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first smoke, first bacon, first q-view

post #1 of 15
Thread Starter 
Hi folks. So I joined and introduced myself when I got a new Charbroil "American Gourmet" offset smoker a week ago. This was my first attempt at using it and my first time making bacon. So with so many firsts, there were many variables. One thing I learned from this site is to take notes so that I did.

Here is the pork belly. About 3.5 - 4 pounds:

Belly all rubbed down:

Belly after 9 days of curing:

Bacon smoked with skin on. 6 hours at 200 until 150 internal. Mesquite lump with hickory chunks:

Took the rind off and let it smoke for another half hour to develop some color:

Slices off the slab after sitting in the fridge overnight:

Into the oven at 300:

And ladies and gentlemen, we have bacon:

So how was it? I regret to say that I am a little disappointed. The flavor is good but the texture isn't to my liking. The strands of meat are tougher than I'd like (almost stringy!) and the strips of fat are softer than I'd like. What could cause this?

Because of space limitations in the fridge, I had to stack the slabs as they cured and there was more weight on them than I probably should have used. Maybe 7 or 8 pounds. Does anyone else weight their bacon as it cures?

Or maybe I used too much pink salt? Or maybe it's just the belly I got. The top portion of the bacon developed a nice smoke but it pretty much turns black by the time the bacon gets crispy.

Any tips or hints? Thanks for watching.
post #2 of 15
how did you get your pics to show up in the post .sorry i cant help you with bacon but there are sure to be some guys on here later to help
post #3 of 15
Hey Sea_Munky , your bacon looks good , especially for a first try !

some things that might help ya ... bacon is best smoked with a cool smoke normally in the range of 80 to 100 * , smoke as long as you can to get a good smokey flavor , don't worry about hitting a certain internal temp as the meat has been cured and that temp will be reached when you cook it ...

next , it looks to me ( hard to tell exactly from the pics ) that you may have sliced the belly with the grain instead of across it ? which would account for the stringyness .... in the first pic ( cured ) the belly should have been sliced across the longest way to cut across the grain ... if you find it difficult to slice that way , just cut the piece in 1/2 first and it'll make it easier ...

great first try , hope this helps a bit !
post #4 of 15
Sorry you weren't totally pleased but darn it sure looks great!!
post #5 of 15
Thread Starter 
Hi Doug - I just used photobucket as suggested by others on this site. Click on the icon to "add image". (I looks like a mountain landscape) and a window will pop up. Go to photobucket and copy the web address and paste it into the "add image" window and viola! Give it a try in the test area.

Thanks Cinnamon!

Genius! That didn't even occur to me. Thanks T-bone Tim! I will try that and I have a feeling it will be much better that way. I'll let you know... And thanks for the info about the cold smoking. I guess that would help with the dried out, black portion of the bacon strips. The tips are very helpful. Thanks again.
post #6 of 15
Nice looking bacon bud. I have been wanting to try to make some of my own.
post #7 of 15
Thread Starter 
Thanks Meat-man.

I am happy to report that after slicing AGAINST THE GRAIN, the bacon cooked up much much better. (Thanks T-bone!) Good tips from good folks on this forum.

This newbie has lots to learn. Thanks to all who checked out my q-view.
post #8 of 15
Glad things worked out for ya sea_munky .... and you're right , gotta love this forum and the people here !
post #9 of 15
Was it sliced by hand or with a slicer.
I use the brining and pumping method also. I remove the rind before smoking too.

most of my friends us this method and get excellent results

Cut the bellies into nice squared off pieces that will be about what you might want to use. Some people keep them whole but I like piece that are easy to work with. This belly which was 14 pounds I cut into three pieces. Save the scraps for Baked beans, clam chowder or anything you might use salt pork for.

o making regular bacon or belly bacon you need to brine or pickle them. You can purchase curing packages from various suppliers or make you own. I choose to make my own.
<!--[if !supportEmptyParas]--> <!--[endif]-->

1 gallon of ice water at 38-40 degrees
1/2 cup powdered dextrose
1/2 cup real maple syrup
1/2 cup Kosher salt or Sea Salt
* Prague powder #1

<!--[if !supportEmptyParas]--> <!--[endif]-->
<!--[if !supportEmptyParas]--> <!--[endif]-->
<!--[if !supportLists]-->· <!--[endif]-->NOTE: You may use Instacure, Morton’s Tender Quick or Prague Powder #1 just be sure to follow the manufactures instructions on how much to use based on the weight of the meat you intend to cure!
You will notice I reduced the amount of salt from 1 pound to 1/2 cup. This is up to you. I don’t like things really salty and I have spent the last 6 months experimenting with the amount of salts in my recipes which has proved to work well with these brines. If you like your bacon saltier you may add up to the 1 pound of salt. We all eat to much salt anyway!

Mix all your ingredients and make sure they are dissolved well. Place meat in the brine and pump your bellies with brine to about 8% of green weight. After weighting and re-weighting the bacon several times this seems to come out to about the same as injecting the all over meat at intervals of about 2 inches apart.

Pumping is simply injecting the meat with the brine water.
Chill at 38-40 degrees for about 5 or 6 days. Make

sure the meat is fully submerged in the water. The best way I know of to do this is to either put a plate with something heavy on the meat or use a vacuum sealer – which is what I do. Turn the meat every few days.

After about 5 to 7 days remove the meat and rinse it really well under luke warm water. Pat the meat dry with paper towels and start you smoker while it dries out some. Bring the smoker up to 130°F to 135°F with the dampers wide open and no wood. If your smoker doesn’t have dampers prop open the lid. Place the water pan in the smoker but do not add water – this will just act as a heat shield for the meat.

Once temperatures are stable place the meat in the smoker and allow the surface of the meat to dry for about an hour. This is important that the surface be dry because the smoke will not penetrate wet meat evenly (if at all) and your bacon end up looking blotchy with uneven color.

After the surfaces of the meat have become dry close the dampers to 1/4 open or close the lid and add wood to smoke the meat until internal temp hits 128°F. Don’t go beyond this or you be cooking the meat.

post #10 of 15
your bacon Q looks awesome. excellent job for a 1st..
post #11 of 15
Thread Starter 
Thanks Coyote.

Scotty - Thanks for sharing your method. I actually used a dry rub cure for my belly. No liquids and no injecting. From your experience, does the brining method work better? Why do you suppose?

For a 6# belly, I rubbed

4 Tbs sea salt
2 tsp Prague #1
5 Tbs dextrose
5 Tbs dark brown sugar

Plus some aromatics: fresh ground pepper, bay leaf, chili powder, thyme

It was cured for 9 days (I had originally planned for 7 but got busy) with 7 pounds on it, flipped over every day. Thoroghly rinsed and dried. Did not have time to refrigerate uncovered for 12 hours but had a fan blowing on it for over an hour and it seemed like a pellicle formed (the surface was tacky...is this right? this was my first time.)

The slab was cut by hand. I smoked with the rind ON, but cut it removed it and continued with another 1/2 hour of smoke. The saltiness was just right for me. So far do you notice anything significantly incorrect or inadvisable in my method?

So far, I'm gathering that I:

1. smoked it at too high a temp
2. smoked it for too long. (Stop at 128* you say? I'll try that).

Oh, if only all of Life's mistakes were still delicous.
post #12 of 15
nice work sea munky! i havent done any bacon b/c i didn't want to bungy it down like the sticky suggests. what can i say, i'm lazy PDT_Armataz_01_27.gif but now you've inspired me to give it a go. thanks!
post #13 of 15
Sea_munky ... your cure doesn't sound too bad ....try setting up some kind of cold smoke set-up and smoke between 80 * - 100 *and smoke the bacon for at least 8 hrs or more longer the better IMHO ...I prefer mine with the rind off .... also run a fan over your cure belly for 2 - 3 hours ( hang it in front of the fans if possible ) until it is dry and has a shiny appearance to it ( not tacky ) this will give the smoke the best surface for it to adhere to on yer bacon ... something like this will work for your cold smoking ...

post #14 of 15
Thread Starter 
So a pellicle should NOT be tacky? dry and shiny appearance kind of like fresh scar tissue? (sorry if that's a gross comparison) Just trying to get an idea. For some reason, I read elsewhere that the "sticky pellicle helps smoke adhere to the surface". I should have known that was wrong cuz we want the smoke to PENETRATE, not stick to the outside, right?

Thanks for the link to cold smoking...That looks simple enough.

I'm glad the pics inspired you Guvna! What is this "bungy" process you speak of. I'm not sure if I did such things to my meat!

Here is the post that inspired me:

post #15 of 15
yep dry and shiny , not tacky .and that link on bacon I think would inspire most anyone , thanks for posting it !!
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