At the end of the last post we were at the stage of letting the slab of pork belly rest uncovered in the fridge overnight. Drying it out a bit to help the smoke stick. This next step is where I think the next level of flavor happens. You can dress up the bacon with different flavors, which I plan on doing as I venture more into my culinary adventures, but it’s the smoke that sets this bacon apart from many others I’ve had.
This is also where my method changes slightly from I Love Meat’s. He adds a layer of pepper to the bacon before putting it into the smoker. I have tried it but wasn’t a huge fan of the extra peppery flavor it added. I enjoy the simple flavor of the smoke over adding the layer of pepper.
I use the Masterbuilt 30-inch electric smoker. It’s nothing spectacular, but for smoking such things as bacon it works great. The smoker does a good job of controlling the temp and is especially great at low temp smoking. The smoker uses wood chips which I purchase both online and at local meat shops in the Chicago area.
I have found applewood chips work great at flavoring the bacon. Applewood gives the bacon a slight sweetness that blends well with the saltiness of the cure. I think any fruit tree wood would work well with smoking the bacon, but also feel hickory would give the bacon a great strong flavor. If you’re using an electric smoker you want to make sure you soak enough chips to smoke for up to 4 hours. You may not need the whole 4 hours depending on how quickly the bacon comes to temp, but you at least want to be prepared to smoke for 4 hours.
Now let’s talk about setting up the smoker. Low temp smoking is what you want with the bacon. You aren’t looking to cook the bacon, just adding smoke flavor. You want the temperature of the smoker to stay low so you don’t render the fat in the bacon. I set my smoker temp at 150 degrees or lower depending on the outside temperature. You don’t want your chamber to really get an warmer than 160 and you definitely don’t want the internal temp of your bacon to go over 150 degrees. If you reach 150 degrees before the full 4 hours of smoking make sure to pull the bacon out before it smokes any longer than an hour at that internal temp. Most often when I’m setting the temp on my smoker I am looking at about 140 for the 4 hours just to make sure I don’t render any fat on the bacon. This may mean a little less smoke flavor, but I’d rather that than rendering the delicious fat in the bacon.
Once the smoking is done I always have to fight against my urges to cut into the bacon and start frying. There’s one more step you need to make sure all the flavors set. You need to let the bacon cool to room temperature, wrap in butcher paper or aluminum foil and let it rest in the fridge one more night. Letting it sit overnight will also make it easier to cut into thick beautiful slices. So put the knife away and give the bacon one more day before cutting into it.
Now that you’ve had a night to dream about what you will be eating go and pull that wonderful slab of bacon out of your fridge and begin slicing it into the perfect thickness. What the thickness should be is up to you, just find a size and go with it. How you want to cook with it is up to you, but I suggest getting some of those fresh slices in a frying pan immediately and have it with your morning eggs.