The Griller’s Guide to All Things Bacon
Not only is bacon flavourful and versatile, it’s also fairly easy to cook. You don’t have to worry about your bacon being “medium rare” or “well done” on the inside. However, perfecting the art of bacon is a title that only true grillmasters hold. Knowing how to make your own bacon, cook it to perfection, and incorporate it into your favorite dishes is something that requires both skill and creativity.
If you’re a bacon lover looking for ways to one-up your next BBQ cookout, read on for grilling tips and tricks along with some truly unique bacon recipes!
How to Make Bacon From Scratch
The only not good thing about making bacon from scratch is that, once you’ve tried homemade bacon, it’s hard to go back to the store bought stuff. That’s because making your own bacon allows you more creative liberties in terms of flavour, cut, and cure—enabling you to create the bacon best-suited to your taste buds.
Perhaps to your surprise, making homemade bacon is not as difficult as it seems. It will take you a fair bit of time, granted, but the love you put into it is equal to the deliciousness you get out of it. All you have to do is follow these 5 steps:
1. Prepare the Pork Belly
Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons
Making delicious bacon at home requires a quality cut of pork belly and a little TLC. Start by prepping your pork belly by removing the skin (also known as the rind) which you’ll find at the bottom of pork. The rind is a tougher texture than the rest of the pork belly, which, if left on, will prevent the meat from absorbing the smoke flavours.
You could either use a sharp knife to cut away the rind, or ask your local butcher for some help. The latter option works especially well if you purchase the pork belly from a butcher, as you can get two steps out of the way at once.
Whatever method you use, make sure to keep the pork skin. You can grill it on direct heat or deep fry it to make crunchy bacon bits you can add to pulled pork, green beans, or any dish that needs some extra crunch or flavour.
2. Cure the Meat
The curing process, also known as brining, helps preserve meat as well as infuse extra flavour. To make a cure, you’ll need salt, sugar, and pepper—you can also add curing salt (aka sodium nitrate) if you so choose. Feel free to also incorporate additional ingredients such as maple sugar or hot pepper flakes to spice up your bacon. Jess Pryles’ blog offers a simple cure recipe, or you could go the more complex route with this berry-filled cure by The New York Times.
Next, set the pork belly down on a rimmed baking sheet and rub the cure on both sides. Place the seasoned pork belly in either a resealable bag or roasting pan and leave it in your refrigerator for 5 days, making sure to turn the slab over each day.
3. Rinse and Dry the Pork Belly
After you’ve cured the pork belly, set it in a colander and rinse it well with cold water to remove excess salt. Blot it dry and leave it on a baking sheet in your fridge for 4 hours or up to overnight. Make sure to turn it over a couple of times during the process. This allows the pork belly to thoroughly dry as well as develop a pellicle, which is essentially a dry surface that the smoke will adhere to when cooking.
4. Smoke the Bacon
Traeger Tailgater, available at Barbecue Country
Now your pork belly is ready for the grill! Preheat your smoker to 200 degrees Fahrenheit and prepare your cooking fuel. Practically any type of wood can be used, but hickory and apple are particularly popular for homemade bacon. Smoke the pork belly for about 2-1/2 hours, or until the internal temperature of the pork belly reaches 150-155 degrees.
5. Chill & Slice
After smoking the pork belly, let it cool completely on a wire rack over a baking sheet. Then, wrap it in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 4 hours or up to overnight.
When you’re ready to devour your homemade bacon, slice it however thin or thick as you’d like. The ability to control the thickness of your bacon is one perk of making it from scratch! Then you can fry, grill, or smoke the bacon strips as you so choose.
Smoking Bacon to Perfection
Photo courtesy of Kitchen Divas
Bacon is beautiful in all its forms, but smoked bacon has a particularly powerful flavour that you can’t get with any other cooking method.
Whether you use store bought bacon or make it from scratch, there is only one ingredient you’ll need for this recipe.
To prep your smoker, preheat it to 300 degrees and spray a non-stick spray over the grates so no bacon bits are left behind when cooking. As for which pellets you should use, you can’t go wrong with hickory or apple!
When your smoker is ready, set the bacon strips directly on the grill grates and smoke for around 25-30 minutes. Cooking time will vary depending on how thick the bacon strips are.
Unique Bacon Recipes for Your Next BBQ
Now that you know how to grill bacon to perfection, the last step to mastering the art of bacon is knowing how to incorporate it into your meals. Of course bacon is delicious on its own, or as an accompaniment to pancakes and eggs, but there are many creative ways that bacon can be used to enhance your favourite dishes.
Grilled Bacon-Wrapped Pork Tenderloin
Photo courtesy of AllRecipes
They say that bacon makes everything better—even when we’re talking about something as delicious as pork tenderloin.
This easy-to-prepare recipe by AllRecipes involves brushing a homemade barbecue sauce on pork tenderloin before wrapping it with bacon, and then grilling it for just under half an hour. This strategy allows the BBQ spices to saturate the pork as it cooks, resulting in a flavourful dish with a unique texture.
Photo courtesy of Better Be Grilled
If you want to show off your grilling skills at the next family brunch, this recipe for beer-candied bacon strips by Better Bill Grilled will surely do the trick. By brushing bacon with brown sugar and brown ale beer before cooking, as well as midway through grilling, you not only get a more rich flavour out of your bacon, but an irresistible crunch too.
Bacon and Bourbon Salmon Bites
Photo courtesy of AllRecipes
These scrumptious salmon bites from AllRecipes are the perfect bite-sized appetizer for your next dinner party. The recipe involves marinating salmon in a simple mixture of bourbon, brown sugar, and scallions before wrapping the pieces in half-strips of bacon and pinning them into place with toothpicks. From there, all you have to do is grill the bites over medium heat for five minutes.
Grilled Bacon-Wrapped Asparagus
Photo courtesy of Pinch and Swirl
If you want to make your next veggie side dish a little more savory, this bacon-wrapped asparagus recipe by Pinch and Swirl can help you out. Simply toss asparagus spears with olive oil, kosher salt, and pepper. Next, wrap bundles of 4-5 spears with half slices of bacon, and grill over direct heat for 5-8 minutes per side, or until bacon is thoroughly cooked. Voila!
- Taylor Mitchell