What is Smoked Bacon and How Do You Make It on a Traeger?

May 19, 2023

Cooking BBQ on a Traeger is easy-peasy, and making smoked bacon is no exception. First, snag some thick-cut bacon, fire up your Traeger pellet grill, and pick your favorite wood pellets. Preheat the grill to around 325°F and get it smoking. Slap on the bacon on the grill grates, and cook it up to your desired level of crispiness. Then kick back, take a bite, and relish the mouth-watering smoky flavor.

As a chef, BBQ pro, and overall bacon enthusiast, I’m constantly on the lookout for new ways to jazz up this breakfast staple. That’s why I’ve been tinkering with different Traeger smoked bacon recipes and techniques. In this article, I’m going to explain smoked bacon to you like a kid. Then I’ll show you how to make your homemade smoked bacon from pork belly or pre-cured bacon. We’ll also talk about how long to cook your bacon, and I might even drop a few creative recipe ideas and tips on ya. 

smoked bacon

What is Smoked Bacon?

First, bacon simply means cured pork belly. And smoked bacon is a special kind of bacon that is made by curing and smoking pork belly. It’s as simple as that!

But to get a bit more technical, to make smoked homemade bacon from scratch, you start with pork belly. 

First, you soak the pork belly in a mixture of water, salt, and other yummy things to make it extra flavorful. This mixture is called brine, and the pork belly soaks in it for a day or two in the fridge.

Next, you take the pork belly out of the brine. You slice it up and coat it with spices or other flavorings, like maple syrup. This is called a dry rub and gives the bacon a yummy crust when it’s cooked.

Finally, the pork belly turned bacon slices are cooked in a special smoker or grill where it’s slowly cooked in a smoky environment. This makes the bacon extra delicious with a nice flavor.

After the bacon is smoked, it’s ready to be sliced up and cooked in a cast iron pan or on a griddle. Smoked bacon is the perfect addition to a delicious breakfast or sandwich, and it makes many dishes taste even better!

How to Cook Bacon on a Traeger Pellet Grill?

If you’re looking for a quick breakfast staple, you’ve got to try cooking bacon on a Traeger grill! You don’t need a lot of stuff for this aside from a slab of bacon, your grill, and maybe an aluminum foil. In this recipe, I’m going to show you how to prep and smoke bacon to get that perfect balance of smoky and crispy.

What You Need

  • 1 pound of bacon
  • Wood pellets
  • Aluminum foil
  • A pellet grill
Smoked Ham with Leaves and Herbs

Preparing the Bacon

  • Picking the right bacon: First, you’ve got to decide if you’re team regular or thick-cut bacon. It’s all about your preference, so choose what you like.
  • Slicing the bacon: If you’re all about that thick bacon, get your butcher to cut it for you. Or, if you’re a DIY kind of person, slice it up yourself to your preferred thickness.
  • Prepping the bacon slices for smoking: Grab a sheet of aluminum foil and lay the bacon out on it. Now it’s time to get smoking. 

Preparing the Grill

  • Pick your pellets wisely: For a tasty smoky flavor, go for Traeger's wood pellets. Specifically, any hickory, mesquite, or apple wood pellets.
  • Set up the grill: Fill up the hopper with your favorite Traeger wood pellets. Now, crank the pellets up to 325°F. Remember, Traeger grills can get up to 500 degrees. But you don’t need all of that!
  • Give it some time: Let the grill preheat for about 10-15 minutes before you toss on the bacon slices. Patience is a virtue, and it’ll be worth it for that smoky, crispy goodness.

Smoking the Bacon

  • Throw the bacon on the grill: Put that aluminum foil with the bacon on the grill grates and shut the lid
  • Watch the temperature: Keep an eye on the temperature and adjust as needed to keep it around the cooking temperature.
  • Flip the bacon: Flip the bacon every couple of minutes for an even cook.
  • Tweak the temp: If your bacon is cooking too fast or slow, adjust the temperature accordingly.

Finish the Bacon

  • Check for doneness: After about an hour, give your bacon a good look to see if it’s golden brown and crispy enough for your liking. And, don’t just guess. Poke your meat thermometer in and when it’s reached at least 145 degrees, according to the USDA, then it’s done. 
  • Remove the bacon from the grill: Once the bacon is fully cooked and has reached the desired internal temperature, take it off the grill and let it chill on a paper towel-lined plate. The paper towels will help to soak up any extra grease.
  • Rest the bacon: Let the bacon cool for a few minutes before you dive in. This will allow the juices to redistribute evenly throughout the meat, making for a more delicious bite. 
  • Slicing and serving: Slice it up and pair with your fave breakfast sides.

Tips and Tricks

  • For even crispier bacon, skip the aluminum foil and slap your bacon slices directly onto the grill grates.
  • Try different wood pellets to find your preferred flavor.
  • Get creative and use your Traeger-smoked bacon in an egg, pancake, or even a BLT sandwich.
  • If you’re a basic bacon lover, you’ll only need the bacon. But if you’re feeling adventurous, you can season it with a dry rub or add a sauce to it. It’s totally up to you!

Homemade Traeger-Smoked Bacon Recipe

What is particularly interesting about the technique to smoke bacon is that in 24/48 hours, your homemade bacon will be smoked and ready to eat. And this crispy smoked bacon is done from scratch – from fresh uncured pork belly. No need to rack your brains and prepare your piece of meat for 5 days.

Ingredients 

  • 1 pork belly (whole or smaller)
  • 1 cup of brine mix for ham
  • 1 gallon of water (or beer, your choice)
  • Flavor enhancer or seasoning, to taste
  • Maple syrup (optional)

Tools You Need

  • Tray or aluminum dish
  • 2-3 ounce BBQ injector
  • BBQ basting brush (optional)
  • A Traeger pellet grill 
Fresh Homemade Bacon on the Wooden Tray

Directions

  1. In a bowl, mix 1 cup of brine mix with water (or beer) according to package directions. Typically, a ratio of 1 cup of brine mix to 1 gallon of water is used for ham brine. But this can vary based on the brand of brine mix used.
  2. Place the pork belly in a tray or an aluminum dish, then inject it with the mixture every inch distance using the BBQ injector. Move the syringe back and forth with each injection so that the liquid spreads throughout the muscle and causes it to swell. Inject the same amount of liquid with each insertion.
  3. Cover the container and place it in the refrigerator. Let the meat rest for at least 24 hours there. You can leave it for up to 48 hours without a problem if you wish.
  4. Once the time has elapsed, preheat your grill to a temperature of 225 degrees. The Traeger Pro Series pellet grill pretty much knows how to do this job. The lower the temperature, the longer the cooking and the more delicious the result!
  5. Run the meat under running water to remove excess injection, then coat it with a flavor enhancer or seasoning. A general guideline is to use 1-2 tablespoons of seasoning per pound of pork belly.
  6. Place the pork belly on your Traeger and let it cook, slowly but surely, without turning it, until its internal temperature is between 145 and 160°F. This could take several hours depending on the thickness of the pork belly, but it’s important to cook the meat thoroughly to avoid any risk of foodborne illness.
  7. While cooking, brush maple on the meat with the basting brush for an even crazier result (optional). 1-2 tablespoons of maple per pound of pork belly is enough.
  8. Let the meat rest in the refrigerator for a minimum of 12 hours so that it is cold, tough, and ready to slice.
  9. When the wait is over, slice the pork belly into thick slices, then grill them directly on the pellet grill.
  10. Serve and savor every bite of your homemade bacon!

How Long Does it Take to Smoke Bacon at 225?

On average, you’re looking at 2 to 3 hours of smoking time at 225 degrees. But it depends on how smoky you want it.

Smoking bacon on a Traeger pellet grill at lower temperatures takes a bit of time, but it’s 100% worth it!

When smoking bacon on my Traeger grill, I’ve noticed that several factors can influence how long it takes to achieve that perfect balance of smoky and crispy. 

First, the thickness of the bacon makes a big difference. Thick bacon will take longer to smoke than thin bacon. If you’re using thick-cut bacon, it might take more time, sometimes up to 3 hours. But, if you’re into thin smoked bacon slices, it could be ready in about 2 hours. Other factors include the temp range you set, your desired level of smokiness, and your grill size. Take note, the time it takes at 225°F varies from one done at 325°F.  

How to Pick the Best Bacon?

If you want to smoke some bacon on your pellet grill, it’s crucial to choose the right kind of bacon to get that perfect smoky and crispy taste. Here are some things to keep in mind when you’re picking bacon:

Slices of Smoked Bacon with Peppercorn and Rosemary

Check Out the Source of the Meat

When picking out your bacon, make sure it’s made from pork belly. I mean, there’s beef, turkey, and even duck bacon out there. There’s nothing wrong with these types of bacon though. But they might need a different cooking method. Plus, duck and turkey are pretty lean, so they may not hold up as well for long cooks like pork or beef. 

Pork belly is the OG cut for bacon. But if you’re feeling daring, you can try out other parts of the pig like the shoulder or loin. It’s your grill, man, go wild!

Always Go for Thick-cut Bacon

If you want to smoke bacon on your pellet grill, I recommend going for the thick-cut variety. It holds up better to high temperatures and longer cooking times. Plus it soaks up more smoke flavor, resulting in an even more mouth-watering end product.

Choose Bacon With a High Meat-to-fat Ratio

Bacon with a high meat-to-fat ratio will render more slowly and evenly. This results in a crispy texture and delicious flavor. Look for bacon with a ratio of at least 3:1, which means that there are three times as much meat as fat.

Level of Seasoning

Now, let’s talk seasoning levels for your bacon! 

Some bacon already comes with flavors added to it, like black pepper or smoked paprika. That means less work for you! Other bacon is plain and doesn’t have any extra seasoning.

If you’re all about that traditional smoke flavor, then unseasoned bacon is your jam. But, if you’re feeling a little fancy and want to add some extra pizzazz to your homemade smoked bacon, then you might want to give the seasoned kind a try. It’s all about personal preference, my friend.

Avoid Bacon With Added Sugars

When you’re picking out the bacon for your pellet grill, you want to make sure you steer clear of brands that dump a bunch of sugar in there. 

They might be labeled as maple or light brown sugar as in candied bacon. But trust me, it’s not worth it. When you’re smoking that bacon at high heat, the sugar can get all burnt up and gross, and ruin the flavor you’re going for. Plus, it might not be the healthiest choice either. Stick to bacon that’s free of added sugars or just has a small amount. 

Is Smoked Bacon Fully Cooked?

It depends. If it’s smoked bacon bought from the store, it’s best to cook before consumption. Some may have been cold-smoked after curing, but still require full cooking until complete doneness before consumption. Others may have been cooked fully requiring no further cooking. 

You should check what the package says. 

Smoked Bacon Strips on the Cutting Board

But you don’t need to worry about eating raw pork when it comes to smoked bacon slices you slow-cooked using the recipes I showed you earlier. It’s all cooked up and ready to eat! The smoking process is like a slow and low cooking method that makes the pork belly safe to eat without having to cook it any further. 

But, hold on a sec! Even though we know it’s all fully cooked, it’s still a good idea to heat it again before you chow down. Reheating the bacon will help bring out its delicious smoky taste and give it a nice crispy texture. So, go ahead and throw those strips on a cast iron skillet or in the oven for a bit before digging in!

Conclusion 

If you’re a DIY Masterchef, you can make your homemade smoked bacon from scratch, that is, from a pork belly cut. Homemade bacon takes days but definitely worth the time. And, if you’re feeling lazy and want something quick and easy, just head to the supermarket and grab a pack of pre-cured bacon. Prep it up and get it on your Traeger. 

Thankfully, smoking bacon on a Traeger grill is as easy as setting the temperature and letting it cook. Just flip it over halfway through, move it around if necessary, and take it off when it’s golden and crispy. And don’t forget to let it rest for a bit before slicing it up and enjoying that delicious smoky flavor! 

By Kristy J. Norton
I'm Kristy – a chef and connoisseur of all things BBQ! You can find me either in my kitchen (or someone else's) or at a big outdoor barbecue surrounded by friends and family. In both my professional and personal life I’ve picked up more than a few tips and tricks for turning out delicious food. I consider it a privilege to share it with others!
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