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How to Cure Bacon at Home

How to Cure Bacon at Home

If you eat bacon, then you should know how important it is to get pork from pigs that haven’t been tortured in industrial feedlots, shot up with pharmaceuticals and antibiotics, and then processed with toxic chemical additives and nitrites. 

This means you need to buy pork from organic sources—or better yet, from a farm that raises their pigs naturally on pasture and forage.

But have you priced organic, pasture-raised bacon lately? It’s $8.99 a package in my area! So, here’s how to cure bacon at home, (and have it taste even better than store-bought!) 

Making your own bacon is very easy and affordable, especially because fresh pork belly is a relatively cheap cut of meat. And when you make it yourself, you get total control over the quality of the meat and the ingredients it is cured with!

So, if you have time and some space in the fridge, you can enjoy the wholesome, chemical-free goodness of homemade bacon right from your own kitchen!

Food Preservation Safety

There is one main concern when curing and preserving meat, and that is botulism. While botulism is usually related to improper canning procedures, food-borne botulism also occurs in meats that have been improperly cured.

To prevent this, commercially preserved meats contain sodium nitrite (sometimes called “pink salt”), which acts both as a preservative and a color fixer. This is what gives store-bought bacon that bright red color.

Sodium nitrite is very toxic in high quantities, and has been linked to migraines in certain people. Some organic “un-cured” bacon brands use celery juice in lieu of pink salt, but celery juice can often contain even more naturally-occurring sodium nitrite than the curing salt! This won’t help migraine sufferers much.

But the main concern with sodium nitrite (or even high levels of naturally-occurring nitrites from celery juice) is that when it is exposed to high heat in the presence of protein (like a piece of fried, nitrite-cured bacon), proteins in the meat bond with the sodium nitrite to produce toxic nitrosamines—and certain nitrosamines have been proven to be deadly carcinogens. 

Basically, frying and eating nitrite-cured bacon presents the perfect scenario for nitrosamines to enter your system.

That sounds pretty bad, right?

Unfortunately, the sodium nitrite (or naturally-occurring nitrites from celery) is necessary in a large industrial setting, where many different people, machines and industrial processes are involved in getting the meat from the feedlot to the store, free of botulism.

But the home cook can much better control the variables and handling procedures, and can get those assurances without the addition of nitrites.

And your bacon will taste much, much better than anything you’ve purchased in a package. I guarantee it.

How to Make Home Cured Bacon

First, you will need to get an organic or pasture-raised pork belly from your butcher or local farm. You might need to order it. Do not use conventional pork for this. Here’s why.

You can get your pork belly with skin (sometimes called the “rind”) or without. If you get it with skin, you will need to cut it off to make your bacon, but then you can make fried pork rinds or “cracklins”, if you like.

The process of “curing” anything simply means using salt to draw the moisture out, so that the food lasts longer. And that is what you are going to do with your pork belly to make it into bacon.

Homemade Bacon
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Ingredients
  1. 5 pounds pasture-raised pork belly, skin/rind removed
  2. 1/2 cup sea salt (NOT refined table salt)
  3. 1/2 cup packed Rapadura, coconut sugar, or pure Grade B maple syrup
  4. 1 Tbsp. freshly ground black peppercorns
For a sweet cure, consider adding
  1. 1 tsp nutmeg, 4 Tbsp strong coffee, apple cider vinegar OR bourbon, to taste (Optional)
For a savory cure, consider adding
  1. 3-4 crushed bay leaves, 4-5 crushed garlic cloves, 1-2 Tbsp. fresh thyme, toasted fennel seed, coriander, rosemary, or other seasonings, to taste (Optional)
Instructions
  1. Cut your pork belly into a nice square, bacon-like block.
  2. Mix the dry ingredients in a bowl until they are uniformly combined.
  3. Mix the wet ingredients (if using) in a separate bowl until they are uniformly combined.
  4. In a glass dish, use your very clean hands to slather the meat all over with the wet ingredients (if using) until thoroughly coated everywhere.
  5. Place one half of the dry cure mixture in the bottom of the glass dish.
  6. Place the wet pork belly into the dish and press it into the salt/sugar mix.
  7. Carefully pour the rest of the mixture across the top of the meat and press it in uniformly all around, using your hands to thoroughly apply the cure mix into every nook and cranny of your pork belly.
  8. Place the dish, uncovered, in the refrigerator for 3-7 days, until the meat feels firm throughout. (5 days is a good average, but check to be sure. The longer you cure it, the saltier it will be)
  9. Turn the bacon over every day; some liquid will accumulate in the dish.
  10. After 3-7 days curing, wash the salt/sugar mixture off of the pork belly very carefully.
  11. Pat the bacon dry with a clean towel and set it on a rack over a baking sheet. Allow the bacon to air-dry in the refrigerator for 6-24 hours.
  12. At this point, you can slice it for "green bacon" or you can smoke or roast the whole belly.
  13. If roasting, preheat the oven to 200-225 degrees. Roast the pork belly in the oven to an internal temperature of 150 degrees F for about 90 minutes. You don't want to completely cook the meat, only heat it.
  14. If smoking, smoke over hickory or applewood at a very low temperature until meat reaches an internal temperature of 150 degrees F, or about 3 hours. You don't want to completely cook the meat, just flavor it.
  15. Chill bacon well in the refrigerator, then with a long, very sharp knife, slice it thin or thick, as desired. Use hard-to-slice pieces in pots of beans or soup.
  16. Wrap your finished bacon in parchment paper and store. Homemade bacon will keep for three weeks in the refrigerator and three months in the freezer.
  17. Enjoy!!
Small Footprint Family http://www.smallfootprintfamily.com/



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33 Comments

    • Since I wasn’t there, I couldn’t tell you. Maybe it was your cure? Homemade bacon won’t taste like the commercial, chemical-laden stuff, more like the expensive, thick cut “nitrate-free” bacon you get at a natural food store.

  • This looks great! I can’t wait to try it. Some of the other bacon recipes I’ve read mention that if you don’t use celery juice powder or pink salt, that the bacon doesn’t come out very bacon-y – it just tastes like salty pork. I’m hoping that’s just true for their recipes and not this one. 😉 So does this one have that nice cured taste? Sorry for the dumb question! It’s quite an ordeal to get good quality pork around here so I wanted to make sure first. Thanks so much!

      • Thanks for the reply! I’ll definitely do that. It’s now on day 2 and all of the sea salt has dissolved. I used the maple syrup option, which I guess help dissolved it. Since I poured away the liquid that accumulated, the maple syrup is also gone. So it’s just sitting there without any sweetener or salt. Do you think it’s still doing its thing or should I reapply a little more? Sorry again for all the questions!

        • I would hesitate to add any more salt or sugar because you could make it too salty, which would be bad. (I’ve done this, and its heartbreakingly inedible.) It should still be doing its thing. However, if you cut a tiny piece off on day 3, cook it up, and test for saltiness/sweetness (it will taste green, but you are testing for cure), you will know if you need to add more and then let it cure a few more days, or not.

          • Thanks for the speedy reply! It was good I didn’t add salt because it was extremely salty, like the other commenter who used maple syrup (although he used table salt, which I think would explain his problem). I wonder if it has something to do with all the maple syrup being poured away after the first day. I rinsed the pork off in step 11 and rinsed it off again before frying, but it was still inedibly salty so I rinsed it off again after frying and that made it better. I think I’ll cut it into slices and blanch it before frying next time. Or maybe my pork belly was oddly shaped. I roasted it at 225F (with an oven thermometer to ensure my oven wasn’t off) and after an hour, the outside was pretty cooked looking and the inside wasn’t anywhere near 150F. I let it go another 30 minutes, anyway, and it’s almost cooked completely through. Oh well. I’ll try again with sugar. :)

          • Blanching is the PERFECT solution to an overly salty bacon. It happens. I’ve done it once or twice myself. :) I usually recommend smoking over oven roasting because the thickness of your pork belly can affect how it comes out in the oven. But, even if it is a bit over-roasted, you should be able to eat it. Just slice and, if needed, cook the rest of the way through in a pan.

          • I can’t reply to your last comment so I’ll reply here. I blanched it and it worked out wonderfully! :) You couldn’t tell that it was over-roasted in the oven and it wasn’t too salty. I’d love to have smoked it but we live in an apartment but as soon as we move to a house, I’ll definitely use a smoker. Thanks again for all your help!

  • If a local garden plant supplier sells stevia plants (a lot do now) you can actually pick a handful of leaves, leave them on a window ledge for a day or so until they’ve dried out a bit, then finely chop and/or food-processor them into tiny particles, similar to those in jars of dried mixed herbs. Then add that to the other ingredients in your dry cure rub. Absolutely no sugars of any kind (beyond the miniscule amounts that virtually every plant has – no avoiding it) but will still impart a sweet cured bacon taste.

  • Great blog. I like that you present very good reasoning for the steps of the process on curing bacon. Even the profession sites like Food Network are not thorough in explaining the “why” of the steps. Thanks. I’ll bookmark this site and look in periodically.

  • So I made this recipe, and love how it came out. EXCEPT it is salty, in the extreme. Not sure if it’s because I left it cure for a full 7 days, or because I used table salt instead of Sea Salt. I will say that 3/4 of the water that came off the pork did so within 48 hours. So next time, perhaps I’ll only cure for 3 days instead of 7. I also left the pork sit it a porcelain dish. I might put it on a stainless rack, so it doesn’t sit in the liquid brine it creates. I used Maple syrup, instead of sugar. Then smoked it with applewood on the grill for a couple hours. Great taste, consistency, just too salty.

    • I’ve also had too salty batches as I worked on this recipe. Table salt definitely has a much saltier taste than sea salt since it is refined. Putting the bacon up on a rack never hurts!! So glad you enjoyed it. I’m sure your next batch will be perfect.

  • I use sodium nitrite, not only to preclude botulism, but because it does add a tang to the bacon. Nitrosamine are not such a concern for me since I do not cook my bacon over high temperatures until it charred. Slow cooking it over moderate heat works pretty well and microwaving it works even better. That said, I plan to try making bacon without nitrites for the experience, not due to any particular fear.

    But I share my nitrite-cured bacon with friends, many over 60 and with varying health problems. When dealing with “at risk” populations – any infection or food borne illness can be devastating. So nitrite free bacon is not something I would share.

    I like the additions you mention for flavor and will try those. I do want a sweeter bacon and some of your additions are new to me. Thanks for sharing them.

  • I am interested in your opinion about why you do not smoke it (or cook it or that matter) to the full internal temperature of 165? Are there benefits (flavor, preservation, etc.) to not fully cooking it until its time to slice and fry? Or is your method just out of personal practice, and fully cooking it before intended use is an optional choice with equal success? Any information regarding this would be great!
    thanks.

    • Additionally, I noticed your directions to not state flipping the product during the curing process. Is there a reason to your method?
      thanks!

      • How can i cure the pork belly without smoking it at all or can it be done? first time processing my hogs i raise we ussualy just make breakfast saisage and throw the rest of the hog on the grill and have a big bbq

  • I recently got sliced bacon from our local farm. Is there a recipe for curing one pound of sliced bacon at a time. I assume it will take less seasoning and less time but, having never cured bacon before, I want to be sure I am doing it right. Thanks for your help!

  • We recently started buying our meats and dairy from a farmer nearby and I picked up some bacon last time and didn’t even know about cured/not cured until the daughter mentioned it! LOL Thanks for this tutorial, because I’m clueless! :) Merry Christmas!

  • I cure my bacon with “pink salt” (sodium nitrate) but I cure it German-style, so it is fully cured and smoked. Additional heating is not necessary.

  • Is frying at a medium temperature (about 350F) still bad? We use nitrite-free (I am aware of the celery juice problem) pastured bacon. Can’t find uncured pork belly.

  • Hi what will it be called if I don’t use anything with sugar? Not side pork ?!

    I want absolutely no sugar! Some seasoning ok I have cayenne pepper here! How about cayenne and nutmeg?

    • Bacon requires sugar, honey, molasses or some other sweetener to be bacon. You can cure it with just salt and spices, and use it as “salt pork” in beans, but it won’t technically be bacon, just salt pork.

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