Bacon is that one beloved meat delicacy that nobody can refuse. Subtly crispy, tender, and juicy, bacon strips taste unbelievably delicious with burgers, in salads, and as side dishes. In short, everything in life gets better with bacon. Even though it has been a breakfast item for the longest time, bacon is now incorporated in dinner and lunch as well.
While most people like to pan-fry or bake it, a great, flavorful way to cook bacon is by popping it in an electric smoker. Yes, you read that correctly! When it comes to juicy, succulent, and moist bacon, nothing can do the job as well as an electric smoker. Sure, cooking it in an electric smoker will take more time than simply cooking down the bacon strips over the stove, but the taste will be truly delectable.
Smoking bacon in an electric smoker is easier than you think. All you need is a top-notch electric smoker and a few essential ingredients to create a professional, chef-approved bacon-y dish! So, throw on an apron, and let’s learn how to smoke bacon.
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Tips to Follow When Using an Electric Smoker
Before we get to the meat of our cooking lesson, it’s important to know how to use and look after your electric smoker. Rest assured, using a smoker isn’t tricky business at all. Smoking your bacon will take the flavors to a whole new level of juicy goodness.
However, purchasing an electric smoker is just half the work. Learning how to make the most of it and maintaining it properly is just as important. There are numerous tips and tricks over the internet that teach you how to use an electric smoker. However, the research will probably steal many hours of your time.
Therefore, we’ve assembled a list of the best homeowner’s tips for using an electric smoker and of course, cooking delicious bacon with it!
1. Never Over-Smoke the Bacon
In most cases, the more you “cook” the meat down, the tastier it gets. However, when it comes to smoking bacon in an electric smoker, the case is rather different. You’ll be surprised at how little smoke you need to bring the flavors out in your bacon strips. With meat, you have to be extra careful in the smoker and not let it over-cook. Otherwise, it can become inedible. Therefore, always follow the exact temperature as given in the recipe.
2. Using Foil On the Grill Racks
Another take-home tip for beginners is to use heat-friendly foil on the grill racks. Smoking bacon will definitely result in dripping sauces and as delicious as it is, it can make cleaning a real hassle. The foil will also save you from extra cleaning if you’re smoking barbecued meat.
The leftover grease and oil can harden and stick to the grills of the smoker. This then produces extra smoke, which you do not want when cooking bacon. So, if you want good-tasting bacon, it’s time to put in some effort.
3. Pre-Seasoning the Unit
If you really want your meat and veggies to develop tantalizing flavors, then you should always preseason the smoker before using it. The process is simple and easy. Simply set it up to 275 degrees and let it heat up for 3 hours. After two hours, pour some wood chips on the tray and then continue for another hour.
When the unit begins to produce smoke, you know it’s working and maintaining the smoke properly. After this, turn off the heat and allow the unit to cool completely. You can now cook your food in the smoker.
4. Choosing the Right Wood
Bacon is a delicate food to smoke; hence, apple wood is one of the best choices to fuel the smoke. Your second best choice is mesquite, as it retains heat well. Both these hardwoods are perfect because they last longer and create a flavorful, smoky taste.
You will have to soak them in water before placing them inside the unit. This ensures that the temperature remains constant and the wood continues to flame up. It also allows the wood to produce more smoke.
5. Using a Brine Solution to Cook Flavorful Bacon
Another great tip is to use a brine solution for your bacon. This ensures that all the spices and herbs are nicely soaked in. It results in tons of flavor and delicious meals. The good thing about smoking bacon is that it is supposed to stay in a brine solution overnight or for a few hours. This helps with good flavor development. You can then wash the salty solution off and cook the bacon.
When using pink salt (Prague powder #1) you must rinse this off before smoking or cooking.
6. Cleaning Your Smoker Regularly
It doesn’t matter what you’re cooking in your electric smoker—just make sure to clean it thoroughly after every major cook-off. In fact, the cleaner your smoker racks are, the tastier your barbecue will be. Never leave the grease or oily residue over the racks for longer than a day as it can start smelling.
Instead of using harsh chemicals, you can use a simple and effective concoction made from water and vinegar to dissolve the grease.
And, that’s pretty much it!
How to Smoke Bacon
Now that we’re through the tips, here’s what you have to do.
1. Choose an Electric Smoker
Before you take out the pork belly, you need to set up the electric smoker. As this is the most crucial step to cooking wholesome, flavorful bacon, you need to make sure that your smoker is in top-notch condition. You will require some wood chips for smoking. For bacon, both Mesquite and Apple wood are good choices to retain the juicy, smoky flavors.
2. Choose the right pork belly
If you want your bacon to come out nice, crispy, and slightly tender, then you need to hand-pick the pork belly you’ll be smoking. It’s best to get fresh bacon as the spices sit nicely over it. You will have to spend quite a bit because whole pork bellies will cost a few dollars. And, while it is pricey, remember you can get a lot of bacon from each belly.
3. Choose a Curing Salt
A curing salt, also known as pink salt, is meant to give the bacon a nice, pink shade. It also does wonders to extend the life of the meat and keep it free from bacteria. The salt is a mixture of sodium nitrite and table salt. The nitrites are essentially what stop the growth of bacteria and keep your bacon fresh.
It is very important to rinse off the curing salt. Also, the pink color is added to prevent it from being mistaken for table salt.
4. Choose the Spices and Herbs
If you like to spice your bacon up, then this is the time to choose all the herbs and powdered spices to season the pork belly. Paprika is one of the safest choices for tasty yet mildly spicy bacon. You can also add some Kosher salt for an earthy taste, some cumin seeds for that subtle hot flavor, and of course, black peppercorns. Feel free to play around with the herbs and spices to suit your taste buds.
However, if you’re looking to follow a guide, then here are the set quantities of spices and herbs you can use.
For 5 lbs of pork belly use:
|¼ cup Kosher salt|
|2 tsp pink salt|
|2-3 tbsp smoked paprika|
|1 tbsp garlic powder|
|1 tsp cumin powder|
|1 ½ tbsp black peppercorns (crushed)|
|¼ cup dark brown sugar or honey (depending on your preferred level of sweetness)|
Start by skinning pork belly. If you have the option, get it professionally removed by your local butcher as doing it at home is harder. Don’t discard the skin, however. They can be grilled later to make golden brown crispy pork snacks.
Next, prepare the curing mixture that will be rubbed over the bacon. While kosher salt, curing salt, and sugar are the most crucial ingredients, you can either choose the above-mentioned recipe or use your favorite spices for the bacon.
You can replace the sugar with maple syrup if you want to keep it healthy and natural. In case you want to add a hot, fiery taste, some hot pepper flakes would do a wonderful job! Mix all the herbs and spices nicely by hand or with a fork, and set aside.
Now it’s time to cure the pork belly with a mixture of spices and herbs. Place the pork belly on a clean, rimmed baking tray. Rub the spice mixture nicely, covering both sides of the meat. Once the mixture has thoroughly seeped in, place the pork belly in a zip-lock bag for curing and marinating the bacon.
The curing process will take around 5 days during which you will have to make sure to turn it over every single day. This trick will help you get all the spices in nicely. Curing your bacon will cause it to become dry since all the liquids will be collected in the zip-lock bag. You can use the spicy, vinaigrette solution to cook flavorful poultry later on.
After five days, it’s time to wash the cure off the pork. Transfer the bacon into a nice strainer and thoroughly rinse both sides. You should ideally do this with cold water, as the cool temperature will clean away the salty brine. Once the bacon has been properly washed, place it over a wire rack to allow the droplets to dry off.
Place the bacon in your fridge to make sure that it has dried completely. This can take another 4-5 hours or if you have time on your hands, let the bacon cool down in the fridge overnight. This will help in the formation of the dry, crinkly exterior skin of the bacon, which is what catches the smoke and develops flavor. The skin is also what forms the “golden and crispy outside” that people love.
Take the bacon out and slice it up. You can make the slices as thick or thin as you like. If you like thick, juicy chunks, then you can use a pro-slicing knife to cut down square-shaped slices. However, if you like thin slices, then slice down the bacon accordingly.
Follow the instructions given in the manual to set up the electric smoker. Next, preheat it to around 200-225 Degrees. This is the ideal temperature to smoke your bacon as it helps retain the spicy and sweet flavors. After choosing the wood chip to fuel the smoke, remember to soak them before preheating the smoker.
For smoking fuel, Applewood should be your first choice as it heats up quickly and stays lit for a long period of time. However, if it’s not available, you can use cherry, mesquite, or any hardwood of your choice.
Your bacon will cook properly when it reaches an ideal temperature of 148-150 Degrees F, which will take somewhere between 2-4 hours. Once ready, serve piping hot and crispy in burgers or as a scrumptious side dish!
From all the quick things to smoke in a smoker, bacon is one of the most sumptuous, lip-smacking foods you can cook. Smoking your bacon makes it incredibly juicy, crispy, and delicious. You might just ditch all your other cooking methods for an electric smoker because of all the wonderful flavors it brings to your food.