If you have a Weber kettle, not only can you hot smoke bacon, but you can also try your hand at cold smoking for an extra smoky flavor. In this guide, I’ll walk you through the various methods for smoking bacon on a Weber kettle, from the safest and most straightforward hot smoking method to the more advanced techniques for cold smoking. So grab your curing salts and fire up the kettle, because it’s time to smoke some bacon!
Hot smoking bacon on a Weber kettle grill involves setting up the grill for indirect two-zone cooking, placing the cured pork belly on the cool zone above a water pan, and maintaining a temperature of 220°F until the internal meat temperature reaches 150°F. To provide a constant flow of smoke, hickory chunks can be scattered along the charcoal briquettes. Cold smoking bacon on a kettle grill is more challenging and carries potential risks, but can be done using a smoking tube and cured pork.
- You can smoke bacon on a Weber kettle using hot or cold smoking methods
- Hot smoking bacon is the safest method and involves curing the pork belly with curing salts and smoking it at 220°F until the internal temperature reaches 150°F
- Cold smoking bacon is more difficult and can be dangerous, but it is possible to do it in a Weber kettle by using a smoking tube and properly cured pork
- To cold smoke in a Weber kettle, you will need to maintain a temperature range of 80°F to 100°F, which can be challenging in a charcoal smoker
- Cold smoking methods to try include the snake method, minion method, and using a smoking tube
- Be sure to properly cure the pork before cold smoking to prevent microbial growth
How to Hot Smoke Bacon at Home
Hot smoking bacon at home on any kind of smoker is easy. For a charcoal smoker, setup the smoker for two-zone cooking and place a water pan underneath the meat. Hot smoke a cured pork belly at 220°F/104°C until the internal meat temperature reaches 150F/65°C. Prior to smoking, wet or dry brine a whole pork belly with curing salts and leave in the refrigerator for about 1-week.
- Setup your kettle for two-zone cooking. This is the best setup for low-and-slow cooking. With this setup, the meat will sit in the ‘cool-zone’ on the opposite side to the hot coals. Place an aluminium water/drip pan directly below where the meat will sit.
- Pre-light a chimney of charcoal briquettes. When the coals are fully lit, pour the hot coals into the smoker. Alternatively, you can arrange the charcoal briquettes using either a snake method or a minion method. The snake and minion method of arranging charcoal will provide a consistent heat over a long period.
- Scatter wood chunks along the charcoal. You want to have an even flow of smoke over a few hours. Hickory works best with bacon, and so does maple or any fruit wood.
- Adjust the vents and hold the temperature of your smoker at 220°F for the entire cook. Another option is to smoke at a lower temp (sub 200°F) and slowly raise it to 220°F over the cook. The purpose of starting low is to give the meat more exposure to smoke and enhance the flavor.
- Smoke the pork belly until it reaches an internal temperature of 150°F. As with all low-and-slow cooking, we cook to internal temperature, not time.
The Dangers of Cold Smoking Bacon
- Cold smoking with a Weber kettle is challenging due to the unpredictable nature of charcoal smokers
- Cold smoking bacon should only be attempted with properly cured meat to prevent microbial growth
- Cold smoking involves smoking at low temperatures of 80°F to 100°F, which can be difficult to maintain with a charcoal smoker
- To cold smoke in a Weber kettle, you may need to get creative and try methods such as the snake method, minion method, or using a smoking tube
I don’t recommend cold smoking with charcoal smokers like a Weber kettle, simply because there are better alternatives. But if you don’t have a choice, it’s not impossible to cold smoke on a kettle or other charcoal smokers. You just need to work a bit harder and get a little creative.
There are a few cold smoking methods you can try, however they are risky and shouldn’t be attempted unless the meat has been properly cured. Cold smoking bacon involves smoking the pork belly at very low temperatures, which puts the meat in the danger-zone for microbial growth. So if you’re going to attempt cold smoking, first master curing bacon for hot smoking. Then, once you’ve smoked a few batches of hot smoked bacon, then dabble in cold smoking.
If you are cold smoking bacon, you should smoke it in the 80°F to 100°F range, which is a difficult temperature to maintain in a charcoal smoker like a Weber Kettle. Charcoal smokers are unpredictable, unlike other ‘set-and-forget’ smokers such as electric, gas and pellet smokers are as easy to control as a conventional oven. Charcoal smokers burn unevenly because fire is influenced by external forces like wind and climate. Having said that, it’s not impossible to cold smoke on a kettle grill, and there are a few methods you can try.
Cold Smoking with Charcoal
- The snake method is a way of arranging charcoal briquettes in a circular pattern in a Weber kettle
- To cold smoke with this method, create a small, thin snake with a single row of briquettes
- Adjust the vents to maintain a low temperature for cold smoking
- This method may require experimentation and may need to be attempted multiple times to master cold smoking on a Weber kettle
The snake method is one of the most common ways of arranging charcoal briquettes in a charcoal smoker such as a Weber Kettle. Depending on how long and how thick you make it, a charcoal snake can maintain 200°F plus for long cooks. Snakes are normally two briquettes thick, and will circle around the entire kettle. For cold smoking, try to build a small, thin snake with a single row. It will take a long time before you get a steady low temperature, and you will have to experiment with the vents. I would start by opening the bottom vent and have the top vent open a crack. This method is possible, and you will probably have to try it a few times before you master cold smoking on a kettle.
Cold Smoking with a Smoke Tube
Some people have success using their charcoal smoker or Kettle grill as a smoking chamber rather than a cooker. This method of cold smoking doesn’t use charcoal, but instead uses smoking tubes. A smoking tube is a metal cylinder or tray with holes. Wood pellets sit inside the tube and, once lit, the wood smolders for several hours, producing a steady flow of smoke. This method is risky because you are smoking the meat at very low temperature which puts the meat in the danger-zone for microbial growth. For this method to be safe, the meat must be properly cured beforehand. Again, I wouldn’t go down this path, but some people cold smoke bacon this way. Check out smoking tubes on Amazon here.
How to Choose the Best Pork Belly for Bacon
When choosing pork belly for smoking bacon, it is best to buy a whole pork belly rather than sliced bacon. This allows you to control the thickness and quality of the meat, as well as the amount of fat. It is important to select a pork belly with a good ratio of fat to meat, ideally around 50/50. This will ensure that the bacon has enough fat to stay moist and flavorful during the smoking process.
It is also a good idea to cut the pork belly into large square chunks that will fit into a large zip-lock bag. This will make it easier to brine and cure the meat before smoking. When selecting the pork belly, look for one that is about 1.5 inches thick, as this will give you the best results when smoking.
It is important to remove the skin from the pork belly before smoking, as it can prevent the meat from curing properly and may block smoke from reaching the meat during the smoking process. Once the skin is removed, you can brine and cure the pork belly according to your preferred recipe, then smoke it in your Weber kettle according to the instructions provided in this guide.
How to Cure Bacon for Smoking
Curing the pork is the most important step in the bacon making process. If you don’t correctly measure out the ingredients, parts of the belly won’t cure and can become rancid. The best way to ensure all the quantities and correct, use Professor Blonder’s curing calculator. This calculator is simple to use, all you need to do is type in the weight of each piece of pork belly, and the calculator will tell you the exact amount of curing salt you’re going to need.
Curing Salt For Bacon
- Curing salts are used to preserve and flavor bacon
- Prague Powder #1 is a popular curing salt that does not contain nitrates
- Other curing salts include Morton Tender Quick and InstaCure #2
- Curing salt choice depends on personal preferences and dietary restrictions
- Follow recipe carefully and handle meat safely when using curing salts
Curing salts are the chief ingredient you will need to cure bacon. The best, most popular curing salt on the market is Prague Powder #1. I use this product because unlike other curing salts; it doesn’t contain any nitrates.
Curing salts are an essential ingredient when it comes to making homemade bacon. These specialized salts are used to preserve and flavor the meat, and they are what give bacon its unique taste and texture. One of the most popular and widely-used curing salts on the market is Prague Powder #1, also known as pink curing salt or InstaCure #1.
There are several reasons why Prague Powder #1 is a favorite among barbecue experts and home cooks alike. One of the main benefits of this curing salt is that it does not contain any nitrates, which are compounds that can be harmful to humans in large amounts. Nitrates have been linked to a variety of health problems, including cancer, so many people prefer to avoid them when possible.
Prague Powder #1 is also highly effective at preserving and flavoring meat, and it is easy to use. Simply mix the curing salt with your other ingredients according to the recipe you are using, and apply it to the pork belly. The curing process can take anywhere from a few days to a week, depending on the recipe and the thickness of the meat. Once the pork belly is properly cured, it is ready to be smoked in your Weber kettle or other smoker.
In addition to Prague Powder #1, there are other curing salts on the market that can be used to make bacon. These include Morton Tender Quick, which contains both nitrates and nitrites, and InstaCure #2, which is similar to Prague Powder #1 but contains a higher concentration of sodium. Ultimately, the choice of curing salt will depend on your personal preferences and any dietary restrictions you may have. Regardless of which curing salt you choose, be sure to follow the recipe carefully and handle the meat safely to ensure the best results.
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Wet or Dry Brine for Bacon?
There are two ways of brining bacon; wet brining and dry brining. Wet brining is the best way to ensure the meat is properly cured, however dry brining is also a suitable method. If you are cold smoking, I would highly recommend wet brining since cold smoking takes meat into the danger-zone where bacteria can grow. If you let the pork belly swim in brine all week, then it should be safe to cold smoke. Keep in mind, cold smoked bacon still needs to be cooked after it’s smoked.
Wet Brining Bacon
Ingredients and Materials:
- Curing salt
- Distilled water
- Brown sugar
- kosher salt
- large zip-lock bags or a large container.
- Weigh the pork belly and enter the weight into the curing calculator.
- Measure out the correct amount of curing salt, distilled water, and brown sugar (as given by the curing calculator).
- Add all the ingredients into a zip-lock bag or container and pour in distilled water.
- Place the meat into the zip-lock bag and ensure the brine solution is covering the whole pork belly.
- Leave in the refrigerator for 3-5 days.
- After 3-5 days, remove the meat from the brine and rinse and dry before putting in the smoker.
Dry Brining Bacon
- Follow the first two steps of the wet brining method (but without the distilled water).
- Dry the pork belly with a paper towel.
- Rub the curing salts and brown sugar into the pork belly.
- Place the pork belly into a zip-lock bag (or leave uncovered on a rack).
- Leave in the refrigerator for 8-10 days. Give it a shake every day and massage all the salt into the meat.
- After 8-10 days, remove the belly from the zip-lock bag and rinse.
My Favorite Meat Smoking Tools
Thanks for checking out this article. I hope you learned a few things. Here are some of my favorite tools I use when smoking brisket that may be useful to you. These are affiliate links, so if you decide to purchase any of these products, I’ll earn a commission. But in all honesty, these are the tools I recommend to my family and friends who are just starting out.
Meat Thermometer: There are dozens of fancy thermometers on the market, but I still use my trusty TP20. For around $50, I have a high-quality meat thermometer with two probes, and can track the temperature of my smoker with one probe, and my meat with the other probe. The ThermoPro TP20 is an Amazon Best Seller because it’s the easiest thermometer to operate, is durable, highly accurate, and comes with pre-programmed meat settings.
Instant Read Thermometer: Arguably, the second most important tool you need is a fast and accurate instant-read thermometer. These tools play an important role in the latter stages of the cook when the meat needs regular checking in multiple areas. I use the ThermoPro TP19 because it can do everything a ThermaPen can do, but for a fraction of the cost. You can check out the TP19 on Amazon here.
Wireless Thermometer: The latest thermometers on the market have no wires and can be controlled by wi-fi via your phone. Airprobe 3 is the best of this technology.
Butcher Paper: Wrapping brisket in butcher paper has become a huge trend in barbeque thanks to Aaron Franklin. Wrapping your brisket in paper will give you a nice brisket bark. However, you can’t just use any old paper, it has to be unwaxed, food grade paper. You can find it on Amazon here.
Advanced Thermometer and Automatic Temperature Controller: Once you’re ready to take things seriously, the FireBoard 2 Drive is a six-channel Bluetooth/Wi-Fi thermometer that can monitor up to 6 pieces of meat, control and graph your cook sessions on your smartphone, and attaches to an an automatic blower that will convert your charcoal smoker to a set-and-forget. This is one of the most advanced meat thermometers on the market. You can check it out on the FireBoard website here.