Having an endless supply of bacon is pretty much THE DREAM, and nothing is more impressive than serving someone a bacon and avo brekkie sandwich when you can claim you’ve cured that meaty goodness yourself.
This week, our ‘Nailed It’ life hacks series tackles everything you need to know about making your own bacon, thanks to Melbourne restaurant Grub Food Van’s head chef, Scott Blomfield. Scott ‘s experience at Mighty Boy and Supernormal means he definitely knows what he’s talking about. When it comes to Scott’s love of the meaty snack, he says:
“Bacon: Such a simple word for one of the greatest culinary triumphs of the last million years. Bacon is one of the few things I would never try to rethink, reassemble, rearrange, or generally do anything to but fry it until crispy. While I use it as an ingredient any just about any recipe I can (I am still to find a recipe that can't be pepped up with some salty pork-ness), at the end of the day, or the beginning, or just about anytime at all, you simply cannot substitute, or improve on perfection.”
Go forth and bacon, people!
#1: Invest In Your ingredients
When it comes to buying your bacon kit, it’s best to invest in a great quality piece of pork belly, and a variety of herbs and spices for seasoning, as you’ll need the flavour and quality of both to create top-notch bacon. You’ll need:
- 500g sea salt
- 250g brown sugar
- 10g fennel seeds
- 5g coriander seeds
- 20g thyme (chopped)
- 50g garlic (chopped)
- 5 cloves – whole, not the ground ones
- 3-4kg pork belly, in one long strip
#2: Choose Your Pork Wisely!
You may have to speak to your local butcher about ordering in the pork belly, so give them a call a few days in advance and remind them that it’s for bacon, so you don’t mind a bit of fat on the cut. Aim for around 60% meat and 40% fat for the perfect rasher.
If you’re going to nerd out about bacon, you can take it to the next level by doing both shoulder bacon (aka. lean, ever so slightly healthier bacon), and streaky pork belly bacon (aka. the good stuff that’ll taste amazing on top of a burger). Just make sure you ask the butcher for both a shoulder cut and a belly cut in your order.
#3: Prepare Your Pre-Bacon Meat
Preparing your wannabe bacon is pretty simple but takes a bit of waiting around:
- Score the pork skin in diamond shapes using a sharp knife.
- In a dry frying pan (no oil!), lightly toast your dry ingredients, mixing them together with a spatula.
- Let the mixture cool, then spread it all over the pork belly, wrap it in foil, and leave it to cure for four days, turning the pork over each day to ensure everything gets absorbed by the meat.
- On day four, wash the remaining mixture off the meat and leave the pork belly in the fridge, uncovered, for 24 hours, so that the meat dries out.
- In the meantime, sort out your very own smoker…
#3: DIY A Smoker For $20
Yup, you don’t need to shell out a couple of hundred dollars for a top of the range smoker. Instead, all you need is:
- A cheap, large vegetable steamer.
- Some woodchips.
- A stovetop hob.
- Some good ventilation—a hood range or powerful extraction fan is best.
You might not believe it, but one of the best, pocket-friendly pieces of apparatus you need to make smokey magic is a simple stainless steel, Chinese steamer. You can purchase one of these babies for roughly $20 from a market or local Chinese homewares store. Alternatively, Bunnings do a cheap smoker for $30.
Next comes woodchips. Before you take an axe to that Ikea dresser, remember that this is where the flavour comes from. For pork, applewood and hickory are tasty options... And you’ll get some hickory chips for a pinch at Bunnings.
#4: Smoke Your Meat
When it comes to smoking, low and slow is the way to go. To turn that pork in to bacon, simply:
- Line the bottom of your steamer with tin foil where you would normally put water.
- Tip in your favourite wood chips.
- Set the steamer on a hot element or gas hob on a high heat for 2-3 minutes, until the chips begin to smoke.
- Place your meat into the vegetable tray, and pop the lid on the steamer.
- Turn the heat down to medium and smoke for at least 20 minutes—try not to lift the lid, you’re letting all the goodness out!
#5: Slice, Cook And Eat
Once the bacon has been smoked, slice the meat as thinly or as thickly as you like, and either grill or pan fry your meat treat. Then boast to your mates about how you just had the best bacon sandwich in the city, entirely made within the four walls of your own kitchen.
For more cooking hacks, check out Scott’s blog, Work Eat Laugh Repeat.
Image credit: Gabrielle Stjernqvist