One of my favourite meat-related sites is From Belly to Bacon. The site is an awesome resource for DIY charcuterie and curing various cuts of meat. While browsing, I read a post about beef bacon. It’s made with the same process as pork bacon, but using the beef navel, the belly of a cow, instead of using a pork belly.
Beef navel isn’t something you typically find in your grocery store meat case, so I went to a real butcher shop instead. VG Meats is a butcher shop in Hamilton that I had followed on Twitter, but had never got around to visiting, as they’re on the other side of the city from me. I sent them a quick tweet asking if they had navel, and they responded saying that they put some on order and I could come pick it up. I’ll do a review of their place at some point in the future, and I was very impressed with their store.
The beef navel I got from them was about 8 pounds, and looked pretty similar to a pork belly. I cut it in half, and wrapped half of it up to make into a pastrami (that’ll be covered in another post), and then cut the remaining half into half again, leaving me with 2 pieces that were about 2 pounds each.
For each piece, I applied about 2-3 tablespoons of my basic curing mix, then added cracked black pepper to one of them, and maple sugar to the other. I then sealed them up with my vacuum sealer, and left them in the fridge for 5 days.
After 5 days, they got unwrapped and rinsed, then put on a rack in the fridge to dry. They sat there for another couple of days until I had a chance to smoke them. They went on my drum smoker at 225f for about 3 hours until they got to 155f internal temperature. I let them cool off, then they went into the fridge overnight to be sliced the next day.
I found the beef bacon a little tougher to slice than pork bacon. The meat seemed to be a little tougher, and the fat seemed to be a little more fragile, so I had to be more careful when slicing.
I tried out both the maple and black pepper versions, and they both came out pretty good (although I’ve never had beef bacon before). They taste pretty much like bacon, but made of beef instead of pork. The slices have a more substantial texture, and still have a cured meat taste, but beefier.
I’d say it was a successful experiment, but not one worth doing again. The beef bacon was good, but still not as good as a homemade pork bacon. I’d make these again if someone wanted them that couldn’t eat pork, but probably not again for myself. The pastrami I made alongside this however – that turned out fantastic, way better than I ever expected, and will be made again. The pastrami recipe/post will be up soon!
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