Homemade Bacon with Brown Sugar and Black Pepper
- 2 1/2 pound meaty pork belly
- 2 cups coarse sea salt
- 1 cup brown sugar
- 3/4 cup granulated sugar
- 1 tablespoon ground black pepper
- 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 4 sprigs fresh thyme
Combine salt, brown sugar, granulated sugar, black pepper, cayenne and thyme sprigs in a mixing bowl. Place pork in a lidded container; cover the top of pork with a layer of the salt mixture, then flip it over and bury the meat in the remaining seasoning mix.
Refrigerate pork, covered, for 1 week. This will “cure” the belly, creating salt pork (a.k.a. unsmoked bacon).
Remove pork from the cure and rinse under cold water; pat dry with paper towels. Arrange pork belly on a cooling rack fitted into a large rimmed sheet pan. Refrigerate, uncovered, overnight (or up to 3 days) to air-dry.
Prepare the grill (or smoker) for indirect cooking over very low heat (about 140°F). Add 1 wood chunk (such as hickory or pecan) to the charcoal, or add 1 handful of the wood chips to the smoker box of a gas grill, following manufacturer’s instructions. Close the lid. When the wood begins to smoke, place the pork belly over indirect heat.
Close the lid and cook until pork is firm and slightly darker, about 1 hour (remember, you're infusing the pork belly with a smoky flavor, not fully cooking it at this point). If using a charcoal grill, replenish the charcoal as needed to maintain a steady temperature. Add 1 wood chunk to the charcoal every 30 minutes, or drain and add 1 handful of the remaining wood chips to the smoker box every 20 minutes before the old chips burn out.
Allow bacon to cool, then cover and store in the fridge for up to 2 weeks or divide into thirds, thoroughly wrap and freeze for up to 2 months. Thinly slice bacon before baking or pan frying.
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