Head to Head: Brine Vs Dry Cure

Discussion in 'Bacon' started by disco, Jul 17, 2013.

  1. disco

    disco Smoking Guru OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    I got a full loin and was going to break it down into two small hams and some back (Americans call it Canadian) bacon. I decided it was the perfect time to decide if I prefer brine or dry cure.

    I started by trimming off a lot of the fat (I will use it in sausage).

    I broke it down into four pieces, two bacon and two ham. One of each will be done in brine with the other dry cured.

    I put 2 in a basic Pop's Brine. 

    1/2 gallon water

    1/2 cup kosher salt

    1/4 cup maple syrup

    1/4 cup brown sugar

    1/2 tbsp prague powder

    I rubbed 2 with my own maple cure.

    25 ml (2 tablesoons) kosher salt

    4 ml (3/4 teaspoon) Prague Powder #1

    25 ml brown sugar

    25 ml maple syrup

    This is for 2.5 pound of pork and has to be adjusted to the weight of each piece.

    I forgot to put in the original post that my loin was 2 inches thick at the thickest point. If your loin is thicker, you will have to increase the curing times. Two days for every 1/2 inch and add 2 to 3 days, for example:
    • 2 inches thick has four 1/2 inches, 2X4 is eight days, add two or three, cure for 10 to 11 days.
    • 1 1/2 inches thick as three 1/2 inches, 2X3 is six days, add two or three, cure for 8 or 9 days. 

    Then the whole lot went in the fridge to cure for 10 days. I overhauled the dry cure every other day and moved the pieces around in the brine a couple of times.

    I took it out of the brine and let them sit in the fridge over night.

    The next day, the only difference I could see between the brined and cured was the brined was a slightly lighter colour. The brined is on the right in this picture.

    I started off by putting my new Bear cooler in the Bradley. In a prior post, I had used ice in a tray and the condensation dripped onto my A-MAZE-N Pellet Smoker (AMNPS) and put it out. Bear told me about freezing a bottle and putting it in a pan. It worked great. There was 1/3 cup of condensation in the pan after it was removed from the cold smoking.

    I loaded one channel of the AMNPS with pecan sawdust. And lit it up.

    Here is the Bradley loaded up. I cold smoked for 3 hours and then increased the temperature to 150F for another 3 hours to give the ham some colour.

    About 1/2 hour into the 150F period, the sawdust ran out. I fired the AMNPS up with a mixture of Maple and Cherry pellets as I was going to be increasing the heat to take the bacon to 145 internal temperature later and the sawdust can only be used to 180 F.

    After the 3 hours, I pulled the ham pieces. I like to finish the ham over steam as I find it gives it a more ham like texture.

    I wrap the ham pieces in cellophane.

    I then put it on a rack over water in a large electric skillet.

    It has been hot here on the mountain so I steamed it outside to keep the house cool.

     I took it to an internal temperature of 145 F. I let it cool and put it in the fridge overnight.

    In the meantime, after taking the hams out, I had increased the temperature of the Bradley to 230 F and took the internal temperature on the bacon pieces to 145 F.

    Here is the whole package. Into the fridge overnight.

    The next day, this is the dry cured ham. It is tasty and has a nice moist texture even though it is very lean.

    This is the brined ham. I don`t think the colour is quite as good but the taste is as good as the cured and I think the texture is even better with a softer ham feel and taste.

    This is the cured bacon.

    This is the brined bacon. Again, I think the colour of the cured is marginally better.

    Here is a slice of both bacons frying. The cured is on the left and the brined on the right. I preferred the texture of the dry cured as it crisped a bit better. She who must be obeyed preferred the brined saying she felt it had a nicer chew, We both agreed the textures were very good for both. I would give a slight edge to the brined in taste. It just seemed to be a bit smoother cured flavour.

    The verdict: I would say it is a toss up. Both tastes great. Both had great texture. In colour, a marginal win for the dry cure. In taste, a tie in the ham with a very slight win for the brine in the bacon. In texture, I preferred the brine for a ham and the cure for the bacon but the differences were very minor. I believe I will use brine from now on as it is just easier to prepare and use.
    Last edited: Sep 13, 2016
  2. Disco

    Very nice side by side. the color looks great I have done both ways. It is brine for me as well and for the same reason. When i cure chops I prefer the dry.

    Thanks for a very good show and tell

  3. It all looks very good from here! Grocer has boneless loin on sale for $1.99 lb, so I'll be doing some too. I like your ham.
  4. They both look delicious, nice one Disco.
  5. disco

    disco Smoking Guru OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    Thanks, David. I haven't tried cured pork chops yet. One of the multitude of projects I haven't got to.
    Thanks, Alesia. The cost of meat these days means you have to look for deals.
    Very kind words. Thanks, Gary.

  6. mr t 59874

    mr t 59874 Master of the Pit SMF Premier Member

    Thanks for the side by side tutorial, very good and nice pics.

  7. The bacon & hams look really tasty!  [​IMG]    Nice comparison too  [​IMG]   When I did my "Canadian bacon challenge - dry cure vs brine - side by side test" back in January 3 out of the 4 judges chose the dry cured bacon as their favorite but all agreed that it was very close. Either way is a winner & much better than store bought  [​IMG]
  8. dirtsailor2003

    dirtsailor2003 Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    Great job Disco! And a nice write up! Points!
  9. woodcutter

    woodcutter Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    All great looking from here! Thanks for posting.
  10. c farmer

    c farmer Smoking Guru Staff Member Moderator OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    Great job Disco, You do great threads.
  11. foamheart

    foamheart Smoking Guru OTBS Member SMF Premier Member


    White boxes still with little red X's!
    If we are bowling I think that would be a strike in the first frame. Woot in editing now I get all coded text......
    Last edited: Jul 17, 2013
  12. jaxrmrjmr

    jaxrmrjmr Smoking Fanatic

    I agree.  Good job and write up.

    What is the difference between the ham and the bacon?  How it's brought up to temp - smoking vs steaming?
  13. sqwib

    sqwib Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    Well played sir.
    This is some great info, thanks
  14. disco

    disco Smoking Guru OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    Thanks Smoking B. I wish I hadn't missed that post! I could have saved some work! However, it is always good to try for yourself to meet your own tastes.

    Thanks DS. Your kindness is only surpassed by your wisdom!

    Thanks for the kind words, Woodcutter.

    I love cooking. I love posting. I love reading about food. Therefore, no need to thank me for posting. You might be asking me to shut up!

    Thanks, c farmer. That is very kind. I sometimes wonder if I do too much Qview.

    Thanks for reading the thread, Tom.

  15. c farmer

    c farmer Smoking Guru Staff Member Moderator OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    Never too much q-view.
  16. disco

    disco Smoking Guru OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    Well, considering how poorly I bowl, a strike in any way is good. Thanks, Foamheart.
    Thanks, JaxRmrJmr. Yes, the difference is how it is brought up to temperature. The bacon is smoked to 145 F and the ham is put over steam to bring it to 145 F. The difference in texture is quite marked.It makes for a more tender ham sandwich. My missus like to buy those cheap formed "hams" they sell in the supermarket that are not a chunk of cured pork but are chunks of pork force into a ham shape. She likes them because they are low fat. I think they taste like cured cardboard so I started curing cuts of loin into ham. Low fat and tastes like ham. However, being low fat, when they were smoked to 145 F, they were a little drier than I liked. I tried steaming them to temperature and now, no more crappy fake ham and a nice lean piece of real meat that has been cured and smoked.

    Thanks, SQWIB. I have liked your threads so that is quite a compliment.

  17. foamheart

    foamheart Smoking Guru OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    Pictures!!!! Nice looking, I like the transition from cold dust to warm pellets. I had wondered about that. Also nice to know that the difference noticed was marginal. I am a noob..... I have questions.

    I normally don't do loin, justa preference, its always been so dry. That aside..... because I can see a future change possibility.

    You cut a full loin in 4 pieces and 2 are bacon 2 ham. Is that dependent on where cut, or are they the fatty pieces, or just the luck of the draw?

    I never saw it before, but I guess can understand the steam to change the meat to a different texture. Why the plastic wrap? To maintain moisture? I can see how the meat actually looks more like ham afterward. I love learning.

    I love the shine on the bacon, is there a maple glaze of something besides smoke on them? They seem to glisten in the picture next to the still wrapped hams. Maybe a apple spritz?

    I'll take a break, and sorry for the noob questions, but it just seems you hit a home-run with both brine and rub, bacon and ham. One ball out the ball out the park is great but a grand slam needs to be studied and learned from. I am just starting to learn about bacon, Loins could be the the offset weeks.

    I really appreciate you sharing Disco....... and if I am asking too much just send me a tell and don't embarrass me in public..... LOL

    ROFL. I have got to learn to type faster.
    Last edited: Jul 17, 2013
  18. disco

    disco Smoking Guru OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    Just so you know, I only started smoking last fall. I am a newbie too. Add to that, I am a Canadian so I don't have smoke in my blood like you southerners.

    I prefer buckboard bacon and ham made from butt as I like the fat content. On advice from my doctor and beatings from She Who Must Be Obeyed, I am using loins to get less fat content and I am trying to learn how to get the best from them.

    I prefer the fatter parts of the loin for ham and the thinner for bacon. That being said, I got some rib cut loin with the fat still attached a couple of months ago. It made a great Irish style bacon.

    I used the cellophane to keep the moisture in. The loin sort of cooks in its own juices and gets a ham texture. A word of warning though, don't overcook it, you don't want ham stew. Just take it to 145 F.

    There is no glaze on the bacon. I used to just hot smoke my back bacon (sorry, I forget you guys call it Canadian bacon). I saw guys like Bear smoke it for way more hours than I am willing to commit to but get a great red colour and that shine. I have tried to hybrid the process and cold smoke for 3 hours. Smoke at 150 for 3 hours and then hot smoke to an internal temperature of 145 F. I find I get a nice colour and the fat glazes the bacon wonderfully and gets that shine. I do not glaze or spritz. In the future, I do want to try glazing and pepper bacon etc, I just haven't got to it yet.

    I thank you for your kind compliments, however baseball metaphors are inappropriate for a Canadian. You should say, "He shoots, he scores!" as a hockey reference.

    I have enjoyed your posts too. I guess we will learn together.

  19. Looks good.

  20. disco

    disco Smoking Guru OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    Thanks, Martin

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