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Home Cured Bacon Without Nitrates

Let’s not kill anyone, shall we? Always a fine goal when making any tasty treat. The risk with this recipe is higher than most, (primarily because of botulism) so keep that in mind, along with the fact that I’m not a professional, and basically don’t know what the hell I’m talking about. There. If that didn’t scare you off, then you must be my kind of people. Now let’s make some delicious bacon, without the (allegedly) terrifyingly unhealthy nitrates and nitrites!

UPDATE: Nitrates and Nitrites probably not bad for you. I’ve left the recipe as is, but noted how you could add nitrite if you wish. For what it is worth, I usually do use nitrates these days.

UPDATE 2: People! I’m getting a lot of pushback in the comments about the safety of this no-nitrates recipe. People talking about botulism and other terrors. If you follow my recipe, you don’t need to worry about food safety.  Here is how I convince myself that it is safe: Is there anything in this recipe that someone wouldn’t happily do when smoking a pork shoulder or bbq ribs? Holding a piece of meat in a properly cool fridge for 5-7 days is no problem. Smoking a piece of meat for 2-3 hours is no problem. Just because it is “cured” and we call it bacon, doesn’t make it magically dangerous. Critics, if it makes you feel better, don’t call it bacon. Call it “salty-smoked pork belly”. Feel better?

Tastes like bacon, but more so

My bacon is different than bacon you can buy at the store, and not just because it doesn’t have nitrates. (BTW, that “uncured” bacon you’ve been buying at the grocery store? Packed with nitrates.) Since we are using salt, sugar, and smoke as actual preservatives, rather than just flavorings, this bacon is much more intensely flavored that modern bacon. Since we are dry curing, the bacon loses water in the process, which concentrates and intensifies flavors compared to store bacon, which often has brine added to it to make it heavier! The upshot is that this bacon tastes more salty, more smoky, more intense, more “bacony”, and since it has less water in it, doesn’t spatter, pop, and curl as much during cooking either! Let’s cure some bacon!

Our cure: salt, sugar, pepper, hold the nitrates

But first, some debunking. Most people think of  nitrates and nitrites as modern preservatives of today’s unhealthy processed food. In fact, nitrates have been added to bacon and ham as part of the curing process since at least the 16th century. Back then, it was added in the form of “saltpeter” which is potassium nitrate that has been sweated out by rocks, and crystalized on the surface. Saltpeter is mostly potassium nitrate, but some of it is transformed during the cure to nitrite, which is the real preservative agent. On top of that, nitrates and nitrites preserve the pink color of the meat, and slow oxidation of fats, which prevents the meat from becoming rancid. So why not use this amazing stuff that improves shelf life, reduces the risk of botulism, preserves color, and slows oxidation (rancidity)? Well, a lot of people think they are completely horrible for our health, and some people think they taste bad. Simple as that. Personally, I’m not scared of a few nitrates, nitrates occur naturally in some leafy greens, in celery, and in our saliva, and they. But you still don’t want nitrates!  Luckily there is an established tradition of curing meat with salt and smoke which uses no nitrates, and that is what we shall do.

Trimming Bacon

Gnarly, Dude

So. What the hell is a preservative? A preservative is basically anything that makes your food less tasty and hospitable to microbes. Nitrates and nitrates basically poison bacteria that would otherwise grow on the meat. Another method is to smoke the meat, which deposits a layer of compounds on the meat which inhibit bacterial growth, and incidentally, taste yummy. Another, very important method is to reduce the moisture in the meat, since bacteria need moisture to grow. This can be done by dehydration, as in jerky. Or we can draw moisture out of the meat by creating an osmotic gradient using  salt and/or sugar. We will use salt, sugar, smoke, and time to cure our bacon.

This is not the time to skimp on salt

Let me take a moment to bitch about modern “bacon”. They inject a brine of salt, sugar, nitrates, nitrites, some smoke flavor, and who knows what else into pork bellies with hundreds of tiny needles. They let it “cure” for a couple of hours, and then package it up. That is that, enough said.

Do not be alarmed if you find a nipple on your bacon

Sadly, this kind of smoking isn’t good for you either

Dry Cured Bacon

With Advice from Uncle Hall

Cut a pork belly into manageable chunks of around 3-5 lb, trimmed of loose bits, and squared it off. Make a mixture of (by weight) of 2.5 parts salt (kosher adheres very nicely), 1 part sugar, then add a generous grind of black pepper. If you are using pink salt (aka curing salt, aka nitrites), add 7 tsp per lb of your cure mixture. Rub the mixture thoroughly all over the belly, working it firmly onto every surface and crevice. You really want to coat every surface very thickly, or else the salt may not draw enough moisture from the meat.

Put the proto-bacon on a rack, into the fridge. A quick safety note; you must keep your bacon under 38º the entire cure! It will release a lot of juice, which is good, this type of curing depends on reducing the moisture of the meat. After a couple of days (at most), it will stop releasing juices, and for convenience, you can throw it in a ziploc bag, with a sprinkling of additional cure mixture, and leave it in the fridge for another 5-7days. At the end of the week, give it a thorough rub down in fresh water, even letting it soak for a few minutes in fresh water, then pat it dry. Let it sit uncovered in the fridge one more night to let the surface dry a bit, which will help it form a pellicle. A pellicle is simply a coating of protein that comes to the surface and dries out a bit. Allegedly, this helps smoke adhere better, and improves shelf life by keeping oxygen away from the fat. YMMV.

Get a small fire going in your grill/BBQ, far to one side of the grill. Get the temperature of the grill stabilized around 200º. Sprinkle some soaked hickory chips over the coals, and then also put a foil packet of soaked chips (with a few holes poked in the top) on top of the coals. On the extreme opposite side of the grill lay out your pork belly, then put the lid on the BBQ, positioning the holes in the lid over the belly. Keep monitoring the temp of the grill, and let it smoke for 2-3 hours, removing it when the temperature of the meat reaches 155-165º. You may have to adjust the fire, add a few more coals, more chips, another foil packet, etc. Do what you have to do to keep it producing smoke, and the temperature around 200º.

Once smoked, remove the bacon, and optionally, remove the skin before letting it cool on a rack. The skin cooks up a little tougher and crunchier than the rest of the bacon, some people like it, some don’t. I leave it on. If you don’t want the skin, it pulls off reasonably well while the bacon is still warm, or you can use a thin bladed knife to carve the skin off the slab. Refrigerate, or freeze if you want to keep it for more than a few days. Technically, it is cured, and should keep very well, but freezing doesn’t hurt the bacon, and it is better to be safe than sorry.

To cook the bacon, slice the bacon very, very thinly, which is necessary because this bacon is saltier and more intense than what you are likely used to. Cook it it a pan, apreciating how readily it browns, and without all the popping, curling, and carrying on that wet-cured factory bacon does. Enjoy!

 

74 Comments

  1. Roger wrote:

    Gotta say that picture of your bacon after it’s smoked looks beautiful.

    Thursday, March 24, 2011 at 9:27 pm | Permalink
  2. cedar wrote:

    Thanks, Roger! Tastes pretty good too.

    Thursday, March 24, 2011 at 10:24 pm | Permalink
  3. Joe wrote:

    I’ve been thinking about trying to make my own bacon for a while; I think you just convinced me to do it!

    Tuesday, March 29, 2011 at 10:57 pm | Permalink
  4. Bunny wrote:

    I found you by googling “curing bacon without sugar recipe” As a new diabetic and an avid home bacon maker I’m determined! I’m pleased you don’t use nitrates or nitrites, but am wondering if there’s a way to skip the sugar?

    Before I was cursed with this diabetes thing I’d often add maple sugar for flavor – do you think it will do what sugar does on its own?

    I bought a gorgeous pasture raised pork belly at the farmer’s market this morning. I’m going to try using coconut sugar which is really law on the glycemic index chart. Do you have any thoughts about this Cedar?

    Lastly, what do you think of the stove top smoker made by Cameron’s ? I have one, I love it, but have never learned about controlling the heat when using it.

    Thank you so much!

    Sunday, June 26, 2011 at 10:35 am | Permalink
  5. Rebecca wrote:

    You can totally skip the sugar. We generally just use salt and herbs.

    Thursday, June 30, 2011 at 9:20 am | Permalink
  6. cedar wrote:

    Absolutely, skip the sugar. Both sugar and salt draw water out of the meat, yours will simply be a bit saltier and not as sweet. Your final product may be quite salty (which is fine, and rather traditional) but make sure you slice it very thin, and eat it in smaller servings than commercial bacon.

    Thursday, June 30, 2011 at 9:32 am | Permalink
  7. Aussie wrote:

    Thank you very much for sharing your insights into bacon making. The internet community is richer for having your contribution :)

    Having already made a couple of attempts at bacon making, with the second attempt showing promising results, I can well appreciate your advice and look forward to my next batch being great.

    Thursday, July 28, 2011 at 4:21 am | Permalink
  8. John wrote:

    This sounds like the perfect recipe! I wanna try it very soon since where i live buying pork belly is quite common, for a grilled or as we call it litson(litchon) liempo or large slices of pork belly. But can i skimp on the smoking? because i don’t own a smoker, and it’s way too expensive here, and i don’t have the time to build one for myself. Can’t i just when it is done curing can i just cut and freeze? And how long will it last frozen?

    Sunday, September 25, 2011 at 4:20 am | Permalink
  9. cedar wrote:

    John, give it a shot, even without smoking, just be sure you freeze it right away. Frozen, and well wrapped, it should keep for months, or even a year. You might even try a little liquid smoke in the salt mix. Liquid smoke is a natural flavor, and is basically just very smokey water.

    Sunday, September 25, 2011 at 10:10 pm | Permalink
  10. John wrote:

    thanks Cedar! liquid smoke huh? well i could try that, because i love bacon, and i am trying to find better alternatives to some foodstuffs around the house and i think that this will do great with some of my homemade sourdough bread!

    Thursday, September 29, 2011 at 1:09 am | Permalink
  11. John wrote:

    hey cedar, john again sorry if this seems a bit like spa,m but i re-read your article and i think i wanna try and experiment. 2 bellies 2 cure mixes one with and another without nitrites/nitrates. if i find any real gigantic differences i’ll post them here.(just “the botulism worry bug” also does cooking remove the toxin? this is just to settle my nerves.)

    Thursday, September 29, 2011 at 4:48 am | Permalink
  12. Anon wrote:

    Your bacon does have nitrates in it. The particulate matter from the smoke has naturally occurring nitrates. It’s what gives BBQ that smoke ring (which is simply cured meat).

    And if you’re worried about nitrates better check your “nitrate-free bacon” from the store. Usually producers will use celery powder which has a lot of nitrates in it. But they can claim to be nitrate free simply because they added a precursor.

    I’m just writing this for honestly. I found this website because I’m trying to make bacon without nitrates (for flavor not to avoid cancer*). Problem is, you’ll always get some with the smoke.

    *-nitrites (N-nitroso compounds), at the level acceptable in food, haven’t shown to have much affect. I’ve put a link to such a study from the IJC as “my website.”

    Saturday, November 26, 2011 at 9:23 am | Permalink
  13. Anon wrote:

    Sorry, link didn’t work, here’s the byline info:

    Risk of colorectal and other gastro-intestinal cancers after exposure to nitrate, nitrite and N-nitroso compounds: a follow-up study
    Paul Knekt,1,2,*, Ritva Järvinen3, Jan Dich4, Timo Hakulinen5,6

    It’s the International Journal of Cancer, V. 80, Issue 6, pp. 852-56. 15 March 1999.

    Again, not trying to say nitrates are great for you and everyone should eat them, but just that this idea that they are “horribly unhealthy” has never been shown other than by anecdote. I’m not telling you to love ‘em, but you can relax a little.

    Saturday, November 26, 2011 at 9:26 am | Permalink
  14. cedar wrote:

    Cooking does not remove the toxin!

    Wednesday, December 21, 2011 at 11:57 am | Permalink
  15. peg wrote:

    Can this be done without the sugar? I have a client who is allergic to everything…
    Thanks, feel free to reply to my email. BTW your site is fabulous.

    Saturday, January 21, 2012 at 6:34 am | Permalink
  16. cedar wrote:

    Yes, it will work fine without sugar, though home cured bacon (particularly without any sugar) is a lot saltier than store-bacon.

    Tuesday, January 24, 2012 at 4:34 pm | Permalink
  17. Marijke wrote:

    Can I skip the smoking part at all? I live in the city…

    Friday, January 27, 2012 at 12:47 pm | Permalink
  18. cedar wrote:

    I’m sure it will work without smoke, but it might not taste exactly like bacon! That would be more like pancetta. You might try a little liquid smoke in the salt mix. Liquid smoke is a natural flavor, and is basically just very smokey water.

    Friday, January 27, 2012 at 1:08 pm | Permalink
  19. Dirk wrote:

    Dude, you worry too much. If you’re refrigerating the whole time what’s the botulism risk? My wife mocked me, saying, “Yeah, cause we can’t just buy bacon.” Then she tasted it. First try, killer. And waaaaayyyy better than the commercial stuff. Making a 10 pound piece this weekend. Big ups. You’re on speed dial.

    Sunday, February 26, 2012 at 8:02 pm | Permalink
  20. ZIADA wrote:

    I live in Kenya and tried to make bacon at home but i seem to have put too much salt. What can i do to reduce the salt in it.

    Saturday, March 10, 2012 at 7:57 am | Permalink
  21. Lynn wrote:

    have you used pork loin in place of the belly?

    Wednesday, April 11, 2012 at 2:01 pm | Permalink
  22. cedar wrote:

    I wouldn’t. Pork loin isn’t fatty enough.

    Thursday, May 3, 2012 at 9:28 am | Permalink
  23. Selwyn wrote:

    You may not be an expert but your method is almost the same as my fathers which he used in the 50s.
    Your method is the best for both smoking and curing.keep up the good work.

    Tuesday, May 22, 2012 at 5:07 pm | Permalink
  24. Jesse wrote:

    So, I’m confused, I’m sure this is tasty… but I’m learning about nitrates/nitrites, and they seem to be naturally occurring. http://culinaryarts.about.com/od/seasoningflavoring/a/nitrates.htm

    I’m sure home-made is better, and glorious, but are you certain there are no “nitrates” or “nitrites” if those things are derivatives of salt & common curing methods?

    Wednesday, May 23, 2012 at 8:35 pm | Permalink
  25. Kevin wrote:

    Hi cedar,

    Thanks for this post! I have some pork belly that’s been sitting curing for a touch over a week. Before I slow-roast it, are the temperature references in fahrenheit or centigrade?

    Regards,

    Kevin

    Sunday, May 27, 2012 at 9:25 pm | Permalink
  26. cedar wrote:

    fahrenheit!

    Friday, June 29, 2012 at 12:01 pm | Permalink
  27. cedar wrote:

    There are certainly no added nitrates.

    Friday, June 29, 2012 at 12:02 pm | Permalink
  28. michelle wrote:

    hey, trying this for the first time, something i’ve always wanted to do, wish i lived on a farm, i wondered if i can cure the bacon without the skin to start with, or do i need to wait to remove it after it is smoked, i don’t see the need for leaving it on, but like i said this is the first time, thanks

    Thursday, July 26, 2012 at 12:41 pm | Permalink
  29. tim wrote:

    I vaccum packed mine and also added maple syrup.

    I had to cure for 2 weeks as I didnt have time to smoke it..

    Upon opening the package it doesnt smell very good, is this normal?

    Saturday, September 15, 2012 at 8:10 am | Permalink
  30. Mark wrote:

    I noticed your bacon in the photo was very pink. I thought that was only achieved by using pink salt or nitrates or nitrites.
    You can achieve the typical pink color by using only kosher salt?

    Thursday, September 20, 2012 at 4:19 pm | Permalink
  31. cedar wrote:

    Two weeks sounds a bit long, and if it smelled funky, I’d pass. Next time, try it for 7 days, and don’t skimp on the salt! If you don’t put enough salt on, then you seal it up so juices can’t drain away, you might be making a bacteria factory. Bummer

    Thursday, September 20, 2012 at 5:34 pm | Permalink
  32. cedar wrote:

    I was a little surprised at how pink it turned out too, but it isn’t quite grocery store pink. Some other batches haven’t turned out quite so pink. Some nitrite compounds are naturally formed through curing and smoking, so maybe that is why.

    Thursday, September 20, 2012 at 5:36 pm | Permalink
  33. Kim wrote:

    Thanks for your website, we kill our own pigs and if this works we will be self sufficient in bacon too. We are going to use our BBQ to smoke. It is gas, i was going to put the hickory chip packets on the plate then put the pork on a higher rack, will this work? Do you have any tips?

    Monday, September 24, 2012 at 3:30 am | Permalink
  34. cedar wrote:

    I don’t have much experience with smoking with gas, but it sounds like a good plan!

    Monday, September 24, 2012 at 12:31 pm | Permalink
  35. Kim wrote:

    OK that doesn’t fill me with confidence should I try a wood burning pizza over? which means I will have to share my bacon with my brother!I just read not to use a metal container is this correct? at present my pork belly is in the fridge in a covered baking dish on a metal rack.

    Monday, September 24, 2012 at 11:18 pm | Permalink
  36. Renee wrote:

    This looks great! I have some fresh cut sides from a half a pig we got last winter and I’m finally going to try curing it. Had a safety question, however…I took some of the meat out of our deep freeze a little over a week ago expecting to cure it last week, but I’m finally getting around to it now. Would it still be safe to cure and eat? It is a pig from organic farming methods, if that makes any difference. Thanks for any help!

    Monday, October 8, 2012 at 7:43 pm | Permalink
  37. Renee wrote:

    As per previous comment…Should have thought to mention that it has been in the refrigerator that whole time, not out at room temp!

    Monday, October 8, 2012 at 7:45 pm | Permalink
  38. Pati wrote:

    I’m glad I stumbled on this website. I have been successful at making beef bacon, I cannot eat pork, for a couple years now. Our local meat market sells a powder cure with the sodium nitrate added and I have been looking for an alternative. I use a brisket, coat it and leave it in our shed (in colder temps) for 10 days and smoke in our smoker. I have also smoked on a charcoal grill (hard to control temp though) and read about smoking on a gas grill. It has turned out very well, less fat than the pork alternative, not as card-boardy as the turkey version. Everyone that has tried it has liked it. I will try your recipe and let you know how it turns out, I’m hoping it doesn’t make it too dry (since there is less fat). Thanks for the recipe!

    Wednesday, November 21, 2012 at 11:49 am | Permalink
  39. Mike wrote:

    Your image of a smoker has the caption “Sadly, this kind of smoking isn’t good for you either”. What did you mean by that? We love our smoked meats and are anxious to give your bacon technique a shot.

    Thursday, December 20, 2012 at 3:52 am | Permalink
  40. cedar wrote:

    Mike, some people think that smoked food is linked to stomach cancer. Even if it is true, some things are just worth it.

    Tuesday, December 25, 2012 at 8:11 pm | Permalink
  41. Allison from Oz wrote:

    Hi Cedar, just love your bacon, thanks so much for sharing that, you need to write a Natural Preserving Cookbook! Do you have a safe recipe for Hams?

    Wednesday, December 26, 2012 at 12:36 am | Permalink
  42. Shirley wrote:

    Hi, I’ve had a go at curing two belly joints. One larger than the other, both at the same time.

    I used salt, sugar and black treacle/molasses stuff. I left them 7 days in separate bags, turning once each day. Undid the bags today, drained the liquid away, and had a sniff..no smell at all…which I know to be a good thing ( I raw feed my dog and cat so I know bad meat when I smell it). However, I didn’t use nitrites, my whole reason for self-curing, I don’t want to eat that stuff, but I did see something that claimed risk of bot’ism if not used, so I decided to play safe whilst risking it and rubbed both joints all over with a couple of drops of Oregano Oil and a dash of water to make it spread out. Then I decided to boil the big joint, just in case. But with the small joint, to continue my first attempt at bacon, I have added another layer of salt/sugar, no molasses this time, set it on a rack over a drip tray and put it back in the fridge (which is set at 3 degrees/37.4 degrees) and keep an eye on it to see how it goes. Both joints still felt wet-ish today, so I am hoping the small joint will start to feel dry in a day or two in the fridge.

    Any comments on this?

    Thursday, January 10, 2013 at 8:04 am | Permalink
  43. Shirley wrote:

    Well, I haven’t seen any responses to my earlier posting, but I went ahead with my plans…the boiled ‘bacon’ joint was used to my a kind of asian style stir-fried pork dish and the meat was lovely.

    The small joint went back to drip-dry on a rack in the fridge, with extra salt/sugar added, and I just took it out today, and rinsed, then soaked it for a while in a bowl of cold water. Dried it off, sliced it and fried it…it looks like bacon, smells like bacon, tastes like bacon. Beautiful.

    :)

    BTW, I used Sea Salt.

    Saturday, January 12, 2013 at 3:52 am | Permalink
  44. Koty Russell wrote:

    I use dogs to catch hog to eat, i got a big fat sow and am going to try your method. Sounds like you know the best method.

    Sunday, January 13, 2013 at 6:18 pm | Permalink
  45. Brent wrote:

    @ Shirley, glad it turned out. I just found the thread looking for and answer to what to do with my presliced pork belly. The butcher made a mistake and sent my pork belly presliced but uncured. I am going to try a quick cure on the slices I like the 2.5 parts salt to one part sugar. I think I will use brown so I can get a little of that molases flavor,and then cold smoke it with apple wood.

    Monday, January 14, 2013 at 8:04 pm | Permalink
  46. Will wrote:

    This recipe is absolutely NOT safe. You do NOT want to screw around with botulism.

    You CAN make bacon without nitrates, but it’s not safe to smoke it. You should instead roast it in an oven at low temp to ~155F internal temperature. There’s still a risk of botulism with this method, but less so.

    Also, if you don’t use nitrates then it’s not real bacon, it’s more of a ham-like product.

    Finally, as has been mentioned above, there’s absolutely no evidence that nitrates from cured meats is bad for human health. In fact, our salivary glands produce tons of nitrates, and there’s more of them in leafy greens like spinach than in bacon.

    Tuesday, January 22, 2013 at 10:06 am | Permalink
  47. cedar wrote:

    Will, I’m afraid I simply don’t agree. First of all, I specify the cure should be at or below 38º for the entire time, so no danger there. Second, it only smokes for a couple of hours, and at a temperature higher than is friendly for botulism growth. Even if a few bacteria grow (which I doubt) toxins will not have time to accumulate. The meat does transition through the “danger zone” temperatures of course, but so does ribs or smoked pork shoulder. Finally even if a few spores develop (doubtful), once finished and sliced, bacon is cooked to very high temperatures before being consumed, so spores will be heat killed.

    Now, of course there are no guarantees, and certainly using nitrites is safer than not using nitrites when it comes to botulism. But I don’t agree at all that this is reckless recipe from a food-safety standpoint. I’d be worried if it was a bigger piece of meat that spent lots and lots of time smoking at lower temps. Why would you imagine this recipe is more dangerous than smoking a pork shoulder?

    Wednesday, January 23, 2013 at 3:12 pm | Permalink
  48. Will wrote:

    Perhaps my comment was a little alarmist, but consider a few things:

    1) Botulism is very dangerous. Why would you ever put yourself at risk of it, even if that risk is very low?
    2) Since nitrites & nitrates are absolutely not unhealthy, what is the point of excluding nitrites when it can eliminate that risk (even it is very small)? Further discussions on the safety of nitrites and nitrates: http://ruhlman.com/2011/05/the-no-nitrites-added-hoax/ http://chriskresser.com/the-nitrate-and-nitrite-myth-another-reason-not-to-fear-bacon
    3) Your bellies might have taken 2 hours to smoke, but if you’re doing very thick bellies it could easily take longer. The bellies in the photos are not very thick.
    4) Without nitrites it’s not really bacon, although it can still be tasty

    Anyhow, I feel that this should at least be mentioned/warned since I’m sure there are many people Google’ing how to cure bacon without nitrites (because they’re misinformed that they’re unhealthy)

    Wednesday, January 23, 2013 at 3:30 pm | Permalink
  49. cedar wrote:
    1. People who think nitrites are bad for you may think the very low risk of botulism is worth it.
    2. I don’t think nitrites are likely bad either, but lots of people do. Personal choice and all that.
    3. Even at 4-5 hours, I can’t imagine anything going wrong. It is very common to smoke a shoulder for 20 hours, and nobody freaks about that.
    4. I was surprised at how pink and bacony this was, even compared to when I do use nitrites. I expected it to be more like a smoked roast, but the bacony part came through. I wonder if the nitrogen dioxide from the smoke caused some sort of nitrite-like compounds to form?

    As for the disclaimer, I’ll add those links that you suggested, and people can make up their own minds.

    Wednesday, January 23, 2013 at 4:22 pm | Permalink
  50. Will Glennon wrote:

    Cedar,
    Needless to say I love your site and thought I would share this with you. I have wondered like you for many years why people continue to put up with commercial bought bacon and a little while back got it into my head to try to do something about it. Bottom line as you know curing your own bacon and smoking it is actually just plain simple. So I concluded that what is keeping people bound in tasteless ignorance is 1. lack of information, 2. lack of confidence, 3. lack of the proper tools and a big part of number three is someway to separate the pork rind from the belly and then make nice clean slices without mutilating your slab of bacon and without buying an $800 meat slicer.
    The result of all that thinking was a lot of playing around with different designs until I can up with something I think both works well and is beautiful as well. I have launched it on Kickstarter where I am trying to raise some funds to start cranking out these “Making Bacon at Home” kits. You can take a look at: http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/2046170051/making-bacon-at-home?ref=live. I did get a very nice Tweet from Michael Rhulman which as you can imagine was very encouraging.
    The whole idea is to try to reach those who are interested but either uninformed or just too busy to do all the leg work themselves and then hook them with the taste of their first homemade bacon at which point they hopefully will get serious about exploding the world of real food.
    In the meantime any help you can provide letting people know about this effort would of course be appreciated.
     
    Will

    Wednesday, February 6, 2013 at 3:55 pm | Permalink
  51. cedar wrote:

    Will, to me, cutting off the rind (or easier, pulling it off while it is still warm after the smoker) and slicing are pretty easy, but I’m all for a device if it will help people gain the confidence they need to dive in! Looks like a cool invention you have! Best of luck!

    Wednesday, February 6, 2013 at 10:44 pm | Permalink
  52. Aircastles wrote:

    I’ve read many recipes for making bacon at home and most all use more pink salt than the label recommends on my pink salt (Instacure #1) which says 1 level tsp per 5 lbs pork belly. Is it ok to use the recommended amount of pink salt instead of what’s called for in the recipe?

    Tuesday, March 5, 2013 at 5:53 am | Permalink
  53. C Schroeder wrote:

    @ Aircastle
    You should use the amount listed with your instacure #1. The reason is because bacon tends to reach higher temps while cooking so the legal limit is 200 ppm for bacon as compared to 600 ppm for other cured foods such as ham. (Sodium Nitrite, Instacure #1 only forms carcinogens at very high temps.)

    Friday, March 8, 2013 at 7:24 am | Permalink
  54. C Schroeder wrote:

    As for making bacon without using Instacure #1 aka Prague Powder (which only contains nitrites and no nitrates)…

    Any one visiting this site needs to read (Making Quality Meats and Sausages at Home) or one of the other quality books on the subject. This book is nearly 700 in depth pages and You will understand why you must use the proper cure (#1 or #2) to safely make quality cured bacon or other cured foods and the safety concerns and studies done on nitrites and nitrates.

    The information below is from reading books by experts (who don’t like nitrates any more then the rest of us but realize it is NECESSARY for the safe curing process. According to experts who have studied the history of curing and the health affects of nitrites and nitrates in our diet. It is NOT JUST BOTULISM you are preventing and killing by using nitrites, it is the other aerobic Pathogenic Bacteria common in food prep areas such as E. Coli, Staph, Listeria, Salmonella, and the naturally occurring food spoilage bacteria found in all meats. It is not just the time in the smoker going through the danger zone, it is the extended stay in the fridge and the care of the meat before it came into your possession that you need to be concerned about. In fact many food spoilage bacteria grow well at fridge temps, (if you don’t believe me, leave a pound of meat in your fridge and see how long it lasts). While salt slows the growth of bacteria, it doesn’t stop it or kill it.

    As far eating nitrates, According to the aforementioned book, if you buy your vegetables in a grocery store, and you have a 1/4 # spinach salad and a 1/4# potato with your cured meat main course (such as a brat or other sausage) you are getting close to the same amount OR MORE nitrates from the spinach and potatoes than from the cured meat. If that meat is properly cured bacon you are getting way more from the veggies. If you are concerned about the amount of nitrates which can form nitrosamines (which are carcinogenic), again stats from the aforementioned book, (it is more dangerous to eat vegetables on a regular basis than sausage (another food cured with nitrites)

    As for the carcinogen (nitrosamine) formed by nitrites when cooked it requires a temp of around 600 degrees.

    An added benefit of proper curing of bacon is that you can then PROPERLY cold smoke it (temps below 80 degrees with thinner smoke (less nitrites going into your food) off and on over a day or two) which I believe creates a much tastier and consistent product. And you don’t need as much investment for cold smoking, it can even be done in a cardboard box!!

    I hope I haven’t been rude, but as someone who worked in a poultry slaughterhouse and has read alot on the subject of safe food prep and making your own meat products at home, I feel your advocating a very unsafe practice and might as well tell people to quit using child safety seats.

    After all what are the chances, right?

    Friday, March 8, 2013 at 8:43 am | Permalink
  55. Grant Arthur wrote:

    Hi

    Has anyone tried curing bacon with malt and salt. I have been curing bacon with brown sugar and salt (50/50) for some time, but was thinking about replacing the brown sugar with malt powder.

    I don’t use nitrates/nitrites and find that I need a bit of sugar with the salt to get the flavour I want.

    I have used malt in home brewing and wondered if it could replace the sugar for something different.

    Any commnents welcome.

    TA

    GA

    Monday, March 11, 2013 at 2:50 am | Permalink
  56. Aircastles wrote:

    Thanks for the info. I had already started my bacon when I found the discrepancy between the recipe I was using and the instructions on the pink salt. I decided to use the amount recommended on the label of Instacure. Bacon is going into the smoker this morning. My sample before smoking tasted good so here’s hoping I don’t mess it up now!!!

    Wednesday, March 13, 2013 at 7:21 am | Permalink
  57. cedar wrote:

    AIRCASTLES, my directions don’t specify how much pink salt to use by the weight of the pork. Instead I specify how much pink salt to use per pound of cure. The cure is then rubbed thickly on the pork belly. There may well be (and usually is) plenty of cure left over for next time, so all the pink salt that goes into the cure doesn’t end up on the pork.

    Wednesday, April 10, 2013 at 4:34 pm | Permalink
  58. cedar wrote:

    C Schroeder,
    I appreciate your concerns, and if you read the recipe I give, I discuss nitrites, pink salt, etc, and I recommend their use. However, lots of people are dead set against using pink salt. This recipe can help those folks out. As long as you are extremely fastidious about cleanliness and temperatures it can be done safely. If you follow my temperatures and times, this is not much different from a food safety standpoint from smoking some ribs.

    Wednesday, April 10, 2013 at 4:39 pm | Permalink
  59. cedar wrote:

    GRANT ARTHUR, no idea!

    Wednesday, April 10, 2013 at 4:39 pm | Permalink
  60. Grant Arthur wrote:

    Hi CEDAR

    Thanks for responding.

    I did try one batch with pure glucose and one batch with light malt. Both came out really well. I also added some celery salt to the mixture.

    The malt added a bit of flavour but, more importantly, stopped the bacon tasting too salty.

    I will keep trying new things.

    TA

    GA

    The

    Sunday, April 14, 2013 at 12:39 am | Permalink
  61. hweathers wrote:

    my daughter gets migrains from the nitrites in bacon. I’m hoping she can eat this cause we all love it just don’t cook it much because of the severe headaches. Thanks.

    Tuesday, May 7, 2013 at 2:18 pm | Permalink
  62. Anonymous wrote:

    Just finished my first batch of homemade nitrate free bacon after comparing your site and others, and I have to say that it is the best bacon we have ever had! Thanks for the tips!

    Sunday, August 4, 2013 at 3:58 pm | Permalink
  63. Kris wrote:

    I’ve been smoking salt/sugar cured bacon for 4 years with no problems. If I was making something that wanted to hang for 3 months at cellar temperature, yeah, I’d want some nitrite. But I feel perfectly comfortable with 5 days salt/sugar in the fridge. Just cured an experimental piece of pork belly in Vietnamese caramel sauce, fish sauce, black pepper & garlic. There will be more such experiments; it is DELICIOUS.

    Saturday, August 17, 2013 at 12:30 pm | Permalink
  64. Jim wrote:

    Hi,

    Could this be used to make Ham too? and could you skip the smoking part as I have put my BBQ away for the winter?

    Thanks

    Monday, October 7, 2013 at 4:43 am | Permalink
  65. zootalaws wrote:

    Your comment about not using pork loin because it isn’t fatty enough is confusing. The brine doesn’t penetrate the fat hardly at all. And British/Canadian back bacon is basically pork loin with a bit of belly attached – but mostly loin.

    I make bacon using a similar process to yours using pork loin all the time – half the price of belly here (Chinese country – they want the bellies and not the loin, so the price of belly is much greater) and it is great. Just last week I put down a half-belly, half loin batch and they are progressing very similarly.

    I smoke sometimes – but sometimes want the ‘pancetta’ style for cooking with, without the smoke. Haven’t noticed any difference in keepability – it never lasts long enough round here :)

    A tip for the no-sugar cure, soak your bacon in fresh water for four hours, change the water and soak for another hour – it will get rid of a lot of the saltiness.

    Thanks for your article, very informative.

    Tuesday, November 12, 2013 at 5:11 am | Permalink
  66. Ron wrote:

    Hi. Wonderful site and great ideas. I understand all except you did not mention how you store it in the fridge. You you put it in a zip lock plastic bag and massage and flip every day or do you put it on a rack over a drain pan? Covered or uncovered? Could you please go into detail on this part? Thanks.

    Wednesday, November 20, 2013 at 11:01 am | Permalink
  67. cedar wrote:

    I didn’t mean to imply that it wouldn’t work without the fat. I meant that I wouldn’t recommend it because fattier cuts are a a more delicious choice.

    Tuesday, December 31, 2013 at 11:25 am | Permalink
  68. cedar wrote:

    I understand all except you did not mention how you store it in the fridge. You you put it in a zip lock plastic bag and massage and flip every day or do you put it on a rack over a drain pan? Covered or uncovered? Could you please go into detail on this part? Thanks.

    I put it on a rack so it can drain for a couple of days, then I transfer it to a ziploc. Turn every day or two after that.

    Tuesday, December 31, 2013 at 11:27 am | Permalink
  69. Jeff wrote:

    I’ve read this article and post and I’m unsure how you can talk about using Nitrates in curing bacon. It is illegal in Canada and the USA to make bacon with nitrates. You use nitrites, which after a period of 4 to 7 days of curing dissipates to a point where they are almost un-measurable since they are destroyed by the natural bacteria in the meat.during the curing process.

    Saturday, January 4, 2014 at 5:57 pm | Permalink
  70. Merry wrote:

    I am excited to try this. We will butcher our two pigs this weekend. I must say about the nitrate/ nitrite issue, I believe it is like sodium laureth sulfate in our shampoos, tooth paste, soaps, & other products…in small doses, it does little harm, but it is unfortunately in everything! In fact we eat some nitrate/nitrite in everyday foods, however in our consumer nation we ingest so very much of the stuff, that it become a harmful amount. Therefore it is advisable to find alternatives, so that we maybe healthy and have our bacon too :)

    Wednesday, January 8, 2014 at 11:34 am | Permalink
  71. Bruce and Cody Lane wrote:

    WOW! We have read your site and am excited to try it, but we have a smoker my dad made (electric and thermostatically controlled) about the size of a frig. and was wondering if it was a safe way to smoke our bacon.?? All the remarks were read, as well, and we will copy your recipe, simple and easy and sounds wonderful! Just want to make sure we do it correctly and safely and you have given that reassurance. Thank you for sharing your recipe.

    Sunday, January 26, 2014 at 2:57 pm | Permalink
  72. Anonymous wrote:

    for salt and sugar what is equal to parts is
    in ounces

    Saturday, April 5, 2014 at 11:15 am | Permalink
  73. Riverwood wrote:

    Just finished the cure and smoke and eating. Not dead yet! For 6 1/2 lb. of pork belly, used 1/2 cup of kosher salt, 1/4 cup dark brown sugar packed, 3/4 cup pure maple syrup and two Tbs of coarse ground black pepper. A little too salty but overall great flavor. I may cut back a tad on salt or try two 20 min. Soakings, changing water between soaking. Used Applewood chips.

    Saturday, April 5, 2014 at 5:38 pm | Permalink
  74. KEBAK wrote:

    Any suggestions on how to adapt your bacon recipe/techniques to work with uncured, but pre-sliced fresh side (which appears to also still have the skin on – came that way from butcher when ordered 1/2 pig from local farmer!?). I’m a curing/smoking newbie, but know that it’s customary to cure/smoke in slabs. Ideas on what to do with my 6# or so of pre-sliced, skin-on? Thanks much in advance for any advice/suggestions.

    Saturday, April 12, 2014 at 10:44 pm | Permalink

5 Trackbacks/Pingbacks

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  5. […] Avoid the sodium nitrites and  look for uncured bacone or bacon cured without nitrites  , salt , sugar pepper, raisin paste, etc can be used to cure bacon but will just not keep the bright pink color. (who cares)    Cool Home Cured Bacon […]

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