Maybe you think you’ve already eaten your transcendental slice. It’s served up at so-and-so diner or made by something-or-other brand. To you, this post’s title is nothing more than classic Internet hyperbole. I’m here to assure you: If you make this recipe, you will forever change the way you look at bacon.
Once you taste just one slice, your palate will be indelibly changed. It. Is. That. Good. I was skeptical too, at first, considering that the entire process takes about one week, plus the time it takes to cook the bacon, but the recipe is simpler than it looks.
Buy a hunk of pork belly, coat that belly in a curing mixture, let it sit for a week, and then either smoke your cured belly in your smoker or roast it in your oven until done. Nate Anda, the chef of Red Apron Butchery in Washington, D.C., who provided the technique, assured me: If you can stand the wait, you will be rewarded. Slice the bacon and you’ll see: The rich, yellowed fat takes on a glorious sheen. Fry the bacon and you’ll notice: The fat renders out clearer and silkier than packaged bacon (save the superior fat and use it to sautee Brussels sprouts, spinach, or diced potatoes).
Then, taste it, and you’ll be blown away. It’s bacon squared. It’s bacon perfection. It’s bacon as if it were Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, a 1962 Ferrari 250 GTO, or 1995 to 1998 Chicago Bulls. Hyperbolic? I’m telling you. Just one taste.
What you’ll need:
1 7- to 9-lb whole, skinless pork belly, divided into 2 or 3 equal pieces*
2 ½ pounds kosher salt
2 ½ pounds brown sugar
1 ¼ Tbsp ground black pepper
2 ½ Tbsp cayenne pepper
2 ½ Tbsp ground allspice
2 ½ Tbsp ground ginger
2 ½ Tbsp juniper berries (optional)
2 bay leaves, pulverized in a spice grinder or clean coffee grinder
2 Tbsp curing salt, to help preserve the bacon, found here (optional)
How to make it:
- In a large bowl, combine the salt, sugar, and spices.
Place the pork belly on a large baking sheet or high-sided pan. Liberally rub each piece of pork belly with the curing mixture. Place each piece of rubbed pork belly into its own zip-top bag, squeezing out the air, and sealing tight. Discard the remaining curing mixture.
Place the bags in the refrigerator and allow the pork to sit for 2 days. After 2 days, open the bags and pour out the liquid. Squeeze out the air, reseal each bag, flip the bags so the other side of the belly is now on the bottom, and then return the bags to the refrigerator for 2 more days.
Remove the bellies from the bags, rinse off the cure, and pat dry.
If you’re using your oven… 5. Preheat your oven to 200°F. Place the pork belly in a roasting pan or on a baking sheet, preferably on a rack for more even cooking, and cook the pork belly until the belly is firm to the touch, well-browned, and reaches an internal temperature of 145°F.
If you’re using your smoker…
- Prepare your smoker and bring the internal temperature to 115°F. Place the pork belly on the top rack in the smoker and cook until the bellies have firmed and begin to take on a browned exterior, about 3 hours (or 2 hours if your smoker is running a few degrees hotter than 115*F). Then, increase the smoker’s temperature to 155°F by adding a few more coals. Smoke the bellies until they reach an internal temperature of 145°F. Note: Due to the conditions and the type of smoker you have, the bellies may need more or less time to cook. If you’re having trouble bringing the bellies to doneness, you can always finish them in a 200°F oven. You’ll still end up tasting the great smoked flavor from the smoker.
Allow the bellies to rest for an hour at room temperature. Once cool, wrap well and refrigerate before using. This will make slicing easier. The bacon will keep for up to 2 weeks in the refrigerator or up to 3 months in the freezer. Eat inside a BLT, as pictured above, make spaghetti carbonara, or toss the bacon on the grill for an incredible snack.
*Yes, this makes a lot of bacon, but if you’re going to make the effort, you might as well make enough for your friends and family, too.
**This will only take a few coals. For that reason, opt for soaked wood chips, not hunks, to prevent suffocating the coals. I used applewood chips and poured some apple cider into the drip pan, which produced a mellow apple flavor. Want more ways to test out your butchery mettle at home?