absolutely nothing about and had to ask “Why is everyone in awe of you?”.  Fortunately he seemed to find that amusing and now that I’ve gotten to know him and read several of his books, I recognize his passion and knowledge and have a lot of respect for him.

ruhlman bacon demo(thanks to The Italian Dish for photo use)

I was a speaker at the BlogHer Food Conference this October in San Francisco where  I got to talk about all the awesome things going on here in Auburn as I try to change our food culture.  The closing party was an awesome event that revolved around one of my favorite foods, you guessed it, bacon.

As part of the event, Michael did a demo on how to make bacon…from scratch.  I’ll be honest I was expecting this  complex process and tons of specialized ingredients.  I was excited but never thought the demo would end with me itching to get home and make homemade bacon.

ruhlman-making-bacon(thanks to Eat the Love and Marquis Photography for the photos)

I was surprised to find that the ingredients were pretty much things I already had at home; items like brown sugar, kosher salt, pepper, garlic.  The only things I would have to buy would be the pink curing salt and a pork belly.  MMMM, pork belly just sounds good.  Why is it thought that whenever I hear pork belly I think of buying stocks?  Is that from a book I read or something?

Not only were the ingredients simple, the process was too.  In fact it was so easy I had to make video of myself so you’ll believe me and make your own bacon as well!

How to Make Bacon from Diana Johnson on Vimeo.

So now you know how to make bacon, and let me tell you, this is some of the best bacon I’ve ever eaten.  We’re talking high quality, make you drool, gourmet bacon eating!  But before you go off and buy yourself a pork belly to make home made bacon, lets talk about how to make it more affordable.

If you just buy a pork belly at a grocery store you’re probably going to be paying more than it would cost you to simply buy a package of bacon.  Although it still tastes way better and will probably be better for you (especially if you’re getting hormone and antibiotic free pork), we’re all about cutting costs here.

slicing-homemade-bacon

Asian markets can be a great source for pork.  I went to our nearest market and headed straight to the butcher.  He didn’t speak a lot of English but loved that I knew a little Korean (like two words!).  I did my best to explain that I needed pork belly for making bacon.  He steered me away from the pork belly in the refrigerated case and handed me a package he had just finished cutting and wrapping.  Not only that, he gave me a discount!  So my bacon ended up costing me only half of what I normally spend on the yellow plastic packet of bacon.

cure-your-own-bacon

If you don’t have a friendly Korean butcher, you still have some options.  Try checking out local butchers in your area.  If they have meat that’s not as fresh or if it’s been frozen, they’ll sometimes discount it for you.  Or if you plan on making a lot of bacon and will buy in bulk you can often get a discount as well.  A local butcher is a lot more likely to work with you to get a regular customer than a grocery store.

You can also buy pork in bulk just like we buy beef in bulk.  I see whole and half shares of pigs on craigslist all the time from anywhere from $1-3 a pound.  You’ll have to pay a higher amount up front and end up with lots of other cuts, but in the long run your price per serving of everything will come out so much cheaper.

making-bacon-at-home

The other key ingredient that you probably don’t have at home is the bacon curing salt.  This pink salt is called sodium nitrite salt and is the thing that gets some people the most scared about making bacon.  Sodium nitrites have been linked to cancer in some studies (linked, not proven to cause).   The important thing to keep in mind is that it there are large, I mean LARGE doses of sodium nitrite necessary to be harmful enough to cause cancer.  We’re talking pounds and pounds here!

The bottom line is moderation, something that we Americans tend to forget.  Fat is not bad, in moderation.  Sodium nitrite is not bad, in moderation.  Sugar is not bad, in moderation.  So many of the nutrition related health issues humans have are directly related to not practicing moderation.  Man I think this is a whole other post topic!

blt-sandwich

Back to the bacon recipe…you can leave the sodium nitrite out if you’re really worried, just know that it won’t give you that same bacony flavor.  It gets its pink color from dye which is just to keep people from eating it accidentally.  Personally I’ve never eaten of spoonful of salt, but maybe that’s just me.  I bought my curing salt at the local butcher store, but in the future I’ll buy sodium nitrate online which is the cheapest way to go (unless you can get a nice butcher to give it to you for free!).

The final step is the cooking.  If you have a smoker feel free to smoke it, but I can’t afford one so just did mine in the oven (hey you could add some liquid smoke if you want!).  Once you get comfortable with this basic curing recipe, you can really start playing with the add-ins.  I used a little fresh thyme for this recipe.  You can also use juniper berries, other fresh herbs, maple syrup…what do you want your bacon to taste like?

blt-from-scratch

As you can see, the first thing I made with my bacon was the best BLT I’ve ever eaten.  I’ve also used the bacon in salads, soup and even a cheese mummy!  What do you want to make with homemade bacon?

Homemade Bacon Recipe

makes 3-5 lbs

Ingredients

1/4 cup kosher salt
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
4 TBS ground black pepper
4 bay leaves, crumbled
1 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
5 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp pink curing salt
5 sprigs fresh thyme (optional)
3-5 lbs pork belly

Instructions

Mix all the cure ingredients (salt through thyme) and rub the cure on all sides of the pork belly.  Place pork in a gallon sized zip top plastic bag and put in the fridge for seven days.  Flip the bag daily to make sure liquid that’s drawn out is evenly distributed.

After one week, preheat the oven to 200 degrees and remove cured pork from fridge.  Rinse all the cure off the meat and pat dry.  Place the pork on a rack in a baking dish or pan tray.  Cook for 90 minutes or until internal temperature reaches 150 degrees.

Let the meat cool, thinly slice it into strips and you’ve got your bacon!!  Refrigerate what you don’t cook up right away and freeze the rest within 5 days.

Approximate cost/serving: As I said in the post, the cost depends on how cheap you can get your pork belly.  For me the cost came out to about $2 a pound or at an ounce a slice, 13 cents a slice.

Gluten Free: Yes!


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34 Responses to “How to Make Bacon at Home”

  1. Lisa
    November 12, 2010 at 7:26 am #

    Hi,
    Was wondering if you could make turkey or beef bacon using the same recipe? I don’t eat pork due to religious purposes.

    • diana
      November 15, 2010 at 2:50 pm #

      That’s a great question Lisa, I don’t know the answer but will ask around. Anyone who knows please share in the comments!

      • pancho
        June 12, 2013 at 1:40 am #

        Bacon is just about the same as sausages. It dont matter what kimd of meat. About every country has beef sausages and its the same thing. The meat is just ground up and packed in casings. you could do well with beef or turkey.

  2. Cajun Chef Ryan
    November 12, 2010 at 8:58 am #

    Saw this on Facebook shared by David L, and so glad I saw this one. Thanks for sharing this one!

    Bon appetit!
    CCR
    =:~)

  3. Kim ( Foodin New England)
    November 12, 2010 at 9:23 am #

    Heck ya!!! I am so making my own!!!!

  4. Kelly
    November 12, 2010 at 2:31 pm #

    I’m a HUGE fan of making bacon myself. I just finished off the last of my previous batch so I think more is eminent although for now, I’m working my way through my smoked ham hocks.

  5. carter @ the kitchenette
    November 14, 2010 at 9:04 am #

    Diana – I’m trying to see in the picture above… did you leave the skin on the pork belly or no?

    If you did leave the skin on, did you remove it before you put it in the oven?

    And darn, I’m going to have to check out the Korean butchers in my area – when I bought pork belly a few weeks ago, mine was $6 a pound. Yikes.

    • diana
      November 15, 2010 at 2:55 pm #

      I did leave the skin on. Most people take it off but I was curious did not even notice it once cooked.

  6. lisa
    November 15, 2010 at 7:00 am #

    Awesome. I loved the video. You make homemade bacon sound completely doable. We have a lot of Asian grocers in my area- I’ll have to check if they sell pork.

  7. SundancerSEM
    November 15, 2010 at 12:04 pm #

    Yum! Love the video, you are so perky :)

  8. SundancerSEM
    November 15, 2010 at 2:23 pm #

    Also, I’m so surprised it’s that easy! I always remembered the pig butchering in Little House on the Prairie and assumed you needed a long involved process and a smoke house to make bacon!

    • diana
      November 15, 2010 at 2:58 pm #

      I totally thought the same thing Sharon. I’d be interested to try smoking this in someones smoker and comparing the flavor but I’m totally happy with just doing it in the oven.

  9. Eric J
    November 18, 2010 at 5:14 pm #

    BACON!

  10. J Jolly
    November 20, 2010 at 12:28 pm #

    Thought I’d Share:

    “I had rather be shut up in a very modest cottage with my books, my family and a few old friends, dining on simple bacon, and letting the world roll on as it liked, than to occupy the most splendid post, which any human power can give.”

    -Thomas Jefferson

  11. erica
    December 12, 2010 at 10:47 am #

    i never knew bacon was this easy!
    i like bacon that has a lot of black pepper on it. do you think if after i rinsed the initial curing spices off of the meat i could then re-coat in pepper before i stuck it in the oven?

    • diana
      December 12, 2010 at 11:05 am #

      I like pepper bacon too! I asked Michael the same thing at his demo. He said you could definitely coat it in pepper after rinsing it. You’ll have to let me know how it turns out.

  12. erica
    January 18, 2011 at 8:10 am #

    i found pork belly at my local Asian grocery for $2.99 lb!!!
    i had asked the butcher at the grocery store, and she told me i was looking for salt pork, which i wasn’t… i finally made it to the Asian market and ta daa!
    now to get curing salt…

  13. diana
    January 18, 2011 at 8:15 am #

    Nice deal! I’m so excited for you Erica, it feels GREAT to make your own bacon.

    • erica
      April 12, 2012 at 5:38 pm #

      Making bacon!!! I’ll let you know how it turns out!

    • helen
      June 30, 2013 at 7:57 am #

      what if I don’t have kosher salt. Can I use iodize salt? Is the measurement the same with the kosher salt?

      • Diana
        August 2, 2013 at 6:02 pm #

        Good question Helen. You can use iodized salt, but you’ll want to use about half the amount, it’s much finer.

  14. Angela Watson
    March 22, 2012 at 6:33 am #

    The pork belly making you think about buying stocks had me LOLing! It’s from the movie Trading Places. I love that movie!

    • Diana
      March 28, 2012 at 6:42 pm #

      Aha! Must be where I’m remembering it from. Thanks Angela!

  15. Barbara
    September 21, 2012 at 9:56 pm #

    Is the pink curing salt the nitrites and the nitrates that are usually on the label of ham and bacon? I can’t have that, because it gives me migaines. Can you just smoke it with the rub and not use the curing salt? Trader Joes has the bacon that is applewood smoked without any curing.

    • PK
      May 2, 2013 at 10:59 am #

      All bacon sold has to be cured in some form or fashion. Even though the label may say nitrates free, it just means they are not using nitrates directly. They are getting their nitrates from a different source. Celery seed seems to be a common choice for home chefs, but you are still getting nitrates.

      From what I’ve read, you can make it without nitrates. But if you go nitrate free, you must cook it to an internal temperature of 150 degrees fahrenheit. You do need to substitute the curing salt for regular salt, or even pickling salt. Just have to figure out the right amount.

      You cannot cold smoke nitrate free bacon, unless you don’t mind getting sick.

      If you forego nitrates, your bacon will not be pink, but the color of normal cooked pork.

      • Diana
        October 5, 2013 at 8:32 pm #

        Great info, thanks PK!

  16. Lisa
    July 26, 2013 at 4:09 am #

    Thanks for the post-guess I am like most people wanted to make bacon never did. Yesterday purchased an entire pork belly, have all needed ingredients-today is d-day. Time to make the bacon!!!!!!!! Thanks

  17. Michelle
    September 15, 2013 at 11:13 pm #

    Can u use this same ingredients but with out the br. Sugar?

    • Diana
      September 15, 2013 at 11:30 pm #

      That’s a great question Michelle. The purpose of the sugar is to help balance out the overly salty taste from the curing process. I use sucanat now which is a natural form of sugar. You could also experiment with maple syrup or honey. If it’s a blood sugar issue, I have heard of people omitting sugar and then smokig the bacon with a sweet fruit wood. Hope that helps and thanks for the question.

      • Tom
        September 20, 2013 at 2:36 pm #

        If I use maple syrup instead of brown sugar, how much should I use. I plan to smoke some in my smoker, I am told smoke until internal temp hits 150. Will use hickory chips.
        Thanks
        Tom

        • Diana
          September 27, 2013 at 5:07 pm #

          I don’t know for sure Tom, since I haven’t tried it. But I would suggest using the same amount as brown sugar, 1/4 cup.

  18. dsouza robert
    March 24, 2014 at 12:34 pm #

    hey diana,thanks for the video,never imagined its so simple to make your own bacon.thanks.

  19. Dawn
    October 1, 2014 at 8:52 am #

    I was wondering if you use beef for the bacon what would be the best cut to buy?

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