Being a huge bacon lover I’ve tried quite a few techniques and styles on how to make bacon at home. I have showcased below the accurate way to get the right amount of salt to match your taste which I’ll highlight below.
Dry-cured or wet cured, un-smoked or smoked, here is a page that has all my successes and learnings with a step-by-step guide to help you.
Because at the end of the day, bacon is the best!
Below I will put a bunch of links relevant to other bacon topics I have written about on this site as well.
I will include down the bottom three of my favorite styles, Sweet, Aromatic & Savory ideas for your
How To Make Bacon
- Dry cure or Wet brine cure
- Wash off cure (optional)
- Dry the bacon to form the pellicle
- Cold or Hot Smoke
- Wrap & store to intensify the flavor
All the options for all the recipes across the world are based on the above approach.
Basically, dry spices or a wet brine liquid is the first major variation. The second is to either cold smoke and dry it out or cook and hot smoke it.
My take on Bacon categories are:
- Green Unsmoked Bacon – great starter, no smoking, can use a normal fridge
- Hot Smoked
Bacon – if you have a hot smoker, indirect heat source, or gas grill
- Cold Smoked Bacon – drying and cold smoking, longest process, most authentic result
Then lastly, it’s not bacon but it uses pork belly and is super useful that is:
Italian Spiced Pancetta – generally not smoked, but can be, can be made in a regularfridge.
Equipment for Making Bacon
Equipment for Hot Smoking Bacon
Cooking Indirect Heat and Smoking at the same time can be achieved with
- Any Charcoal Smoker – Kettle Smoker, Drum or Bullet, Offset
- Wood Fired Smoker – Offset, Pellet Grill (cheating but easy)
- Electric Smoker (definitely easiest hot smoker to run)
- Gas Grill Setup for Indirect Cooking (Heat on one side, Bacon/Pork Belly on the other
Dry Curing done either in a ziploc bag or vac pac bag
Wet curing in tupperware or a bowl of some sort
Having Ziploc bags or baking dishes, I presume people have in the kitchen already.
There is a range of ways to smoke bacon, depending on whether you want to cold or hot smoking bacon.
It’s generally hot smoking unless you have a device to keep the temperature below 30°C/86°F (will list a few ways below).
There is a bunch of simple tools that can be used to cold smoke, you can even just use them with your gas grill.
I prefer to cold smoke below the threshold at about 20°C/68°F.
A lot of people hot smoke bacon, it’s easier and quicker.
Then re-cook the bacon when they eat it, the bacon will last 1 or 2 weeks. Since it is cooked not preserved like cold smoking.
Equipment of Cold Smoking Bacon
Cold Smoking is more subtle, if smoking is under 8 hours. It’s kind of simple – but there is theory to understand.
Less is better than more with cold smoking (and smoked goods in generally I find). This is because excess smoke can lead to bitterness and isn’t good for you either!
Pellet Tubes (I wrote a How to Use One Here)
Smoke Generators (More info)
How to Cold Smoke (Other options, ie. a piece of charcoal & some smoking wood)
But, cold-smoked bacon is what you would probably buy most of the time from the store, depending on where in the world you live!
Green (Unsmoked) Bacon
Still delicious since you can cure it and add lots of flavor with herbs and spices if you want.
I like to use smoked paprika to give it a certain angle.
Hot Smoked Bacon
Hot Smoked is cured, dried to form the pellicle then you low & slow cook it for several hours to get the smoke flavor into it.
Cold Smoked Bacon
For cold smoking, there are a few simple devices you can use to cold smoke your bacon. I have played around with all of them, so find a link if you want more info on any of them:
- Smoke Generators driven by a pump, adds smoked to any chamber/bbq
- Pellet Tube – cheap &
- Maze Smoker – cheap & convenient
- Smoking chamber piped into a cold smoking area (DIY)
- Accessory Cold Smoker to an electric/gas smoker (depending on the brand)
The key is to have the temperature & humidity (not as essential but helps) conducive for cold smoking.
Most of the time I use a kettle grill with a smoker generator or pellet tube on the gas grill unlit. Can turn out some amazing bacon!
You can turn an old fridge or small wood area into a cold smoker with a simple affordable piece of equipment. But I will get into that later on.
Before getting to the step by step guide, I will go over the main bacony basics, so you can choose what to make. Bacon is done many ways, so
Dry Cure Vs. Wet Curing
In short, dry curing is a direct application of the salt cure mixture with no water/liquid. I use two methods of dry curing – saltbox saturation or equilibrium curing.
Salt Box = rubbing salt in and leave it in a tray or putting in a bag to absorb salt and extract moisture
Equilibrium curing = Using a % of salt to the weight of the meat (my preference since you can ‘choose’ the salt level you want).
Wet brining =a liquid curing solution with salt, sugar, and spices. You submerge the meat for a while depending on the thickness.
I prefer dry curing because I can add aromatics and spices, which I find come through in the flavor more. Because moisture is drawn out of the pork belly, the flavor does intensify I think.
When I add a bunch of herbs or other flavorings to wet cures, it always seems to be subtle even if I use a lot of additions.
Using pink curing salt no. 1 otherwise known as instant cure no. 1, Prague powder No.1 it has many other names. It helps the curing process in many ways, I prefer to always use it for bacon.
What Pink Curing Salt does for Bacon:
- prevents bad bacteria
- gives bacon that nice pink color
- gives bacon that ‘ham’ flavor you know and love
But the biggest reason is it helps make the meat safe from bacteria that could be harmful.
If you want to read some more information on nitrates, I made a page that relates to scientific studies and has just summarized these studies briefly. please find that link here.
When it comes to any types of cured meat, salt size can vary a lot. Size doesn’t matter for the saltbox method, I use coarse Silician sea salt generally. Because you are saturating and rubbing the meat in salt.
If you are using the EQ method, then fine salt I think is best since you
When it comes to the type of salt, the short answer is to to use pure sea salt or kosher salt. This will mean there aren’t any additives in the salt. Like anti-caking agents. Iodized salt is also not the kind that should be used for curing meat since it can create off flavors in the finished product.
Different types and brands of salt, have different sizes, hence the have different weights.
Salt can also vary greatly in shape and density, it sounds crazy but salt from one type to another can nearly double in space or volume sometimes.
So if you measure salt by volume for instance, like a tablespoon, your recipe can have very different outcomes, you may have come across this in recipes and never noticed it, I didn’t realize it for many years.
I love equilibrium curing because you get precision.
As mentioned accurate kitchen scales are a must for this, most scales go to 0.1 oz or 1 gram or 0.3-0.6 oz or 3-5 grams. This isn’t accurate enough if you want to get into EQ meat curing.
For instance, if you have a 2 lb (900 grams)pork belly to make bacon.
Using metric because it’s easier,
Sea Salt @ 2.0% x 900g
0.02 x 900 = 18 grams of sea salt
Pink Curing Salt No. 1 is applied at 0.25% of the meat weight for equilibrium curing (see below)
Pink Curing Salt No.1 @ 0.25% x 900g
0.0025 x 900 = 2.25 grams of pink curing salt no. 1
Equilibrium Curing Bacon Calculator Tool (or any Meat Curing)
I created an equilibrium curing calculator to make it simple for anyone
Here is my curing calculator page.
Here is another page (with same tool but other info) on equilibrium curing here.
If you’re new to bacon making or equilibrium curing, please read the rest of this post.
Equilibrium curing is something I’ve been using for dry curing meats, like more classic Italian Salumi. It took over the way that I cured bacon or when I do a pancetta style bacon.
Considering that this just really basically is a little bit of a calculation to work out the ratios. Once it’s done and recorded it’s pretty straightforward.
The most important thing you can remember is that the total amount of saltiness will include the pink curing salt (@ the recommended 0.25% pink curing salt quantity to the total weight).
So, for example, you are aiming for 2% total salt to the weight of the meat. Then I would use 1.75% sea salt +0.25% pink curing salt.
So, if you want to check out some scales, here is a page that do a good job.
For wet curing
2 tablespoons or 27 grams = 4 cups or 1 quart or 1 liter of water
So if are making more brine, then just double recipe, etc. It a good idea to put the pork in the container and pour some water in first just to work out how much brine you need. Then make the brine amount based on that.
Often the pink curing salt is for commercial purposes, it’s cheap to buy in small quantities, here is a link to Amazon.
Bacon Rind – Skin On or Off
I have tried both options, the skin can actually be super useful for flavoring soups and casseroles if it’s part of the finished product. So keeping it on can make it useful later, once the bacon is finished, I chop up the rind and freeze it in a bag for later on.null
Step by Step Illustrated Guide
- Dry Cured or Wet Brine
- Wash Off Cure
- Dry the Bacon
- Hot or Cold Smoke
1. Dry Cure or Wet brine
It’s a personal preference; I use equilibrium curing because I know that all the ingredients are absorbed and intensify the pork.
Salt Box Method
This is the traditional way of salt curing, you have a pan or bowl of your curing mixture which includes salt, pink salt & spices.
You coat the pork in the salt thoroughly on all sides and in all areas. Then you place the pork in a Ziplock bag or on a waterproof rimmed tray.
The salt will draw out moisture, all you do is, flip the pork every day or two.
The pork needs to be kept in the fridge during this process or a cool area.
A weight can be applied about double or triple the pork weight to squeeze out moisture as well.
Length of Time with Saltbox Method
The general rule is:
1 day for every 2 pounds / 1 kg of meat.
Too Salty after Curing, Soak & Test
If you are using the salt box method, it’s a good idea after washing it to fry a slice up and see how salty it is. If it’s too salty, you can place it in a pan of fresh water for 20-30 mins, then fry it up again until you get the preferred salt level.
My preference, from the
As mentioned previous, if you have accurate scales, you can work out the percentage of salt to whatever the weight the meat is.
Most guys I know that now use this method vary from 1.5% to 3.5% depending on what they like. Salt is
I generally use 2.25% salt to the weight of the pork. How thick you slice it will also have a big difference in the perception of saltiness.
Use a bowl to mix in the EQ cure, you can then make sure the mixture is evenly spread over and have it all in a Ziploc bag. Squeeze all the air out as much as possible, seal and store in the fridge to cure.
Adding Some Flavor Angles
Some flavors I like to play around with:
- Brown Sugar/Honey – 0.5-1.5% of weight
- Juniper Berries – I like to use 3 or 4 per pound of pork
- Dried Thyme – 1% of
- Cracked Pepper – sometimes toasted – 2% of
Many recipes I have found online add
I try and balance they salty with the sweetness.
Length of Time with Equilibrium Curing
With EQ curing, because you can leave it for a few more days and it won’t over salt the meat. A week is generally enough for most sizes of pork belly I have seen, but it will depend on how thick it is. With
A couple of times I have left it another week, no issues. May have even infused more of my spice bomb flavors into the meat!
Wet Curing or Brining
The old term for this was ‘pickling’, you are dissolving the salt mixture in water then submerging the pork in the salty brine for a period of time.
I generally use a weak brine of 5% salt (50 grams) to 1 quart/1 Litre of water as a base for bacon or other things I am wet curing before smoking.
It helps to heat the mixture up to fully dissolve it, wait until it is room temperature, then it is ready for use.
Place a plate and weight on top so the pork stays under the liquid, they tend to float.
So for a 2 pound/1 kg pork, I use as a base:
- 2 Quart/Litres of Water
- 3.5 oz / 100 grams sea salt
- 0.35 oz / 10 grams / 2 teaspoons of pink curing salt no. 1
- 1.7 oz / 50 grams brown sugar
Pink Curing Salt No.1 = 5 grams / 1 teaspoon per quart/liter of water
Length of Time in the Brine
Minimum of 10 days, up to 2 weeks I find is good for complete curing.
2. Wash off Cure
Regardless of which method above you use, you want to have a firmed up the piece of pork, read for a good rinse after the allotted time.
I have always used just tap water to take off most of the cure. I tend to rinse for 2-3 minutes and rub off most of the spices I see.
Optional – Spice Layer
Whilst the meat is still a bit wet from the rinsing, this is a good time to give the bacon a flavor hit if you want. When I combine spices, I get pretty excited, love to vary the combinations. Spice grinder (coffee grinders) are really useful for this.
Generally, I am following some basic rules, but I just throw it all in the
Cracked pepper is one I just about always use, unless I have to appeal to
Other common spices I like to pack on:
- smoked paprika
- garlic powder
- finely ground bay leaves
- finely ground up clove (like 1 or 2 max)
3. Dry the Bacon
Whether you are smoking or not, leaving the pork belly uncovered in the fridge for at l
The pellicle will allow the smoke to stick to the meat easier. Especially important for hot smoked cooked bacon since it’s smoked/cooked over a shorter period of time.
Green Un-smoked Bacon
Unsmoked can still have great flavor if you don’t have a smoker or don’t want to use one (I wrote about the easiest smokers here, if you are interested).
I use Spanish smoked paprika to add another layer of flavor and make it more bacony.
This can easily be done in a cold cellar or a normal kitchen fridge. Having a like to use a cooling rack to do this.
4. Cold or Hot Smoke the Cured Pork
If your smoking your pork, here is a quick guide on how I like to hot or cold smoke.
How to Hot Smoke Bacon
- Complete the drying or pellicle formation on the surface
- Use a thermometer to get the
hotsmoker to 200°F/95°C
- Smoke until the internal temperature of 150°F/65°C
- Storing bacon in a
containerovernight will intensify smokeflavor
Generally, most pork I have smoked, either with charcoal (snake method), electric or pellet smoker will take 2 1/2 to 3 3/15 hours depending on temperature.
Its indirect hot smoking or low & slow bbq style smoking
If you haven’t smoked food before, I have a beginners guide to smoking, just to introduce the basics, check it out here.
Smoking bacon is much easier when hot smoking, it is shorter and pretty
Putting in the fridge wrapped up for at least half a day tends to intensify the smoke flavor.
Cold Smoking Bacon
How to Cold Smoke Bacon
- Make sure smoke is out of the direct sun
- Start smoke generating device
- The temperature of smoker under 30°C,
- Put in a
container& refrigerate overnight if continuing smoking
- Cold smoke for 1 to 15 days
- 10-20% weight loss is expected
, baconwill be dry so it can become preserved.
Cold smoked bacon is the real deal, it does generally take longer, but the equipment you can use is super basic.
To really cold smoke bacon properly, it’s about cold smoking until it has dried out thoroughly, since your getting to a point where bacon has dried enough to be preserved. This is an incredible old traditional form of preserving.
I like to do it in winter since you have to have a maximum temperature of 30°C/86°F. That is the upper end since things can start to cook around that temperature, and it’ also when bacteria start to multiply.
So I like to cold smoke around 59°F/20°C, humidity is another factor that seems to come into play with cold smoking. I read an old smoking book called Home Smoking & Curing by Keith Erlandson, which talks about humidity factors in the commercial smoking industry. Since you are drying out the bacon, you ideally want lower humidity.
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It's been super popular & if you want convenient lifetime access to my meat curing course, find out more here
Store to Intensify the Smoke Flavor
I like to give the bacon a good rest for a few days int the fridge after smoking, then I get the deli slicer out to cut and package it up.
Definitely worth letting the smoke permeate after smoking, always tastes better.
Pancetta ‘Italian’ Bacon Spices
Just like green bacon, if you want to make something super tasty and aren’t going to do any smoking (well you can smoked pancetta if you want, it also tastes awesome). Try this pancetta, it’s traditional
(update-for whole muscle cured meat, where I know what has happened to the meat and how it was handled, I am opting out of pink curing salt 1 – but this is a personal call for anyone)
EQ Method, so there are percentages of the weight of the pork.
|Pink Curing Salt No.1||0.25%|
|Crack Toasted Black Pepper||2%|
|Juniper Berries||4 per pound|
|Garlic||2 Medium Cloves|
Pancetta is a super classic Italian Salumi, but also one of the easiest classic cured meats you can make. In some traditional recipes from Italy, they do also lightly smoke the pancetta. This above is my bacon version.
Pancetta is fully dry-cured and uses pink curing salt no.2 so that the outcome can be fully dried and consumed, once the weight is 65% of what it was when it started.
When you have something that can generate the smoke, cool conditions, then all take but time. My favorite cold smoked bacon was from the deli; it was called triple smoked applewood bacon.
What this meant was that it had three days of cold smoking and was rested overnight in between the smoking sessions. So quite often this is the same time bacon that I make when I have three days to keep an eye on it.
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Different Pork Cuts for Bacon
Streaky is classic, but there are other styles!
Streaky / Side Bacon (Pork Belly)
Pork belly (streaky or side) bacon is the most common and I get excited just typing it. It’s a much higher fat content then loin (back) bacon. That is probably why it is enjoyed so thoroughly by many people.
Being quite narrow, it cures nice and easy too.
Loin Bacon (Back)
Leaner cut normally has a streak of fat, more meat. I like to do loin bacon quite often too.
Middle Bacon (Back & Belly)
A combination of streaky and loin bacon, connected together. Nice decent size too.
Jowl Bacon (Cheek)
Full of flavor, won’t easily find this cut of meat unless you are butchering your own pig or know someone who is
Cottage Bacon (Shoulder)
Lots of flavor too, no solid fat runs as many other cuts. I find a fair bit of marbling in this cut of bacon though. Great flavor from this working muscle.
Gigot Bacon (Leg)
This muscle gets a lot of work, very lean. Solid runs of meat and the lowest fat content compared to other bacon cuts. I have only come across this in the United Kingdom.
So many people seem to think of only streaky, but these various cuts of pork can produce quite nice variations in flavor, even using the same curing recipe.
The texture varies
Best Ways to Slice Bacon
One way to get bacon firmer is to throw it in the freezer for 30 mins, which makes it easier for slicing.
I have a Sirman slicer which does a fantastic job if its a small patch I use a ham knife (or brisket knife). I did a page on some decent cured meat knives that I use a lot, check them out here.
How to Make the Best Bacon
Use quality ingredient and follow an accurate recipe. Find the balance between salt and sugar. Personal preference prevails, cold smoking bacon will produce favorable outcomes. Unsmoked ‘Green’ bacon can be made also. Try a few recipes until you find one that you like.
Thanks for dropping by, I’ve been passionate about meat curing for around 20 years now. Having been lucky enough to learn inside fine dining kitchens through to backyard smoking sessions. From doing courses, trial & error and reading extensively – finally, I thought it was time to share my passion online.
My insatiable appetite and passion toward classic Italian dry-cured salumi and all forms of curing and smoking are what drives this website engine. All the best, Tom