The Bacon Experiment!

Discussion in 'Smoking Bacon' started by turick, Oct 24, 2014.

  1. turick

    turick Meat Mopper

    So I know most here are talking about curing and smoking some part of a pig so that it can be sliced and fried.  I am dying to do this, but lack one key piece of equipment: a slicer.  Long story short, my daughter works at a bar that servers several sandwiches/wraps that come with bacon.  The bacon is thick cut, flavorful, and probably the best bacon my wife and I have had in recent memory.  The owner said he gets 15 pounds for $50 and would order some for us if we wanted.  That's just a no brainer... I've never heard of commercial bacon that cheap before, not to mention bacon that we really like.

    So it came in today.  I was a bit surprised to find that it's actually Hormel.  Typically, Hormel from the grocery store is not very good.  I suppose the stuff they sell to restaurants is just different?

    Although the bacon is good, I'd like to put some extra smoke on it.  Kind of awkward, since it's already sliced, but I'm going to give it a shot.  I've had several people give me some input and tomorrow I think I'm going to divide up one of the packages and cook it 4 different ways, then give a blind taste test to the members of my family.  Here are the 4 techniques I'll use:

    1)  1/4th will be pan fried just the way it is

    2)  1/4th will be cold smoked with hickory for ~2 hours and then pan fried

    3)  1/4th will be cold smoked with hickory for ~2 hours, then I'll crank the heat on my MES up to 275 and keep the hickory flowing until the bacon gets crispy

    4)  1/4th will be smoked with hickory in the MES at 275 until crispy

    For the cold smokes, I was contemplating doing the first hour with the MES off, then the 2nd hour with the MES at 100.

    Bacon can be baked and the end result is very similar to pan fried bacon.  Some prefer it; I'm indifferent. However, it gave me the interesting idea -- I cook all of my other meat in the smoker with the smoke rolling, why not "bake" the bacon in the smoker with the smoke rolling too? 

    So tomorrow I'll have 4 plates with samples from each of the above, then make members of my family give their impressions on each one.  I have no idea what to expect, but I'll report back as I'm preparing it and when the results come in!
  2. The cafeteria at my office gets hormel smoked brisket during the summer that is damn good. I think their food service stuff is a notch up from their retail stuff.

    Will be good to see your results
  3. rexster314

    rexster314 Meat Mopper

    Personally, I would try to cold smoke the bacon after pressing it together as much as possible. Warmer it gets, the bacon will start separating and smoke will enter into the slices itself instead of accumulating on the outside where it should be
  4. turick

    turick Meat Mopper

    1/2 the bacon is on the smoker!

    This will stay in for 1 hour with no heat, then for 1 hour at 100F. After that, 1 rack will come off and about 4 more slices that haven't been cold smoked will be put in and the the temp on the MES maxed out at 275. I'll probably put the bacon on top of some foil with small lips made so the grease won't escape. Not the best way to do it, but I don't want to have grease in my MES.

    The other 1/2 that's out (1/4th cold smoked, 1/4th the original Hormel) will be fried up in separate skillets.

    Then the tasting begins!
  5. dave from mesa

    dave from mesa Meat Mopper SMF Premier Member

    Can't wait to hear from you on this.

    Gonna try this if it cools down.[​IMG]
  6. turick

    turick Meat Mopper

    So here is the bacon after the end of 2 hours:

    It made a nice color difference on the bacon vs the bacon right out of the package:

    (this picture is not rotated on my computer but it keeps showing up rotated when I upload it... odd)

    I constructed some makeshift foil racks to let smoke hit underneath the bacon and let the grease drip down.  I folder the edges of the lower parts of the foil so if it built up and tried to run off, it couldn't.

    The cooking begins!

    Last edited: Oct 25, 2014
  7. turick

    turick Meat Mopper

    Well 2 results are in... waiting on more family members.  I put sticky notes on the bottom of the plates, covered them in foil, then had them all mixed up so I don't even know which is which.  I can definitely tell which ones had smoke and which didn't, so my results may be a bit skewed.

    Couple of things that threw me for a loop:  Frying bacon in a skillet with only 4 or 5 pieces only takes a few minutes and burns really quick, even on a very low temperature setting.  I started at 4 on my stove and bumped it down to 3.5.  I'm used to stuffing the skillet with as much bacon as it can possibly hold to feed so many mouths and that takes considerably longer.  It got a little more done than I wanted to. 

    The bacon in the MES took FOREVER to cook, which may not actually be a bad thing.  I think I started frying the skillet bacon around 20 minutes into the hot smoke, and the hot smoke ended up taking about 2 hours, so the fried bacon was done WAY earlier than the bacon in the smoker.  I knew the bacon in the smoker would take much longer to cook than frying, but I didn't quite realize how much longer.  The other mistake I made was, even though the bacon in the smoker looked done, it still wasn't firm or crispy, it always stayed soft, so I just left it in beyond the point where it visually looked perfectly done.  Then it dawned on me that it wouldn't firm all the way up in the heat, but it would once I took it out and it started to cool.  So I probably could (should) have pulled it out a bit sooner.

    Either way, from the blind tasting so far, nothing tastes burnt, so that's good.

    As soon as I get some more input on the votes I'll post the final results.
  8. bearcarver

    bearcarver Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    Ahhh, Poor Family members being "Made" to sample 4 differently made Bacon batches.[​IMG]

    I wish somebody would force me to do such frightening things!!![​IMG]

    Great Idea for the tests, Josh!![​IMG]

    I'll be back!


  9. turick

    turick Meat Mopper

    The results are in, and they are a bit shocking!

    Five different people took the test and compared the different batches without knowing how each one was cooked.

    The big losers were the plain bacon and the bacon that was only cooked in the smoker.  One person had the the bacon cooked in the smoker as last, 2 people had the plain bacon as last, and 2 people said they both tied for last.

    Every single person, except for one, voted the bacon that was cold smoked and then cooked in the smoker as the best.  The only person that didn't vote it the clear winner had it tied with the cold smoked bacon that was fried. 

    So the clear winners are the batches that were cold smoked and the clear losers are the batches that were not.

    The cold & hot smoked bacon which was the clear winner took around 4 hours to smoke and cook, which might not fit everybody's timetable when they get a hankerin for bacon, but if you're ever feeling up to it, I would recommend giving it a shot!

    It's also worth noting that although the bacon cooked in the smoker did firm up after I took it out after ~2 hours, it never got really crispy, so if you like your bacon really crunchy, I would recommend frying over baking, even though baking it in the smoke seemed to give it the edge when it came to flavor.
    Last edited: Oct 26, 2014
  10. dave from mesa

    dave from mesa Meat Mopper SMF Premier Member

    Looks real good. Something I would like to do this winter.

    2 questions

    Can you eat the smoked/cooked bacon the way it comes out of the smoker?

    Could you crisp it up by frying it a little?


  11. turick

    turick Meat Mopper

    Hey Dave,

    I'm not a big fan of eating most meat right out of the smoker, but the bacon seemed fine.  I ate it right away and it was really good. 

    I'm not sure I would have taken the bacon after 2 hours in the smoker at 275 and tried to put that in a skillet.  Maybe if you cook it for just an hour with the smoke, then throw it in a pan for a few minutes it would probably work.  After 1 hour the bacon was still very soft and pliable.

    This was a pretty fun experiment and I'm shocked at how good the final product was.  It MAYBE could have even been a little too strong, and that's saying a lot for me because I'm a fan of heavy smoke.  But it seems like you would really only want to eat 1 or 2 pieces of this bacon because the flavor is so intense.
  12. bearcarver

    bearcarver Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    Sounds like it was a fun test, Josh !!

    I'm just glad you didn't nuke any!!!!

    One of my best Buddies that I gave some of my Bacon to told me he nuked some & it was Great. I told him if I'd have known he was going to nuke it, I wouldn't have given him any!!!![​IMG]

  13. turick

    turick Meat Mopper

    Lol John!  That is a cardinal sin!

    My son actually fried some more bacon up last night for a sandwich.  I tasted it this morning, then ate a bit of my smoked bacon with some eggs.  I will be very disappointed if I ever have to simply fry bacon again.  There's no comparison...  I'm still anxious to cure and smoke my own bellies/butt and compare that flavor, but I can only imagine that it would also turn out better if cold/hot smoked as individual slices as well.
  14. bearcarver

    bearcarver Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    It's hard to tell without trying it. I know mine gets smokier than most by using Hickory pellets in my AMNPS, and using smoker temps between 110* and 130*.

    Once you get that slicer, you can try that, and if you want more smoke you can do it longer, or smoke some after slicing, but I don't think you'll need it, because I'm a serious "Smoke-Hound" and my method makes my taste buds real happy.


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