Your supermarket’s owners won’t go out of their way to let you know this, but the majority of “smoked” bacon is nothing of the kind. Smoking meat takes patience, space and skill; how much easier is it just to spray on smoke flavoring? That’s how the reasoning goes, and that’s just what they do.
If you have an electric smoker and you’re still buying bacon by the pound, you’re missing out on one of the best electric smoker recipes. Making your own smoked bacon is not difficult, works out cheaper than buying it sealed in plastic, and gives you endless options as to what flavor you like best. On the negative side, your friends and relatives won’t stop pestering you to make them a smoked pork belly of their own, or to share your best electric smoker recipes. Well, these are the burdens of greatness.
Selecting Your Ingredients
As far as wood chips are concerned, hickory, maple and apple are traditional. Any of these are a good place to start, though there’s nothing standing in your way if you want to get creative. Whichever you choose, make sure you have an ample quantity.
The quality of the pork belly you start with is the single factor that will affect the caliber of your bacon the most. Since you’re taking the time to (hopefully) produce something special, it will be worth your while to pay a little extra for the best you can get. Opinions vary, but anyone who still thinks that organic meat is no different from the industrially farmed stuff deserves to have his barbecue tongs confiscated.
Getting good quality pork belly might be easier if you live in the countryside; if you’re not that lucky, you may need to sweet-talk your butcher a little. You’ll require about 4 pounds (2kg).
First Things First
Pork belly generally comes with the skin still on, which isn’t edible unless it’s much more thoroughly cooked than anyone likes their bacon. Unless your butcher can remove this for you, the only answer is a very sharp knife and lots of patience.
A basic curing mixture consists of salt, sugar and pepper. You can add spices as you wish, or include a “curing salt” which is little more than a preservative, but this is optional. You’ll likely keep your home-made bacon frozen until you need it, so why use chemicals?
Thoroughly rub the meat with the curing mixture all over, place in a pan and put it in the refrigerator. This part of the process lasts about five days, during which the cure penetrates the pork while extracting excess liquid. Turn it over once a day.
To the Smoker
When curing is complete, just rinse off the excess mixture and pat the cut of meat dry. For best results, allow to dry off in the refrigerator for 4 to 12 hours – this will improve your bacon immeasurably.
Get your smoker ready at 175�F (80�C). Smoke for 2� hours or until the interior measures 150�F (65�C). Just like you would rest a roast, allow the bacon to cool for up to several hours in the refrigerator to allow the flavor to settle. Once this is done, breakfast will never be the same in your household again.
Serving It Up
Every smoker owner in the world probably claims to have the best electric smoker recipes on the planet, but nobody is going to argue with a plate of artisanal bacon made using this simple method. The best thing about making your own is that you’re no longer restricted to those anemic, paper-thin ribbons that have somehow become fashionable. Slice it anything up to steak-thick, and experiment with cooking it on a charcoal grill, or baking it in the oven.