Now that I'm on the homemade bacon train, I'm all in—it's been well over a year since I last purchased bacon from the grocery. Smoking up a steady stream of bacon has afforded me the ability to experiment with seasonings a lot over a short period of time and I mostly treaded familiar ground at first with things like peppered bacon, maple bacon, and spiced bacon. That has now left me starting to venture into the more experimental spaces like pastrami bacon and this Cajun spiced bacon. To be honest, I've seen Cajun bacon before and that's why it popped up as a recipe to try, but I don't think it's something I would choose over other bacons when shopping, so I went into this recipe not quite sure how much I'd be into it on the other end.
Developing the recipe itself was pretty easy for me since I've done many Cajun and blackened recipes over the years that use this common earthy and herbal spice mixture that has a light touch of heat to it. Paprika serves as the foundational red base while garlic and onion powders give the seasoning a lot of its sharpness. Cumin is what enhances that earthy quality and it's a mixture of thyme and oregano that bring in the herbal components. To transform this into a cure for bacon, I merely had to add kosher and curing salts into the mix and I was done.
I utilized around a three pound piece of skinless pork belly for this bacon, which was half of what I bought that day—I've been smoking up one regular bacon and one experimental one in each of my cooking sessions. I coated the belly liberally with the cure, then transferred it to a Ziploc bag and set in the fridge for a week. Every morning and night I flipped that bag over to help the bacon cure evenly throughout.
At the end of those seven days, the pork was pretty firm, a good indicator that the cure worked as expected. I had been running my bacons under water before smoking to remove excess salt, but I didn't want to remove any of the seasoning for this bacon, so skipped that step. A few of my past bacons were not quite salty enough, so I wondered if skipping the washing might solve that problem, or possibly end with a bacon that was too salty. It was going to still be some time until I got an answer to that question though as I moved onto the next step of transforming this pork belly into bacon by putting it into the smoker running at 255°F with a couple chunks of pecan wood tossed on the coals.
When the pork hit around 150°F in the center, I removed it from the smoker and let it cool off at room temperature for a bit before wrapping it in plastic wrap and sticking it in the fridge to chill completely. The final bacon had a solid earthy red hue to it all over, which gave me hope that the seasoning would be substantial and really give the final strips that boost of Cajun flavor I was hoping for.
Once the meat was throughly chilled, I cut it into strips utilizing my meat slicer. I went a little thicker than I had been for other bacons mainly as a change of pace, but also thought you'd really want all the boldness you could get out of this bacon, so heftier strips would best deliver that.
Once I was done slicing, I portioned the bacon out into vacuum sealed bags and then placed those in the freezer to wait until I was ready to use them. I know I can always re-portion and freeze store bought bacon, but I never do, and making these single serving bags has been one thing I've really loved about going homemade—I always have the right amount of bacon for just me and wife.
From here, you can choose to cook the strips in your favorite manner, which for me is grilling. I decided the first use of the Cajun bacon would be in blackened chicken tacos, which I was cooking on the grill already, so it made sense to use the existing fire and get the added advantages of not making a mess in the kitchen or smelling up the house like bacon for days (although I personally don't mind that second part much).
On the grill, I placed the bacon over indirect heat and then covered. I let the strips cook, turning and flipping them occasionally, until the fat rendered and crisped up the meat nicely. For this use in tacos, I wanted an extra crispy texture to contrast against the chicken, so I let this batch cook until they were very well browned.
At this point in time, it was weeks from when I actually started the process of making this bacon, so expectations may have grown even more with the added wait and it felt really great to bite into that first crackling strip. Initially I was hit with the comforting smoky, meaty, and salty bacon flavor that was a tad saltier than most of my previous bacons, but also tasted more "right." After that came a light heat that was the first unique stamp of the Cajun seasoning that was then built upon by garlicky and earthy flavors as I ate more. There was no doubt this had a flavor above and beyond the standard bacon, whether I would pin point that as uniquely Cajun if it wasn't called out by name is debatable though, but it was an amazing tasting bacon none-the-less. That being said, that strong earthy heat isn't going to be warranted in every bacon situation—which is why I always like smoking up a standard bacon alongside my more experimental ones—but when that extra Cajun flavor is desired, this bacon is going to serve you well, big time.
- Yield 10 servings
- Prep 10 Minutes
- Inactive 5 Days
- Cook 1 Hour 30 Minutes
- Total 5 Days 1 Hour 40 Minutes
- 3 tablespoons Kosher salt
- 1 tablespoon paprika
- 1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon onion powder
- 1 teaspoon dried thyme
- 1 teaspoon pink curing salt
- 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 3 lbs boneless pork belly, skin removed
- In a small bowl, mix together salt, paprika, black pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, thyme, curing salt, oregano, cumin, and cayenne pepper. Coat pork belly all over with the cure and place in a large resealable plastic bag. Place in the coldest part of the refrigerator and cure for 5 to 7 days, flipping bag about every 12 hours.
- Fire up smoker or grill to between 200-225°F, adding 1-2 fist-size chunks of smoking wood on top of the coals when at temperature. When wood is ignited and producing smoke, place pork belly in smoker, fat side up, and smoke until an instant read thermometer registers 150°F when inserted into thickest part of the meat. Remove pork belly from smoker and let cool. Wrap in plastic wrap and place in refrigerator until completely chilled.
- Cut bacon into slices at desired width and cook using your favorite method. Store leftover bacon in Ziploc or vacuum sealed bags in the refrigerator for up to a week, or in the freezer for up to 4 months.