My First Bacon - Please Critique

Discussion in 'Bacon' started by xutfuzzy, Aug 16, 2012.

  1. xutfuzzy

    xutfuzzy Meat Mopper OTBS Member

    Thanks to this site, I finally got brave enough to try making my own bacon.  I'm still trying to find a decent butcher here with a great price on pork bellies (I had to pay $3.49 a pound), but here is what I did.  I would appreciate any and all criticism, praise, suggestions, etc.

    I picked out this belly because it seemed to have the best meat to fat ration of what was offered.

    I wanted to find the weight of this belly to properly calculate the cure mixture, so I set up my scale and tared the weight.  It's hard to see (my camera was being a pain) but with the plate on the scale it still says "0" on the readout, so that I wasn't factoring in the plate when weighing the belly.  I wanted to be absolutely sure I was using the right amount of cure.

    Okay, so my belly weighs 1640 grams.

    I used the cure calculator site to figure out how much cure, salt, and sugar I would need.  As this was my first bacon, I left everything at the default setting.

    So I would need 4 grams of cure.  I tared the weight on the scale again, and measured out 4 grams.

    According to the calculator, I also needed 28 grams of salt.

    Finally, I needed 16 grams of sugar.  I used brown sugar, simply because I like it better than plain sugar.

    It was time to prep my work area with plastic wrap.

    The belly went on the plastic wrap, and it was time to divide the cure for even sprinkling.

    The belly had no rind (I haven't found a place that sells one with the rind still on, so I made the decision to place half of the rub on one side, and half on the other.  Being a geek, I measured the amount of rub I had (48 grams) and measured out 24 grams for each side of the belly.  The picture below shows how much went on each side.  Does this look like enough?

    Can cure work its way through fat?

    I wrapped it up in plastic, and then this went into a Ziploc bag for 10 days.

    After 10 days, I pulled it out of the fridge, rinsed off the rub, and cut two slices for a fry test.

    Looks good so far, and tasted pretty good as well, especially for not being smoked yet.

    I wasn't terribly sure what a pellicle was supposed to feel like, nor how long it took for one to form.  Still, I placed the belly in the fridge and went to work.

    When I got home, I inspected the belly and now I know what people are talking about when they say it feels slightly tacky.  I then cold smoked it with my AMNPS (temps were around 70 degrees) with a mix of hickory and oak for 12 hours.  After twelve hours it looked like this:

    This was my first bacon...there was no way that I was going to wait any longer.  I sliced it up!

    Great day in the morning, this smelled amazing as it was frying up!

    Overall, I gained SO much confidence from this!   My advice to anyone considering this is to do your research, use the formulas you find here, and just jump in and do it!  I've permanently borrowed the deli slicer from my wife's parents, and as soon as I get a vacuum saver I intend to purchase bellies in bulk and go nuts. 

    Once again, I would appreciate any and all critiques, suggestions, etc.
  2. pops6927

    pops6927 Smoking Guru Staff Member Moderator Group Lead OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    The primary thing is if the cure got all the way through the belly without leaving any uncured spots (gray areas like plain cooked pork) and from what i can see, it sure did NOT!  Looks absolutely excellent!  From here you can experiment a little and add little changes to the formula; different flavors, curing times, rubs, coatings and so on and enjoy the process and testing... ABT - Always Be Testing!

    But, to start you off correctly, do I very important thing - keep accurate records/logs of all your smokes and processes!  2 years from now you may be hard-pressed to what amount of kickapoo joy juice you added to your Oriental/Horseradish beef bacon, but if you write it down or record it with no chance of destroying it accidentally, then you'll remember!

    Great Job!
  3. chef jimmyj

    chef jimmyj Smoking Guru Staff Member Moderator Group Lead OTBS Member

    It would be unreasonable and totally unfair for me to Critique your Bacon before it gets here! Cincinnati to Harrisburg takes 8 Hours... Head East on I-70...See you Tonight...JJ

    BTW: Nice Job!
    Last edited: Aug 16, 2012
  4. tjohnson

    tjohnson Smoking Guru Staff Member Moderator Insider OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    Your Bacon Looks Amazing!

    Great Job!

    Bacon is intimidating to make, but once you do it, you realize it was absolutely no big deal

    You'll never buy store bacon again!

    Did you slice with the skin on or remove the skin?

  5. Good job!
    It looks great!

  6. xutfuzzy

    xutfuzzy Meat Mopper OTBS Member

    I couldn't find any bacon around here that had the skin, so it was cured, smoked, and sliced without any skin.   I'm still looking!
  7. jrod62

    jrod62 Smoking Guru Group Lead OTBS Member

    Bacon looks great :drool
  8. Looks good! This sure looks like skin or rind on bacon though.
  9. big lew bbq

    big lew bbq Meat Mopper

    Nice Bacon!! That is the one thing I have yet to try is Bacon!! but theirs a firs for everything and looks like you nailed it.

    Big Lew BBQ
  10. xutfuzzy

    xutfuzzy Meat Mopper OTBS Member

    Yup, admittedly it DOES look like skin, but was just the fat layer.  Tasty fat layer.
  11. fuzzy, that looks excellent!  Following the instructions pays off.  I will be starting my bacon next week.  Got my fridge for cold smoking almost complete, and will start curing next week.  I will post pics if my photographer will take them for me(my camera is broke).  Keep on keeping on, Steve
  12. This looks like a massive success! I would kill for a BLT right now....
  13. dls1

    dls1 Smoking Fanatic

    You're in Cincinnati so try the Restaurant Depot located there. From the sounds of things, you may not qualify for regular membership, but if you join the KCBS you can print RD day passes for admission and purchase of anything they sell. One visit will more than pay for the KCBS membership, which I believe is $35. Most items are sold in bulk so unless you're going to cook everything at one time, you need to consider freezer space.

    The last time I bought skin on bellies they came in, if I remember correctly, a 25 lb. case. I do remember that the price was $2.09/lb. That was in the Chicago area and the case size and price may vary by location.
    Last edited: Aug 18, 2012
  14. nozzleman

    nozzleman Smoking Fanatic

    Well now that you conquered bacon what would you change or alter for the next time?

    Your end product looks amazing and your attention to details through out the project were great, nice job.
  15. xutfuzzy

    xutfuzzy Meat Mopper OTBS Member

    I will most certainly investigate this!  Thanks!
  16. xutfuzzy

    xutfuzzy Meat Mopper OTBS Member

    My next bacon project will be Jamaican Bacon, which will be with a jerk seasoning rub.  I'm curious to see what that would taste like.    If that works out well, I will try a 'Round the World Tour of Bacon flavors, with rubs representing the various parts of the world.

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