Tue Jun 18, 2013
I think it took a few times for my (now) mother-in-law to coax me out of my food-adverse shell and finally try the bright red meat that commonly adorned the breakfast plates she served back in the days when I was still courting my wife. Luckily it didn't take more than one bite to fall in love this porky delight—sugary sweet, meaty, and filled with delicious slightly soft, slightly chewy fat—and it instantly became a favorite in my morning meaty vernacular. This my friends is the glory of tocino, and I'm hear to spread its good graces to all that will listen.
It's come to the point that I cannot leave a Filipino market without some packages of frozen tocino, but the problem is that I rarely make it out the Filipino markets all that often. So it was about time I learned how to make this at home.
It all starts with pork shoulder, which has the right balance between fat and meat to make perfect tocino. The pork needs to be sliced relatively thinly—into slices about 1/4-inch thick—which can be a challenge when it's at an average refrigerator temperature. If you throw the shoulder into the freezer until it's just starting to firm up, it's much easier to make the nice thin slices required.
From there the cure is added. Fulfilling the sugary part, I went in with a double does of the sweet stuff with both white and brown sugars. To that I added Kosher salt, pink curing salt, annatto powder for an earthy red hue (for the more common bright red color, use food coloring), and Anisette, which gives an ever so slight anise flavor that I never equated to being in to tocino, but tasted just right in the end.
The pork then cured for three full days in the refrigerator. What came out didn't look too reassuring. While most tocino is bright red straight from the package, this was a mixture of grays and browns. I knew from past experience though not to judge a book by its cover—my brisket for pastrami came out of the cure and unsightly gray, but smoked up to a beautiful maroon.
Normally tocino is pan fried, but there's no reason it can't be done on the grill. It cooked up nicely with little sweet crunchy bits of char. The flavor was spot on, sweet, slightly salty, and nice and meaty. Give me a plate of garlic fried rice to accompany the tocino and I know I'm off to a great day.
- Prep Time:
- 20 Minutes
- Inactive Time:
- 3 Days
- Cook Time:
- 5 Minutes
- Total Time:
- 3 Days 25 Minutes
- 2 pounds
- 1/3 cup brown sugar
- 1/3 cup white sugar
- 2 tablespoons Kosher salt
- 2 teaspoons annatto powder
- 1 teaspoon Anisette
- 1/4 teaspoon pink salt (aka InstaCure, Prague Powder)
- 2 lbs pork shoulder cut into 1/4-inch slices
- To make the cure: In a small bowl, mix together brown sugar, white sugar, salt, annatto powder, Anisette, and pink salt.
- Place pork slices in a medium container. Add in cure and toss to evenly coat pork. Cover and let cure in refrigerator for 3 days.
- Light one chimney full of charcoal. When all the charcoal is lit and covered with gray ash, pour out and spread the coals evenly over entire surface of coal grate. Set cooking grate in place, cover grill and allow to preheat for 5 minutes. Clean and oil the grilling grate. Grill pork slices over medium-high direct heat until lightly charred and cooked through, about 3 to 5 minutes per side. Transfer to a plate, let rest for 5 minutes, then serve.