Making Bacon - Skin On vs. Skin Off

     After my first attempt at curing and smoking bacon at home, I came across some discussions that mentioned skipping the skinning process altogether. The main consensus was that it's just easier to take the skin off after smoking. There wasn't a definite answer on the whether or not the cure or flavor was affected so I decided to do a side-by-side cure/cook. I started with two whole bellies, about 18 lbs total. I cut both bellies in half, skinned two halves and left the other two untouched. 

     With the four halves I tried out four flavors: Regular with salt and pepper, Coffee, BBQ rub, and maple brown sugar. I followed the same method I used in my previous Homemade Bacon post with the addition of one water change during the soak process to reduce saltiness. Rub on cure, refrigerate for 6-7 days (flipping once a day), rinse off cure, soak for ~24 hours (with one water change), pat dry and place on racks in the refrigerator to dry for 2-4 hours. Smoke at 225F for 4 hours/internal temperature of 150F. The four cure recipes I used are below. A portion of the base cure was used for the regular flavor and the remaining portions had spices or ingredients added.

Base Cure -- Split into 4 parts, 1 for Regular

  • 1/2 Cup Pink Curing Salt
  • 1 Cup Kosher Salt
  • 1/4 Cup Pepper

Coffee 

  • 1/4 Cup Coffee

BBQ

  • 1/2 TB Chili Powder
  • 1/2 TB Paprika
  • 1/2 TB Cumin
  • 1/2 TB Garlic Powder

Maple/Brown Sugar 

  • Rubbed with Maple Syrup Before Cure is Applied and Right Before Smoking
  • 1/2 TB Cinnamon 
  • 1/2 TB Nutmeg
  • 2 TB Cup Brown Sugar

     The end result turned out great. The skin came off very easily with the "skin on" belly and the only difference that I could tell is that you don't have the nice looking smokey bark on half of the belly. I noticed no difference in the effectiveness of the cure or the overall flavor of the final product. If pressed for time, I believe the initial skinning process can be skipped without any repercussions. The maple flavor came out the best and was my favorite. When it's fried up it smells and tastes just as you would imagine like smoked sausage covered in maple syrup. Perfect with some pancakes or waffles. I saved a bit of skin and other discarded trimmings and made pork stock and cracklings. I'm planning to post a write up of of both in the near future.