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Dry versus Wet Brine? - Pork Belly Bacon (Read 4553 times)
May 23rd, 2012 at 10:58am

Tatoosh   Offline
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I know that Debi does wet brines and injects them into the pork belly.  Some other recipes do a dry brine (like Ruhlman).  So what are the benefits of each approach?  I can see that dry brine might remove more moisture. A wet brine, particularly with injection, may add more uniform flavor.  I am sure there is more to play at this.  Or is it simply a matter of what works (and tastes) best to you?

Also, Debi's guides finish the pork belly bacon by smoking at roughly 100F - 135F.  I see some other approaches that use (not smoked bacon) ovens at 200F, and smokers at 125F to 200F.  I imagine the lower temperature of Debi's means a longer time to smoke and more flavor.  Debi's approach uses 128F as the target while 150F is the target other guides almost universally use.  I don't see a big deal in the 22F difference.  Her approach should allow for a longer smoke time and more smoky flavor, yes?    
 

Steve aka Tatoosh - Retired Americano Adventuring Abroad: Cordilleras of Luzon, Philippines
Smokers: Weber One Touch Gold 22.5 - Smokenator 1000, Smokey Joe Gold
Ice cream Maker: White Mountain 6 QT Electric, Cuisinart ICE-20
...
Reply #1 - May 23rd, 2012 at 11:16pm

DeejayDebi   Offline
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First I like the wet brine becuase is doesn't dry the meat and yes I think it has a more uniform flavor with less salty taste.

I don't cook my bacon I smoke it to cook later. The lower temperatures do allow for more smoke absorptiion and do dry every so slightly the meat. It you smoke meat at 200 degrees your cooking it. I smoke for flavor and preseveing not cooking. I do it the old fashionded way not the quick and dirty way.

There's a huge difference between preservation and cooking.
 

Debi (aka Mom)
Smokers:
ECB -The Brinkman All-In-One Bullet type Water smoker
Camp Chef Smoke Vault 24 Inch propane smoker(aka -Black Beauty)                      
SunJoy horizontal with side firebox and installed propane grills for grilling or smoking
River Grille - Black Ceramic Egg                  
Smoke preference: Charcoal , Hickory, Apple, Cherry and pecan mix.

...
Reply #2 - May 24th, 2012 at 7:38am

Tatoosh   Offline
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That makes sense to me, about the cook temperature and time.  I'm not sure I can get the Weber/Smokenator down that low, but maybe I can get close to your 135F target if I put it on the charcoal grill.  My problem is my little hickory packages won't last the 6 hours or even 1 full hour.  I break them down and put them in smaller wraps of foil so that I can stretch the smoke time out of each package. 

I will, for fun, do both a dry brine and a wet brine.  But if I can't hold the lower 135F temperature you talk about in your pork belly bacon page, I'll have to ramp to the "cooked" format.  Either way, it will be much better than the stuff they sell at the supermarket here.  The meat counter's so-called bacon is simply sliced pork belly. The commercial stuff has been cured but cut about the thickness of poster board.  We have one guy in the next province making bacon that is okay, but the price jumps and availability is variable.  If we can make our own, whether "true" bacon or cooked, it will be a popular addition to our household.  Everybody loves bacon.  Go figure!   

Smiley
 

Steve aka Tatoosh - Retired Americano Adventuring Abroad: Cordilleras of Luzon, Philippines
Smokers: Weber One Touch Gold 22.5 - Smokenator 1000, Smokey Joe Gold
Ice cream Maker: White Mountain 6 QT Electric, Cuisinart ICE-20
...
Reply #3 - May 24th, 2012 at 10:00pm

DeejayDebi   Offline
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I've never used the smokenator but maybe you could open it a crack or something the keep the temperatures lower. The coals here only last about an hour but you only need to use maybe 8 to 10 every hour to keept the wood smoldering.

Have you found any local woods yet to use?
 

Debi (aka Mom)
Smokers:
ECB -The Brinkman All-In-One Bullet type Water smoker
Camp Chef Smoke Vault 24 Inch propane smoker(aka -Black Beauty)                      
SunJoy horizontal with side firebox and installed propane grills for grilling or smoking
River Grille - Black Ceramic Egg                  
Smoke preference: Charcoal , Hickory, Apple, Cherry and pecan mix.

...
Reply #4 - May 25th, 2012 at 12:44am

Tatoosh   Offline
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Local woods, at least safe ones, no.  Luckily, I did hit on a bunch of the little foil packages of shredded wood.  Not perfect but a whole lot better than nothing.  Have run two trials with coconut shells that may work out as well, but they are so flammable.

The Smokenator insert can do fairly low food grate temperatures, and that may well be lowered by using less charcoal, not something I was trying to do at that point.  I was trying to get my temps up to the 225F - 250F range.  Which I have.  But with a limited number of starter coals, I was getting 175F to 185F food grate temps.  The charcoal grate, except the portion used by the Smokenator, is available and should be lower than the food grate by some significant amount. 

Down at the coal grate, I think it is quite possible to get 150F, but I will need to play with it.  If it fails, I'll go for the lowest temp possible, but not over 200F and use the probe to go to 150F on the bacon.  Not perfect, but edible I hope!  There is room in the freezer if I have to "cook" it during making it and keep for longer storage.

Attached is a Sketch Up drawing of the area I am talking about.
 

KettleTempSkUp.jpg (20 KB | 30 )
KettleTempSkUp.jpg

Steve aka Tatoosh - Retired Americano Adventuring Abroad: Cordilleras of Luzon, Philippines
Smokers: Weber One Touch Gold 22.5 - Smokenator 1000, Smokey Joe Gold
Ice cream Maker: White Mountain 6 QT Electric, Cuisinart ICE-20
...
Reply #5 - May 25th, 2012 at 1:41am

DeejayDebi   Offline
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Well hopefully it will stay ow enough not to cook the meat much.
 

Debi (aka Mom)
Smokers:
ECB -The Brinkman All-In-One Bullet type Water smoker
Camp Chef Smoke Vault 24 Inch propane smoker(aka -Black Beauty)                      
SunJoy horizontal with side firebox and installed propane grills for grilling or smoking
River Grille - Black Ceramic Egg                  
Smoke preference: Charcoal , Hickory, Apple, Cherry and pecan mix.

...
Reply #6 - May 25th, 2012 at 10:00pm

Tatoosh   Offline
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Okay, so I'm going through my stuff to make sure I have what I need and the Prague Powder is listed as that only.  No #1 or #2 on the label.  I will ask at the market where we bought it, but I'm not going to be surprised if I get shrug and "don't know, sir" reply.

I do know the #1 is for cooked goods while the #2 is for air dried goods.  The difference is apparently only the 1% sodium nitrAte.  And the sodium nitrIte is supposed to be converted during the curing process, yes?  So is there a problem with using a brine or dry cure using #2 for bacon, should my "pink salt" turn out to be #2?
 

Steve aka Tatoosh - Retired Americano Adventuring Abroad: Cordilleras of Luzon, Philippines
Smokers: Weber One Touch Gold 22.5 - Smokenator 1000, Smokey Joe Gold
Ice cream Maker: White Mountain 6 QT Electric, Cuisinart ICE-20
...
Reply #7 - May 27th, 2012 at 3:57pm

DeejayDebi   Offline
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Chances are is is #1 unless they do a lot of dried sausage there. BUT you shouldn't subtitute. If you do use less than 1/2 the recommended dose.
 

Debi (aka Mom)
Smokers:
ECB -The Brinkman All-In-One Bullet type Water smoker
Camp Chef Smoke Vault 24 Inch propane smoker(aka -Black Beauty)                      
SunJoy horizontal with side firebox and installed propane grills for grilling or smoking
River Grille - Black Ceramic Egg                  
Smoke preference: Charcoal , Hickory, Apple, Cherry and pecan mix.

...
Reply #8 - May 27th, 2012 at 9:54pm

Tatoosh   Offline
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I thought along the same lines as you Mama.  I will use at half the specified amount until I can get some that I know just what it is.  It is cheap from Allied, so I'll get 5 pounds shipped over in a box that is coming, along with a couple pounds of TenderQuick just so I can try the latter.  I realize they are not interchangeable. 

Next week I will try two different bellies, one in your wet brine and one in Ruhlman's dry brine.  I am sure they will both be good, but I want to get a bit of experience in both ways.

We'll see how low I can get my little Weber/Smokenator setup to go temperature wise. Since my supply of hickory is limited, I expect to smoke only for 1 hour or so, feeding small amounts of the hickory shavings wrapped in aluminum foil to the charcoal at 15 minute intervals which is about how long they seem to make smoke. But I will continue to heat them for the specified times or internal temperatures.  I may have to split some bacon on the lower charcoal grate and some on the upper food grate.  I'll have to see how they fit when I do it. 

I hope to end up with between 8 to 12 pounds of bacon ... well that is green weight, not sure how much moisture I should expect to lose.  Once smoked, I'll cool, chill, and slice.  But the ones that will be in longer term storage in the freezer, I figured I'd just plastic wrap, ziplock and leave unsliced until we get them out to use. Two pounds should last a week or more here.   Theoretically at least.  Once everyone has a chance to dig in, it may go a bit faster.  Grin
 

Steve aka Tatoosh - Retired Americano Adventuring Abroad: Cordilleras of Luzon, Philippines
Smokers: Weber One Touch Gold 22.5 - Smokenator 1000, Smokey Joe Gold
Ice cream Maker: White Mountain 6 QT Electric, Cuisinart ICE-20
...
Reply #9 - May 28th, 2012 at 11:42am

DeejayDebi   Offline
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That should work. I have tried both methods wet and dry. The dry method is much easier but not what I grew up on (the key I think) and much saltier. You can reduce the salt by soaking in water but then you loose the flavors from the maple or whatever. It's all what your used to I guess. Dry brining is closer to store bought by the deep maple flavors I grew up with on the farm seem to only come from the wet brine. Who knows maybe they just had more of it back then? I know the butcher that butcher our pigs and cows had something the size and look of a 1 car garage and did dozens of meats at once for 3 days at a time.

Make sure what ever you do you get the surface of the meat dry before smoking. I think they call it a pectilcle or something close to that. I forget those fancy words they use. Once I remember it wrong it's gonna be that way for life! It's like deboning a chicken - I can never remember the right word but everyone knows when I say I swachbuckling a chicken what I mean to do.  Cheesy
 

Debi (aka Mom)
Smokers:
ECB -The Brinkman All-In-One Bullet type Water smoker
Camp Chef Smoke Vault 24 Inch propane smoker(aka -Black Beauty)                      
SunJoy horizontal with side firebox and installed propane grills for grilling or smoking
River Grille - Black Ceramic Egg                  
Smoke preference: Charcoal , Hickory, Apple, Cherry and pecan mix.

...
Reply #10 - May 28th, 2012 at 9:48pm

Tatoosh   Offline
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I am a bit surprised that the dry method ends up with a saltier bacon.  And if the wet approach gives a better overall penetration of flavor, that will likely win out.  Just have to see which the family likes best.

How about doing pepper bacon?  I am guessing you coat it with cracked pepper after curing and drying.  Do you do just one side, leaving the other side to pick up the smoke flavor?  Or with a pepper bacon, is smoking sort of a wasted effort?  The pepper acting as a barrier to the smoke?

I'd like to get any guidance on making pepper bacon, though we do an ersatz pepper bacon, simply by grinding fresh pepper on both sides of the bacon before we cook or fry it.  That's when it is being cooked in mass for storage in the fridge or fried on the stove top to eat right then.  Either way, the pepper adds some nice sharpness to the bacon.
 

Steve aka Tatoosh - Retired Americano Adventuring Abroad: Cordilleras of Luzon, Philippines
Smokers: Weber One Touch Gold 22.5 - Smokenator 1000, Smokey Joe Gold
Ice cream Maker: White Mountain 6 QT Electric, Cuisinart ICE-20
...
Reply #11 - May 29th, 2012 at 10:48am

newbie001   Offline
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I would imagine that pepper bacon would be no different than pastrami. Just used cracked pepper and coat the entire thing, then smoke it like you would normally. The pepper crust wouldn't effect the smoke penetration. It is not like it is a sealed liquid there is plenty of space for a gas to move around.

Some people leave the bacon to dry on a rack in the fridge a day or so. I know that I need at least 8 hours for mine to dry.
 
Reply #12 - May 29th, 2012 at 12:49pm

DeejayDebi   Offline
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Just rub in the pepper and or brown sugar on the surface all around and smoke it. It won't block the smoke.

The reason the dry brining method is saltier is because the salt is applied directly to the meat. As the meat juices mix with the salt the consentration of salt to water is extremely high. In a wet brine except for what is injected it has to draw in the salt with the water. There is a lot more water than salt.
 

Debi (aka Mom)
Smokers:
ECB -The Brinkman All-In-One Bullet type Water smoker
Camp Chef Smoke Vault 24 Inch propane smoker(aka -Black Beauty)                      
SunJoy horizontal with side firebox and installed propane grills for grilling or smoking
River Grille - Black Ceramic Egg                  
Smoke preference: Charcoal , Hickory, Apple, Cherry and pecan mix.

...
Reply #13 - May 29th, 2012 at 9:30pm

Tatoosh   Offline
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Stopped at the big commercial supermarket here today to buy some Australian ground beef and look over their pork bellies.  The bad news was the quit carrying the Australian ground beef permanently.  Drat and Double Drat!  That was the best stuff for burgers though I had to add some pork fat to get it to be nice and juicy. 

They had a fairly nice selection of pork bellies, most of them sliced already but some not.  They were not the really nice US pork bellies, but adequate I hope, depending on shrinkage from green weight and size as it cures and smokes.  Cost was 185 pesos per kilo or $1.98 (US) per pound.  I bought a 4.5 pound piece to try initially.

I thought we'd be ready to cure but all the rock salt here is iodine treated.  So off to the market for untreated rock/flake sea salt.  I'm going to get some extra so I can smoke it later. 

Uncertain if we will do the dry or wet brine.  I do have a small plastic "chicken" injector I can use for the wet brine.  I may go that way for the first one since it may give a better flavor.  From our previous conversations, I will likely drop a vanilla bean in the brine, split open, and maybe a couple of drops of liquid smoke because I will only be able to actually provide real hickory smoke for 1 hour or so max.
 

Steve aka Tatoosh - Retired Americano Adventuring Abroad: Cordilleras of Luzon, Philippines
Smokers: Weber One Touch Gold 22.5 - Smokenator 1000, Smokey Joe Gold
Ice cream Maker: White Mountain 6 QT Electric, Cuisinart ICE-20
...
Reply #14 - May 30th, 2012 at 2:20pm

DeejayDebi   Offline
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That's not a bad price for here anyway. Sorry about the burger, wonder why they did that? The injectors I use the most are not much bigger than a finger. They have smaller needles and are easier to inject.
 

Debi (aka Mom)
Smokers:
ECB -The Brinkman All-In-One Bullet type Water smoker
Camp Chef Smoke Vault 24 Inch propane smoker(aka -Black Beauty)                      
SunJoy horizontal with side firebox and installed propane grills for grilling or smoking
River Grille - Black Ceramic Egg                  
Smoke preference: Charcoal , Hickory, Apple, Cherry and pecan mix.

...
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