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Making Bacon


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After only 12 hours of sitting uncovered in the fridge drying out, I stuck my bacon in the oven at 6am this morning, at 100C and set my probe thermometer to 65C. It took just 90 minutes, and then I let it sit around to cool till shortly after noon. It's very easy to slice, but I wish I had a longer knife or an electric meat slicer. It would make cutting a whole lot easier! (Think I could use my Benriner to slice it?)

I fried a couple of slices. It's definitely crispy like bacon, but it's rather flavourless. The sugars definitely got absorbed somewhere, because the bacon burned relatively quickly, but I couldn't taste the sugar anywhere. Or the salt, for that matter.

I can and will definitely use this up, but I look forward to trying again. I'm sure I can do better in terms of flavour! My next attempt probably won't be until fall, though. It'll take me a long time to use this up!

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One more thing. . .

I tried it again with thicker slices, and I can definitely taste the sweetness. Oh well. It's not overbearingly sweet, but I probably won't be using it in place of pancetta in a bolognese sauce. I got about 15 2-3mm slices from my 1kg side pork, plus some chunks from the bit I cut off to even everything out. I can't imagine this is going to last as long as I thought, so I may just have to make another one sooner than later!

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Ok, so I finally did my first bacon yesterday. I cured it for 7 days then went to go and fire up the grill to smoke it. The problem? the grill would not get hot enough to smoke the chips. I have a uniflame with two sides to the heating element, a heat plate over the flames, the grill grate sits about 6 inches above that. I put the chips that soaked for 30 minutes on one side of the grill and left the other side's heat off. The chips would never smoke! the temperture in the grill itself was too high according to what the recipe said. (Ruhlman, Charcuterie) My question is this, should the chips be on the heat plate not the grill grate? If the tempurture hovered a bit higher, how high is too high? I could never get the tempurture below 250, no matter how hard I tried.

Thanks!

ps..I wound up finishing it off in the oven, turned out great anyway. A lot more "richer" than store bought. About two pieces was all I could take.. :wub:

"I eat fat back, because bacon is too lean"

-overheard from a 105 year old man

"The only time to eat diet food is while waiting for the steak to cook" - Julia Child

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Picking up from here . . .

Three days in a pH ~4.5 brine didn't seem to bother the belly. I let it dry for a day, then gave it 12 hours of cold hickory smoke in a Bradley, finishing in a 225 F oven to 160 F. (This is all pretty much SOP for me.)

So far so good. It sliced nicely -- maybe a bit soft, but I might be projecting. Upon frying up, though, we went off the rails. My usual bacon-frying technique is to start on medium heat in a cast-iron skillet, then reduce the heat as the bacon cooks. This produces a reliably crispy rasher with less chance of burning. But this bacon almost immediately burned along the edges. I quickly turned the heat down and salvaged the meat, but it was clear that I was going to have to adjust my cooking style.

The next time out, I started very low and left it there. Of course, this didn't allow as much fat to render out as usual. No burning, but no crispiness, either. Next time, I'll try on a rack in an oven.

As for the flavor, it's unremarkable, and tastes of Coca-Cola not a bit. It's probably the least interesting bacon I've yet produced.

I'd love to hear theories on why this didn't work. Here's mine: much of the flavor of Coke comes from oils, and these molecules are too big to sneak into cells along with the rest of the brine. In fact, I suspect that the oils created a surface barrier, crippling the osmotic process. The meat is nice and pink, indicating that nitrite managed to do its job, but salt and sugar is lacking. The bacon just tastes underseasoned.

One other clue, which I neglected to follow-up on when I should have: the brine developed a brown precipitate -- little Coca-Cola-colored flecks. Now I wish I'd strained them out and tasted them.

Thoughts -- on what happened, and how to proceed?

Dave Scantland
Executive director
dscantland@eGstaff.org
eG Ethics signatory

Eat more chicken skin.

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Quick question on cost - I have to special order pork belly through my butcher, and he says 5 dollars a pound. Does that sound reasonable?

In Canada, I pay about $2.50 a pound, but that may not be relevant to the prices paid in the US. $5 a pound sure seems like a lot though.

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Quick question on cost - I have to special order pork belly through my butcher, and he says 5 dollars a pound. Does that sound reasonable?

In Canada, I pay about $2.50 a pound, but that may not be relevant to the prices paid in the US. $5 a pound sure seems like a lot though.

IMG_2039.jpg

Here's a picture of some I made the other day.

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Picking up from here . . .

Three days in a pH ~4.5 brine didn't seem to bother the belly. I let it dry for a day, then gave it 12 hours of cold hickory smoke in a Bradley, finishing in a 225 F oven to 160 F. (This is all pretty much SOP for me.)

So far so good. It sliced nicely -- maybe a bit soft, but I might be projecting. Upon frying up, though, we went off the rails. My usual bacon-frying technique is to start on medium heat in a cast-iron skillet, then reduce the heat as the bacon cooks. This produces a reliably crispy rasher with less chance of burning. But this bacon almost immediately burned along the edges. I quickly turned the heat down and salvaged the meat, but it was clear that I was going to have to adjust my cooking style.

The next time out, I started very low and left it there. Of course, this didn't allow as much fat to render out as usual. No burning, but no crispiness, either. Next time, I'll try on a rack in an oven.

As for the flavor, it's unremarkable, and tastes of Coca-Cola not a bit. It's probably the least interesting bacon I've yet produced.

I'd love to hear theories on why this didn't work. Here's mine: much of the flavor of Coke comes from oils, and these molecules are too big to sneak into cells along with the rest of the brine. In fact, I suspect that the oils created a surface barrier, crippling the osmotic process. The meat is nice and pink, indicating that nitrite managed to do its job, but salt and sugar is lacking. The bacon just tastes underseasoned.

One other clue, which I neglected to follow-up on when I should have: the brine developed a brown precipitate -- little Coca-Cola-colored flecks. Now I wish I'd strained them out and tasted them.

Thoughts -- on what happened, and how to proceed?

I don't know what recipe you used but I use one found in Michael Rhulman's book, "Charcuterie". It uses maple sugar and maple syrup. Also, I let it cure for at least a week, rinse, let it sit on a rack uncovered for 24 hours in the fridge to form a pellicule, and smoked it for 6 hours. I have a Bradley also but I used my Weber this time. (Picture below of the finished bacon.) I have no problems cooking it up. My biggest problem is the cruddy slicer I have that results in bacon sliced less evely than I'd like which means the bacon doesn't all want to cook at the same rate.

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Quick question on cost - I have to special order pork belly through my butcher, and he says 5 dollars a pound. Does that sound reasonable?

That sounds very pricey unless it is some kind of special (heirloom breed/organic/whatever) pork belly. I typically pay $1.50 - $3 /lb depending on whether it is on sale or not. The best prices are usually at Asian markets.

Niman Ranch belly goes for $38.98 for a 13-14 lb average piece; even with shipping that probably equates to less than $6/lb

Jon

--formerly known as 6ppc--

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Oh and ElsieD - your bacon looks fantastically delicious! Are you cutting it thin or thick?

I try and cut it about the same as the bacon you buy in the supermarket, not the "thick cut" but the regular cut. I have an electric slicer but it can be a bit tempermental. I got three more pieces of pork bellies today that I will start curing tomorrow. This home made bacon really is very, very good.

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Consensus sounds like 5 a pound is high. It is at Whole Foods, so that's likey why, but I've got a stellar butcher there - maybe he'll cut me a deal if I mention I want to make regular orders. He's a great, old-school butcher.

5 bucks a pound is way high. But nice bellies can be hard to find. I have paid that much before and I have paid much less for bellies that I was not happy with.

I recently lucked into these for $1.50 per lb. They cured in salt. pink salt and a three pepper medley for 9 days. No sugar in this batch. I smoked them with apple wood for 12 hours at temperatures less than 120F. The taste is awesome! My best batch yet.

bellies001.jpg

bellies006.jpg

bellies008.jpg

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That looks wonderful. I have had the same experience - price versus quality. I just bought some more bellies at a Chinese grocery store, which is where I bought my last batch. I paid $2.59 a pound and they have a very nice proportion of lean to fat. Their bacon is better than the upscale butcher shop where I used to buy my bellies for around $4.00 a pound.

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I tried a few new things this time around.

First, instead of trying to find a decent belly at the carnicaria or waiting three months for a Niman order to arrive at Whole Foods, I went to the best source I have for pork belly: the Chinese American Market on Park Ave in Cranston RI (at Rolfe, for the locals). There they consistently have thick, excellent 2"x12" strips of skin-on belly every day. I bought five of them (five pounds, roughly), dredged them in Ruhlman's standard cure and the additional accent (black pepper this time), and then covered them with water in two deep hotel pans. About seven days later, with regular overhauling, they'd firmed up nicely.

After peppering them again and giving another a day of drying in the fridge, I hot-smoked them with apple chips (not hickory, my usual) until they were up to temp. Finally, instead of slicing them in their 12" state, I cut each piece in half, so that I had 6" pieces of bacon. I'm very happy with the results, and the simplicity of the process makes the project easier to handle in general.

Chris Amirault

eG Ethics Signatory

Sir Luscious got gator belts and patty melts

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Ok, I admit I haven't read through this entire thread. But I have pork bellies and want to make bacon. Chris you mentioned you submerged your dry cured bellies in water? From what I have read in Charcuterie, you just put the dry cure on and refrigerate. Do I need to submerg in some sort of liquid?

Marlene

cookskorner

Practice. Do it over. Get it right.

Mostly, I want people to be as happy eating my food as I am cooking it.

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There's been a big debate about the "dry" vs wet cure here, Marlene, and a lot of us have come to the conclusion that Ruhlman's "dry" cure doesn't distribute the cure evenly enough. I have done his method many times using my FoodSaver machine, and the bellies don't release enough liquid to allow for complete overhauls of the meat in the cure. That results in lots of intense edge curing, with exteriors more salty and sweet than interiors. I've served lots of pieces of bacon that are extra dark on the ends from having too much sugar there.

So, this time around, I used a modified-Ruhlman approach, dredging the bellies in his cure, sticking them in pretty tight-fitting pans, and then barely covering them with water. This is very imprecise -- there are a lot of people who have strict notions about brine percentages that may find this heresy -- but it resulted in a very strong curing liquid, easy overhauling (moving the meat around in the cure), and a even distribution.

Perhaps this would only work once you've done it a few times another way. I've done enough bellies that I'm now going by feel; I can tell when it's cured enough. However, the ease is very attractive, and the results excellent. Next time -- I'm eager to do another rosemary cure soon -- I'll document the entire process.

Chris Amirault

eG Ethics Signatory

Sir Luscious got gator belts and patty melts

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Chris, this is interesting. I too, use the Ruhlman method and find, as you did, that there doesn't seem to be much liquid. I have three bellies curing in the fridge now - I started them last Wednesday - do you think I can add a bit of water to them? Mine are in large zip-loc bags with as much air expelled as possible. Maybe I could add a couple of ice cubes to each one for a slow (but cold) infusion of water? My bellies pieces are about 2 1/2 pounds each. Thanks for your thoughts on this.

Elsie

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A suggestion,,,If your residual salt level desired in the in the bacon is 3.7 % (or what is good for you),,Just use that % of dry salt,on the rub,, and then add that same % of salt to to the weight of water you use to have moisture in the bag to even things out. Just be sure to leave it in the bag long enough so the salt level is in equilibrium through the whole piece

Bud

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Chris & qrn, thanks for your suggestions. I am going to add a couple of ice cubes to one slab and I will also add a bit of salt to make up for the dilution. I don't know how much salt to put in as I initially used weight as the measure but I'm thinking maybe a couple of teaspoons. Does this sound about right? And adding just a couple of ice cubes should help with overhauling the cure. Chris, since you add water to your cure, do you change the cure ingredient quantities? Thanks again.

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