Almost everyone loves crispy bacon, but there’s nothing quite like homemade baked bacon. Once you try to cook bacon in the oven, the store-bought stuff tastes depressingly inferior. Making your homemade bacon bits is an easy affair, but without access to a smoker, many people assume they’re out of luck. Not so. Delicious, affordable bacon can be made in a conventional oven. Here’s how you do it.
What You Need
Pork bacon. Although other cuts of pork can be used, the traditionally preferred cut is pork belly. Pork belly is very common, and you should be able to pick some up at any butcher shop or ethnic foods store. Purchase half a slab your first time out; it will weigh between four and five pounds. Make sure it has the rind on.
Tin foil. You’ll also need three yards of heavy-duty foil, extra large plastic storage bags, paper towels, and wood chips, which can often be found in your local grocery store along with the other grilling supplies or on Amazon. Apple or hickory are the most popular varieties, but you could also choose mesquite, maple, or oak depending on your tastes.
Mr. Bar-B-Q Hickory Smoking Wood Chips
These mesquite chips will make amazing bacon.
Roasting pan. While you’re getting supplies, don’t forget to pick up a suitably sized roasting pan and rack if you don’t already have them. For oven-smoking, your rack will need to sit at least 1 1/2 inches off the bottom of your roasting pan.
Prepping Your Bacon
Once you have all of the necessary tools listed above, it’s time to get to work on curing and flavoring your bacon. You can’t really mess this part up, so let your imagination run wild. Feel free to use any spices or herbs that you think would be good on bacon. If you want something both simple and tried-and-true, here’s a good one for beginners:
- 5 tbsp fine kosher salt
- 2 tbsp light or dark brown sugar
These two ingredients provide a great base, but other spices can be added to taste: garlic powder, barbecue rub, and black pepper are always good choices. But please, go crazy with anything and everything you want to add to the mix!
Rub the belly down with the curing mixture, making sure to get the sides. Put it in one of your giant storage bags and put it in the refrigerator. You’ll leave it here, undisturbed, for one week.
After a week is up, pull out the belly, rinse it with water, pat it dry and set it rind-up on a cookie sheet fitted with a wire rack. Put it back in the fridge overnight. The next day, remove the belly from the fridge and let it come to room temperature.
What is Curing?
Curing just means using salt to remove moisture through osmosis, making it more difficult for microbes to grow and food to spoil. This is what happens when you leave your rubbed pork belly in the fridge for the week.
Pink Salt and Nitrates
Pink salt is a curing salt that is both nitrate and sodium nitrite, which is a preserving agent that prevents the growth of bacteria and will ensure you don’t get botulism from your bacon. Yes, no botulism please! There are a billion arguments as to whether nitrates are bad for you or not– but because we’re actually cooking the bacon, the risk of food-borne illness is minimal with or without curing salt. We don’t use it, but you certainly can — and you just need a little bit.
Smoking Your Bacon – Oven Method
Now for the most important part, actually cooking your bacon!
Set the oven temperature to 200 degrees Fahrenheit and line your roasting pan with a generous amount of foil, or a baking sheet. The sides and bottom should be totally covered and there should be excess coming out of all four sides, enough to create a raised foil dome over the belly.
Add your wood chips to the bottom of the pan, situate the rack over them, and lay the belly over the rack with the rind facing up. Enclose the belly with the foil.
On the top of your stove, put the pan over two burners and apply a medium flame until smoke begins streaming out. This takes around five minutes. The smoke won’t be much, but you might want to open a window or use your stove’s exhaust fan.
Next, set the pan in your oven for about four to six hours of baking time, or until the belly reaches 150 degrees. When it’s done, take the pan out and allow the bacon to cool. You can also put it on a paper towel to get rid of extra bacon grease. Next, remove the skin and dispose of it, but this isn’t necessary, it just makes slicing easier. Now you can start cutting your bacon strips. I like super-thick cut bacon!
Homemade smoked bacon baked in the oven is extremely easy to prepare. It doesn’t require many tools or skills. Just prepare everything we put on this list and follow the steps.
You can keep your cooked bacon slices in the refrigerator in an airtight container for up to two weeks, or you can freeze them for up to three months, and they will be the most delicious thing you’ve ever tasted.