How is Bacon Made?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 01 August 2018
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Bacon is a type of cured meat which comes traditionally from the back, belly, or sides of a pig. When it is made from other animals, it is usually distinguished from “true” bacon with labeling indicating what species the meat came from, as is the case with turkey bacon. Curing the meat is not terribly challenging, and all chefs trained in charcuterie, the art of curing and handling meats, know how to make it. For home cooks who are interested in making their own, a degree from cooking school is not required, although access to a butcher and a smoker are.

When pigs are slaughtered, they are butchered into an assortment of cuts, depending on their end destination. Commercial processors usually butcher their pigs on site, turning the cuts into hams, chops, ribs, and so forth. A smaller slaughterhouse will focus on preparing whole or half pigs for sale to butchers, who will cut and cure their own meat. Home cooks and chefs typically source their cuts for bacon and other charcuterie from butchers. To make bacon, a large slab of the back, belly, or sides of the pig is cut off and subjected to a curing process. The best bacon comes from fresh meat, so if you are curing it at home, ask the butcher for pork which is less than 48 hours old.


If the bacon is dry cured, it is rubbed in a salt mixture to which spices may be added. Most modern cooks leave the meat under refrigeration to cure, to ensure that it does not become unhealthy. Other cooks use a cooled room, leaving the slab on a slotted table so that the liquid from the meat will drain away. After approximately one week, the meat is washed in warm water and hung in a smoke house to dry. Once dried, it is smoked, typically for around 36 hours. After smoking, it can be refrigerated or frozen. Wet cured bacon is brined instead of dry rubbed, although the rinsing and smoking process is the same.

After curing, bacon is still in slab form. If the meat is going to be frozen, it is left in slab form, although the rind may be trimmed. It can also be sliced for more immediate consumption. Depending on personal taste, the individual slices can be cut thick or thin. The meat is considered perishable after smoking, and it should be kept under refrigeration until eaten.

Numerous terms are used to refer to various types of bacon. Canadian bacon comes from the back of the pig, resulting in a leaner cut of meat. Pancetta is an Italian version that comes from the belly of the pig, and when it is cured and handled differently, it is called streaky bacon or belly bacon. Jowl bacon comes from the cheeks of the pig, and cottage bacon is made from cured pig shoulders.


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Post 12

For low fat bacon, cut the fat off. Otherwise, you're living in a fantasy world. Bacon is bacon. You can't just feed a pig a low fat diet to make lean bacon.

Post 8

@burcidi-- Did you rinse it?

You need to rinse the bacon after curing to get rid of the excess salt. It might require multiple rinses and maybe even a short soak depending on how salty it is.

It might also be a good idea to cook a piece and taste it to see if it needs to be rinsed more. I'm guessing you skipped this step.

Post 7

I tried making homemade bacon once and it turned out good, but it was way too salty. I actually couldn't eat it from the salt.

I don't know what I'm doing wrong because I followed my curing recipe to the T and it does call for a lot of salt. I don't know if I'm missing a step because I can't imagine anyone eating such salty bacon.

Has anyone made their own bacon before? Any suggestions for me?

Post 6

@LittleMan-- I actually don't know but I think that the meat must be cooked first to melt away the fat. I can't imagine any other way to make reduced fat bacon.

Post 4

I was wondering how "fat free" bacon would be "made". Do you have any idea?

Post 3

So how would you go about making applewood smoked bacon at home? That's my favorite kind, and I've always been curious about how to do it at home.

Do you have to cure it in a smokehouse constructed of applewood, or do you burn applewood to make the smoke in the smokehouse? Or do you do something else entirely?

I'd sure love to learn how to make that at home, my husband loves to have it for breakfast, and we go through so many packs a month that we'd probably save money doing it ourselves!

So could you tell me how to do this at home? I'd be really interested to learn.


Post 2

My parents used to make bacon like this (we lived near a farm where we could get the pork fresh) and I have to tell you, you've never had bacon if you've never had fresh, homemade bacon.

There's really no comparison between what you can get in the store and the succulence of home cured bacon. And don't even get me started on home made pancetta.

Even today, I hate using regular bacon for breakfast -- I try to only use it when I use bacon as a flavoring, like with a spinach bacon dip.

So if you ever get the chance to try "real" bacon, don't pass up the chance -- you'll realize what I'm talking about after you take the first bite.

Post 1

Very interesting article. I just have one question though. Is there a particular way to make bacon with fewer calories?

Because I'd love to try this at home, but I really have to watch my figure, especially when it comes to things like bacon that I have absolutely no self-control with.

So are there any good tips to making low-fat bacon, or at least slightly healthier than store bought bacon? I would think there would have to be, since you can buy bacon with reduced fat, but I just wasn't sure if it was possible to do at home.

Can you clue me in?

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