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Bacon on the Cobb

Carnivores, eat your heart out.  You too, vegetarians.

Carnivores, eat your heart out. You too, vegetarians.

I cured another batch of pork bellies and wanted to smoke them this time around.  Some day I will build a multi-chamber cold smoker or at least one of those galvanized steal garbage bin units.  For now, I decided to test the Cobb bbq cooker‘s ability to act as a smoker.  I was partly inspired by the fact that google searches related to my first Cobb post have sent a significant percentage of the traffic to Food With Legs (give the readers what they want) but also this conversation on smokingmeatforum.com.  Follow the link and take a look yourselves but the short story is that a guy in the States used his Cobb to smoke a simultaneously frightening and appetising creation known, appropriately as a “fattie”.  A fattie or sometimes “fatty”, is a football-shaped meatloaf, stuffed with ham, onion, and blue cheese, and wrapped in a bacon weave.  If this excellent monstrosity can be smoked on the Cobb I couldn’t see why pork bellies wouldn’t work.

Pork belly pre-smoke; you can see some of the time left behind.

Pork belly pre-smoke; you can see some of the time left behind.

My first bacon post deals more with the process of curing the pork bellies (I added minced thyme leaves to the cure this time) so I’ll move straight into the smoking process.  I used a step here that I came across on the internet and have used for hot-smoking fish in the past.  The protein that is going to be smoked is pulled from the cure, dried and left in the fridge to further dry for about twelve to twenty-four hours.  This develops what is called a pellicle on the meat that apparently helps the smoke flavours “stick”.

Wood chips.

Wood chips.

Once I had the match light Kingsford hot I balanced a small aluminum plate on top of the briquette grid and filled it with soaked hickory chips.  Between five and ten minutes of heating with the lid on the Cobb had the wood chips sizzling and starting to smell like delicious hickory.

Cooking surface with aluminum foil spacers

Cooking surface with aluminum foil spacers

The heat transfer qualities of the cooking grid that I lauded in my burger post are what I wanted to avoid when smoking.  The objective is to expose the meat to as much smoke as possible while cooking it as little as possible.  To raise the meat off the cooking grid I used the rack from a toaster oven and two aluminum foil spacers–an old Alton Brown trick.  Apparently, the Cobb people sell a rack that accomplishes the same thing but they charge a silly price and I think that for applications like smoking that leave the top off of the Cobb (to keep the heat down) my workaround is just as effective.

Bacon at about the halfway point

Bacon at about the halfway point

I was really impressed at how well this setup mimicked a cold smoking rig.  The skin side of the pork bellies–facing away from the smoke because it will be discarded and so that any of the fat that ends of melting has to baste the meat before it drips on the wood chips–remained cold to the touch.  Because of this I probably wouldn’t use this setup on a hot summer day for food safety reasons but remember that the smoke and the cure both have preservative properties.

The finished product

The finished product

Total smoke time was about an hour and a half but this would have been about twenty minutes shorter if I had done a better job of managing the wood chips.  Add more chips before the first batch has been totally exhausted (knock some of the ash off of the briquettes while you have the rig disassembled) so that there is less downtime.  Also, the chips I used are actually labeled as “smokin’ wood bits” which I guess refers to the fact that while wood chips usually look like small cubes these more closely resemble large splinters and have some sawdust mixed in.  I get the sense that these smaller chips work better in the Cobb because they light more quickly but I can see that they probably smoke for a shorter amount of time.

Notice the delicious, slightly leathery, golden skin that the smoke creates

Notice the delicious, slightly leathery, golden skin that the smoke creates

Next time around I’ll use natural lump charcoal instead of the match light stuff.  I didn’t notice any unpleasant tastes or aroma but with this much exposure to the smoke I would rather avoid all the chemicals I can.  Also, for easier cooking and storage I tend to cut home-cured pork bellies in half widthwise.  I think I’ll do this before the smoking step next time to expose more surface area to the smoke and possibly fit more pork on the rack.

Frying some of the finished product in a cast iron skillet; the bellies were cut in half widthwise.

Frying some of the finished product in a cast iron skillet; the bellies were cut in half widthwise.

The cooked bacon from this smoking experiment was mindblowing.  Even uncooked and refrigerated the scent is otherworldly.  Totally different even than the premium, thick-cut store-bought stuff.  I let it work its magic on a BLT with some of this year’s last garden-grown tomatoes today and was shocked at how the bacon’s salty smokiness played perfectly with the tomato.  The ideas for using this bacon (a supporting role in the Thanksgiving dressing that will go with this year’s turkey, for one) are coming so quickly that I’m sure I’ll have to smoke another, larger batch soon.  I’m envisioning a tower of bacon on top of the Cobb two or three racks high.   This bacon is yet another reason I could never be a vegetarian and vaguely distrust those who are.

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Posted in: Curing, Meat, Smoking.

7 Comments

  1. [...] My post Bacon on the Cobb details how the Cobb bbq can be used to smoke home-cured [...]

  2. [...] See also my posts on smoking home-cured pork belly and on locating curing salt in [...]

  3. [...] changes to this rig were the order of the day.  To keep the bacon off the Cobb’s grill I have used a cooling rack and aluminum foil spacers.  Because the pork [...]

  4. [...] I’m a really big fan of bacon.  There is something about cured and smoked pork belly that gets my culinary juices flowing.  Like bread and butter, bacon is a product that [...]

  5. [...] shape and pancetta stesa which is hung in a flat slab to dry.  I have cured (cinnamon version) and smoked my own bacon before but now it’s time to try pancetta.  I haven’t decided whether [...]

  6. Len says:

    Late to the party but:

    you want Surecure (6% nitrite) not Readycure (1%) and that is what is hard to find. Ready will work but the ratio is different and there’ll in all likelihood be too much salt in the end product. IMO.

  7. frans says:

    Thanks for this post. I would like to know wether you used the lid of the cobb. Or did you smoke it without it??? Thank you.

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