We understand that this isn’t cooked at a campsite, but many of our recipes call for bacon as an ingredient. Bringing your own homemade bacon will make you a superstar campfire cook.
This recipe is far tastier than mass-produced store-bought bacon. In making your own homemade bacon, you won’t be taking the shortcuts that the mass producers take and you won’t be buying the cheapest possible cut of pork belly like they do.
This recipe seems simple, and it is, but it’s our favorite bacon recipe due to its versatility. A sweet maple bacon can be tasty, but it isn’t great for adding to other dishes.
A good smoky, savory bacon, is useful in a lot of the recipes that we cook.
Related: Learn to make your own tasso ham.
Really, sometimes simple is better. Not everything needs a bunch of extra oddball ingredients. In the case of cured pork belly, it would just detract from its awesome smoky porkiness.
In our homemade bacon recipe, we’ve added an additional step that a lot of other people don’t do. We rinse the bacon off in water after curing it, then re-season with pepper before putting it on the smoker.
This helps keep it from being overly salty. After it’s been cured, it no longer needs all that salt on the surface. That can be overpowering.
Finally, having a vacuum sealer is nice. We generally do a 4 1/2 to 5 1/2 pound pork belly and cut it in half to smoke, then cut those into halves again prior to vacuum sealing. That way we end up having four 1+ pound packages put up.
We leave one package of bacon in the refrigerator to use immediately and freeze the other three. The vacuum sealer does a great job at preventing freezer burn for the three packages that we throw in the freezer. Sealed like this, then frozen, bacon can last quite a long time (the USDA suggests 4 months in the freezer) with little to no impact on flavor or texture.
This recipe requires that you have some special equipment at home.
First, you need an outdoor grill of some sort. Most any will do.
You’ll need to know how to set your grill up for two-zone cooking. You can learn how to do that here.
You’ll also need a special wireless thermometer for monitoring the internal temperature of the pork belly as well as the temperature of the grill itself.
The thermometer has two temperature probes. You want to insert one into the center of the thickest part of the meat. The second probe should be attached with its provided clip on the coolest side of the grill.
Your goal will be to maintain a temperature of 225 degrees in your grill the entire time you cook. This keeps the outside of the pork belly from overcooking before the inside reaches the proper temperature.
To get that awesome smoky flavor, you are also going to want to make a wood-chip foil pack. Just take about half a fist-full of wood chips (you can get wood chips at most grocery stores in the charcoal section) and place them on a large rectangle of heavy-duty tin foil. Fold it up loosely and seal around the edges. Stab a bunch of holes in each side with a fork, and you’re ready to go.
Now that your grill is set up for two-zone cooking, throw your wood-chip pack over the hottest part and let it sit until smoke starts coming out.
Finally, close the lid and let your grill come up to 225 degrees and you’re ready to go. When it comes to temperature, your pork belly will go on the coolest part of the grill, next to, but not touching the probe that’s attached to the grill. The other temperature probe will be inserted into the thickest part of the pork belly.
- Barbecue pit
- Wood chips and heavy duty foil
- 4.5 to 5.5 lbs. Pork belly – (skinless)
- 2 tbs. Morton's Kosher Salt
- 5 tbs. Black pepper – (divided)
- 1 tsp. Dried thyme
- 1/4 tsp. Cayenne
- 1 tsp. Prague Powder #1
- Mix all ingredients (only 1 tbs. of the black pepper) in a bowl.
- Cut the pork belly in half and sprinkle the curing blend evenly over all surfaces. Try to get it all on there.
- Place each pork belly half in a separate gallon-sized Ziploc bag.
- Remove as much air as possible from the bags prior to sealing them. The water displacement method in the kitchen sink is very helpful here.
- Place in the back of the refrigerator for seven days. (the area in the back of the refrigerator generally stays cooler than the front, due to the door being opened and closed constantly.)
- Once a day during the curing process, flip the Ziploc bags over in the fridge so that liquids don't settle in one spot.
- Remove bacon from the Ziploc bags and place it into a clean sink.
- Rinse as much of the cure mixture off as you can. A little of the cure remaining isn't a problem.
- Dry with paper towels then evenly sprinkle the remaining four tablespoons of black pepper over pork belly. Use more if you like.
- Set your grill for two-zone cooking (see link in notes below for how to do this) and preheat to 225 degrees. Place wood chips (you can get these in the barbecue section at most grocery stores) over the hottest part of the coals and wait until it starts smoking (I like apple or pecan wood on my bacon). Remember, you'll be slicing the bacon and only the outside edge will have smoke, so I encourage you to put a little more smoke on there than normal.
- Place your cured pork belly on the coolest part of your grill.
- Insert your meat thermometer into the thickest part of the pork belly, cover your grill, and cook until the internal temperature hits 150 degrees (you'll need a meat thermometer… see notes).
- Once the internal temperature hits 150 degrees, remove from your smoker and rest for 20-30 minutes. Slice each pork belly half in half again (quarters of the original belly) then vacuum seal. If you don't have a vacuum sealer, you can put each quarter into zip-top bags and remove the air in a sink full of water.