Dry Cured Bacon - Tutorial

This is an adaption of the tutorial that I wrote on 'beginners' bacon curing for the sausagemaking.org forum.

Let's Make Bacon!

Cure suppliers

Details of cures and suppliers can be found on this page.

Cleaning/Hygiene

Pay attention to hygiene; keep everything clean and safe. Ensure work surfaces and cutting boards are clean. You may wish to use plastic gloves when handling curing salts.

Choice, Size and Source of Meat

Your meat can be from the supermarket, local butcher, or direct from the farm-shop or farm. You can cure as much or as little as you want. Remember though, the better the meat: the better the bacon. For this reason, many people choose rare-breed or free-range meat. However, for a first project, a joint from the supermarket is fine. If something goes wrong it won’t have cost you the earth!

You'’ll need:

For Streaky Bacon -– a boned joint of belly pork
For Back Bacon -– a boned joint of loin of pork

In the supermarket both of these are likely to be rolled and tied with string. Remove any string and unroll the meat. It should be noted that the rashers from these joints are smaller than those of commercial bacon as smaller pigs are used.

The Dry Cure

For this guide we will pretend we are dry curing a piece of meat weighing 1930gm (1.93kg/4.24lb).

For each 1kg of meat we need:

22gm Salt
8gm Sugar
2.5gm Cure #1
0.5gm Sodium ascorbate (optional)

The sugar can be one of your choosing white, brown, Demerara or even honey or maple syrup. The darker the sugar: the stronger the flavour. A mixture of white and Demerara, or light brown sugar, makes tasty mild bacon.

Weigh your piece of meat and calculate the amount of cure you need...

If you have accurate scales:

For our 1930gm (1.93kg) example, that’s:
Salt 22gm x 1.93kg = 42.5gm
Sugar 8gm x 1.93kg = 15.4gm
Cure #1 - 2.5gm x 1.93kg = 4.8gm
Sodium ascorbate 0.5gm x 1.93kg = 0.97gm

You can add any herbs and spices you fancy. A sprinkle of black pepper and thyme keeps things simple.

If you don’t have accurate scales:

Make up a batch of cure:
Salt 220gm
Sugar 80gm
Cure #1 - 25gm
Sodium ascorbate 5gm (optional)

Now, ensuring it’s well mixed (you could grind it in a clean coffee grinder, if you have one, to make sure) use 33gm per kg meat. So in this case that would be 33gm x 1.93kg = 63.69gm (64gm to make it easier to weigh).

You can add any herbs and spices you fancy. A sprinkle of black pepper and thyme keeps things simple.

For easy calculation for all weights of meat use one of my online calculators:

For My Favourite Bacon - the moderately salted bacon that's featured above.
Or, alternatively, this very Mild Bacon

These and others can also be accessed via my Cured Meat Calculators page

Applying the Cure Mix to the Meat

The amount of cure mix may seem a lot less than you expected. Don’t add more, that’s how it’s meant to be.

Sprinkle about 80% - 90% of the cure mix onto the flesh side of the meat and rub well in, getting into all the folds and crevices. Don’t forget the ends. The remainder is sprinkled onto the skin/fat side and rubbed in well.

Now put the meat, along with any cure that fell off whilst you were rubbing it in, into a food grade bag, or wrap it well in cling film. In fact it's easier to put the meat into the bag and then rub the cure into it! Put it into the fridge; on a tray’s best, just in case it leaks. Every day or two turn it over and give it a bit of a rub; you can do this ‘through’ the bag without opening it. Don’t worry if liquid comes out of the meat. It often, but not always, does. Just leave it all in the bag.

How Long Do I Leave It For?

The standard advice is to cure the meat for 1 day for each ½ inch (13mm) of thickness, plus two days. So for a piece of supermarket belly like ours, about 1½ (39mm) inches deep, that’s going to be 3 days + 2 days = 5 days total.
Don’t lose sleep about the curing times. Unlike older curing methods, this type of cure is not time critical, it won’t be too salty if you leave it longer than the calculated time – so it’s always best to err on the side of caution. If in doubt leave it a little longer.
You may notice, because you'’re bound to take a peek, that it doesn’t appear to have changed colour. That’s normal. The outside colour is deceiving. If you’'ve followed the instructions it’'ll be lovely red bacon when you cut into it.

Wash and Dry

At the end of the curing time, rinse the bacon in cold water, then dry it with a clean cloth or paper towel. It then needs to dry out a bit before use. It’'s best hung in the fridge, but this can sometimes be difficult. If you can't hang it, put it where the air can get around it; maybe on the fridge shelf with something underneath to catch any drips. Leave it for at least couple of days to dry; I tend to leave it longer as I prefer it well dried. When your impatience gets the better of you, slice it, cook it, and enjoy!

Storing Your Bacon

This is not 'old style traditional bacon' that can be hung in the rafters all winter. Keep it in the fridge for up to a few weeks, or for longer storage freeze it whole, or in slices, for 1 to 2 months. If you Vac-Pac it, you can keep it longer but it must be kept it under 5°C or frozen.


These icons link to social bookmarking sites where readers can share and discover new web pages.
  • Del.icio.us
  • Digg
  • email
  • Facebook
  • Google
  • Posterous
  • Reddit
  • Technorati
  • Twitter
  • Yahoo! Bookmarks

There are 63 comments

Anthony

Can prague powder #2 be substituted in this or other recipes for bacon?

Anthony, (Email ) - 08-12-’10 01:32
Phil

Assuming that you’re not concerned about having nitrate in your bacon there’s no reason why you can’t.

Phil, (Email ) (URL) - 08-12-’10 15:25
jon

Nitrates: Ive read as widely as I can on the subject. I understand it takes bacterial action to convert to nitrites. Does this occur without bacteria in dry cured bacon?

jon, (Email ) - 31-12-’10 18:21
Phil

The bacteria referred to is not something that’s added to the meat, it is naturally occurring bacteria in the meat.

Phil, (Email ) (URL) - 31-12-’10 18:49
Sharps

I have been given a 250gm bag of food grade Potassium Nitrate (KNO3). If I were to add 5.88gms of this to 84.12gms of salt would this result in 100gms UK Cure #1?

Sharps, (Email ) - 07-01-’11 15:05
Phil

Regrettably not. Cure #1 is sodium nitrite mixed with common salt, not Potassium Nitrate. What you have is saltpetre which can be used for curing but requires very accurate scales to do so safely. Mixing it in bulk is not a good idea as different grain sizes can lead to uneven settlement and a chance of using dangerous levels of the cure. Cure #1 is not only mixed together but it is mixed as a solution and then vacuum dried to ‘bond’ the two ingredients.

If you want to cure bacon with your saltpetre, you would be best to post a query on http://forum.sausagemaking.org/ where I or someone else can advise you further. (It’s just easier to do it there rather than in these comment boxes).

However, you would be best get cure #1 to use for your bacon and save the saltpetre for longer term curing projects like salami etc.

Hope this helps

Phil, (Email ) (URL) - 07-01-’11 15:24
Sharps

Many thanks Phil. I’ve tried joining the aforementioned forum but haven’t yet received an “activation” email from them. BTW, I have a precision 200 gram mass balance with a 0.001 gram resolution!

Sharps, (Email ) - 07-01-’11 17:49
Phil

Sharps

I’ve emailed you about the forum registration

Phil

Phil, - 07-01-’11 20:59
Bo

questions: after drying the pork belly is it now ready to be smoked?
can you remove the skin and cure the belly? or would you have to use less dry cure?
will this cure work if you vacuum seal the belly?

Bo, (Email ) - 06-04-’11 11:57
Lee

Hi

I have some Cure#1 from Australia which says it is 2% nitrite. Do I just increase the amount proportionately to give the same final concentration?

Lee, - 28-04-’11 05:30
Phil

Yes, you would increase the curing salt to 7.5g per kg and reduce the salt by 5g per kg to 13.5g per kg.

Phil, (Email ) - 28-04-’11 16:13
DanMcG

Hey Phil I’m doing up a couple more sides of belly, this time with sodium erythorbate. I was still going to go “a day per 1/2” plus two” for a cure time but with the accelerator can I safely go less?
Thanks, Dan

DanMcG, - 17-05-’11 10:44
Phil

I don’t honestly know Dan. I tend to leave most things for 5 to 7 days regardless.

Phil, (Email ) (URL) - 17-05-’11 13:57
Ronnie

I have some maple sugar and would like to use this, would I just swap it for the amount of sugar from the calculator.

Ronnie , - 06-06-’11 08:36
Liz

I want to use a fairly thick, boned, middle cut of leg for making gammon steaks. I would prefer to dry cure it. Could I use the above recipe for doing this? I would still stick to the 1/2 inch per day 2 and appreciate it would take a lot longer to do, but would it work please?

Liz, - 29-09-’11 20:30
Phil

Hi Liz, I don’t see why not, assuming that you want gammon with the same salt/sugar levels as this bacon. However, I’ve never done it with this cure.

I’d try and get cure inside the joint where the bone has been removed and cure it for a good long time, maybe a couple of weeks. Then hang it for maybe a week to let the cure even out throughout the meat.

I’d probably use the slightly saltier cure here: http://www.localfoodheroes.co.uk/?e=561

That said, these are just ‘thoughts off the top of my head’!

Please let me know how you get on.

Phil, (URL) - 30-09-’11 15:42
Liz

Thanks for your thoughts on this, I think I will give it a go. You say you’ve never done it with this cure, do you have one you would recommend? I would prfer to dry cure, however if you know of a wet one that works really well I would be interested in trying it.

Liz, - 30-09-’11 18:11
Phil

I can’t see any reason not to dry cure it but would use this cure:

http://www.localfoodheroes.co.uk/?e=561

Cure fresh meat for a minimum of 2 weeks in a fridge, plus 4 – 7 days hanging to ‘equalise’, or on a non-metal grid (also in the fridge). You may need to wrap it in waxed paper or greaseproof while it f dries to stop it going to far.

Good luck!

Phil, (URL) - 30-09-’11 20:27
Liz

Thanks for the help, I’m going to give this a try, I will let you know how it goes.

Liz, - 03-10-’11 20:54
rod andrews

Hi,
I am using E250 a prepared curing salt mix I obtained in France. For a traditional bacon dry cure, how many grammes per kilo of meat should I use please

rod andrews, - 08-10-’11 15:43
Phil

Hi Rob

E250 is sodium nitrite – the same chemical as in cure #1. If it’s French, the chances are that it’s ‘sel nitrite’, a mix with 0.6% sodium nitrite and as such you will need ten times the amount than you would cure #1, so you won’t need any salt (the other 99.4% of the cure being salt!). Please check with the supplier first though to ensure that I have guessed correctly.

Phil, (URL) - 08-10-’11 17:31
rod andrews

Hi, Thanks for that Phil, at least I know what I am dealing with and yes you are right the E250 I have bought is a mix of 0.6% sodium nitrite and salt. So for the mathmatically challenged, (me)!) precisely how many grammes of this mix alone would I need per kilo of pork to produce a dry cure bacon please. cheers

rod andrews, - 09-10-’11 11:59
Phil

Sorry for the delay, you’ll need 25gm per kg for a good cure level. No added salt as the salt will already be about 2.49%.

HTH

Phil

Phil, (URL) - 09-10-’11 20:27
rod andrews

You’re a star Phil, will get stuck in today, if all goes well will then try your black ham receipe, looks delicious. Many thanks again, Rod

rod andrews, - 10-10-’11 04:58
Debbie

Hi, I’m confussed, I plan on haveing a go at curing bacon and making ham next week, I thought I understood the process now I don’t can you explain this:

Cure 1 – on the web site it appears to say you can only using for brine but I have seen it used in receipes for both brine and dry cure

Cure 1 – do you use cure 1 with table/cooking salt instead of curing salt???

Any help?

Debbie, - 12-10-’11 01:14
Phil

Hi

I’m sorry for any confusion: cure #1 can be used in dry curing and in brines, but the cure recipe above can only be used for dry curing.

Cure #1 is used with salt, this could be table or cooking salt, but an additive free salt such as sea salt would be much better. You must not add further curing salt otherwise the level of nitrites will be too high.

I think the confusion is that some curing salts are complete curing salts – you add nothing to them. They are good if you like the level of salt that the manufacturer has used. Cure #1 is not one of these – you control the level of added salt yourself.

I hope that this helps.

Phil, (URL) - 12-10-’11 15:35
Tim

Thanks v much for this. Tried maple syrup bacon but the amount used doesn’t add much flavour at all. Can I increase the maple and keep all else the same or add post cure? Thanks, Tim

Tim, - 17-03-’12 19:06
Phil

I know that some use maple syrup powder http://www.amazon.co.uk/Maple-Syrup-Powd.. but it’s frighteningly expensive.

You could increase the ‘sugar’ amount or apply it post cure. However, fry it carefully as it may burn more easily.

Phil, - 17-03-’12 19:18
Shortie

Hi Phil. I would like to open with a big thanks for your informative site.
I have been curing with brine for some time now and have just made my second dry cure bacon batch using your recipe and have to say, a great success.
Do you have any other tips for slicing though. I have a small slicer for hams but even after drying it tends to slice unevenly.

Shortie, (URL) - 18-01-’13 04:58
Phil

Hi Shortie,

Yes, putting the bacon in the freezer to cool it right down sometimes helps.

Phil, - 18-01-’13 19:22
Claire

Hi
What a great forum!!! I really want to make some gammon. Am absolute beginner at this- can u help?

Claire, - 19-02-’13 20:51
Phil

Hi Claire
For gammon/ham joints, just use one of the ham recipes here.

By gammon though, I assume that you mean gammon for slicing thickly and grilling/frying? You need a recipe that’s more like bacon for that. I haven’t posted one here, but I know that a guy over at http://forum.sausagemaking.org has made it.

I hope this helps

Phil, - 20-02-’13 20:00
Claire

Thanks! Yes the English style gammon that is like a thick bacon. Can you make it without nitrates?

Claire, - 20-02-’13 22:28
Claire

Also ( sorry) I don’t know what cure1 and 2 is??

Claire, - 20-02-’13 22:32
Phil

Also ( sorry) I don’t know what cure1 and 2 is??

Please see http://www.localfoodheroes.co.uk/?p=equi..

Thanks! Yes the English style gammon that is like a thick bacon. Can you make it without nitrates?

Yes, you can, but it will be more like a thin slice of fried pork if you dou

Phil, - 21-02-’13 00:34
JohnCFarrow

can I recommend if your note sure of quantities/ingredients contact Wesenfelders of Middlesborough.They do excellent cures and seasonings and do mail order.I have lived in Thailand for 9 years and the absence of supermarkets and English food suppliers decided to make my own sausages and then bacon. They are very friendly and advice is only a phone call away. Hope this helps. Kind regards.

JohnCFarrow, - 09-03-’13 08:35
tim

This is awesome thanks, have you ever tried to make chicken bacon?

tim, - 14-04-’13 05:51
Phil

Thanks Tim. I don’t make chicken ‘bacon’, but I’m sure that there’s no reason why you couldn’t use this recipe to do it.

Phil, (URL) - 15-04-’13 13:34
tricia

hi. this is my first time having a go at curing pork. im a little confused about the ingredients for the curing mix. do i use kosher salt and brown sugar only or do i need to add another type of salt to the mix too.

tricia, - 29-04-’13 23:56
Phil

I’m guessing from your reference to kosher salt, that you’re in the US. You can obtain the Cure #1 in the recipe above from http://www.sausagemaker.com or a number of other places. This contains the ‘cure’ that gives the meat its colour.

Phil, - 01-05-’13 13:12
Neil

Phil
where do you get your food quality polythene bags from.
Can I use cure 1 for pancetta
Neil

Neil, - 21-06-’13 09:04
Phil

Hi Neil
For small quantities of bags I’ve used this supplier on Ebay:

http://myworld.ebay.co.uk/polythene_pack..

They sell 120g Food Grade Polythene Bags up to 20” x 30” in size (approx 50cm x 75cm).

You could use Cure #1 for a ‘fresh’ Pancetta, or one dried for a short period of time for cooking. For a fully air-dried product, safe to eat without cooking, i’d add some form of nitrate – either replace the cure #1 with cure #2, or add saltpetre at 150mg/kg.

For drying for more than (say) 20 days, whilst the nitrite in cure #1 will continue to give protection to the meat even after it’s (in theory) exhausted, I feel more comfortable knowing that the nitrate’s there giving added security.

I hope this helps.

Phil, (URL) - 21-06-’13 12:40
Jackie

Hello,
I would like to make traditional Irish bacon from scratch. I can not use nitrates which is my main reason to do it from scratch. My questions are.. What is a recipe for a traditional cure? Is this bacon smoked? If so,what wood is used? Drying? If this is done in the process,When in the process? How long?

Thank You
Jackie

Jackie, - 11-08-’13 03:15
Phil

US producers don’t use nitrate in bacon, so that’s not an issue. Cure #1, used above, is a nitrite salt, rather than nitrate.

Smoking is optional, both would be done in Ireland. If smoked, it would be cold-smoked after curing. The most likely woods used would be beech or oak, although fruit woods such as apple would be quite common.

The recipe above will make bacon like you would get in Ireland.

Traditionally, it would have been far more salty so that it could be stored without refrigeration. Most people nowadays find that level of salt unpalatable.

Phil, - 12-08-’13 19:59
Bill

Hi there.
Would you use the same weight of maple syrup as you would sugar in the above cure. Thanks. Bill

Bill, - 21-10-’13 13:52
Phil

Hi Bill,

You could, but as syrups are usually only about 65% sugar, I’d probably add more.

I hope this helps.

Phil, - 22-10-’13 16:31
Bill

Hi phil,
Thanks for the advice, would it be advisable to put the dry and liquid ingredients in a bag and then put the pork in and massage into meat? Sorry for the stupid questions but I am new to this.

Bill, - 29-10-’13 14:33
Phil

I’d mix all the ingredients well, put the meat in the bag, and then rub the ingredients in to the meat. You could add a bit more salt to balance the sweetness if you want.

That said, I prefer more salt. My preferred recipe is here:

http://www.localfoodheroes.co.uk/?e=561

HTH

Phil, - 29-10-’13 15:35
Sn3rt

I am using loin to make dry cured bacon, do I remove the skin prior to curing or after curing period?

Sn3rt, - 29-11-’13 05:13
Phil

Hi

You can do either. I leave the skin on, and if I bother to remove it at all, do it just prior to cooking. The recipe is safe from a curing point of view either way. I hope that you enjoy the bacon.

Phil, - 01-12-’13 13:31
Pierre

Hi Phil

Thanks for the reply. I used the pork loins, cured in the fridge for about 7 days, unitl meat was hard. I aim to hang the meat in the fridge for 3 days and then hot smoke the loins. Is 3 days hanging enough for the loins?

Pierre, - 04-12-’13 11:38
Phil

Three days should be fine. I don’t hot smoke mine, but for cold smoking I just leave them until touch dry.

Phil, - 05-12-’13 19:45
Murray

Hi all,

I was trained as a butcher in the 70s and have worked as a chef for years
I’ve just finished reading. Meat Smoking and Smokehouse Design.
My conclusion is that if anyone is serious about curing meat and meat smoking they should read at least the first half of this book.
Slightly technical but very informative re; Curing with Nitrates and Food Safety

Murray, - 17-01-’14 19:26
Phil

The book you mention is by Stanley, Adam & Robert Marianski and is very good. However, their book ‘Home Production of Quality Meats and Sausages’ is more relevant to curing bacon. If you only buy one book on curing, make this the one: it’s superb

It should be noted that they work to the US standards which differ slightly from those in the EU. My Bacon Cure Calculator can be used to design bacon cures that comply with either.

Phil, - 17-01-’14 20:21
Johnl

Just tested my first batch of back bacon, with excellent results. Finally, salty bacon and see-through strips are a thing of the past! Also, I divided my loin into 2 and tried adding 1/2 level tsp of Hickory Smoke powder / kilo of meat to one half, with equally great results. Thanks for the recipe and the calculator. Brilliant stuff!

Johnl, - 07-04-’14 19:37
Phil

Thanks John, it’s always good to have feedback as to how the recipe’s worked.

Phil, - 08-04-’14 15:43
Andrew

Hello Phil, Do you think it’s possible to use a plastic box with a lid instead of using a food grade bag?

Andrew, - 10-04-’14 08:29
Phil

Hi Andrew, I’d wrap it in a food grade bag or cling film so that the cure is held in close contact with the meat, and then put it into your plastic box.

Hope you like the bacon – enjoy!

Phil, - 10-04-’14 17:17
Andrew

Hi Phil, Thanks and I’ll definitely stick to your advice because it’s the easiest recipe I’ve found on the internet. I live in Germany and bacon here isn’t the same but I’ve ordered the sodium ascorbate and cure from sausagemaking.org. I’ve just got to find a good butcher who will cut a piece of loin with the skin/fat. Loin over here is normally sold lean because it’s used for schnitzel.

Andrew, - 12-04-’14 23:50
Phil

I hope you enjoy it.

Phil, - 14-04-’14 19:19
Matthew

Hello Phil,

What percentage of the spices would you suggest I use? I’m thinking about using, pepper corns, bay leaves and juniper berries.

Cheers,

Matt

Matthew, - 21-04-’14 09:26
Phil

Do you know, I’ve never really measured the amount. I just do a very light sprinkle of the crushed spices/herbs.

HTH

Phil, - 23-04-’14 16:13
Paul

Thanks Phil for an inspiring blog. Today I tasted my first bacon after being inspired from your posts and wow! No more shop bought ever again. Adds to my quiver of sausage making, hot smoking & cold smoking :) Keep posting good advice and ideas.

Paul, - 03-05-’14 17:40

I'm somewhat incapacitated at present so replies may take some time. Please post urgent enquiries at the www.sausagemaking.org forum.