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Bacon failure? Need advice

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Joined Sep 7, 2020
Long story, few pictures...please bear with me...not even sure if this should be in "cold smoked" or "hot smoked" bacon forum :D

I've only made a few batches of bacon using a basic recipe from my brother(all weights are per pound of pork belly): 1.134gm pink salt, 0.6 oz light brown sugar, and 0.6 oz (non iodized) sea salt. seal in vacuum bag, and cure in the fridge for 7-10 days.

The first belly was cut into thirds and made into 3 flavors. regular (just salts and sugar), pepper and "seasoned" with garlic powder, onion powder, paprika black pepper and a dash of cayenne. these 3 cured about 10 days, then smoked on "smoke" setting of a small Traeger with hickory pellets until IT of about 140 degrees. I would like to have had more smoke flavor, but the bacon came out very nice. The "seasoned" version was definitely the favorite. Here's picture of about 10# of smoked & sliced bacon from the first batch.
F42D0403-696B-4993-BBAC-25CA52AB18EB.jpeg


I started running low on bacon, so picked up another belly, and prepped the following batches, again using the same base ratio of pink salt to brown sugar and sea salt:

1: Inspired "The Baconarium" "Simon & Garfunkle bacon" , this batch added 1T dried parsley, 1/2T rubbed Sage, 1/2t rosemary, 1t thyme 1t onion powder, 1/2t garlic powder.
2: again inspired by "The Baconarium" - I added 2T Fiesta Brand Salt Free Lemon Pepper
3: looking to jazz up the "seasoned" bacon recipe above, I bumped up the seasonings to: 2t smoked paprika, 1.5t garlic powder, 2t onion powder, 1/4t (heaping) ground cayenne pepper, 2T black pepper.

All went into cure on August 18...then Hurrricane Laura happened and I had to evacuate. Bellies had been curing about 6 days when they went into a cooler with a bunch of refrigerated/frozen meats and stayed very well iced down for 3 days until I could return home. They went back into the fridge for a couple more days, then were removed from cure, rinsed, dried, and coated with "butcher grind" black pepper, then back into the fridge to form a pellicle

from first round to second round, I have acquired a couple "A-Maze-N" pellet racks, so I used that in my Kamado Joe "Big Joe" to smoke the cured bellies. Removed the ash basket and placed the AMAZEN basket in the bottom of KJ, vents open

1. Got cherry pellets in the AMAZEN rack, lit at both ends. It took about 6 hours to burn through the entire rack. Sorry - no pictures of this batch. The bacon is delicious, but needs to bump up the seasonings in cure, because it has just a slight flavor in the finished bacon.
2 & 3 got hickory pellets, again lit at both ends. It took about 4.5 hours to burn through the rack. They went back in the fridge and were smoked again for another 2 hours. Refrigerated overnight, and taken out today to slice, package and freeze.

#2 also needs more lemon pepper during cure, and maybe another light dusting along with the pepper when it goes in for pellicle.

00B4377C-4987-4F0C-A20B-8DADB709AD70.jpeg


#3 is a problem child. Here's what it looked like when I cut it in half to begin slicing:
0FD2E733-87AC-42BD-8D25-8462E64A8C82.jpeg


and the sliced bacon:
A127AE3B-F763-423A-8FE0-1E69ABCF4246.jpeg

2FEE1077-B188-4C76-B426-91A6C4F803E3.jpeg

726AC71F-5D67-48EE-934B-778B346949D9.jpeg

I'm not sure if the cure didn't fully penetrate. Shouldn't it cure from outside to inside, and not from inside out? I'm test frying a few pieces for a taste test.

Suggestions? Sorry for the extremely wordy first post :D
 

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indaswamp

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When you put the bacon that was curing on ice, this slowed the penetration of the cure way down. I would have put it back in the refrigerator and added 3-4 days to the curing time to compensate for it.
 

Bearcarver

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Looks Great, SP !!
#1. I use TQ, so I won't comment on your cure amounts, However that 7 to 10 days in cure is at a Temp of between 36° and 38°. I don't know how cold it was in your cooler. If it was below 36° it could need longer time in cure.
#2. Anyway You Hot smoked it, so it doesn't really matter if it was completely cured, since you took it to 140°---145° would be safe it it wasn't cured at all.
#3. As for curing direction---Bacon always cures from the outside in, unless you inject cure inside, which would cause that cure to cure from inside to outside.

Bear
 
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Joined Sep 7, 2020
Looks Great, SP !!
#1. I use TQ, so I won't comment on your cure amounts, However that 7 to 10 days in cure is at a Temp of between 36° and 38°. I don't know how cold it was in your cooler. If it was below 36° it could need longer time in cure.
#2. Anyway You Hot smoked it, so it doesn't really matter if it was completely cured, since you took it to 140°---145° would be safe it it wasn't cured at all.
#3. As for curing direction---Bacon always cures from the outside in, unless you inject cure inside, which would cause that cure to cure from inside to outside.

Bear
Bear - the weirdly colored bacon was not hot smoked (or I wouldn't call it hot). It was smoked over only the one AMAZEN rack of pellets and no other charcoal. I did not probe it for IT, and the dome thermometer on the KJ didn't even move off it's lowest point. (my mistake, I should have probed it to monitor temps).

Edited to add - I also had a 9" pyrex dish full of ice inside the KJ to help keep temps down during smoking.

So - do you think the weirdly colored bacon is safe to eat? It passes the sniff test, and taste test - it just looks strange.

Thanks!
 

SmokinEdge

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Your bacon is fine. Im betting that your belly’s made little liquid during the curing process. Cure is pulled into the meat by a vacuum, of sorts, salt extracts moisture from the meat, creating a vacuum that helps draw the cure into the meat. The fresher the meat, the more liquid the salt will extract. Conversely, the older, and longer the meat has been frozen, the dryer and the less moisture there is to extract and the less over all cure can be drawn into the meat.
 
15
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Joined Sep 7, 2020
Your bacon is fine. Im betting that your belly’s made little liquid during the curing process. Cure is pulled into the meat by a vacuum, of sorts, salt extracts moisture from the meat, creating a vacuum that helps draw the cure into the meat. The fresher the meat, the more liquid the salt will extract. Conversely, the older, and longer the meat has been frozen, the dryer and the less moisture there is to extract and the less over all cure can be drawn into the meat.
Thanks for the response. They were vacuum sealed, and yes, produced little liquid. I didn't freeze the belly, but no telling how it was handled by Costco prior to retail sale.

This was also the thickest portion of the 12# belly.

It seems really odd to me that the "inside" meat would be pink, like it absorbed the cure, and the "outside" meat would be dark.

Is there any danger eating it? Maybe using it in cooked dishes instead of frying for breakfast is safer?
 

SmokinEdge

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I wouldn’t worry about it. It’s all good.
The color fixing has to do with myoglobin and it’s reaction to nitric oxide. Myoglobin is greatly effected by freshness and freezing. The freezing dries meat out and reduces myoglobin. Your fine.
 

thirdeye

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I admire the fact that you explore aromatics to flavor your bacon, I've had some artisan bacon that was fantastic. From looking at the color alone on #3, is does look like there is a salt/cure diffusion problem. And of course, sodium nitrite is a salt. So, why did the cure not migrate?

Did you turn the bags (overhauling) every day or so? Was the temperature of the coolers colder than 32°? Too cold of an environment can slow down (or even stall) the curing action. You mentioned that you vac sealed the bellies..... It's fine to evacuate air from the bags, but meat needs to be relaxed during curing so all the molecules can wander back and forth and do their thing. Think of a sponge being able to absorb and exchange water when not under pressure, and the same sponge trying to accomplish the same thing under a vacuum. Could the bags of #3 have been too tight?
 

Steve H

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I would also say the temp was too cold, which would have required a longer cure time. And drawing some of the air out of the bag. Then sealing. Has always worked for me. Drawing a full vacuum isn't needed. And could cause the cure to not enter the meat fully in the expected time. My fridge is set at 34 degrees. So when I do bacon. I add a couple days to be sure.
 

Bearcarver

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Bear - the weirdly colored bacon was not hot smoked (or I wouldn't call it hot). It was smoked over only the one AMAZEN rack of pellets and no other charcoal. I did not probe it for IT, and the dome thermometer on the KJ didn't even move off it's lowest point. (my mistake, I should have probed it to monitor temps).

Edited to add - I also had a 9" pyrex dish full of ice inside the KJ to help keep temps down during smoking.

So - do you think the weirdly colored bacon is safe to eat? It passes the sniff test, and taste test - it just looks strange.

Thanks!

I called it "Hot Smoking", because you said you took it to an IT of 140°.
You can't get an IT of 140° in 4 or 6 hours of Cold smoking, or Warm Smoking.
I don't see anything about the color that would make it unsafe to eat. Just be sure to Cook it to 145° before you eat it, just in case some of it wasn't completely cured or cooked.
Those variations of Red Color (Pink, Red, & Purple) shown in your Sliced Bacon, are not the color of Uncured Bacon. The Bad color would be a Brown or Gray, and I don't see any of that anywhere. (See Picture Below)

Bear

The Color Shows Cure didn't get to the Center of these pieces:
uncured cured pork.jpeg
 
15
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Joined Sep 7, 2020
I admire the fact that you explore aromatics to flavor your bacon, I've had some artisan bacon that was fantastic. From looking at the color alone on #3, is does look like there is a salt/cure diffusion problem. And of course, sodium nitrite is a salt. So, why did the cure not migrate?

Did you turn the bags (overhauling) every day or so? Was the temperature of the coolers colder than 32°? Too cold of an environment can slow down (or even stall) the curing action. You mentioned that you vac sealed the bellies..... It's fine to evacuate air from the bags, but meat needs to be relaxed during curing so all the molecules can wander back and forth and do their thing. Think of a sponge being able to absorb and exchange water when not under pressure, and the same sponge trying to accomplish the same thing under a vacuum. Could the bags of #3 have been too tight?
Half the fun of cooking is experimenting...and eating the mistakes, right? :emoji_sunglasses: I just need help eating the trial recipes until I narrow down to a couple that I really like.

there was a period of 2-3 days when I evacuated for Hurricane Laura that they sat in the bottom of a cooler and were not overhauled during that time. They stayed plenty cold, but couldn't easily get to them for overhauling.

I doubt the cooler was colder than 32, because I kept adding ice to it - so the ice was melting. Next time...maybe no makin bacon during hurricane season!

Yes - bags were vacuumed down as tight as my old foodsaver could go. Next time I'll cut it off short of full vacuum and seal with a little air space


I called it "Hot Smoking", because you said you took it to an IT of 140°.
You can't get an IT of 140° in 4 or 6 hours of Cold smoking, or Warm Smoking.
I don't see anything about the color that would make it unsafe to eat. Just be sure to Cook it to 145° before you eat it, just in case some of it wasn't completely cured or cooked.
Those variations of Red Color (Pink, Red, & Purple) shown in your Sliced Bacon, are not the color of Uncured Bacon. The Bad color would be a Brown or Gray, and I don't see any of that anywhere. (See Picture Below)

Bear

The Color Shows Cure didn't get to the Center of these pieces:
View attachment 462251
I see why you thought it was hot smoked. I put entirely too much info into one post :emoji_astonished:

The first belly-worth of bacon I made was hot smoked in a Traeger.

The second belly-worth of bacon (including the "suspect" batch) was "cold" smoked using only pellets in a maze. Since I was "cold" smoking and assumed the meat was fully cured, I didn't bother with monitoring temps (yes, a mistake that I won't make again).

thanks for the feedback!
 

Bearcarver

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Half the fun of cooking is experimenting...and eating the mistakes, right? :emoji_sunglasses: I just need help eating the trial recipes until I narrow down to a couple that I really like.

there was a period of 2-3 days when I evacuated for Hurricane Laura that they sat in the bottom of a cooler and were not overhauled during that time. They stayed plenty cold, but couldn't easily get to them for overhauling.

I doubt the cooler was colder than 32, because I kept adding ice to it - so the ice was melting. Next time...maybe no makin bacon during hurricane season!

Yes - bags were vacuumed down as tight as my old foodsaver could go. Next time I'll cut it off short of full vacuum and seal with a little air space



I see why you thought it was hot smoked. I put entirely too much info into one post :emoji_astonished:

The first belly-worth of bacon I made was hot smoked in a Traeger.

The second belly-worth of bacon (including the "suspect" batch) was "cold" smoked using only pellets in a maze. Since I was "cold" smoking and assumed the meat was fully cured, I didn't bother with monitoring temps (yes, a mistake that I won't make again).

thanks for the feedback!

No problem----When Cold Smoking, there's no need to monitor Meat Temp. However it must be fried, baked, or cooked in some way to 145° IT before eating.

Enjoy!
Bear
 

thirdeye

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Half the fun of cooking is experimenting...and eating the mistakes, right? :emoji_sunglasses: I just need help eating the trial recipes until I narrow down to a couple that I really like.

there was a period of 2-3 days when I evacuated for Hurricane Laura that they sat in the bottom of a cooler and were not overhauled during that time. They stayed plenty cold, but couldn't easily get to them for overhauling.

I doubt the cooler was colder than 32, because I kept adding ice to it - so the ice was melting. Next time...maybe no makin bacon during hurricane season!

Yes - bags were vacuumed down as tight as my old foodsaver could go. Next time I'll cut it off short of full vacuum and seal with a little air space
I'm thinking the vacuum packing is mostly responsible. When dry curing you expect liquid to be drawn out of the meat, then re-absorbed carrying some salt and cure with it. When you overhaul the bags (and using a gentle massage) you are helping the distribution of the liquid stay even as most of it collects in the bottom side of the bag.... But a tight vacuum (the bag pressed tightly against the meat) would surely restrict the mobility of the liquid. And since the meat itself is compressed, the molecules might not move around as freely as non-vacuumed meat. Following advice I got here I don't even put stretch netting on my cured loins and shoulder roasts until after the curing is complete.

Not overhauling for 2 or 3 days shouldn't have a huge affect, but you still had a prolonged period of time when the side that was down got the full effect of the liquid.
 

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