How to Make Home-Cured Bacon

Curing your own bacon at home is easy, though it does require one specialty ingredient: pink salt, otherwise known as Prague Powder or InstaCure #1. It is a mixture of regular sodium chloride with sodium nitrite, which facilitates the curing process and inhibits the development of botulinum spores. It can be purchased from specialty markets, from butchers or online. (Do not confuse it with regular salt that is naturally pink in color, like Himalayan pink salt*)

*Please note: While pink curing salt is safe to use in curing, it is toxic in its pure form and should never be used like regular salt.

Create a basic cure mix of 1 pound kosher or sea salt, 8 ounces sugar and 8 teaspoons pink salt, and whisk to mix well. This will create more than you need for one cure; the excess can be stored in an airtight container indefinitely.

Start with a pound slab of pork belly, skin on, weighing between 3 and 5 pounds. Trim away any uneven edges to form a neat rectangle.

Lay out about 1/4 cup of the cure mix in a baking sheet pan. If desired, you can add flavorings like 1/4 cup brown sugar for a sweeter bacon, or several crushed garlic cloves and peppercorns for a more-savory bacon. Dredge the pork belly in the cure mix, creating a thick, consistent coating on all sides.

Put the dredged pork belly in a 2-gallon zip-top bag and seal. Place the bagged pork belly in another container to catch any juices that might leak; the belly will give off a lot of juices during the curing process.

Place the container in the refrigerator. Turn the bag over daily, allowing the juices to redistribute around the meat. 

On the seventh day, check the belly for firmness. Poke the thickest part with your finger: If it’s firm, it’s ready; if it’s still soft, continue to cure in the refrigerator for another day or two, until firm.

Once it's ready, remove the belly from the bag; discard any juices in the bag. Rinse the belly under cold water, and pat dry. Lay the belly on a cooling rack over paper towels in a sheet pan, and place a fan on low to one side. The goal is to dry the meat, and create a tacky exterior called a pellicle. Alternatively, the belly can rest on the rack in the refrigerator, uncovered, for up to 3 days.

Preheat an oven or smoker to 200 degrees F. Place the belly on a rack in a sheet pan lined with foil, to catch any fat that renders off. A smoker will impart a richer flavor but is not technically necessary.

Roast the belly until it reaches an internal temperature of 150 degrees F in the thickest part, about 1 1/2 to 2 hours.

While the belly is still hot but just cool enough to touch, remove the skin with a sharp knife. Discard the skin. Allow to cool to room temperature, wrap tightly, and store in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks. Or, slice thinly, wrap, and store in the freezer for up to 3 months.

Enjoy your home-cured bacon as you would store-bought: Fry up slices until crisp, or use to wrap around leaner meats to impart moistness.

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