First Attempt at Bacon

Discussion in 'UK Smokers' started by smokewood, Oct 5, 2015.

  1. smokewood

    smokewood Smoking Fanatic Group Lead

    I have been meaning to cure some pork loin and make back bacon for a long time but have never got round to it.  After a long chat and with some fantastic instruction from Wade I decided to take the plunge and give it a go.  

    I used a simple dry cure of sugar, salt, nitrite and black pepper which I covered the pork loin in, and then sealed in a bag for 14 days, turning daily to allow the curing process to work it's magic.  After a very long 14 days I removed the bacon from the bag and thoroughly rinsed off all the salt/pepper/sugar mixture and dried the meat ready for air drying for 24 hours.  

    I must admit temptation got the better of me and I couldn't resist cutting a couple of slices off to made a bacon butty!  My verdict was great bacon but something was missing.

    After 24 hours air drying in the fridge my bacon was ready for smoking.  I cold smoked the bacon for 24 hours using Apple dust, and the end result was a great tasting bacon with a fantastic smokey apple flavour.  I can honestly say it was the best bacon I have ever eaten.  Wade & Steve were correct (as always) once you make your own bacon you will never go back to shop bought again.

    Needless to say I have another pork loin in the fridge curing.  If you have never tried making your own bacon you don't know what you are missing.

    One of the members on the main forum has an app called ismokehog and the app works out all the calculations for your salt/sugar/nitrite, and is available from the  Istore or the following link


  2. Good on yer. I only eat home cured bacon these days, it's got a far superior flavour. Even the kids love it, they can't wait for a weekend breakfast.

    I use the River Cottage recipie, using 500g salt and 500g sugar, pepper, juniper berries and bay leaves. A good handful over the entire piece in a plastic box in the fridge, drain off the liquid and reapply the salt/sugar mix daily. After 10 days, hang and air dry for 10 days then 8 hrs cold smoked.

    A dollop of chilli sauce and you've got the best bacon butty around. Everyone should have a loin curing at all times.

  3. c farmer

    c farmer Smoking Guru Staff Member Moderator OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    Smokewood,  Great job.  That bacon looks amazing.
    Last edited: Oct 6, 2015
  4. wade

    wade Master of the Pit OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    Hi Badgero. Your bacon looks great and I am sure that it tastes good too. I am a little concerned that you are curing it for 20+ days using only salt and sugar without using any Nitrite. You have obviously not suffered any ill effects so far but I would suggest that adding Nitrite (cure #1) to your future batches would be a good idea. Nitrite is not only the preservative traditionally used in bacon but I think you will find it will give you an even more pronounced bacony flavour too,
  5. molove

    molove Smoke Blower

    Hi Wade

    What's the difference between nitrite and nitrate? I've only ever made bacon using saltpetre (about 1g per kilo of bacon)

  6. wade

    wade Master of the Pit OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    Hi Piers

    It is the Nitrite that actually does the job of controlling the bacteria (especially the botulinum spores) but over time it is slowly broken down and so its effectiveness is gradually reduced. Nitrate is therefore added in some cures as this it slowly broken down into Nitrite - therefore keeping the Nitrite levels up.

    In Europe it is permissible to use both Nitrite and Nitrate in bacon however in the USA Nitrate is banned as it can form Nitrosamines when cooked at high temperatures (e.g. frying) which has been potentially linked to cancer in rats.

    Nitrates are added to help preserve cured uncooked meats that are generally stored unrefrigerated for long periods of time - months or years. Examples of these are things like Salami, jerky, Palma ham etc. 

    When curing it is not only the Nitrite that acts as the preservative and often several curing methods are used in conjunction. These are usually:

    The reduction in available free water.  This is initially achieved by the addition of salt and sugars in the cure, drawing water out from the meat/fish. Later in the process this is further reduced through the smoking process or by air drying. 

    Increasing salinity. In order for bacteria to live/grow it needs to be within fairly narrow salinity range to maintain its metabolic functions. By increasing the salinity the bacteria will either be killed or their growth will be inhibited. 

    Increasing the acidity.  Many of the harmful bacteria cannot grow in acidic conditions and so by reducing the pH (increasing the acidity) through the addition of acidic ingredients (e.g. citric acid) or through the introduction of harmless acid-producing lactobacillus cultures. This is predominantly used in the production of salamis/chorizos etc.

    The addition of Nitrites.  Nitrite is used to control bacterial spore germination that are not managed through the other methods - primarily Clostridium botulinum. Nitrites also help give the food that characteristic pink/red colour. Over time the NItrite will break down and become less effective and so in foods that are to be stored for long periods of time Nitrate is also added. This is slowly converted to Nitrite and so maintaining the levels. As Nitrites are toxic to humans in fairly small amounts it is therefore essential that they be used carefully and that you know the amount that will remain in your end product. We should not get paranoid about this though as over 80% of the Nitrate/Nitrite in the average western diet actually comes from eating vegetables.

    The use of smoke.  Although smoke is a mild antiseptic its primary purpose today is as a flavouring. In sufficient quantity the smoke will help inhibit bacterial growth on the surface however for foods such as fish the greater effect is by the air flow over it during the smoking process leading to further water reduction.

    You may find this link helpful -

    I hope this helps

  7. wade

    wade Master of the Pit OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    Without knowing how you used the cure (dry rub or immersion brine) it is impossible to comment in detail about what you have done. Saltpetre though is only Potassium Nitrate and so you would not have added any Nitrite - which is the active ingredient. If you used it to make a brine then the 1g/Kg could be OK depending on the amount of water you used. If it was used as a dry rub then you would have been way over the top as the Nitrate would be in the region on 1,000 Ppm (mg/Kg. Without knowing what else was added it is not possible to calculate exactly.

    As I mentioned in the previous post Nitrate is actually banned in bacon in the USA, however in Europe it is permitted up to 250 Ppm (mg/kg)

    Next time you make bacon you really need to buy some Cure#1 (6.25% Nitrite) from a reputable source and use an appropriate calculation for the cure technique that you are using. We will always help you out with any calculations if you need it.


  8. molove

    molove Smoke Blower

  9. wade

    wade Master of the Pit OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    Unfortunately not much supporting information on his web site is there [​IMG]. There is likely to have been some level of conversion from Nitrate to Nitrite though during the curing process - but how much? His method he claims is "traditional", but it is very  unusual to only use Nitrate on its own today when making bacon. Most of the commercially available cures sold by the specialists curing companies in the UK will contain a mix of Nitrite and Nitrate.

    Unfortunately Jasper Aykroyd's bacon curing recipe would actually be illegal commercially in the USA. 
    Last edited: Oct 7, 2015
  10. molove

    molove Smoke Blower

  11. molove

    molove Smoke Blower

  12. morrit

    morrit Fire Starter

    Wade... you sir seem to be an expert in the use of nitrite and nitrate. Now whilst Gordon Ramsay himself once told me that i made a crackin bacon sandwich (long story short i was working at an hotel he stayed at called the Lygon Arms and for breakfast he wanted a bacon sandwich. So as a new young chef i qanted to show off and used a simple secret...pane the bacon in flour then fry in butter and oil... flour goes crispy and soaks up flavour.... bacon stays moist.... try it!... anyway waiter comes and tells me that he wanted me to know that was the best bacon sandwich he has had. No job offer though... Ok maybe not himself by by proxy) Anyway... I digress. I want to make my own bacon. As a fresh starter in all this would you have a basic recipe to hand that you could point me towards for bacon? I'd like to try my hand at it you see and smoke half for me and leave half plain for the wife, but one that isn't going to give us botulism. Probably start small and simple. I have no fancy equipment or air dryer... hope you don't mind! I can then experiment based on that.
    Last edited: Oct 8, 2015
  13. wade

    wade Master of the Pit OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    Hi Morrit. I have a lot of experience making bacon, but so have a lot of people on here - some even from before I was born [​IMG]. Some on here prefer to immersion brine their bacon (and Pops low salt brine is a good one to try) however I have always preferred to use a dry cure. In my opinion it produces a better texture and also a better flavour - but taste can be a very personal thing

    You can use either belly pork (streaky bacon) or pork loin (back bacon). To begin with pork loin is less fiddly and easier to slice.  A little fat on it is good for flavour. Tastes vary however and the Americans often like things more saly and sweeter than we do here. I have found that a bacon with about 3-3.5% salt gives a good balance.

    The cure required for each 1 Kg of bacon - Joints of about 1.5 Kg each are a good practical size so just multiply accordingly.
    • Cure #1 (6.25% Nitrite) - 2.8g
    • Salt (for 3%) - 27.2g
    • Sugar (50% weight of salt gives a good balance) - 14g
    • Flavourings - Fresh ground black pepper works well, as do bay, juniper, szechuan pepper. To begin with just use fresh ground black pepper at 5g/kg of meat.
    When dry curing this way you are only adding a finite amount of cure and so, within reason, it is impossible to over cure. The technical bit of this is that you can only end up with a maximum residual amount of Nitrite of 175 Ppm (which is the EU maximum for commercial bacon) however in practice this will actually end up around 150 Ppm - so well within the limit.

    This is a whole pork loin and will split nicely into 3 cure size chunks. Alternatively you can buy a smaller joint from the supermarket

    Mix all of the cure ingredients well - if possible blitz them together in a spice or coffee grinder.

    Once ground you need to make sure that you get it all out of the grinder

    If you cannot grind then don't worry as it will all dissolve quite quickly as the brine is formed.

    Rub over all surfaces of the meat, catching any that does not stick.

    Place in ziplock plastic bag or vac pack bag and add in any remaining cure. Seal.

    I vac pack mine but it works just as well in Ziplock bags - but try to get as much air out as you can

    Place in fridge and turn daily. It will produce its own brine so by turning it daily the brine will be in contact with all surfaces of the meat. Do not pour off any of this brine during the curing period.

    10 days is usually sufficient, however I leave mine for 14. Within reason you cannot over cure when dry curing.

    This gives you an idea of the amount of brine that is produced by the cure extracting moisture from the pork. This is normal.

    After 10-14 days unwrap and wash off all the cure under a cold tap. Pad dry with paper towel and then leave to dry for 24 hours in fridge before smoking. You can either do this on a rack or hang them on butchers hooks.

    Cold smoke for 18-36 hours - depending on the smoke flavour you require. Oak and fruit woods are great but I usually use Hickory. If you want to smoke one and leave another green then just dont put one of them in the smoker at this stage.

    Here they are in my cold smoker along with some fish I was smoking for a customer

    After smoking leave to rest for 4-5 days in the fridge again before slicing. The fridge will smell wonderful for days.

    Lastly slice and package. I slice mine immediately and freeze however you can leave the bacon joints whole and slice as you need


    Last edited: Oct 22, 2015
    morrit, paprika pal and molove like this.
  14. morrit

    morrit Fire Starter

    This is great thanks so much. I'd love to do this as a business. Maybe one day...
  15. smokin monkey

    smokin monkey Master of the Pit Group Lead OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    Hi James, good looking bacon! Step by Step with Wade and you can not go wrong. Bacon is quite easy to do, just weight every thing out exactly.

    I have downloaded the app, as I use an on line calculator. But the problem I have is, my kitchen area for some strange reason has very poor mobile connection, so I have to stand in the doorway to get connection to do the calculations!!!

    The app only does incriments of 0.5 kilo weights, so to really use it you would need to make up a 10 kilo batch. Then use the recommended 30.2 grams per KG of meat.

    Weight pork, 1350 grams. 1.350 x 30.2 = 40.77 grams of cure.

    This could be an easier way of doing it rather than trying to weight out 7 grams of Cure #1. Only precaution to take, is to remeber to shake jar well before each use, to remix ingredients in case they have settled.
  16. wade

    wade Master of the Pit OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    Steve - Do you have Excel 2007. I can send you an Excel cure calculator.

    This morning was bacon packaging and chilli smoking. 3 types of bacon - black pepper, plain and szechuan pepper. These were all sections of the same loin using the same cure mixes. Notice the slight differences in colour with the different flavourings.

  17. smokin monkey

    smokin monkey Master of the Pit Group Lead OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    Morning Wade, yes you can see the colour change.

    Yes I have excel.

    Thanks Steve
  18. smokewood

    smokewood Smoking Fanatic Group Lead

    Hi Steve, Thanks.

    I have another 3 pork loins in the fridge, and will also be trying different smoke flavours.

    I don't know if I have a different app from you but the one I have calculates on increments of 100 g   So if the meat is 1.34 Kg it calculates the weight as 1.3 Kg's, however if the meat is 1.35 Kg the app calculates the meat weight as 1.4 Kg's therefore either rounding up or down to the nearest 100g. The difference n the amount of cure on the above calculation is 0.3g of cure.

    Quick question for anyone, after smoking do you leave the bacon in the fridge for a period of time or do you slice and wrap the bacon straight way, just curious, if so should it be covered or not?
    Last edited: Oct 12, 2015
  19. smokewood

    smokewood Smoking Fanatic Group Lead

    Thanks Appreciate it
  20. wade

    wade Master of the Pit OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    Just like the cure the smoke flavour takes time to penetrate. I usually leave mine in the fridge for about a week before slicing. This is not critical though and will not affect the cure.

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