This recipe already exists on my site. Well, kind of. See, I actually set out to make pastrami bacon last summer with every intention to end up with the results outlined in this recipe, but I was smoking that cured and spice-rubbed pork belly on a day I was hosting a lot of guests and ended up making a game time decision not to pull, cool, and slice the meat for bacon and instead let it keep cooking so I could serve that day. So I ended up with pastrami pork belly instead, but I knew I still wanted to go back and make the true bacon product, and I finally did that, and it was even more glorious in my opinion.
This recipe is pretty much identical to the pastrami pork belly one except the bacon is pulled from the smoker when it reaches 150°F while the pork belly keeps cooking until it hits between 196-203°F. So if you've already made the other recipe, this one will be old hat, starting with the cure that adds a lot of spices to the required kosher and curing salts. I've been curious how much of a difference spices make in the curing process, and now that I'm three recipes deep in my bacon explorations, I felt like my question may get answered in this go round.
Seeing more limited uses for a pastrami flavored bacon, I made a smaller portion of it, opting to go with a three pound piece of boneless belly that I removed the skin from and turned into chicharrónes.
I coated every bit of the pork in the cure and then placed it in a Ziploc bag and put it in its own drawer in the fridge. There it sat, being flipped twice a day for even curing, for five days. At the end of that time, the meat had become much firmer, a sign the curing process worked as expected. The next step was washing the cure off and applying the rub.
I feel like the first time I made pastrami I hit the nail on the head with the flavor of the rub, so I've never changed up the recipe for it over the years. The rub boils down to being three parts coarsely ground black pepper, two parts ground coriander, and one part granulated garlic. The rub itself is intensely sharp and earthy, but applying it in a generous fashion to the meat is also key to delivering that heavy pastrami flavor in the end.
Then into the smoker running at 225°F the belly went. I used pecan wood here, which imparts a medium smokiness, thinking that the hearty pastrami flavors are better suited for more smokiness than lighter woods, like apple or cherry, impart. I used to think I had to cold smoke bacon to get it really smoky, but all of my bacon attempts so far have outputted noticeably and pleasantly smoky meat with the shorter times of hot smoking.
The target temperature for bacon is 150°F, which took about one and half hours to reach cooking at 225°F. Once it hit that mark, I took the belly out of the smoker, let it cool down to room temperature, then wrapped it in plastic wrap and placed it in the fridge to chill completely.
It was the next day when I took the bacon out of the fridge and sliced it up. Someone asked me recently what slicer I use, so it's worth sharing it's a Chef's Choice 609, which appears to have been discounted and replaced with the 609A model. I wasn't entirely happy with how it sliced at first, but that changed when I swapped out the included serrated blade for a straight one. I didn't think I would use a slicer that much, but once I got it I found I use it pretty regularly and wish I invested in a higher end product, but the difference between a top of a line consumer model like the Chef's Choice and a more professional slicer is hundreds of dollars, so there's definitely a big cost-benefit analysis to be thought about there.
Once I had all my bacon sliced—at home I make slices somewhere between the standard supermarket size and thick cut—I divided them up into portions fit for one use. I got three packages of bacon out of this recipe, two smaller portions for just me and the wife, and then one larger portion in case we're coking for extra folks or I want to use the bacon for multiple things in a short period of time.
Slicing and storing is where this recipe ends because how to cook and use the bacon is up to you, but I never miss a chance a plug the grill for cooking bacon since it's not a medium commonly thought of for this purpose. The grill is great for making bacon if you're cooking large portions—you get a large surface area to work with—or are already grilling something else—make more use of that charcoal already burning. To grill bacon, you just need a two- or three-zone fire where there's a cool area of the grill so the strips are not directly over the coals.
Then, with the grill covered, it takes anywhere from five to ten minute for the bacon to cook depending on how hot the fire is and how crisp you want your strips. Occasional flipping and moving the bacon around is required for even cooking, which is par for the course with pan cooking too, but with the grill, you don't have a greasy mess to clean up afterward or a house that smells like bacon for days, so those are two big plusses to bacon making outdoors in my mind.
I wondered how much the pastrami flavor would carry through in thin strips like this and the answer was a lot! The bacon had the very distinct peppery, earthy, and garlicky flavor of pastrami in every bite. That was mainly thanks to the heavy application of the rub, but the meat itself did have a more spiced and nuanced flavor that the other bacons I've made, answering my question that yes, indeed the spices in the cure make a difference in the end flavor. This was, with no doubt, the most flavorful bacon I've produced to date, and while that makes it not really an everyday bacon, it does make me more excited about figuring out ways to use it new recipes and I already made one I can't wait to share next week for pastrami bacon burgers!
- Yield 8-10 servings
- Prep 15 Minutes
- Inactive 5 Days
- Cook 1 Hour 30 Minutes
- Total 5 Days 1 Hour 45 Minutes
- For the Cure
- 1/4 cup Kosher salt
- 1 tablespoon packed dark brown sugar
- 1 tablespoon ground black pepper
- 1 tablespoon ground coriander
- 1 1/2 teaspoons granulated garlic
- 1 teaspoon pink curing salt
- 1/2 teaspoon ground bay leaves
- 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
- 3 lbs boneless pork belly, skin removed
- For the Rub
- 2 tablespoons coarsely ground black pepper
- 1 tablespoon coarsely ground coriander
- 1 1/2 teaspoons granulated garlic
- 1-2 fist-sized chunks of medium smoked wood, such as oak or pecan
- To make the cure: Mix together salt, dark brown sugar, black pepper, coriander, granulated garlic, pink salt, ground bay leaves, allspice, and cloves in a small bowl. Coat entire pork belly with the cure and place in a large resealable plastic bag. Place in the coldest part of the refrigerator and cure for 5 days, flipping bag about every 12 hours.
- To make the rub: Mix together black pepper, coriander, and granulated garlic in a small bowl. Remove pork belly from bag and wash off any large deposits of salt under cold running water. Coat pork belly liberally with rub all over.
- 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.