Smoked pork belly vs Bacon

Discussion in 'Pork' started by fwhite77, May 8, 2015.

  1. fwhite77

    fwhite77 Newbie

    I'm having trouble with this one. In this day and age with modern refrigeration and knowledge of internal cooking temperatures is it really necessary to cure pork belly to make bacon?

    Rather than going through the whole curing process, I would like to smoke the pork belly with a basic rub of salt/brown sugar, maybe syrup or honey then eat it within a few days.

    My understanding is the curing process, using Nitrates/Nitrites is to prevent Botulism and for preservation, but if you store it correctly and cook at the proper temperature then I would think you can skip curing. 

    Can anyone shed some light on why it is still necessary to cure? 

    Thanks in advance.
  2. daveomak

    daveomak Smoking Guru OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    Depends on how long you smoke it.... how low the oxygen content of the smoker.... Low enough oxygen for a long enough time, without nitrite, botulism "can" grow, if it is present in the meat... botulism can come from your kitchen counter tops, if you've contaminated it with root vegetables, fish etc...

    Sure can skip the curing...... but then you don't have bacon..... you have smoked pork belly...... If you don't cure the pig leg, you don't have ham..... you have smoked pork leg..... the taste is TOTALLY different.... texture is different..... Smoke a brisket and you don't have pastrami.... you have smoked brisket.... grind up the meat and season it.... don't stuff it in a casing.... you have ground, seasoned meat... not a kielbasa... or not a hot dog....

    There is nothing wrong with nitrite cure in meat.... You are reading the Kool-Aid drinkers blogs.....

    If you add the correct amount of cure, and smoke and cook the meat, by the time the meat gets to the plate, the nitrites are about 50 Ppm or less..... That's less than you get in a helping of garden vegetables...... by about 20 times less.....
    Last edited: May 8, 2015
  3. worktogthr

    worktogthr Master of the Pit SMF Premier Member

    I agree with Dave.  I have cured my own bacon and smoked pork belly.  Both deliver a good product but they are totally different flavors and textures.  As stated above, the curing process is what makes bacon taste like bacon and ham tastes like ham.  Smoke a pork loin and then eat Canadian Bacon that has been cured.  Both great, but a world of difference.  Curing allows cold or warm smoking in which you don't have to be as concerned with the danger zone, botulism, and all that scary stuff.  By all means, smoke a pork belly, slice it and fry it up like bacon and I'm sure it will be great but it is a different product all together than cured and smoked bacon.  I too am in the school that the small amount of cure used in recipes for bacon etc. is not going to kill you any more than the naturally occurring nitrites will.
  4. atomicsmoke

    atomicsmoke Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    Smoked belly won't taste like bacon. Having said that...I like smoked belly (I like bacon too).

    Contrary to what you might read here botulism germination DURING smoking is not a concern.
  5. daveomak

    daveomak Smoking Guru OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    5.2.1. Botulism

    The majority (65%) of botulism cases are a result of inadequate home food processing or preservation (CDC 1998). Botulism results from ingestion of a toxin produced by the bacterium C. botulinum. This bacterium requires a moist, oxygen-free environment, low acidity (pH greater than 4.6) and temperatures in the danger zone (38-140°F) to grow and produce toxin. C. botulinum forms heat resistant spores that can become dangerous if allowed to germinate, grow, and produce toxin. Sufficient heat can be used to inactivate the toxin (180°F for 4 min., Kendall 1999). C. botulinum thrives in moist foods that are low in salt (less than 10%), particularly when they are stored at temperatures above 38°F. These organisms will not grow in an aerobic environment, but other aerobic organisms in a closed system can rapidly convert an aerobic environment to an anaerobic environment by using the oxygen for their own growth, permitting growth of C. botulinum.

    For more information, please refer to the following resources:
    1.Botulism in the United States, 1899 - 1996 (CDC 1998).
    2.Potential Hazards in Cold Smoked Fish: Clostridium botulinum type E. (US FDA 2001c).
    3.Botulism (Kendall 1999).

  6. daveomak

    daveomak Smoking Guru OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    Any meat in a smoker has moisture inside the meat... We do not salt meats to a 10% level because it would not be edible...
    The environment inside a smoker is a reduced oxygen environment... Granted, botulism and other food borne pathogens and toxins take time to replicate but, how long that takes is unknown... It is best to err on the side of safety....

    To say, "botulism germination DURING smoking is not a concern", is grossly negligent....
  7. atomicsmoke

    atomicsmoke Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    It's not negligent. Is based on the fact that there is no data to back up the opposite of that statement. Not to my knowledge.
  8. daveomak

    daveomak Smoking Guru OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    5.1.1. Non-traditional foods and non-traditional processes

    Today, consumers demand foods that are minimally processed, as "natural" as possible, and yet are convenient to use. Complicating these factors is a consumer preference toward cured and smoked foods that are processed with lower salt, lower nitrate and higher moisture levels. These parameters have a tremendous impact on the safety of a given cured/smoked food or process. Preferences for low fat and low sugar have less impact on the safety, but these factors can change the traditional curing and smoking process. It will be difficult to completely eliminate the use of nitrite, as there is no known substitute for it as a curing agent for meat. Nonetheless, the demand for fewer chemicals added to foods has put pressure on the industry and the scientific community to seek new alternatives.

    In-home vacuum packaging machines have become popular in recent years. It is important to realize that in-home vacuum packaging is not a substitution for cooking or any form of food preservation, e.g., refrigeration, freezing, or curing (Andress 2001). In-home vacuum packaging can reduce the quality deterioration of foods catalyzed by oxygen, such as rancidity. Many food spoilage and food poisoning organisms require oxygen for growth and would also be inhibited by this process. However, the most deadly food poisoning organism, Clostridium botulinum requires a low oxygen atmosphere and therefore, vacuum packaging favors its growth (Andress 2001). In cured meats, careful attention must be paid to proper use of nitrates/nitrites that inhibit Clostridium botulinum prior to use of in-home vacuum packagers. To further reduce the risk of botulism after vacuum packaging, properly refrigerate the cured/smoked meats. Under normal processing, freezing of salt-cured meats is not recommended, due to oxidative rancidity that affects the quality and flavor of the product.

    5.2.2. Clostridium perfringens

    Spores of some strains of Clostridium perfringens are so heat resistant that they survive boiling for four or more hours. Furthermore, cooking drives off oxygen, kills competitive organisms, and heat-shocks the spores, all of which promote germination to vegetative or growing cells. Once the spores have germinated, a warm, moist, protein-rich environment with little or no oxygen is necessary for growth. If such conditions exist (i.e., incorrectly holding meats at warm room temperature for smoking), sufficient numbers of vegetative cells may be produced to cause illness upon ingestion of the contaminated meat product.

    5.2.3. Listeria monocytogenes

    L. monocytogenes has been found in fermented raw-meat sausages, raw and cooked poultry, raw meats (all types), and raw and smoked fish. Its ability to grow at temperatures as low as 3°C, permits multiplication in refrigerated foods. The organism grows in the pH range of 5.0 to 9.5 and is resistant to freezing. It is salt tolerant and relatively resistant to drying, but easily destroyed by heat. (It grows between 34 - 113°F).
    For more information, please refer to the following resources:
    1.Potential Hazards in Cold Smoked Fish: Listeria monocytogenes (US FDA 2001c).

    5.4.4. Fish

    Listeria monocytogenes has been found in commercial samples of cold smoked fish leading to product recalls in New York (Cold smoked sea bass FDA Recall No.F-313-1) and Seattle, WA (Cold smoked salmon FDA Recall #F-265-1). These recalls demonstrate that even with HACCP and careful plant sanitation, commercial processors have contamination incidences in their cold smoked fish processes. In New York, fish sausage was recalled because laboratory analysis found pH (acidity), salt and water activity levels in the product were such that they could potentially permit Clostridium botulinum to develop and produce the toxin (NY State Agriculture Commissioner 2000).
    For more information, please refer to the following resources:
    1.Uneviscerated Fish Products that are Salt cured, Dried, or Smoked (US FDA 2000).
    2.International Outbreak of Type E Botulism Associated With Ungutted, Salted Whitefish (CDC 1987).
    3.Vibrio parahaemolyticus Infections Associated with Eating Raw Oysters -- Pacific Northwest, 1997 (C.D.C. 1997c).
    4.Vibrio vulnificans (US FDA CFSAN 1998).
    5.Processing Parameters Needed to Control Pathogens in Cold Smoked Fish (US FDA 2001c).

    5.5.3. Greening of Cured/Smoked Meats (Members have seen this on bacon)

    Lactobacillus viridescens, or similar bacteria that produce hydrogen peroxide may cause greening in meats. The H2O2 reacts with myoglobin to produce a green sheen pigment. The meat, while less appealing, is not dangerous to consume.
  9. fwhite77

    fwhite77 Newbie

    Thank you for all your responses, I appreciate it.

    My concern wasn't about ingesting nitrites/nitrates from curing the meat, it was more about cutting out the week long process it takes to cure. I will continue to try and hone my bacon techniques, plus I might have to try smoking pork belly.

    Thanks again. 
  10. foamheart

    foamheart Smoking Guru OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    Seriously, smoking and curing are about enjoying the time spend as much as the finished product. We all work at perfecting our methods, not so much speeding them up. I guess what I am saying we are about enjoying the process, and showing off our equipment and skills as well as the finished product.. Then when comfortable within our zone, step over and start playing with the modifiers for a different type meat.

    You will never master it all, but hopefully we'll master what we are cooking that day.

    Its about making people happy, and having someone come up and tell you how much they apprceaited and really enjoyed what you made. Oh and all the liquid refreshments consumed too!
  11. pops6927

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

    Thank you so much for your concern and writing this posting, it will definitely help others wondering the same things but are too hesitant to ask!  In other forums, many more experienced users will 'flame' you for asking such a question.  Here, I hope you did not experience that.  We often times disagree on statements and details, but it is not anyone's desire to discourage you from asking anything, anything at all; we are here to help, encourage, teach, explore and enjoy hearty refreshments!

    (my favorite!  I am sure everyone would agree, too!)  [​IMG]

  12. wade

    wade Master of the Pit OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    Yes, The times used for smoking will not normally pose a serious risk of botulism. The UK Food Standards Agency recommendations (and so it is probably similar with the USDA) show that the risk of Botulism poisoning in uncured foods is not significant until after the first 10 days. In bacon any C.B. spores will be on the surface (unless the meat surface has been punctured) and the salt/sugar rub on the surface will also effectively inhibit any growth for the duration of the smoke.

    If you don't use Nitrite in the cure you will get a different end product but it will still be good. You will need to treat it as if it were fresh raw or cooked meat though and keep it chilled and eat it quickly.
  13. worktogthr

    worktogthr Master of the Pit SMF Premier Member

    I'm with Pops! Posts like this are what gave me the faith to try curing and all sorts of smoking and cooking ventures. I might have been embarrassed at first to ask certain questions but I learned quickly that the people on this forum love nothing more than to help. I have learned so much here and I love passing it on. No matter you cook your pork belly you're going to love it!
    Last edited: May 9, 2015
  14. Another reason NOT to become a Vegetarian!!![​IMG]
  15. foamheart

    foamheart Smoking Guru OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

  16. fwhite77

    fwhite77 Newbie

    So I've been looking and trying to figure out whether to do wet or dry cure, cold smoke or hot smoke. I've only done dry cure with hot smoke but having trouble finding a simple dry cure method. Any suggestions? sorry if this has already been answered in another thread.

    Also I've seen some videos on youtube and whatnot where they say cure but when I watch them it seems to me they are only doing a kosher salt/brown sugar brine. Am I correct that they are only brining pork belly to smoke and NOT curing pork belly for bacon? I assume you specifically need curing salts to be able to cure something. Please correct me if I am wrong, below is one video I noticed:


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