How To Cure Pork Belly To Make Bacon – The Complete Step-By-Step Guide

Homemade bacon is incredibly delicious and satisfying to make yourself. While it does take some time, curing and smoking your own pork belly into bacon is absolutely worth the wait. The secret is properly curing the pork, which results in tender, seasoned bacon that is far superior to the store-bought kind.

In this comprehensive guide, I’ll walk you through exactly how to cure pork belly at home to make incredible DIY bacon. Let’s get started!

Overview of the Bacon Curing Process

Curing pork belly to make bacon involves just a few main steps

  • Choose a pork belly and prepare it for curing

  • Make a dry cure recipe

  • Rub the cure all over the pork belly

  • Cure the pork in the refrigerator for about 1-2 weeks

  • Rinse and dry out the cured pork

  • Cold smoke the belly until fully cooked

  • Chill, slice, and cook the finished bacon

While it takes some time, the active work of curing bacon is very straightforward. With the right techniques, you’ll have amazing home-cured bacon to enjoy in sandwiches, breakfasts, salads and more.

Selecting and Prepping the Pork Belly

The starting point for homemade bacon is finding a good quality pork belly. Here are some tips:

  • Look for a pork belly that is around 5 pounds or smaller. Larger bellies are harder to cure evenly.

  • Choose a belly that is about 1-2 inches thick for the best results.

  • Make sure the pork belly skin has been removed, which makes curing easier.

  • If needed, cut the pork belly into smaller, more manageable pieces for curing and smoking.

Before curing, rinse the pork belly under cold water and pat it completely dry. Then it’s ready for the curing process.

Making a Dry Cure for the Pork Belly

There are many recipes for bacon cures, but most include just a few key ingredients:

  • Salt – Necessary for flavor and preservation. Use non-iodized salt like kosher or sea salt.

  • Sugar – Balances out saltiness and adds a touch of sweetness. Brown sugar is commonly used.

  • Curing salt – Contains nitrites to retain color and prevent bacteria. Use InstaCure #1 or Prague Powder #1.

  • Spices and herbs – Customize flavors with pepper, garlic, juniper berries, rosemary, etc.

When mixing up a dry cure, pay close attention to the specific measurements and ratios provided in recipes for safety and proper curing.

Applying the Cure to the Pork Belly

Once your cure recipe is mixed, it’s time to apply it to the pork belly:

  • Liberally rub the cure into all surfaces of the pork. Get into creases and openings.

  • Pack any remaining cure around the pork belly pieces inside the bag or container.

  • Seal the pork belly in a zip-top bag or airtight container for curing.

  • Cure pork in the refrigerator at 35-45°F for approximately 7 days per inch of thickness.

  • Flip and massage the bagged pork daily to distribute cure evenly.

The cure will penetrate the meat, seasoning it and killing any bacteria.

Rinsing and Drying the Cured Pork

After the curing period, the pork belly must be rinsed well before smoking:

  • Remove pork belly from cure and gently rinse under cool water.

  • Pat dry completely with paper towels.

  • At this point you can slice off a small piece to test for saltiness and flavor.

  • Place pork belly on a wire rack set over a sheet pan or plate.

  • Refrigerate uncovered 12-24 hours to develop a tacky skin or pellicle.

These steps will remove excess cure and any harmful bacteria from the pork.

Smoking and Cooking the Cured Pork Belly

Now the fun part – smoking! Follow these guidelines:

  • Set up your smoker or grill for cold smoking at 150-180°F. Use apple, hickory, mesquite or other wood.

  • Place cured pork belly directly on racks. Don’t overlap pieces.

  • Maintain ideal smoking temperature and smoke pork for 4-12 hours.

  • Cook until pork reaches an internal temperature of ~150°F.

  • For extra flavor, baste with maple syrup, bourbon, etc near the end.

  • Remove smoked pork belly and allow to cool completely.

The low, slow smoking cooks the pork while infusing delicious smoky flavor.

Slicing, Storing and Cooking the Finished Bacon

Once smoked, here are some final steps:

  • Chill the smoked pork belly overnight in the fridge before slicing. This makes it easier to cut.

  • Use a sharp knife or meat slicer to cut bacon into desired thickness.

  • Vacuum seal slices in batches and freeze for longer storage.

  • Otherwise store in sealed bags in the fridge for 2-4 weeks.

  • Cook slices in a skillet over medium heat until browned and sizzling before serving.

After all the effort curing and smoking the pork belly, enjoy your incredible freshly sliced homemade bacon!

Tips for Successful Bacon Curing

Curing pork belly into bacon does take some patience, but follow these tips and tricks:

  • Weigh pork belly pieces to accurately calculate cure amounts.

  • Make sure pork stays submerged in cure inside the bag.

  • Cure in the fridge, not at room temp.

  • Flip and massage daily to distribute cure evenly.

  • Add any extra desired seasoning once cured before smoking.

  • Use a digital thermometer to monitor doneness precisely.

  • Let smoked bacon rest overnight before slicing for clean cuts.

Putting a little extra care into the process will pay off in the end with gorgeous homemade bacon.

Variations for Different Bacon Flavors

The basic curing method allows lots of room for customization and unique flavors. Try out these variations:

  • Maple bacon – Add more maple syrup or powder to the cure.

  • Peppered bacon – Use whole black peppercorns and cracked peppercorns.

  • Spicy bacon – Incorporate cayenne, crushed red pepper, chili powder.

  • Garlic bacon – Add minced garlic or garlic powder to the cure.

  • Honey cinnamon bacon – Include ground cinnamon and honey in the mix.

Let your imagination run wild coming up with your own signature bacon cure recipes!

Serving Suggestions for Your Home-Cured Bacon

Once ready, here are some tasty ways to enjoy your DIY bacon:

  • Classic BLTs with tomato, lettuce and mayo.

  • Baked potatoes topped with crumbled bacon and cheddar.

  • Macaroni and cheese with crispy bacon mixed in or on top.

  • Brussels sprouts roasted with chunks of bacon.

  • Grilled cheese sandwich with melty cheddar and bacon.

  • Bacon sizzled up for breakfast alongside eggs.

  • Cobb salad topped with bacon crumbles.

The possibilities are endless when you have tender, smoky homemade bacon on hand!

It’s incredibly rewarding to turn a raw pork belly into deliciously cured and smoked bacon right in your own kitchen. While it does require patience during the curing and smoking process, the wait is well worth it when you get to enjoy insanely flavorful artisan bacon. Using the right techniques for preparing the pork belly, making a cure, and cold smoking will ensure homemade bacon success. Incorporate different flavors into your bacon cure until you create your ultimate recipe. Then sit back and reap the tasty rewards of your DIY bacon effort in all kinds of meals and dishes.

Easy Homemade Bacon | How to Cure Your Own Bacon at Home


Why do you cure pork belly for bacon?

Cured bacon is bacon that has been preserved with a combination of salt, sodium, and nitrates. Nitrates, in particular, are what give bacon a pink color and help to preserve it over time.

What is the process of curing bacon?

Most bacon today is cured through wet curing. Traditional curing ingredients like salt, sugar, sodium nitrite and potentially other chemicals or seasonings are mixed to create a brine. The bacon is either placed in the brine to soak or, more commonly, is injected with the brine.

How long can you cure pork belly?

Leave it in the refrigerator for a week. Turn it over daily and pour off any liquid. The tesa is ready when the salts have penetrated to the center, one to two weeks depending on how thick the belly is.

Is it cheaper to buy pork belly and make your own bacon?

Is it Cheaper to Make Your Own Bacon? This answer depends on how you source your pork belly and what kind of bacon you compare the cost to. If you’ve raised and butchered your own hogs, then the cost of your pork belly will be less than what you can buy it for from the grocery store.

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