Curing Bacon at Home Without Nitrates: A Step-by-Step Guide

Curing your own bacon at home is a fun DIY project that allows you to control the ingredients. By omitting nitrates, you can create tasty bacon that’s free of these controversial preservatives.

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll walk through the entire process of nitrate-free bacon curing, from choosing the right pork belly to flavoring, smoking, slicing, and cooking your homemade bacon Let’s get started!

Why Make Nitrate-Free Bacon?

Traditional bacon contains sodium nitrite or sodium nitrate as curing agents. These prevent botulism and give bacon its signature pink color and smoky flavor.

However, there are health concerns around nitrites. When exposed to high heat or digestive acids, nitrites can convert to cancer-causing nitrosamines. Many people prefer to avoid this potential risk by curing bacon without nitrates at home.

The curing process extracts moisture, inhibits bacteria growth, and infuses flavor. With the right technique, you can achieve excellent cured pork without nitrites or nitrates.

Step 1: Choose the Right Pork Belly

Pork belly is the cut used for making bacon. Look for high-quality pork from a trusted farm or butcher. Heritage breed pigs produce tasty, well-marbled pork belly perfect for bacon curing.

For easy slicing, choose pork belly at least 1.5 inches thick with its skin removed. About 2 pounds will yield around 1 pound of finished bacon.

Step 2: Prepare the Cure

A basic dry cure contains just three ingredients:

  • Salt – Draws out moisture to preserve the meat. Use a natural sea salt like Celtic grey salt.

  • Sugar – Balances flavors. Unrefined cane sugar or coconut sugar work well.

  • Spices – Customize flavors with spices like black pepper, garlic, juniper berries, etc.

Mix the cure ingredients together. Use 1 cup salt and 1/2 cup sugar for every 2 pounds of pork belly. Rub the cure mix all over the meat.

Step 3: Cure the Pork

Curing takes 7-10 days. Place the pork in a glass container or plastic bag. Ensure the cure coat covers all surfaces. Cure in the fridge at 36-40°F, flipping the meat daily.

As it cures, liquid will drip out. If needed, rub on additional cure mix to any exposed areas. The pork is fully cured when firm throughout.

Step 4: Rinse and Dry

Once cured, rinse the pork under cold water to remove the cure mix. Pat it completely dry with paper towels. At this point, you can slice and cook some as uncured bacon.

For fully cured flavor, proceed to smoking. Drying helps form a pellicle – a sticky film that absorbs smoke flavor. Air dry the pork uncovered in the fridge for 8-12 hours.

Step 5: Hot or Cold Smoking

Smoking infuses rich flavor while further preserving the meat. There are two methods:

Cold smoking uses low heat under 90°F. Smoke for 8-24 hours until the internal temperature reaches 150°F. This leaves the bacon uncooked for later frying.

Hot smoking uses temperatures between 150-180°F. The bacon cooks fully during the 2-3 hour smoking time.

Use hardwoods like hickory, apple, or cherry for the best flavor. Keep temperature steady and vent smoke properly.

Step 6: Slicing and Storage

For uniform cooking, slice the pork belly into 1/4 to 1/2 inch thick strips. Cut in the same direction as the meat grain.

Store sliced raw bacon in the fridge for 2-3 weeks. For longer storage, freeze bacon slices up to 3 months. Thaw in the fridge before cooking.

Step 7: Fry or Bake Before Eating

Enjoy your nitrite-free bacon! Frying is the traditional cooking method. Bake at 400°F for crispy bacon without added fat.

Check for doneness when the bacon reaches an internal temperature of at least 145°F. Let rest before serving to allow juices to settle.

Tips for Delicious Homemade Bacon

Follow these tips for great results curing bacon at home:

  • Use fresh, high-quality pork to start with a great base.

  • Keep the pork at 36-40°F while curing in the fridge.

  • Rub the cure mix into all crevices and reapply to exposed areas as needed.

  • Dry thoroughly after curing and before smoking to allow smoke absorption.

  • Use a meat slicer or very sharp knife to get uniform slices.

  • Cook to at least 145°F internal temperature to eliminate bacteria.

  • Let bacon rest 5 minutes after cooking for juicier results.

  • Store cured, smoked bacon as you would fresh bacon.

Customize Your Cure Mix Flavors

Experiment with unique spice blends in your dry cure mix. Some flavor ideas:

  • Brown sugar and maple syrup for sweetness

  • Chile powder, paprika, and cayenne for heat

  • Garlic, onion, oregano for Mediterranean flavors

  • Coriander, ginger, allspice for warmth

  • Coffee or espresso powder for richness

  • Bourbon, whiskey, beer for aroma

  • Black pepper, juniper berries, bay leaves for spice

Have fun testing combinations until you create your perfect signature cure!

Healthy Additions for Nitrate-Free Bacon

Along with spices, consider adding these optional healthy ingredients:

Vitamin C powder – Helps lower nitrosamine formation like traditional curing agents. Use 500 mg per 5 lbs of pork belly.

Probiotics – Supports healthy fermentation. Choose powder or capsules with live cultures.

Dried fruit – Contributes natural sugars. Chop finely before mixing into cure.

Fresh herbs – Add just before smoking for vibrant flavor. Sage, rosemary, and thyme work well.

Vegetable juice – For color stability without nitrites. Carrot or beet juice substitutes work best.

Wine – Red or white wine contributes antimicrobial properties. Use 2 Tbsp per pound of pork.

Troubleshooting Homemade Bacon

Here are some common issues and how to prevent them:

Too salty – Use less salt in cure mix or soak cured pork in cold water 30 mins to reduce saltiness before smoking.

Not smoky enough – Ensure pork is dry before smoking, smoke at lowest temperature for fuller flavor.

Dry or tough – Cook to higher internal temp of 155°F. Check meat isn’t over-cured.

Uncured flavor – Cure full duration until meat is firm. Trim excess fat which resists curing.

Mold growth – Ensure salt fully penetrates meat. Discard moldy portions.

Rancid taste – Use fresh pork and store cured bacon as regular raw bacon.

Make Your Own Nitrite-Free Bacon Today

With proper methods, you can make naturally cured bacon at home that rivals traditional versions. Plus you control all the ingredients and customize flavors to suit your taste.

Aim for high-quality fresh pork belly and make a basic dry cure. Cure the pork fully in the fridge before rinsing and drying. Add signature flavors with smoking. Cook until safe to enjoy your homemade nitrate-free bacon!



Can you cure bacon without nitrites?

Cut your pork belly down to about 5 pound chunks. Rub the maple syrup all over the belly. Add chunky real salt or chunky Celtic salt to the entire piece of meat. Place in a Ziploc bag and place in your refrigerator for 5 days.

How do you cure bacon the old fashioned way?

But really, if you were to put a couple handfuls of salt on pork belly and put it in your fridge for about three days and then take it out, rinse it off and dry it and hang it, that would cure, that would cure the belly. Brandon: Pat it dry with towels, after you’ve rinsed off any salt that remains.

Is bacon without nitrates bad for you?

There is no scientific evidence that naturally occurring nitrates are any less likely to convert into cancer-causing nitrosamines in the body than sodium nitrate. This means nitrate-free bacon may not be any healthier than regular bacon.

Is uncured bacon safe to eat?

Uncured bacon is a misnomer. It’s still cured (or preserved) using natural nitrates found in celery instead of artificial nitrates, but that doesn’t mean you should fry up a sizzling stack. Evidence is still conflicting whether plant-based nitrates are less harmful than synthetic sodium nitrite.

Can you make bacon without nitrates?

Let me explain how we have safely and successfully cured and smoked bacon without nitrates for years. You need five pounds of pork belly, skin or rind taken off. Previously frozen pork belly can be used to make bacon, but your end product won’t be quite as moist.

Do you use nitrates when curing bacon?

We don’t use nitrates when curing bacon. Nitrates are commonly used in cured meats to preserve the meat, kill bacteria, and prevent botulism and food poisoning. Although many people think nitrates are safe, I don’t trust them, because several published studies indicate that N-nitrosamines are carcinogenic in animals.

How do you make low nitrate low sugar bacon?

Homemade No Nitrates Low Sugar Bacon is the goodness of bacon without added junk. Make your own Keto, Low Carb, Paleo, Dairy & Gluten Free bacon from pork belly and a few basic seasonings! Rinse and pat the pork belly dry. Combine salt, coconut sugar, pepper, garlic and rosemary and mix well.

Is nitrate-free Bacon healthy?

According to nitrate-free bacon stans, not all bacon is created equal. “Because nitrate-free bacon is Paleo and Whole30-approved, many people assume it’s a healthier choice,” says Imashi Fernando, MS, RD. The nitrate-free stamp on the label might make you think the bacon you’re eating isn’t so bad after all.

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