Bacon Dilemma, Crossroads, Irrational thoughts. Call it what you want.

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Meat Mopper
Original poster
SMF Premier Member
Jul 8, 2007
Wentzville, MO
I'll start off first by saying this isn't a debate....wet vs dry, whether I'm insane, etc., it's a friendly discussion on how I can achieve the taste I'm after. Now that that's out of the way, I'll start with my dilemma: I like the taste of store bought bacon, can't explain it, but I just do.

After joining the forum and reading on how making my own would surpass store bought bacon, I was intrigued and decided to jump in....a few times as noted by the threads dedicated to my endeavors. Each time, I used Pops brine, which I love as it's so easy to do. Not to mention, Pop is an outstanding member and always willing to help.

However, I had some personal issues, not with Pops brine but how the bacon turned out:

1st time: Made the brine as is, no additional ingredients. Good tasting bacon, a bit too sweet for my liking, not a bad first time but still preferred store bought. Would try again.

2nd time: Made the brine as is with the addition of garlic and onion powder and CBP added to the brine. Also sprinkled some on during pellicle formation. Good tasting bacon, still a bit too sweet (guess I should have reduced the sugar), better than first but really didn't get the flavor profile from the onion, garlic and CBP I was expecting. Would make bacon again, but now not really in a bought is still better.

Now here I am today, sitting with 25lbs of pork bellies because I couldn't resist the urge to make more bacon, with the hopes that I can make something that I enjoy equally or more than my beloved store bought bacon. Note: I completely understand if by now you've already deemed me crazy.

So, questions I have:

Wet cure: Not sure I want to try again because of the "sweetness" factor I had with both previous times. Not to mention that I really didn't get the flavor I expected with the onion, garlic and CBP that were in suspension but not direct contact with the meat per se. Any suggestions on improvement?

Dry cure: Haven't tried but want to, however, doesn't seem as fool proof as Pops brine. I'm not worried about measuring the right amount of cure #1 as there are calculators for that but more concerned on the flavor outcome. Todd Johnson has a recipe that sounds good for 10lbs of bellies but I can easily calculate the additional seasonings I need for my 12lbs or so. What I'm concerned about is the flavor again. Any suggestions or recipes that you guys have had luck on?

I know alot of smoking and taste is trial and error and I'm not opposed....I've spent a bunch of time with pork butts to get pulled pork exactly how I want it, but my mind....seems more daunting to me in regards to achieving the right flavor, especially since I have no issues with store bought bacon and enjoy the taste.

Thanks for letting me use you guys as a sounding board and any suggestions are welcomed. I'll go back to my padded room now :biggrin:
I add 1 Tbs of garlic powder and 1 Tbs of onion powder to the brine when I make Canadian Bacon. I have not tried it for belly bacon. It has a strong taste the first day and turns out perfect after sitting a day.

For belly bacon I mix Pop's brine like this:

1 gal water

1 Tbs cure #1

1 cup brown sugar

3/4 cup white sugar

3/4 cup kosher or pickling salt (1/3 -1/2 cup Sea Salt)

1 Tbs of Molasses

I cold smoked with Apple pellets about 18 hours with the AMNPS (filled AMNPS 2 times)

If you are going to reduce the salt also reduce the sugar as there needs to be a balance. Hope this helps a little.
Thanks Dave and Woodcutter, that helps. I'm definitely not trying to duplicate the taste of store bought bacon as there's a bunch of other crap in it that none of us need, but merely create a taste from homemade that I enjoy as much as store bought.

Sometimes I overthink things. :hit:
There is very little sugar in store bacon. There is no need to put a lot of sugar in the brine. People say it is to balance the salt but while the salt is the catalyst to get the flavor of the brine ingredients into the bacon, you can add a small amount of sugar and then soak the belly in fresh water to remove salt until a test piece is balanced and tastes good. It is my understanding that many of the store brands use Liquid Smoke to get the smoke flavor. If you actually smoke your bacon you are already departing from the store bought flavor of some of the cheap national brands. I thinks you will find if you keep it simple, salt, cure and a small amount of sugar, you will get close to what you want. I like some store brands as well but I have never had a store bacon with Garlic, Onion, Chipotle or any flavor other than Maple and occasionally local bacon with Black Pepper...JJ
Thanks Dave and Woodcutter, that helps. I'm definitely not trying to duplicate the taste of store bought bacon as there's a bunch of other crap in it that none of us need, but merely create a taste from homemade that I enjoy as much as store bought.

Sometimes I overthink things.
No, you're not over thinking it. You're just trying to find what works best for you, and if it's too sweet for you just reduce the amount of sugar in the brine.

The most basic brine is nothing more that salt and water. Cure #1 is added for safety and color, and everything else, including sugar, is an embellishment.

Looking at Pop's brine I see that the salt to sugar ratio is 1:2. That may be ideal for some folks, but it's far more sugar than I can handle. That said, it's simply a matter of individual personal preference, and to each his own.

Looking at notes on some of the brines I've used in the past, the salt to sugar ratio has run from a maximum of 1:1 down to 1:0, and points in between. For me, the best results have been in the area of  1:0.25 to 1:0.33.

You simply need to experiment a bit to find your own individual "sweet" spot.

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