photo credit: tellerian.com
Applewood, or mesquite?
You might think that you need to invest in an expensive smoker if you want to start making your own home smoked bacon, fish or sausages. These commercially bought smokers will work well, but you can easily use your backyard BBQ to get great results...for free!
My last hub talked about curing your own bacon, so I'm going to use smoking bacon as an illustration of the technique used to cold smoke any food.
What does cold smoke mean anyway?
Cold smoking refers to applying smoke to a food, without adding any extra heat. You are not trying to cook the food, that will come later, only add a delicious hardwood smoke flavor. Hot smoking refers to a technique that uses heat as well as smoke to cook and flavor at the same time. Smoking BBQ ribs is an example of this.
For cold smoking all that you need are:
A backyard BBQ.
A few lumps of charcoal.
A bag of hardwood chips.
If you're doing bacon, you should leave the meat exposed to the air in the fridge overnight. You're looking for something called the pellicule to form. The pellicule is a tacky skin that you will be able to see. The smoke will adhere to this and create great tasting bacon.
Once you're ready to start:
Take your hardwood chips and start soaking them in a bucket of water. The more saturated with water they are (at least half an hour) the more smoke they'll release. Apple and Hickory are two great woods to use. Mesquite is a little too aggressive for bacon.
Remove the lower grate from your BBQ and put in an old aluminum pie plate, or cast iron fry pan. Turn on the gas, and get a few hunks of charcoal burning by placing them directly on the flames. Once they are good and lit, grab some of your soaked wood chips-- try to shake them to remove the excess water--and add them to your pie plate or cast iron pan. On top of these wood chips, add 2-3 lumps of burning charcoal. You don't want to add too much, as you're not trying to create heat, only smoke.
Put the grate back onto the BBQ and lay your slab of bacon on. Close the lid and watch as the smoke starts to billow out. You want to smoke the meat for about 3-4 hours, if you notice that the smoke has eased off, add some more wood chips (and charcoal if needed).
And that's all there is to it. You can use this same technique for fish, ham, sausages, even homemade chipotle peppers!
The only cautionary advice is to not add too much charcoal. If you add too much then you will no longer be smoking...you'll be cooking
- Here's my hub on easy homemade bacon curing
Three ingredients and about 15 minutes of work are all you need to make the best bacon you've ever tasted!
- My Restaurant in Chiang Mai, The Salsa Kitchen Mexican Restaurant
Come on by anytime to talk about making bacon or anything else!
Gerald on November 13, 2016:
I have an electric smoker . At what temperature do i smoke the slab and for how long . The recipe sound easy . Looking forward to your comment.. Also what about recipe for smoking fresh rabbit and chicken theighs sausage . Thanks
Marc on December 31, 2011:
Maple syrup may be hard to find in Asia but you should be able to use a thin palm sugar syrup instead for similar results.
Steve on December 22, 2011:
You should smoke after curing.
kjkinn on December 16, 2011:
Should meat be smoked before or after the curing process?
windmillgeorge on September 23, 2011:
John, I raise english large black pigs and sell the meat at our local farmers' market. The problem is that i sell out of bacon and have lots of roasts left over. What do you think of smoking and cutting the roasts into bacon. My roasts come back from the butcher with the skin, about 1/2 inch of fat and rest is meat. The meat has some streaks of fat through it but very little. The only problem I see is that each slice would be 2 to 3 inches wide, not a real problem because people want the bacon wide. Any advice would be appreciated. thanks george, love the info.
peak sen on January 22, 2011:
what type of wood are those wood chips in bbq stores?
Shaul on December 28, 2010:
For those who are seeking hard wood substitutes, I use citrus charcoals (lemon, orange) with great results (no wood chips, only citrus charcoals for the smoke).
MICHAEL on December 20, 2010:
how long will the meat last for after it has been smoked?
Haak on September 25, 2010:
I've been in Central Africa for the past year deprived of bacon. Only twice did I go to the capital and splurge on the low quality, overpriced South African bacon. Just can't afford it or access it.
I have a butcher in my village who sells pork weekly out of his wheelbarrow. I'll show up early next week right after slaughter and get some belly. The sodium nitrate (pink salt) is a problem, so I amy just skip that (or consult the science lab at the local secondary school).
Thanks for the simple, practical recipie. I'll let you know how things turn out.
John D Lee (author) on September 14, 2010:
Bill - please share your technique, sounds interesting!
bill on September 05, 2010:
I have the most perfect way of smoking food easily and with most homeyard bbq,s slightly modified of course at virtualy no cost,
John D Lee (author) on August 30, 2010:
Ian - You can surely make good tasting bacon without pink salt - but there are health risks when doing so. I think that everyone needs to get informed about the benefits/costs of nitrite usage on their own and make an informed decision about which way to go. I personally prefer to use them
Ian Brown on August 28, 2010:
I looked this up to get away from the pink salt. It is a killer of humans.
Sulfites are so bad for humans Just use salt. The bacon will not have to stay around long enough to go off anyway.
tom lee on August 03, 2009:
John, I live in malaysia as well, and have been looking for local hardward that i can use as wood chips. what is the english word for lumyai? also, have you tried other local wood - mangroove, rambutan???
as for the pink salt (prague powder #1), there are stores in penang that sell it, but the mininum quantity is 25kgs. I cure my bacon with no pink salt; the bellies are fresh that day and i immediately put it into the brine. cheers, tom
dave on May 25, 2008:
its just great your posts have helped me a lot
Joe Keane on January 22, 2008:
I found your article on home cured bacon extremely interesting and also it brought back old memories on how my Grandparents and Uncles made home cured bacon.
They had the big advantage that they kept and killed their own pigs. It was important that they were fed correctly with grain, potatoes, and greens. about six weeks before killing, a pig was fed on grain only. This was supposed to give a nice taste to the meat.
The pig was killed, cleaned, and deboned before being salted and put into barrels with more lares of salt between each slab. It was left there for nearly 2 weeks, then removed and hung up in a cool place to dry. Afterwards it was sometimes wrapped in brown paper (sometimes not) and hung up on the kitchen ceiling. The bacon lasted for most of a year. The pigs normally weighed between 3 to 4 cwt. or 300 to 350 pounds before being killed.
You may think that by what I have written above that I am familiar with home curing bacon, but I have never did it. My Grandparents stopped killing their own pigs about 50 years ago.
People always refer to belly bacon when they talk about home curing, Why? I think the back is much nicer with less fat. Also my Grandparents used just normal salt (I think) is it OK just to use ordinary salt. I also understand it is important to use a wooden barrel or box but in a hot climate not possible as it will not fit in a fridge. My Grandparents always killed during the winter so a fridge was not necessary and also not available.
Any further information you can provide regarding home curing bacon would be very much appreciated, as I intend to try it.
I also live in Thailand. I have worked here for the past 12 years. Looking forward to hearing from you. E-mail address, firstname.lastname@example.org
John D Lee (author) on October 07, 2007:
Hi Choy Soo Ying,
I'm making this bacon quite close to you, in Thailand, so you should not have any great problems sourcing what you need.
Pink salt is just regular salt mixed with 5% sodium nitrite (not nitrate). If you can get sodium nitrite at a chemical supply store, you are in business. It is toxic though if taken in too large amounts, so you have to be carefull with it, and since you want to ensure even distribution, you may want to dissolve salt and sodium nitrite in water to the required concentratioons (that's what I did). If you're not sure about it, get some help, as you don't want to make a mistake. the nitrite is essential as it inhibits the growth of botulism.
Hickory is not essentiael, and any fruit tree wood will work well. I use Lumyai here, and it tastes great.
I think that instead of using artificial maple, you'd be better off with honey, or brown sugar is good too.
If you have any questions, I'm happy to help, especially as we're neighbors!
choy soo ying on October 07, 2007:
i live in Malaysia n bacon is COSTLY esp since i have 4 children. Would really like to try to make my ownbacon but i dont think i can get pink salt and hickory wood chips.What can i substitute them with?I have an open barbecue pit that wemade out of bricks nad have wire mesh over the top.is this ok to use? If i cannot get maple syrup, will maple flavored syrup, light or dark corn syrup or honey do? i look forward to your advice.Tks. Melaka, malaysia
John D Lee (author) on May 07, 2007:
You want to start with a piece of fresh pork belly that you've dry cured for about a week. See my post on making bacon for detailed instructions on how to do that.
You can also use the same process to make bacon-like meats with cuts such as pork shoulder and pork jowl. The pork loin is used to make Canadian bacon, but this is usually wet cured.
Jerry lee on May 07, 2007:
Sounds good. Does it matter what type of bacon you start with?