Shed-Headz Grill Masters
How To: Apple Wood Smoked Bacon
When I purchased my Pit Boss Pellet Grill/Smoker, one item on top of my list to try was making homemade bacon. Sandra and I had previously tried Matt French's homemade bacon and we were very impressed.
One evening got word that pork was on sale at Costco, so Andrew, Matt French and I headed there right away to take advantage of the discount. We managed to get our hands on pork bellies and some lean ground pork as well for future sausage making!
For making brine, you need to determine the weight of your pork belly, I always go by the weight printed on the sale tag as meat shops rarely leave themselves short! I convert KG to lbs on my phone. Good pork belly rarely requires trimming, but loose chunks of fat and silver skin can be trimmed off. Some people square up the cut of meat, I leave mine au naturale.
If I am doing 2 pork bellies, I will make 2 batches of brine especially if they are different weights. I always get a note pad and mark down my calculations. For example I multiplied 0.35 ounces of salt by the poundage of the meat, for the first batch I needed 3.34oz salt, but the 2nd batch only 2.94oz as the pork belly was smaller.
The salt and brown sugar were weighed using a kitchen scale with the TAR reset for the transfer cup.
Curing salt is not weighed, the recipe uses 1/2 a teaspoon per 5 lbs of meat. The dry ingredients are thoroughly mixed in a bowl.
Next you cover all sides and edges of meat in cure and get the pork belly into a fresh bag. We use vacuum sealer bags as you can make them any size to fit. Make sure the sealing surface inside and outside the bag is surgically clean or the bag will leak.
I leave my pork belly in cure for 10-14 days. My 2nd ever batch was inadvertently closer to 14 days waiting for clear weather to smoke and it turned out awesome, less salty than the first.
As the title says, this is apple wood smoked bacon so I picked up apple wood pellets for my Pit Boss. I am quite happy with the Pit Boss pellets, Mark also had great success with the Furtado Farms apple blend.
I always store my pellets indoors in sealed buckets to keep them dry and free of humidity. I made some custom decals for all of my buckets and pellet flavors.
Approximately 24 hours before smoking I take my pork bellies out of the bag and rinse them thoroughly for about 5 minutes in cold water. This removes the excess brine so the finished flavor is spot on.
Next they sit in the fridge overnight, uncovered on cookie cooling racks to dry.
The following day I changeover pellets in the hopper to apple wood and fire up the Pit Boss for the approximate 5 hour job to turn pork belly into bacon.
My Pit Boss Austin XL has a hot spot in the centre as that is where the fire box lies below, so I keep my smoked meats to either side on longer cooks. On a nice day I start on smoke setting P7, in winter I sometimes need P4 to maintain the same temperature.
This batch of pork belly was significantly larger than the first so I cut the meat and stacked the excess on the 2nd rack. This was a full load!
On longer cooks such as bacon, pulled pork and brisket on my pellet grill, I like to run a smoke box at the beginning to hit the meat with lot of smoke before it crusts over. That is my preference and I find gives a really nice but not over powering smoke flavor.
This lumberjack smoke box will smolder away for about 1.5-2 hours which is plenty, and of course is filled with the same apple wood pellets.
Every hour I flip and rotate the meat to make sure I get a nice even cook. After 2 hours I'll switch to smoke setting P0 to increase temperature and usually finish the cook at 200 to get an internal temperature of 155 F in the meat. I check the meat with my instant read and usually install the Pit Boss probes for the last hour after the last turn.
When internal temperatures read 155 and if I'm happy with the color I take the meat off the gill and cool on cookie cooling racks to room temperature. Then I put the bacon in the fridge still on racks and uncovered to chill overnight and slice the following day. Once the fat hardens it's much easier to slice.
I learned after the first batch of bacon that putting down some butcher paper by the slicer makes cleanup a lot faster! I picked up this 8-5/8" slicer at princess auto as it was reasonably priced and I find it great. You can check out my review under Food/Game Processing on the Outdoor Lifestyle Product Reviews page.
My slicer and all but the bigger commercial slicers don't have quite enough throw to handle a 12" pork belly, to get full slices I prop it on an angle which works just fine.
Sandra took on packaging duties in fine style. She used our small cutting board on which to arrange the slices, slid the whole issue inside the preformed 8"x12" vacuum sealer bag, turned it over and the bacon is perfectly placed.
All packages were vacuum sealed to maintain highest quality after freezing.
Of course the best part is enjoying the fruits of your labor. Bacon is pretty straight forward following these tips. After purchasing a smoker, a vacuum sealer and meat slicer are the only other tools required to make the job easier and produce an outstanding product. Don't forget, if I can manage to do it, you can do it too!
Copyright © 2011 Michael Smith