I can understand your confusion and sense of overwhelm. There are more opinions, thoughts, recipes, etc. that it is easy for the newer bacon aficionados to get overtaken by conflicting and non-specific instructions. I realize that my post here is just another opinion, but I think it will help to clarify some things that I remember worrying about when I first started curing bacon.
Let me see if this helps you....
I have tried different methods and processes - including Ruhlman's found in Charcuterie...and I have settled on a foolproof and simple process that I believe is safe, effective, and produces consistent and fantastic results. I've done hundreds of pounds of bacon this way...(BTW, I never use a wet brine, like many propose on this forum, for bacon. I won't go into the reasons here, but they are many - and I don't want to start a holy war on this fine site...) .
Here's my easy, step-by-step bacon process:
I keep a container of a mix of 8 oz Kosher salt and 1 oz Cure #1 (that's a WEIGHT measure, not volume). I mix it up well and keep it in the pantry - marked, of course, so that nobody mistakes it for something else.
I lay my bellies out and I do any trimming that may be necessary. I usually cut my bellies into pieces around 3.5-4 pounds.
Apply .36 oz of the cure mix for each pound of belly, e.g., a 4 pound piece would get 1.44 ozs. of the cure mix applied to it.
This results in a consistent ppm of nitrite of 156 ppm - right in the required and safe wheelhouse per the USDA guidelines for bacon cured in this manner. The only thing is that you have to weigh your belly pieces, and precisely measure out the amount of cure for each piece that you cure. If you need to check the math on my mix ppm, consider that one 9 oz batch of mix containing 8 oz salt and 1 oz of pink salt, would cure 25 pounds of belly ( 25 x .36 oz = 9 oz). That equates 1 oz of cure for each 25 pounds - equal to a ppm of 156!
Add any additional amount of seasonings/flavorings that you wish - pepper, herbs, brown sugar, etc - I've played around with things like Old Bay, Red Pepper, and herbs such as crushed juniper berries, thyme, etc. One thing to keep in mind, however, is that I've found that too much honey or 100% maple, while adding sweetness, will tend to burn/brown quickly when cooking the finished bacon. Brown sugar works better, IMHO. My "go-to" is simply cure mix, pepper, and brown sugar. I put the belly piece into a food-safe tub or lipped tray when applying the cure mix and other seasonings, that way I catch anything that falls off.
Once covered with cure mix and other flavorings, place your belly piece into 2-gal ziplock bags. Any cure/salt/seasonings that fell off when you were coating the belly should be placed in the bag as well - remember, the amount of cure is measured for your piece of belly. Sometimes I throw a small "splash" of water into the bag too - just to wet the surface a little. Seal tightly and place the bag(s) in the fridge, and turn them every morning....
After a week, check them for firmness, remove them, rinse off well, pat dry, and place back in the fridge - uncovered - to develop a pellicle. When ready, smoke to an internal temp of approx. 150. I like to smoke at around 180 -200 deg until I get to the 150 IT. When done, I usually let it cool down and I put it back in the fridge to "harden-up". The next day, I slice it on the old slicer, package, and store.
It's simple-pimple, foolproof, and an easy process. I cured-up 22 lbs 2 days ago in less than an hour.
I hope this helps.........