Tremendous Top Ten: Tools For Making Bacon

This bacon was cut into lardons and used in a pot of pinto beans.

Bacon could possibly be the perfect wife. Bacon is romantic. She is supportive and can be independent, but not overpowering. Those wrapped in her fat, salty embrace–think filet-mignon, shrimp, or cheddar cheese stuffed jalepenos–though formidable in their own right, are made better by her. She’s a social charmer; at home in a 5 star restaurant, yet flourishes at your local greasy spoon. Bacon can be sweet or spicy, whatever your mood desires. Even better, she’s easy– if you have the right tools:

1. Charcuterie: The Craft of Salting, Smoking and Curing by Michael Ruhlman and Bryan Polcyn. This is the preeminent book on meat preservation and an excellent starting point for learning to make bacon, hams, and sausages.

2. Pork. If you enjoy chasing and killing wild boar for food, don’t pass on the opportunity to make bacon. However, you will need a decent sized piggy, about 125 + to get the kind of thickness necessary to make a few rashers. Otherwise, sweet talk your local butcher. Most recipes call for 3-5 pounds of pork belly.

3. Coarse Kosher Salt. I use Morton’s and it has worked fine.

4. Instacure # 1 . You are looking for 6.25% Sodium Nitrite. It goes by different names such as DQ curing Salt #1 and Prague Powder. It’s candy colored and dangerous so keep it away from munchkins.

5. Dextrose. Part of Ruhlman’s basic cure recipe, it does a better job than granulated sugar.

6. Electronic Scale. It’s better to weigh your ingredients and this little scale is just right. It’s small, so storage isn’t and issue. It’s also the right price.

7. Zip Lock Bags. The largest you can find to store the bacon while its curing. Otherwise, you deal with contamination issues and its more difficult to redistribute the cure.

8. Refrigerator. I like having a second fridge for doing my curing but it’s not necessary. A small fridge like you had in the dorm will work fine.

9. Smoker. Unless you have your own stand alone smoke house, I really like the new electric smokers on the market now. They are only slightly more complicated than a microwave, don’t require much wood, and can be adjusted to allow for “cold smoking.”.

10. High End Ingredients. This is bacon and that nutmeg that’s been in your cupboard for two years won’t cut it. Use fresh ingredients.

I have some maple/brown sugar bacon curing in the fridge right now and will show you my recipe soon.  Have you cured your own bacon before?


  1. I was digging through the chest freezer yesterday, and found the deer belly I intended to cure to see what happened. However, I won’t try to do anything with it until it’s a leetle beet warmer outside- I’d be smoking it in our grill, and keeping it at a constant temp would be tough in single digits. If I could get my hands on a pork belly, I’d buy a smoker. I work for a farmer, and one of my coworkers has brothers who raise hogs for 4H, maybe they can hook me up. Last Summer and Fall, all the pork we served at the clubhouse I work in was from the 4H hogs, and it was amazing.

  2. You can totally smoke on a grill, but do the actual roasting in your oven. We can only smoke in the winter here because you want to cold smoke it, (below 130). The inside of my truck will be 120 degrees in June.

  3. Wow, obviously wild pig makes for some lean bacon. When I was a kid we used to eat the alternative, fresh side pork. Fried crisp, I loved it. But I haven’t seen it in the stores in years.

  4. andy, do you ever make your bacon without instacure?

    my buddies and i have taken to making bacon with celery instead of instacure. sodium nitrite is illegal in a lot of countries, including japan (where i live), so we use naturally occuring nitrites instead. the effect is almost exactly the same, and although it takes a little longer, it cuts down on the cost as well.

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