Can I turn side meat into bacon?
January 23, 2013 8:00 PM   Subscribe

I live less than 10 miles from Polyface Farms, so last weekend I decided to get my ass out there and buy some meat from them. They did not have any bacon, but they had fresh sliced side meat, which the girl in the store told me could be cured like bacon, but she did not really know how to do it herself. Against my better judgment, I bought a package.

Can I transform this into anything like bacon? The net searches I've done so far have yielded either instructions for curing a whole piece of pork belly, which this is not, or reports that side meat is like old-fashioned bacon before nitrates, and most people now don't like the way it tastes. I'm a little stymied.

Could I defrost the slices, stick them in a bag with some salt, pepper and liquid smoke (I do not own a smoker and do not have the resources to build or buy one right now), and let them sit for a few days? Or do I have to suck it up and fry these up as they are and hope for the best?
posted by starvingartist to Food & Drink (13 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
It's fresh pork belly, already sliced like bacon? I don't expect you could turn it into anything resembling bacon, especially without a smoker; but fresh pork belly slices are nice in their own way. Samgyeopsal is what I do whenever I get sliced pork belly at the Korean market.
posted by WasabiFlux at 8:06 PM on January 23, 2013 [1 favorite]

It's not pork belly. The label says "fresh side meat slices".
posted by starvingartist at 8:08 PM on January 23, 2013

If it's already sliced, no way.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 8:22 PM on January 23, 2013

Pork side meat is pork belly, plus or minus some trimmings. This is assuming it doesn't also include the spareribs, as it's sliced and apparently boneless.
posted by WasabiFlux at 8:31 PM on January 23, 2013

On the east coast, we can easily get something called "smoked butt" which is pork shoulder, smoked.

Living on the west coast now, I tried to make an analog of smoked butt with Liquid Smoke....

While Liquid Smoke has many honorable uses, a whole mess of it with salt and sugar will NOT yield anything edible.

Trust me.
posted by jbenben at 8:43 PM on January 23, 2013

Yeah, go with the samgyeopsal. It is not too hard to make, I have cheated it on a cast-iron pan that has the grill ridges in it. No, it is not grilled over fire. But it is still pretty delicious. Make sure to make the veg and the sauces. Maangchi can help.
posted by oflinkey at 8:54 PM on January 23, 2013

Do you have a weber grill? You can definitely use a weber kettle grill to smoke meat and make bacon with an unsliced pork belly.

You can make chinese twice cooked pork, which is slices of pork belly (which, by all accounts is exactly what you have) that's been blanched and sautéed with veggies and the usual flavorings (onion, ginger, garlic) and dressed with sichuan hot bean paste.

If you're adventurous, why not putting them in a cure and frying them up?
posted by scalespace at 9:12 PM on January 23, 2013 [2 favorites]

Prepare baked beans, then lay the pork in strips along the top before baking just as you would bacon slices. Works great.
posted by crazycanuck at 9:36 PM on January 23, 2013

No, I don't think you can turn side meat into bacon. I think it requires chemicals, and time, to create something that tastes like from-the-store bacon. I don't think this is an at-home operation. Plus it's probably too thick-cut to be bacon.

And besides, WHY WHY WHY would you want to ruin good side meat by turning it into bacon? Side pork is so lovely just the way it is!

When I was a kid my mom would make the most amazing dinner with crispy golden strips of side pork cooked in a covered frying pan and then garlic-salted, stew fries (diced potatoes and onions cooked in broth and then thickened), and boiled greens.

Oh yeah.
posted by (F)utility at 10:30 PM on January 23, 2013

Alton Brown may have some ideas for you. Make sure to read the comments for more person used liquid smoke, one built a smoker out of cardboard boxes (???).
posted by MultiFaceted at 10:56 PM on January 23, 2013

Making bacon, or really any kind of curing, is best reserved for blocks of meat. Slices won't really cure, and if you were to follow any curing recipes, you'd likely end up with something inedibly salty.

The samgyopsal mentioned above is lovely. In Japan, what you've got there would be great for yakiniku, which is basically bite-sized pieces of meat grilled over a high heat for short periods of time.

As for what someone said up thread, bacon isn't remotely difficult to make. The chemicals required are nothing more than curing, or pink salt, which can be bought at a surprisingly large number of places (largish sports/outdoor stores, Amazon, etc), kosher salt, and sugar. It's as simple as mixing the powdered ingredients together, rubbing them over the block of meat (belly), and putting the meat in a ziplock bag. Turn the bag over once a day for a week. Take it out, rinse it, let it dry in the fridge for a day, and cook it. If you don't have a smoker, you can still cook it in an over. Seriously, •if• you have the right meat, it's incredibly simple.
posted by Ghidorah at 1:54 AM on January 24, 2013

If you want bacon you need to get unsliced pork belly (side meat) in one nice big slab. You then cure it for a couple of days to a week and then pat it dry. There are both dry cures and wet cures and both work pretty well, but dry is thought of as better. Now you can smoke it or not depending on if you want smoked bacon. Once that is done you then can slice it and it is essentially what you would buy at a store.

In order to keep it pink you will need pinking salt (aka sodium nitrate) or else it will cook like pork chops but still taste like bacon. It is a really fun experiment to do at home, and bacon is probably the easiest one to do, salmon is a good one to try and then you can move on to making your own chorizo and other more advanced meats.

Also eponystically (F)utility everything is made of chemicals so everytime you marinade something you are marinading it in chemicals. When you ever eat anything you are eating chemicals. When you go for a swim, you are swimming in chemicals, the air you breathe is made of chemicals. I know it is futile to try and get people to understand that and not have everybody having an unhealthy fear of all things chemical but I've got to try.
posted by koolkat at 2:03 AM on January 24, 2013 [3 favorites]

As others have noted, you're not likely to be able to turn this into bacon. Still, you have a delicious package of nitrate-free pork belly at your disposal! Still great for frying up, roasting or even stewing Chinese-syle (which is heavenly). With a bit of seasoning, you could use this very similarly to pancetta. The possibilities are endless.
posted by Vonnegut27 at 7:11 AM on January 24, 2013

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