First time doing bacon

Discussion in 'Smoking Bacon' started by chef jay, Aug 7, 2011.

  1. chef jay

    chef jay Fire Starter


    I've never tried bacon, but after reading a bunch of forms I'm dying to do it. I bought a pork belly, about 4 lbs, that I still need to trim. I've frozen it for now because I have one important question (well, maybe not that important). How necessary is it to use something with sodium nitrate? Can I get away with just using kosher salt and sugar? I understand the safety concern on a cold smoke but I've got an offset smoker. Can I do it low enough that I'm not going to melt all the fat but still not worry about having it on there so long that there's a health concern? I'm from Toronto, I've looked at a few stores and I haven't been able to find the Tenderquick. I saw I can order it online but it's $5 to buy and $20 for shipping so that just doesn't make sense to me.

    I saw in some of the older posts, those who do it without. The newer posts however seem to all use some form of nitrate additive. Is this a result of better wisdom over time?
  2. fpnmf

    fpnmf Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    Last edited: Aug 7, 2011
  3. meateater

    meateater Smoking Guru SMF Premier Member

    First off I wouldn't trim the belly unless your talking about the skin, that I would trim off and make some cracklins, good stuff. Products like Tenderquick contain sodium nitrite and a small amount of sodium nitrate and is made for the exact purpose of curing bacon. Another option is using cure #1 aka pink salt. This is just a cure only without other additives like Tenderquick. I cannot find TQ in my area without having to pay shipping but can get cure #1 at Bass Pro locally so that's my choice. I would like to try TQ someday, anywhoo no matter what you use it's very important that you follow the MFG's directions to the letter, never use more that the recommended amount. [​IMG]
  4. venture

    venture Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    People made bacon with salt for hundreds of years.  Today we would call that salt pork of one form or another.  In the old days salt was often "adulterated" with nitrites and nitrates.  Fortunately that saved many lives while many people died from eating salt only products produced in the wrong areas or by incorrect methods.

    We now use nitrites and sometimes nitrates very carefully in making bacon, ham, some sausages. I am not saying that salt and sugar cures cannot be used, but they need to be handled very carefully.  Do your study. Peoples' lives are in your hands when you make these products at home.  It is a lot of fun, but food safety must be foremost.

    Good luck and good smoking.
  5. pops6927

    pops6927 Smoking Guru Staff Member Moderator Group Lead OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    "Back in Ye olde days...." ... you could cure with salts and sugars, and then smoke at a low temp for many hours/days/weeks/even months.  The burning of wood smoldering under the meat gave off nitrosamines that provided a natural curing agent that preserved the meat.  Ever seen a smoke ring?  That's it.  Cured meat via a 'natural' nitrite additive, even though no nitrite chemical was added to the dry or wet cure.   

    In "Modern Day" we have learned that you can add a nitrite additive to your curing to make sure the meat is preserved properly without depending on nature, fire, humidity, draft, type, temperature, time, plus many other variables that determine if the finished product is wholesome or poisonous.  A small amount of nitrite in the proper volume added under controlled circumstances gives great, consistent, planned results.  And, eliminates the weeks of smoking too.  There is more nitrite in a bowl of fresh spinach than what you add to a whole belly, and you never want to give up your salad, do you?  

    Using cure #1 or Tenderquick, in the correct amounts, protects you and all other consumers of your products from disease and death.  The chances you take without it are far greater risk, and in the end it is formed in your smoked meat anyways.  Please join us in responsible curing and smoking!
  6. meateater

    meateater Smoking Guru SMF Premier Member

    So why isn't that practice still followed today, curious minds want to know? This is a serious question. 
  7. meateater

    meateater Smoking Guru SMF Premier Member

    I'm trying to give you a simple and often practiced recipe here, sorry for the [​IMG]
  8. smokinal

    smokinal Smoking Guru Staff Member Moderator OTBS Member ★ Lifetime Premier ★

    [​IMG]    Glad to have you with us!
  9. [​IMG]It is not necessary to use nitrates at all for bacon. If you go to the supermarkets you will find it all the time. You still must follow healthy guidelines for doing so and from what i can see it is even easier than cured bacon.[​IMG]

  10. bearcarver

    bearcarver Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    I must agree with Pops, Meateater, Craig & Venture on the curing.

    The only thing I might add is if you don't want to use cure on your Belly, I would make sure you go from 40˚ to 135˚ in no longer than 4 hours, just like we smoke any other piece of whole pork that isn't cured.

    It might not taste like Bacon, but it will still be tasty (IMO)!!

  11. Here is the U.S.D.A. Answer.

    Can bacon be make without the use of nitrite?

    Bacon can be manufactured without the use of nitrite, but must be labeled "uncured bacon, No nitrates or nitrites added" and bear the statement "not preserved, Keep Refrigerated below 40* F at all times"- unless the final product has been dried according to USDA regulations, or if the product contains and amount of salt sufficient to achieve an internal brine concentration of 10% or more, the label does not have to carry the handle statement of not preserved keep refrigerated below  etc etc

    Recent research studies have shown for products labeled as uncured, certain ingredients added during formulation can naturally produce small amounts of nitrates in  bacon and therefore have to be labeled with the explanatory statement no nitrates or nitrites added except for those naturally occurring in ingredients such as celery juice powder, parsley cherry powder, beet powder, spinach, sea salt etc,\[​IMG]


    Have fun and enjoy. I cannot tell the diff for cured or uncured. Saalllll good.

    and USDA approved.

    Last edited: Aug 8, 2011
  12. chef jay

    chef jay Fire Starter

    Thanks for the feedback, I will continue my search.
  13. tjohnson

    tjohnson Smoking Guru Staff Member Moderator Insider OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    "Uncured Bacon" is not bacon, it's "Pork Belly" that may or may not be smoked

    Curing and smoking the pork belly makes it bacon.

    It's risky at best to take a chance on smoking uncured bacon.  You'll have to hit 140° in 4 hours or less, and then what you'll end up with is "Cooked & Smoked  Pork Belly", not bacon.

    Be Safe!

  14. pops6927

    pops6927 Smoking Guru Staff Member Moderator Group Lead OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    Money, of course!  The longer it takes to produce something the less profitable it is (and likewise the reverse).
  15. tjohnson

    tjohnson Smoking Guru Staff Member Moderator Insider OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    I'll bet you the "Uncured Bacon" found at the supermarket costs more than "Cured Bacon"

    It's all about marketing and how these companies can sell more products to customers

    Kinda like buying something that's "Organic".  You pay more for the label.

    If you go the a local butcher and ask for "Uncured Bacon", he'll sell you a "Smoked Pork Belly".

    An old friend of mine tells stories of smoking hams for 2 weeks, hanging from the rafters in the grainery and then filling up the grainery.  The outside would get green  and they would trim it off before eating.  I also believe the used "Saltpeter" to cure.

  16. fpnmf

    fpnmf Smoking Guru OTBS Member

  17. tjohnson

    tjohnson Smoking Guru Staff Member Moderator Insider OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    This is an article for everyone to read!!!

    Don't let marketing overpower your common sense!

    Following the manufacturer's instructions for curing meat is not only safe, but make good sense.

  18. Actually the buy is dead wrong on the article. It is not a marketing ploy it is the law they have to label it as such. USDA Law.

  19. tjohnson

    tjohnson Smoking Guru Staff Member Moderator Insider OTBS Member SMF Premier Member


    Marketers try all different angles to sell us products.

    If they can fool you by "Misleading" you, they win.

    The ad reads "No Nitrites* or Nitrates Added" in Big Bold Red Ink.

    The asterisk reads "Except for the naturally occurring nitrites in celery powder", in very subtle green ink.

    The producer does not add extra nitrates or nitrates, but they add "Celery Powder".....

    Why, if it we not for the Nitrites?

    Does "Celery Powder" add extra flavor?  I don't really think so.

    Also look at additional "Misleading" information on label

    "15 slices inside"

    "Equivalent to 12 ounces of uncooked bacon"

    Net Wt. = 3.25 OZ.(92g)

    How many people think they are getting more than the actual 3.25 OZ they're paying for?


  20. I know about the marketing as such but the label on the package about no nitrates or nitrites etc are there not for marketing reasons. If you read the pdf regarding the rules for their pkg thy have to put that on there so we know it is not cured. The USDA uses the same exact wording and by law the manufactures have no choice in the matter.


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