I thought it would be helpful to write about the main different ways and methods you can use to get smoked bacon, as I’ve started structuring my masterclass in bacon making.
You can choose a variety of ways and equipment, depending on what set-up you make currently have. To be hopefully helpful, I will include a method to create smoked bacon, without a smoker.
I’m going to focus on what the process is, and what equipment you need. The smoking is always after the dry salt curing or wet salt brining (pickling). Since bacon is a salty cured product, you can find more info on curing and brining here. I’ll focus on the smoking aspects in this article.
Best Ways to Smoke Bacon
After trying various methods, they all get categorized into these styles I’ve found.
- Liquid Smoke Bacon (No Smoker)
- Wet Brined, Cooked & Smoked Bacon (Hot Smoked)
- Cooked and Smoked Bacon (Hot Smoked)
- Cold Smoked and Dried Bacon (Cold Smoked)
Basically, you are either using liquid smoke, cooking/smoking at low temperature or drying and cold smoking.
There are also smoke guns (using a type of smoke vapor in a bowel of the like), that uses a vapor and just infuses it on the surface. From what I know, these aren’t going to impart smoke flavor, since you will cook the bacon and most of the vapor smoke flavor will disappear.
If you wet brined/pickle, I’ve found you come out with a more, ham-style bacon like this:
Different Flavors from Different Smoker Methods
I am a fan personally of the traditional dry cured cold smoked bacon since it intensifies the flavor of the spices/herbs, but it also takes the longest (good things take the time they reckon).
Brined ham bacon like Canadian Loin bacon, I find is hammier, but still, a lovely project to perform. Which is wet salt brined, and then low temperature cooked to an internal cooked temperature (then fried when ready).
Details and What Equipment
You can honestly still get amazing results with curing bacon and then liquid smoke. I would not of included this if it didn’t produce the results you are after. I did some experiments when I was putting together my bacon masterclass which covers everything in detail around this, here is a quick overview.
Liquid Smoke Bacon
From the experiments I have found that if you apply, very lightly, the liquid smoke flavor of your choice during the curing process, you can get the right smoke flavor into the bacon.
As well as after curing, and when you are drying the bacon – you end up with a quite amazing smoke bacon flavor!
Although you can make liquid smoke yourself, I have had a preference so far to buy a good quality type, pure liquid smoke.
Liquid smoke is really the condensation of liquid from the wood when smoked.
Of course just like any type the smoking it’s full of natural chemcicals and should be used in very very very small amounts. To give you some idea I would probably use about 1 tablespoon for each 2 pounds of bacon.
Now below I have categorized smokers for bacon into two groups:
- Cooked and Smoked (Hot Smoked)
- Smoked and Dried (Cold Smoked)
Cooked, and Smoked Bacon
Any type of low and slow-style smoker can work for this type of hot smoked bacon. The key here is the low temperature, which I find ideally around the 200°F/100°C, even a little bit less is good.
This will mean, as the bacon very slowly cooks, it will be able to take on more of the smoke generated by the wood you are using.
But let me go into the few other options to see you get the full rundown.
Charcoal and Wood Indirect Smokers
This really is the low and slow style of smoke, they come in many shapes, but are achieving the same results – the styles and shapes I’m aware of are:
- Kettle Smoker
- Drum Smoker
- Barrel Smoker
- Offset Smoker
- Charcoal Vertical Smokers
Electric and Gas Smokers
This is one the most convenient category (well pellet grill smokers are too) since you have control over temperature via a thermostat, the heat is set using a thermostat with either electric or gas/propane which therefore chooses the heat level.
The master built smoker is an absolute classic, insulation is ok, but you basically have a element and the tray of wood to produce smoke. Simple and effective, one of the most popular smokers and at an economical price vs. many other smokers – link to review.
You can even boost the smoke flavor by using a pellet tube smoker which I’ll talk more about below.
Tip – There are many different configurations you can use for smoking bacon. But what I have found is hanging is better than using racks. If the racks cover certain surfaces on the meat, smoke might not adhere or penetrate it as well.
You can always just put some holes in a slab of pork belly that you are going to be using, and then use a little stick or chopstick to feed the loop above the rack. Or you can just use S hooks.
Pellet Grill Smokers
Although these have been around since the 1980’s, they have evolvedand become very popular, maybe due to the convenience factor of these smokers (inconvenience is good too sometimes I find).
I did a review for a company of a few different models. And became very familiar with how they operate, basically it’s direct heat with a auger screw feed of wood pellets which produces the smoke and the heat.
It’s a bit harder to hang something inside the pellet grill, although some do come with a higher hood. Utilizing the racks work very well for smoking bacon too, just remember hanging is better in my opinion!
Because these are thermostat controlled, and often have built-in temperature probes it really a set and forget style of cooking and smoking a.k.a. low and slow.
Gas Grill Indirect with Pellet Tuber Smoker/Smoker Generator
I’ve played around a lot with using my five burner gas grill on many different projects, and sometimes I’m just placed a pellet tuber smoker inside. For safety reasons, I take the gas/lpg/propane tank out of the gas grill because you don’t want something happening.
I also put a hole in the side of my gas grill, which means I can pump in a smoke generator.
These are very cool devices because they are using a pump with a variable controlled to choose the level of smoke burning. The way it basically works is a venturi effect and it is drawing the smoke around a pipe.
One other aspect is that the smoke generator is external to the chamber whether smoking happens whether it’s hot or cold smoking.
So therefore you aren’t affecting the heat source like a pellet tube smoker.
My favorite smoke generator is the “Smokai” I’ve been using it for many years and it’s the best in the world – in my opinion – review here.
Traditionally a smokehouse has a small fire burning in one location and then a tunnel or pipe to another location, however, this is mainly for cold smoking.
But if you have the wood in a smokehouse, 4 or 5 ft high and 4 ft wide. You could potentially get a heat source like a gas burner inside and has some smoldering chips of wood to slowly cook and smoked bacon.
As you can imagine, for smoking and cooking cured meat, it may need some tweaking to get this type of smokehouse dialed into the right temperature. But the learning process can be rather fun for some!
TIP – hot smoking or cooking/smoking, humidity does not play as an important role as when you cold smoking. If you’re doing any cold smoking over more than a few hours, you want to have 70 or 80% humidity to stop the outside of the meat from drying out too much during the cold smoking process.
Cold Smoked and Dried Bacon
Now, main method number two.
Cold smoking bacon is a longer-term approach, it depends on the cut of meat you’re using. For many pork belly which turns into streaky bacon is always the stock standard cut to use.
However, many other parts of the pig or a different animal can be used for making bacon as well. The issue is that you need a certain level of fat, so during the cooking process the meat is dry.
For me, bacon isn’t bacon without fat.
Here are the methods used and some tips and tricks.
Options for Cold Smoking Bacon:
- Charcoal/Wood Simple Cold Smoker
- Pellet Tube Smoker
- Smoke Generator
Charcoal/Wood Simple Cold Smoker
When I came back from some extended overseas travel I wanted to give a friend some cold smoked bacon as a present.
I had all my tools and equipment in storage. The only thing I really had was a very basic small kettle charcoal smoker.
So ended up wrapping the legs with tinfoil and placing a well-lit couple of pieces of charcoal in a pan underneath the kettle grill. Then, using some smoking wood chips, I just sprinkled them on the charcoal to smolder away underneath, there was an air intake hole on the bottom of the kettle.
Although I had to leave the pork belly that was cured on a rack inside the kettle, it did the job and the results worked!
I thought this would be a cool story just to highlight how simple you can make things.
Pellet Tube Smoker
This is simply a perforated tube, you fill the tube with wood chips or smoking (food grade) wood pellets. You light the end, while it sits vertically and let it burn until about 8 or 10 chips or pellets are lit. This generally has a flame of about 6″ high.
You blow out the flame and it smolders away.
I generally find about 4 to 5 hours of cold smoking from the 12-inch pellet tube smoker depending on the wood and shape.
As I mentioned above these do generate heat, so if you use a small confined space, you can raise the temperature, not what you want, especially when cold smoking (ie. technically under 86°F/30°C – I prefer under half 55°F/15°C)
As you can imagine, you can use many different areas or smoking boxes with a pellet tube smoker. One thing to note, as you always want a reasonable amount of airflow even with an adjustable vent or at least a chimney say that you don’t get overly smoked bacon (over smoking is a very common issue from the comments on this site).
When it comes to smoking I definitely reckon the less is more, the worst thing is cold smoking something, and less is way better than being over smoked and bitter..
To read more about using a pellet tube smoke for bacon and the projects find a link here.
If you want to read a review and some tips on choosing a pellet tube smoke check out this page over here.
As mentioned above, this is the variable control smoke generator one of my favorites.
And you can attach it or bolt it onto many different systems. One of my favorites which I helped a friend with was attaching a Smokai smoke generator to a wine barrel.
Potentially maybe there could be some flavor from the barrel wood but this is just a theory of the stage.
You can also use a smoke generator or pellet tube smoker for low and slow smoking or hot smoking as well.
And the 1 L or approximately 2 pound Smokai smoke generator can last about 5 to 7 hours on a medium setting on the air pump from my experience.
There are a few other brands out there that mimic a smoke generator like Smokai, but some of these I’ve discovered don’t smoke as efficiently, a different type of burning which can create more impurities. I guess you kind of want some clean air combustion.
Also as mentioned above if you have a small open fire and a pipe or tunnel you are actually creating the very very traditional European-style of smokehouse. I’m slowly talking a friend into creating one, since he has a bit more land available around his property.
One of the advantages I read all recently about this, was that you have an open fire and therefore a good amount of airflow, oxygen, and humidity will be passing through the tunnel into the smokehouse (depending on where you are in the world – most cold smoking is done in winter of course).
As the smoke travels through the tunnel that is cooling down by the time it gets to the smoking chamber.
Smokers for Bacon Summary
So hopefully this is giving you a little insight into the many options you have for bacon, as mentioned if you’re looking for the ham style, you’ll be wanting to do wet salt brining and cooking/hot smoking.
I have seen most recipes online tend to go with the cooked and smoked bacon which is been salt dry cured, this is definitely one of my favorite methods.
But I generally do the house bacon with a dry salt cure using the equilibrium method and then cold smoking and drying until about 20% weight loss to intensify the flavor.
For the last tip, I like to slice the bacon once it’s ready and place individual slices on a parchment or baking paper sheet. I then freeze these slices and store them in a bag once frozen. This means I can just grab a handful and throw it into the frying pan whenever I want to have some tasty smoked bacon.
Thanks for dropping by, I’ve been passionate about meat curing for decades.
I Hunt, Fish, Forage, Buy, Butcher (Wannabe Norcini), Make, Savor (I’m not a Saviour), and love curing and smoking meat.
Learning and consuming in a circular fashion, I am always interested in what is happening around the curing and smoking world
Seeking the passionate behind the passion.