Dry Cured / Cold Smoked Bacon

Dry Cured/ Cold Smoked Bacon

See Bacon & the Art of Living, Chapter 02: Dry Cured Bacon


Bacon recipe:

General recipe:  2.00% – 2.5% salt, 1% brown sugar, 0.25% #1 then whatever flavoring you want.  For example, add chili, maple.  #2 is for long-term drying and bacon is not classed as a long-term project unless you are doing Pancetta (RG).  Pancetta is made with either only salt or salt and # 2 and not smoked.  Prosciutto is cured ham.

Weigh out the correct amount as per EQ method —  apply 90% on the meaty side of the bacon and rub in well then the other 10% on the fat side and repeat.  Spices are added the same way with 90% going on the meat side and 10% on the fat.  (RG)

In general, in dry curing, the meat should be covered to protect it from the air.


If meat was frozen, thaw it out properly under refrigeration.  If not properly done, it will prevent equilibrium of cure ingredients in meat.


Equilibrium Curing is when a calculated quantity of salt is added to the meat, with the spices, and allowing enough time for the meat to absorb all the salt.

Weigh the exact amount of salt, spices, sugar off per belly and apply.  Cover the meat completely until all of the salt mixture has adhered.  Place in a vacuum pouch and pull a full vacuum and place into fridge on the shelf and turn every day or so. Fridge temps are fine when using nitrite’s. (Ideal temperature for curing is 4 degrees C. — lower temperatures will slow down the curing which is not a problem)

Put meat over a plate, tray, dish etc ideally on a rack and turn every day. Fridge temps are fine when using nitrite’s.  If nitrates are used, too low temp may inhibit nitrate-nitrite conversion through bacteria.  Wrap meat in baking paper and put it in the fridge.

It is popular to use a vacuum bag provided that a full vacuum is pulled.  There is then no problem as juices are not lost as much as tub curing which RG prefers most of the time — I use what is known in the trade as a “All Purpose Cure” (salt and cure combined) this then cuts down my curing time — if i’m doing in the tubs with the All Purpose Cure then it needs to be on trays to elevate out of the liquid as it’s bad to leave sitting in the liquid.

Curing time depends on the thickness of the primal and the amount of fat. Take the standard curing time as 7 days in the fridge. Belly, 50mm thick, boneless can cure for 7 days minimum. Bellies of 100mm thick, boneless, cure for 14 days. Rinse, pat down, dry, and smoke. (Always depending upon location of drying, temperature, humidity as well as air flow)

Regarding the curing room, the ideal temp to cure at is between 0 and 5 deg C, very gentle airspeed and high humidity of 75%. The environment must be moiste and cool (not frozen)

Equalising/ Drying

Rinse and dry.  There are times that you only lightly rinse as one would like to save the spices on the meat. Use cold tap water.  Never vinegar.  It could be anywhere from 8 hours to 48 hours on the hanging at room temperature and airflow but yes needs to be tacky to the touch for the smoke to adhere.

Equalizing is where you hang the meat for the “same” amount of days that you cured so that the salt, cure and spices penetrate to the center. Depends on the drying area anywhere from 24 to 48 hours (RG).  Do not hang in the fridge. Way too wet.  The goal is to dry the meat so that you can smoke it.

Again — drying area; refrigerator too cold for this step due to the fact it will sweat when brought out and you need to get too room temperature before smoking hence the reason for hanging in a drying room (temperature about 10 degrees C. humidity around 66% to 75% with a light breeze/airflow).

In general, air drying is done at a constant temp of 7 – 13 deg C and 66% to 75% humidity to avoid case hardening with a very gentle air flow. (RG) Best to build a <curing> drying/maturing room with these characteristics. Incorrect temperatures or humidity will cause the meat to cure too slowly or too quickly and possibly spoil or yield poor results.


  •  Benefits

The main reasons for cold smoking are the flovour development, the tenderizing effect of a slower process on meat and much better colour development.  Once you cooked it (hot smoke) you have to use or freeze right away or you will lose it due to the fact that you moved the meat into a temp range, favourable for micro-development.

It’s not about the “heavy” smoke flavour — it is about the complexity of flavours that one will “never” achieve with hot smoking (RG)

  • Manage Humidity

Humidity is the battle of all smokehouses be it a hot smoke or a cold smoke … — One needs to remember that when one starts to smoke one has to get rid of the humidity within the chamber — hot smokers usually have fans that can be turned on — as we are dealing with cold smoking which is what I do the most of there are little tricks that one can do to eliminate/get rid of the humidity — if you have the cold smoker within your building keep your doors open so the air can circulate in and out — if outside your doors will be kept closed so that critters cannot get into the chamber — another reason for keeping bug screens on your intake and outlet vents for air to the chamber.

To get rid of the humidity out of the chamber open up fully the top vent and open the bottom vent halfway — at the bottom of the smokehouse directly under the outlet vent start a fire with a paper wick/torch this will create a draft from the inlet vent which is at the bottom opposite side as the top outlet vent — by time the fire is out there should be a draft circulating which will take out the humidity making the chamber dry and ready to use

See image below by RG:

Cold smoke
  • Temperature

When doing cold smoking there is “no” heat at all — you do not run any heat through the chamber at all.  All you need is a thin blue smoke.  (RG)

When making traditional European Bacon, cold smoke at an ambient temperature of around 30 degrees C. (86 degrees F) Generally, smoke at 35 deg C, but never higher than 37 deg C (100 deg F).  This is the point of separation between cold and hot smoke.  (RG)

  •  Time

Smoke duration is between 8 and 48 hours. Rest overnight at room temperature.  In between cold smoking, hang back at room temperature and not in the fridge or you will be making product wet again.

Typically a total of 48 hours:

day one 8 hours
rest overnight
day two 8 hours
rest overnight
day three 8 hours
rest overnight
day four Rest
day five 8 hours
rest overnight
day six 8 hours
rest overnight
day seven 8 hours

This will give you 48 hours (6 x 8 = 48)

Keep an eye on the colour of the bacon/meat when you take it out of the smokehouse and again the following morning before placing into the smokehouse —this alone will give you an indication of the depth/colour of the smoke you like — keep records


After finishing cold smoking one needs to age/mature the bacon … this is the same as we equalize when after curing.  This is done for a minimum of 3 days but is much better when left for 14 days — weight loss is normally at 15%.  Remember, you want the room temperatures > 5 deg C with good gentle air flow.  Hang the bacon.  Play with the temperature and the humidity.  Slightly higher temperatures and bring down the humidity. The higher the temp, lower the humidity and the higher the airspeed, the dryer the end product and the greater the weight loss.  Depending on how long you want to mature it, bring down the humidity slowly every 3 or 4 days and slightly raise the temp.  Keep the airspeed as low as possible. Very slight airspeed.

Normal curing/drying rooms are 7 deg C to 9 deg C — I have dried/matured at 13 deg C which humidity at 66% to 75% — as always there should be a gentle air flow as this is what facilitates the drying.

Freezing, Slicing, Packin

Par freeze, slice and vacuum pack.

Critical Control Points

The three critical control points are the temperature and humidity (curing, maturing and drying) and the extent of the curing.  Improper control of humidity can lead to surface spoilage bacteria.

Suggested seasonings

Bacon curing salt:

  • 2.5kg pasture-raised pork belly skin/rind removed
  • 1/2 cup sea salt NOT refined table salt
  • 1/2 cup cane sugar coconut sugar, or pure Grade B maple syrup
  • 1 Tbsp. black pepper freshly ground

For a sweet cure, consider adding one or more of the following:

  • 1 tsp nutmeg
  • 4 Tbsp coffee
  • Raw apple cider vinegar
  • Bourbon to taste

For a savory cure, consider adding one or more of the following:

  • 3-4 bay leaves crushed
  • 4-5 cloves garlic crushed
  • 1-2 Tbsp. thyme
  • Fennel seeds toasted
  • Coriander 
  • Juniper berries

(From https://www.smallfootprintfamily.com/)

Further reading

Fermentation chamber: http://curedmeats.blogspot.com/2007/08/key-equipment-piece-4-fermentation-box.html

For more information, go to Artisan Meat

To comment or contribute, mail Eben at ebenvt@gmail.com


All notes by Robert Goodrick (https://www.facebook.com/robert.goodrick.9) indicated by RG.

:  http://thesaltcuredpig.com/bacon-part-two-measured-dry-cure/ (SCP)

Image References:

Featured Image:  http://thesaltcuredpig.com/bacon-part-two-measured-dry-cure/