By Travis Birch
Living off the grid we often find ourselves constantly on the move. When we schedule ourselves downtime, it usually involves moving about our local terrain. If it’s not hiking or foraging, it may be canoeing or climbing. Bringing along a good snack or lunch is a necessity. I reached back into my Boy Scout days and found an old recipe I tried back then, and it is sure to be a favorite with my wife and our boys, even faithful Chester will enjoy my recipe for bacon jerky.
How To Make Bacon Jerky
As with anything that is made with bacon, even if it is bad, it will be great. Something to note as we get started, are the temperatures. This recipe involves using a smoker, but you could very well do this entirely with your oven and/or a Dehydrator . If you follow the temperatures regardless of your heat source, the outcome should be the same regardless. First thing to do is to gather your ingredients.
- Two pounds of regular cut Bacon. Your gut tells you thick cut will be better, but it’s not.
- Dry rub, brown sugar, coarse black pepper, garlic powder.
- Two Cookie Sheet, 2 cooling racks.
- Offset smoker and, oven or dehydrator.
- Zipper lock style bags, Storage Bags.
- Hickory wood.
- Prep time, 20 minutes, cooking time, about 5 hours.
To start making your bacon jerky, place the cooling racks into the cookie sheets. This should allow the smoke to surround your meat for the initial cooking process. You should find that you can work one pound of meat per cookie sheet, cooling rack setup. Space the bacon out so there is a little room between the slices. Apply your rub ingredients. As opposed to smoking other meats where you mix your rub and liberally apply your concoction, with bacon jerky lightly sprinkle these dry ingredients to taste, Sweet Dry Rub. We’re lightly dusting the garlic powder, a little heavier pinch of the black pepper, and a little less brown sugar compared to the pepper. This is going to give us the sweet and savory flavor combination we’re desiring. When you’re done, flip the meat and apply your seasoning rubs to the other side.
Now take your racks of potential bacon jerky and put them into the refrigerator or cooler for about one hour. Remove them and set them on the counter while you go start your fire. Once your fire is going good, and the coals are turning gray, put your first piece of hickory wood on. If you are using an electric method, set it and wait for your temperature to find its mark. Monitor your heat to around 190°. When you have a good steady temperature of 190°, which should be monitored as close to the cooking surface as possible, bring out your bacon, and start the process.
You are wanting to smoke this for about two hours. You’re looking for a color change to begin. You definitely want to build your fire on the far side of your smoke box, and keep your bacon far enough away so that it isn’t close to the fire. This is a delicate meat, and it could quickly burn up if the conditions aren’t proper. If your temperatures are consistent, you shouldn’t have too much of a problem. You will want to check your bacon jerky after one hour to see what your grease status is. Your cookie sheet will hold any grease drippings, but, if your bacon has a larger fat content than normal, you will want to dump the excess grease off into an old coffee can for disposal. Be sure to close your smoker while you’re doing this to maintain the temperature and smoke levels.
A lot of bacons have been smoked in their curing process, so 1 ½ to 2 hours should be enough to affect your bacon jerky. Bring the bacon jerky inside and set it aside while you preheat your oven to 190°. While your oven is heating up, drain any grease that has accumulated since you last checked. At this time you may want to blot your bacon jerky for any residual grease on the meat. Once your oven is ready slide it in. Your cooking time now should be three more hours.
With something this delicate you will want to check on your bacon jerky after one hour. This is a thin meat, and differs greatly by brand. It shouldn’t take very long. You want to see the color and texture change. It should be somewhat pliable. If it is crunchy you may have gone too far. Check every hour, and as you get closer to the color and texture you’re looking for, you may start checking every 30 minutes or 15 minutes.
Take the bacon jerky out, and let it rest covered on a plate with a paper towel on it to remove any excess grease. Dump off all the accumulated grease into your coffee can. Portion out the bacon in baggies for each person, and if you have a four legged friend in you fold, make sure each hiker has an extra piece in their bag for them.