The transition from cut pork to smoked bacon is magical. The texture, the flavors, the smell is so vivid that it can even turn a non-foodie into a big bacon lover. There is a reason why it is hailed as the ‘gateway meat’ to lure vegetarians into trying it.
Smoked bacon is a delicacy because the cured pork belly takes on several flavors as it is smoked. The smokey flavor and the rich texture of bacon together can be called a foodie’s delight.
There are several ways one can eat bacon and the sheer diversity that it offers also adds to its universal appeal among meat eaters. You can cold smoke it or hot smoke it, put it in a sandwich and even add it in pizzas and slices of bread.
What Is Cold Smoked Bacon?
Cold smoking is a process of cooking bacon below 30°C/86°F. The difference between cold smoking and hot smoking is that in the former the pork remains raw during the cooking process.
It helps preserve the meat for a long time by curing the pork properly before smoking. Smoke is also said to have certain antibacterial properties that add to the longevity of the bacon.
How to Cold Smoke Bacon: A Complete Guide
We take you through the more complex yet absolutely heavenly process of cold smoking bacon so that you can whip it up at home and enjoy a delicious meal.
The Right Cut
This is the first and most important step in smoking your bacon cold. The loin and the belly portion make for delicious bacon.
If you want to keep things simple, you can simply go for either of the loin or belly portions.
Cure the Meat
You can follow two methods to cure the bacon. These are simple curing or using brine.
If you are a beginner and want to keep things simple, go for the simpler dry curing method wherein you can cure the meat using a plastic box with a few drainage holes.
You ought to keep the cure simple as smoking is what would essentially add flavor to the dish.
How to Cure Bacon Using Salt
- Cut the pork into bacon-like slices
- Mix sea salt, a pinch of cane sugar and black pepper in a bowl
- Make sure the above ingredients are mixed well
- Now press the bacon into this mixture using a container
- Make sure that the mixture permeates every part of the bacon slice
- Repeat the process for at least three days before rinsing off the slice
Brine is another common method of curing bacon before cold smoking it. You can follow the same steps as above if you use that.
Pink salt is also used in this mixture and you must know that it acts as a preservative and prevents the meat from attracting bacteria.
Pro tip: You can add some maple syrup to the curing mixture to give your bacon a restaurant-like texture and flavor.
Dry the Pork
After curing the meat, rinse the bacon well and dry it with a tissue or kitchen towel. Leave it for a couple of hours so that it dries completely.
When the water evaporates completely, you will see a coating of sugar/salt on the surface which will aid the smoking process.
Make sure the bacon is completely dry as any amount of water will prevent the even spread of smoke and won’t let the bacon retain color evenly.
Get Ready to Smoke the Bacon
Light up your smoker and allow it to get ready for the process. You can experiment with the smoke flavor and give the regular apple or oak smoke a break. Get adventurous, we’d say.
The type of wood you use to smoke the bacon can make a big difference to the final flavor. Briquettes are preferred by many to keep the wood smoking while you cure the meat. Apple and hickory are among the most popular flavors used.
Steer away from using wood that is treated, damp or covered with mold. It won’t just jeopardize the flavor of your food but will also put you at the risk of consuming harmful chemicals through food.
Liquidambar is best avoided for cold smoking bacon as it can impart the bacon a bitter taste. The same applies to sycamore wood.
Equipment You Will Need for Cold Smoking Bacon
You can easily smoke bacon at home if you have the right tools. Here is what you need.
- Spices and seasoning
- Curing salt/sea salt
- Aluminum wrap
- Plastic airtight box
- Smoke generators
- Pellet tubes
- Maze smoker
- DIY smokehouse
Some people even like to rent out the equipment for a one-time cooking experiment. However, if you enjoy cooking and love bacon, you can get your own equipment which is readily available and not too heavy on the pocket.
This will save you the hassle of renting out equipment whenever you feel the need to binge on bacon.
Smoke the Meat
You can use a rack, a bacon hanger, or even meat hooks to smoke the bacon. Keep checking the smoker from time to time to ensure that it is all fired up and consistent.
Keep smoking the bacon and see the color change. It may take 6-8 hours to completely smoke it for the best flavor.
Now that the bacon is smoked, remove it from the smoker and wrap it in aluminum foil or parchment paper.
If you don’t eat it all at once you can always freeze and thaw it later.