Almost everyone loves bacon, but for hardcore fanatics, there’s nothing quite like homemade. Indeed, many claim that once you try homemade bacon, the store-bought stuff tastes depressingly inferior. Making your own bacon is an easy affair, but without access to a smoker, many people assume they’re out of luck. Not so. Delicious, affordable bacon can be made in a conventional oven, something every home has. Here’s how you do it.
Although other cuts of pork can be used, the traditionally preferred cut is pork belly. Pork belly is very common, and you should be able to pick some up at any butcher shop or ethnic foods store. Most bacon experts recommend purchasing half a slab, which weighs between four and five pounds. Make sure it has the rind on.
You’ll also need about three yards of heavy-duty foil, extra large plastic storage bags and wood chips. Wood chips can often be found in your local grocery store along with the other grilling supplies. Apple or hickory are the most popular varieties, but you could also choose mesquite, maple or oak depending on your tastes. While you’re getting supplies, don’t forget to pick up a suitably sized roasting pan and rack if you don’t already have them. For oven-smoking, your rack will need to sit at least 1 1/2 inches off the bottom of your roasting pan.
Prepping Your Bacon
Once you have all of the necessary tools listed above, it’s time to get to work on curing and flavoring your bacon. You can’t really mess this part up, so let your imagination run wild. Feel free to use any spices or herbs that you think would be good on bacon. If you want something a little more tried-and-true, a quick search online will yield countless seasoning recipes for bacon. Here’s a good one for beginners:
- 5 tbsp fine kosher salt
- 2 tbsp light or dark brown sugar
These two ingredients provide the basic bacon flavor, but other things can be added such as garlic powder, barbecue rub or black pepper. Rub the belly down with the curing mixture, making sure to get the sides. Allow the seasoned belly to stand for five minutes. Once you notice water beading on the surface, put it in one of your giant storage bags and put it in the refrigerator. You’ll leave it here, undisturbed, for one week.
After a week is up, pull out the belly, rinse it with water, pat it dry and set it rind-up on a cookie sheet fitted with a wire rack. Put it back in the fridge overnight. The next day, remove the belly from the fridge and let it come to room temperature.
Now for the most important part. Pre-heat your oven to 200 degrees Fahrenheit and line your roasting pan with a generous amount of foil. The sides and bottom should be totally covered and there should be excess coming out of all four sides, enough to create a raised foil dome over the belly. Add your wood chips to the bottom, situate the rack over them and lay the belly over the rack with the rind facing up. Enclose the belly with the foil. On the top of your stove, put the pan over two burners and apply a medium flame until smoke begins streaming out. This takes around five minutes. The smoke won’t be much, but you might wish to open a window or use your stove’s exhaust fan.
Next, set the pan in your oven for about four to six hours, or until the belly reaches 150 degrees. When it’s done, take the pan out and allow the bacon to cool. You can remove the skin and dispose of it, but this isn’t necessary. It just makes slicing easier. Your bacon will keep in the refrigerator for up to two weeks, or it can be frozen for up to three months.