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Tough Bacon, What did I do wrong?

Discussion in 'Hot Smoked Bacon' started by Mattyt7, Nov 7, 2018 at 12:02 AM.

  1. Mattyt7

    Mattyt7 Fire Starter

    Finishing up my first batch of bacon and am noticing that the bacon is pretty tough, as in difficult to bite through. Has anyone experienced this? My first thought was that I may not have sliced them thin enough. I am doing it by hand with a knife, so the slices aren’t perfect, but they seem to be approximately the same thickness as store bought. My second thought is that I didn’t pay any attention to the grain direction while slicing, but I had read that for the most part that shouldnt matter much.

    heres my whole process (quick version). I applied the cure #1, sugar, and salt to the pork belly according to daveomak’s recipe. I also added a couple tablespoons of water to help ensure the cure got spread throughout the belly from the start. Then I placed the belly in the fridge for 9 days (the belly was about an 1 1/2” at the thickest, but most was 1” or so at best), flipping and massaging daily. After the 9 days, I rinsed and soaked the belly in ice water for about an hour and a half to reduce the saltiness to taste. It seemed a bit tough at this point while doing the fry test, but slicing was difficult with a soft belly, so they came out thicker than I would have liked. Next, I patted it dry and applied some cbp, onion and garlic then put it on a drying rack and into the fridge for 2 days.

    Finally, it was smoke time. I planned on hot smoking it to 155 IT in my 24” smoke vault because I didn’t think I could get smoke from that unit below 200 degrees or so based on past experience. But I ended up moving the chip tray down onto the burner and was able to get a good clean smoke at the lowest setting (about 150). So I ended up doing more of a “warm” smoke and after 4 hours I pulled it off with an IT around 110. After the smoke, I let it cool a bit then wrapped it up and back into the fridge for 2 more days before slicing.

    Thanks for any input!
  2. SmokinAl

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

    I'm a bit OCD, but I always slice mine against the grain.
    Which means that some pieces have to be turned halfway thru the slicing process.
    I also like my bacon crispy, so I cook it longer than most.
    I really don't have an answer for you, maybe you just got a tough piece of meat to begin with.
  3. TomKnollRFV

    TomKnollRFV Master of the Pit Group Lead

    I'm thinking Al is right, you did every thing per procedure, some times you just get skunked on the cut. Unless this is magically tied to not being hot smoked to the IT of 145f or some thing at low and slow <but bacon is largely fat..so I would think this isn't the case>..

    Got me stumped. I know bacon can be chewy, but never heard of it as tough!
  4. Medina Joe

    Medina Joe Smoke Blower

    My last batch was like that. More meat then fat. So I made it extra Crispy
  5. daveomak

    daveomak Smoking Guru OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    Meat texture can depend on processing at the slaughter house.... From my understanding, the "attitude" of the animal plays an important role in tenderness... wild and excited vs. calm and relaxed... whether the meat was allowed to go through rigor mortise or not, is important also....
    When I "dry rub cure" my bacon, I prefer to bake it on a wire rack at 325F in the oven..
    Like Al, I prefer to slice across the grain... I have had tough bacon from slicing with the grain...

    As for soaking to reduce the saltiness.... If you applied 1.75% kosher salt and 1.1 gms per pound of cure#1, you should not be able to taste any salt... Even 2% salt should be barely noticeable..
  6. Bearcarver

    Bearcarver Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    I would have to fault either the Hog itself, or like Dave said (The processing), or the fact that you sliced it thick.
    Naturally the thicker you slice it the tougher it will be to chew.

    I say this because I have sliced my Bacons in every direction on the compass, and it has never meant a thing.
    I slice it in the best direction for the appearance of the slices. I never worry about "with the grain" or "Across the grain".

  7. browneyesvictim

    browneyesvictim Master of the Pit ★ Lifetime Premier ★

    I will tend to agree with everyone saying, its likely just the quality of the hog you got.

    After curing and you rinsed, you let it dry out in the refer for 2 days (as you should), but I have learned from a few of the experts around here that extending that aging and drying step even longer than that drastically improves the taste and texture of bacon. I'm convinced of that now. Made a huge difference in the "melt in your mouth" tenderness of my bacon.
  8. Mattyt7

    Mattyt7 Fire Starter

    Next time I’ll try to cut against the grain. This might not have been the only thing working against me this time, but it probably would have helped.

    I noticed this in my slab too, that the meat to fat ratio didn’t seem like what I’ve gotten in the past or in store bought bacon. That may have been part of it.
  9. DrewJ

    DrewJ Fire Starter

    I wonder if you were wanting to salvage this batch if a sous vide bath would tenderize it for you? I was browsing Serious Eats and ran across this article on sous vide bacon.
    Medina Joe likes this.
  10. tallbm

    tallbm Master of the Pit

    Hi there and welcome!

    Was the skin still on the pork belly? Would that maybe the the extra hard part or is it hard all over?
  11. Mattyt7

    Mattyt7 Fire Starter

    No skin. I’ve only cooked up about a dozen slices or so (maybe a pound), but so far they are all pretty tough to bite through.