Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Mmmmm, Bacon

In your fridge right now you probably have some bacon. It's got Oscar Mayer written on the package, or maybe you're real high class and you got some good stuff from Whole Foods. It's delicious because, well, all bacon is delicious. Have you ever had bad bacon? Think about it. When's the last time you had bacon and you said, "that was just awful." You haven't ever said that, because bacon by its very nature is awesome.

Well, I'm here to tell you that unless you've smoked your own bacon then you haven't had truly awesome bacon. 

I remember the first time I smoked bacon. It was a glorious day. I went to Whole Foods because there was nowhere else I could find pork belly. I followed the advice given here to a tee, rubbing salt and sugar on the belly and putting it in the fridge for a week. When the week was up, I fired up my smoker. I could smell how delicious this thing was gonna be as it was smoking. True, everything smells great on a smoker, but this was something different. Something magical.

It was ready much more quickly than I expected. Everything on the smoker seems to take days to cook, but this was ready after about an hour and a half. So I took it off the heat, brought it back in the house, and immediately sliced off a piece and fried it up. And then I had my first taste of home-smoked bacon.

Excuse me, I'll be back in a moment.

Okay, I'm back. I'm sorry, I had to go and gather myself as I thought about that first magical bite. 

There is nothing like smoked bacon. It is the food of the gods. And it's so damned easy to make.

You owe it to yourself to go out and try it. You don't have to have a smoker - a grill will get the job done so long as you cook it indirectly, but it sure helps.

As for finding pork belly, Whole Foods or a similar store should have it, though I doubt you'll find it in Krogers, Giant, Safeway or even Wegmans. You could also try a farmer's market or if you're lucky enough, head off to Amish country.

The recipe above is pretty simple. You brine it in pink salt, sugar, and regular salt, then rub it again right before it's ready for the heat. Meathead at Amazing Ribs has a great recipe as well. Of course just about all of his recipes are fantastic, and I will be making frequent reference to him. You of course are free to innovate as you like, but honestly the simple stuff works wonders. You don't need to spend an hour mixing 20 different spice ingredients. Sugar and salt is all you need. 

The tricky part is slicing it just right. Slicing the long way can be difficult, and leaves you with slightly thicker slices than you might prefer. I've actually started slicing along the width of the pork belly, at least initially, to give me slightly leaner cuts. Also, it's best to wait until after the smoked belly has been refrigerated to slice it as the cold belly is much easier to slice efficiently. 

And remember, three or four slices of bacon has far fewer calories than that "healthy" muffin. And a lot more fat, but it's best not to think about that.

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