The Complete Guide to Making Salt Cured Bacon at Home

Bacon is a beloved breakfast staple in many households. The smoky, salty, umami flavors of perfectly crisped baconcomplement eggs pancakes hashbrowns and more like no other food can.

While you can easily buy bacon at any grocery store, there’s nothing quite like homemade cured bacon. It’s cheaper, tastier, and allows you to control exactly what goes into your food.

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll walk through everything you need to know to make delicious salt cured bacon at home.

Overview of Salt Curing Bacon

Salt curing is one of the oldest preservation methods, used for thousands of years to extend the shelf life of meats before refrigeration. It works by drawing moisture out of the meat through osmosis.

Without moisture, bacteria can’t grow, and the meat is preserved. Salt curing gives bacon its signature salty flavor and firm, dry texture as well.

Curing bacon takes 5-10 days from start to finish. The basic process is

  • Salt the pork belly – Coat the pork belly thoroughly in a salt cure mix. This draws out moisture.

  • Rest in the fridge – Store the pork in the fridge for 5-7 days to cure. Flip daily.

  • Rinse and dry – Rinse off the salt cure and pat the bacon completely dry.

  • Hang to rest – Hang the bacon in a cool, dry place for 1-2 weeks. This allows flavors to develop.

  • Slice and cook – Slice the bacon and fry, bake or smoke it before eating.

The entire process requires very little active work. Most of the time is hands-off waiting for the bacon to cure and rest.

Why Make Homemade Bacon?

Curing your own bacon isn’t just for homesteaders and hardcore DIYers. There are many great reasons to try your hand at this tasty project:

Better taste – Home cured bacon tastes better than storebought. You control the ingredients and wood smoke flavors.

No chemicals – Commercial bacon contains nitrites, nitrates and other preservatives. Home curing uses just salt.

Cost savings – Home curing is very affordable. A pork belly costs just a few dollars per pound.

Sustainable – Make use of the whole animal from sustainable local farms.

Custom flavors – Adjust the salt, sugars and spices in your cure mix to suit your taste.

Food safety – Skip the mystery ingredients and handling of commercial pork.

Satisfaction – Learn a new skill and take pride in your homemade bacon.

If you’ve never cured meat before, bacon is the perfect place to start. Let’s look at the simple process.

Ingredients Needed for Salt Cured Bacon

Curing bacon only requires three basic ingredients:

  • Pork belly – With the skin removed. Choose pastured pork from a local farm if possible.

  • Salt – Pickling salt or other non-iodized salt. Kosher salt works too.

  • Sugar – White sugar, brown sugar, maple syrup or honey.

That’s it! For flavor, you can also add any of the following optional ingredients:

  • Spices – Black pepper, crushed red pepper, paprika, garlic, etc.

  • Herbs – Rosemary, thyme, sage, etc.

  • Flavorings – Bourbon, coffee, apple cider, etc.

  • Cure accelerator – Pink salt or Prague Powder #1 (instacure) for color and flavor. Use very sparingly.

When choosing ingredients, remember that whatever flavors you add will concentrate over the long curing time. A little spice or coffee goes a long way.

Step-By-Step Instructions for Curing Bacon

Follow these simple steps for perfectly cured bacon every time:

1. Prepare the Pork Belly

Start with a good quality pork belly, preferably from pastured heritage breed pigs. Ask your butcher for a pork belly with the skin removed.

Rinse the pork belly and pat it completely dry. Trim off any flaps of loose meat or excess fat.

Weigh the pork belly. You’ll need about 1 tablespoon of salt per pound of belly weight.

2. Make the Cure Mixture

In a small bowl, combine:

  • 1 tablespoon salt per lb of pork belly weight
  • 1 teaspoon sugar per lb pork belly weight
  • Any additional spices, herbs or flavorings (optional)

Mix the cure ingredients together until evenly blended.

3. Apply the Cure

Lay the pork belly in a non-reactive pan or zip top bag. Rub the cure mixture all over the meat, coating it completely on all sides.

If using a bag, press out any air before sealing it. Place the bagged pork in a pan to catch any leaks.

4. Cure in the Refrigerator

Refrigerate the pork belly for 5-7 days, flipping it daily.

After a few days in the salt cure, moisture will begin to leech out of the meat into the bag or pan. Drain this liquid daily to prevent over-salting.

5. Rinse and Dry

After 5-7 days remove the pork belly from the fridge. Rinse it under cold water to remove the salt cure.

Pat the bacon completely dry with paper towels. It should feel firm to the touch.

6. Rest at Room Temp

Hang the bacon or place it on a wire rack in a cool, dry place like a pantry or cellar.

Let it rest for 1-2 weeks to allow the flavors to evenly distribute.

7. Slice and Cook

Finally, it’s time to cook your bacon! Slice it to your desired thickness.

Fry, bake or smoke the slices until sizzling, golden and irresistible.

Refrigerate leftover bacon for 2-4 weeks, or freeze for longer storage.

Frequently Asked Questions About Salt Cured Bacon

Here are answers to some common questions about salt curing bacon:

How long does it take to cure bacon?
The salt curing time is 5-7 days. Resting may take 1-2 weeks. Total time is 1-2 weeks.

What temperature for curing bacon?
Cure bacon between 35-45°F. The refrigerator is ideal.

How much salt per pound for bacon?
Use 1 teaspoon salt + 1 teaspoon sugar per lb of pork belly.

Can you cure bacon without nitrates?
Yes! Bacon cured with just salt and sugar will be delicious. It will lack the classic pink hue though.

What wood is best for smoking bacon?
Use hickory, apple, cherry, pecan, or maple wood chips.

How long does cured bacon last?
Properly cured bacon keeps for months stored in the fridge, or a year in the freezer.

Can you freeze cured bacon?
Yes. Freezing stops the curing process for long term storage.

Why rest bacon after curing?
Resting evenly distributes flavors and improves texture.

Don’t be intimidated by the process! With quality pork, salt and a bit of patience, you can make amazing cured bacon easily at home.

Troubleshooting Salt Cured Bacon

Here are some fixes for potential issues when salt curing bacon:

Bacon too salty?

  • Soak in cold water 1 hr before cooking
  • Blend with less salty meats in dishes

Bacon still too moist?

  • Pat dry and return to fridge 1-2 days

Bacon smells bad?

  • Discard! Do not eat spoiled pork

How To Cure Bacon the Traditional Way: Just Salt; No Artificial Preservatives

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