Now that I'm on the homemade bacon train, I'm all in—it's been well over a year since I last purchased bacon from the grocery. Smoking up a steady stream of bacon has afforded me the ability to experiment with seasonings a lot over a short period of time and I mostly treaded familiar ground at first with things like peppered bacon, maple bacon, and spiced bacon. That has now left me starting to venture into the more experimental spaces like pastrami bacon and this Cajun spiced bacon. To be honest, I've seen Cajun bacon before and that's why it popped up as a recipe to try, but I don't think it's something I would choose over other bacons when shopping, so I went into this recipe not quite sure how much I'd be into it on the other end.
Developing the recipe itself was pretty easy for me since I've done many Cajun and blackened recipes over the years that use this common earthy and herbal spice mixture that has a light touch of heat to it. Paprika serves as the foundational red base while garlic and onion powders give the seasoning a lot of its sharpness. Cumin is what enhances that earthy quality and it's a mixture of thyme and oregano that bring in the herbal components. To transform this into a cure for bacon, I merely had to add kosher and curing salts into the mix and I was done.
I utilized around a three pound piece of skinless pork belly for this bacon, which was half of what I bought that day—I've been smoking up one regular bacon and one experimental one in each of my cooking sessions. I coated the belly liberally with the cure, then transferred it to a Ziploc bag and set in the fridge for a week. Every morning and night I flipped that bag over to help the bacon cure evenly throughout.
At the end of those seven days, the pork was pretty firm, a good indicator that the cure worked as expected. I had been running my bacons under water before smoking to remove excess salt, but I didn't want to remove any of the seasoning for this bacon, so skipped that step. A few of my past bacons were not quite salty enough, so I wondered if skipping the washing might solve that problem, or possibly end with a bacon that was too salty. It was going to still be some time until I got an answer to that question though as I moved onto the next step of transforming this pork belly into bacon by putting it into the smoker running at 255°F with a couple chunks of pecan wood tossed on the coals.
When the pork hit around 150°F in the center, I removed it from the smoker and let it cool off at room temperature for a bit before wrapping it in plastic wrap and sticking it in the fridge to chill completely. The final bacon had a solid earthy red hue to it all over, which gave me hope that the seasoning would be substantial and really give the final strips that boost of Cajun flavor I was hoping for.
Once the meat was throughly chilled, I cut it into strips utilizing my meat slicer. I went a little thicker than I had been for other bacons mainly as a change of pace, but also thought you'd really want all the boldness you could get out of this bacon, so heftier strips would best deliver that.
Once I was done slicing, I portioned the bacon out into vacuum sealed bags and then placed those in the freezer to wait until I was ready to use them. I know I can always re-portion and freeze store bought bacon, but I never do, and making these single serving bags has been one thing I've really loved about going homemade—I always have the right amount of bacon for just me and wife.
From here, you can choose to cook the strips in your favorite manner, which for me is grilling. I decided the first use of the Cajun bacon would be in blackened chicken tacos, which I was cooking on the grill already, so it made sense to use the existing fire and get the added advantages of not making a mess in the kitchen or smelling up the house like bacon for days (although I personally don't mind that second part much).
On the grill, I placed the bacon over indirect heat and then covered. I let the strips cook, turning and flipping them occasionally, until the fat rendered and crisped up the meat nicely. For this use in tacos, I wanted an extra crispy texture to contrast against the chicken, so I let this batch cook until they were very well browned.
At this point in time, it was weeks from when I actually started the process of making this bacon, so expectations may have grown even more with the added wait and it felt really great to bite into that first crackling strip. Initially I was hit with the comforting smoky, meaty, and salty bacon flavor that was a tad saltier than most of my previous bacons, but also tasted more “right.” After that came a light heat that was the first unique stamp of the Cajun seasoning that was then built upon by garlicky and earthy flavors as I ate more. There was no doubt this had a flavor above and beyond the standard bacon, whether I would pin point that as uniquely Cajun if it wasn't called out by name is debatable though, but it was an amazing tasting bacon none-the-less. That being said, that strong earthy heat isn't going to be warranted in every bacon situation—which is why I always like smoking up a standard bacon alongside my more experimental ones—but when that extra Cajun flavor is desired, this bacon is going to serve you well, big time.
Published on Thu Apr 22, 2021 by Joshua Bousel
Yield 10 servings
Prep 10 Minutes
Inactive 5 Days
Cook 1 Hour 30 Minutes
Total 5 Days 1 Hour 40 Minutes
3 tablespoons Kosher salt
1 tablespoon paprika
1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon pink curing salt
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
3 lbs boneless pork belly, skin removed
In a small bowl, mix together salt, paprika, black pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, thyme, curing salt, oregano, cumin, and cayenne pepper. Coat pork belly all over with the cure and place in a large resealable plastic bag. Place in the coldest part of the refrigerator and cure for 5 to 7 days, flipping bag about every 12 hours.
Fire up smoker or grill to between 200-225°F, adding 1-2 fist-size chunks of smoking wood on top of the coals when at temperature. When wood is ignited and producing smoke, place pork belly in smoker, fat side up, and smoke until an instant read thermometer registers 150°F when inserted into thickest part of the meat. Remove pork belly from smoker and let cool. Wrap in plastic wrap and place in refrigerator until completely chilled.
Cut bacon into slices at desired width and cook using your favorite method. Store leftover bacon in Ziploc or vacuum sealed bags in the refrigerator for up to a week, or in the freezer for up to 4 months.
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I enjoy making things just a bit different than the norm. Had some kimchi and some burger and thought I do like Korean BBQ, but don't have what I need, but do for burgers. So here's my go at the burger.
2lb Ground beef
1/4c Finely diced kimchi
1/4c caramelized onions
5 clove Korean pickled garlic
Drizzle Coconut nectar
Mix together, rest in fridge to chill (30min)
3tbsp Orange Juice
Gochujang (to taste)
brush on while cooking for a nice glaze
1/4c Kweepee mayo
Toasted Sesame oil (drizzle)
Gochujang (to taste)
1-2 tsp Tamari
Coconut nectar (drizzle l
Chilled parties onto direct grill. Let cook 5 min baste, flip baste, etc
When done sprinkle with Sesame seeds. They stick nicely to the glaze.
Smear the roll, add pattie cover in thinly sliced cabbage, drizzle aiole over cabbage cut and enjoy!
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Grilled Sheet Pan Chicken Legs with Pesto
Sheet pan meals are all the rage these days, at least if you spend more than a biscuit over on Pinterest. The concept is simple. Place a bunch of ingredients on a cookie/baking sheet, throw it into the oven until everything is done. I took this concept to the grill (of course) and used some Reynolds Wrap® Non-Stick Foil so none of the delicious flavors stick to the pan and clean-up is a breeze. If you have a family and are looking for great weeknight meals that are easy to prep, cook and clean up, all the while getting your grilling fix, pay attention, this one is for you. Let’s get on with it and get to making our Grilled Sheet Pan Chicken Legs with Pesto.
Grilled Sheet Pan Chicken Legs with Pesto Ingredients:
8-10 Chicken drumsticks (legs)
Garlic and herb seasoning (substitute your favorite BBQ rub/seasoning)
1 roll of Reynolds Wrap® Non-Stick Foil
2 small golden potatoes chunked
1 sweet potato chunked
12 each mini-onions both purple and yellow
Garlic infused olive oil to coat (sub regular olive oil)
Salt to taste
Pesto – we used store bought but here’s a recipe you can make
2 cups fresh basil leaves, packed
1/3 cup walnuts (can sub pine nuts which is the more traditional recipe)
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese (about 2 ounces)
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 teaspoon salt, or more to taste
In a food processor add the basil and nuts and pulse a few times
Then add the garlic and cheese and pulse a few more times, making sure to scrape down the sides after every couple of pulses
Then start the food processor on a low speed and slowly pour in the olive oil until desired consistency, stopping occasionally to scrap down the sides with a rubber spatula
Add salt to taste
OK, now that we have our basil pesto (and we bought ours, so that’s perfectly acceptable), it’s time to get down to making this dish. And our recipe starts off this way:
Didn’t see that coming, did you?
We are going to tighten up that chicken skin just a bit. Start by boiling about a half-gallon of water and then placing 2-4 chicken legs in a colander in the sink:
Being very careful not to burn yourself, pour some of that boiling water over the chicken legs for 3-5 seconds and watch the skin shrink up:
Those two pics above are the exact same chicken legs. The top one is before the boiling water, the bottom is after. What we have done here is tightened the skin up. We basically pre cooked it. This helps to make sure the skin isn’t rubbery at the end of the cookout.
Repeat the process with all the chicken legs and then season them with salt and the garlic/herb seasoning:
Make sure to do both sides:
Now it’s time to prepare the pan itself. Start off by laying down a layer of Reynolds Wrap® Non-Stick Foil putting the dull side up (which is the non- stick side) onto a baking sheet:
Despite the way the light hit that foiled pan, I promise you that’s the dull side which is the non-stick side.
Now, let’s chop some potatoes and veggies. So, for this one we made a mistake. Not a huge mistake, but one we don’t want you to repeat. When we started cutting up the sweet potato and the gold potato, we found the orange sweet potato was REALLY dense. Particularly compared to the yellow potato. So we figured it would take quite a bit longer to cook. To compensate, we sliced each type of tuber differently. We sliced the sweet potatoes fairly thin and the yellow spuds quite a bit thicker:
Don’t do this. Cut them the same thickness. They cook at just about the same rate, density notwithstanding. Cut them both thin like the sweet potato in the pic above. If you cut them too thick, they will take longer to cook than the chicken, but even if you do, we have a way to compensate for that later.
One other item that we thought was clever on our part, wasn’t all that clever. Notice the ingredient shot at the beginning of this post? See those different color carrots of different sizes? Notice how we have whole carrots and then the little baby carrots which are also in multiple colors? Well, once these carrots roast, they all look pretty much the same. Not identical, but they blend together pretty well. Same with the white and purple onions. The next time I make this, I’m using the little orange carrots and just one color onion. The multi color stuff looks fantastic in the raw ingredient shot, but in the grand scheme of things, they don’t have that much impact on the final dish.
Back to the recipe.
So chunk up the ingredients and spread them onto the foiled baking sheet and then drizzle with garlic infused olive oil:
Then hit it with some salt and more of the garlic and herb seasoning:
Ready for the chicken and a smoke/heat bath:
Now let’s go find a grill. We preheated it to 400F:
And once inside, we set a probe thermometer to be able to monitor our progress:
After 40 minutes, our chicken was at 160F. Our target is between 170F-180F. I know, I know. Chicken only needs to be 165F to be safe to eat. But that’s really the chicken breast. That dry white meat that we’re all sick of eating. The legs are dark meat and carry a higher fat content, which makes them taste better than chicken breasts. Not to mention that handy dandy handle that has been amazing us since we were all three years old. At 160F pull the chicken out of the grill and platter it, leaving the veggies in the smoker:
Why leave the veggies in there? Because my gold potatoes were still really firm. So I left my chicken legs out for about 10 minutes while I applied the basil pesto and let those taters soften up in the smoker. In the meantime, I had to thin out my store bought basil just a little bit, so I added some garlic infused olive oil:
Now it’s time to dunk the chicken legs:
And here we have all our legs dunked and ready to go back into the heat:
Here’s a close up of those pestoed legs (not sure if that is a word, but it should be):
Also, while someone was dunking chicken legs, someone else was flipping the veggies on the baking sheet. I’m just going to say that the Reynolds Wrap® Non Stick Foil was a life saver here. Had we used regular foil it likely would’ve torn in multiple spots.
And now back on the grill:
You see that stuff on the platter there. Don’t run that down the sink. That’s some serious flavor. Drizzle it over the food on the baking sheet:
Now close the lid:
And when they hit between 170F-180F they are done:
Transfer the veggies to a platter and top with the legs. Make sure to drizzle all the juices from the baking sheet to the finished platter:
And then serve:
And clean up is this easy:
We also learned as we were researching this dish that there are baking sheets of all different sizes. A small sheet like this could be used to make individual Grilled Sheet Pan Chicken Legs with Pesto:
And I have to tell you, that the chicken was magnificent, but the potatoes really stole the show. They got crispy on both sides and were simply amazing:
Truth be told, I think I ate five of these chicken legs. Maybe six. We made more than one dish, so I didn’t hog them all, but I did mow down a bunch of these. With school back in session, and me being head of a family of six with four kids all in grade school/middle school, this is a perfect meal for the crowd that lives in my house. It came in just under an hour of cook time, with less than 10 minutes of prep and minimal clean up thanks to the Reynolds Wrap® Non-Stick Foil. I call that a win!
If you have any questions or comments, feel free to leave them below or send me an email.
I’m oh so proud that this post is brought to you by Reynolds Wrap®. I’ve been working with Reynolds Brands since 2016, but have been using their products during my cookouts since closer to 1996. Yeah, I’m that old. It fills me with pride that a company that I firmly believe in and have been using for multiple decades wants to work with me and be part of the silly stuff we do on the grill here at GrillinFools.com. Here were my first two recipes we worked on together. Hasselback Potatoes and What is the Texas Crutch.
- 1 roll of Reynolds Wrap® Non-Stick Foil
- 8-10 Chicken drumsticks (legs)
- Garlic and herb seasoning (substitute your favorite BBQ rub/seasoning)
- 2 small golden potatoes chunked
- 1 sweet potato chunked
- 12 each mini-onions both purple and yellow
- Garlic infused olive oil to coat (sub regular olive oil)
- Salt to taste
- Pesto-we used store bought but here's a recipe you can make
- 2 cups fresh basil leaves, packed
- ⅓ cup walnuts (can sub pine nuts which is the more traditional recipe)
- ½ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese (about 2 ounces)
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- ½ cup olive oil
- ¼ teaspoon salt, or more to taste
- Begin by boiling some water and place chicken legs, 2-4 at a time into a colander in the sink and pour boiling water over them for 3-5 seconds to firm up the skin.
- Season the chicken legs with salt and garlic and herb seasoning
- Heat grill to 400F
- Cover sheet pan with Reynolds Non-stick Foil with dull side up
- Chop and distribute carrots, potatoes, and onions onto sheet pan
- Drizzle with olive oil
- Season with salt and the garlic and herb seasoning
- Drizzle the veggies with garlic infused olive oil
- Place chicken legs on the sheet pan
- Place in the grill until the chicken reaches 160F
- Remove chicken from the heat, leaving the veggies in the grill if the potatoes have not softened yet, and dunk the legs into the basil pesto
- Replace the pesto dunked chicken legs onto the sheet pan, making sure to drizzle the remaining basil pesto from the platter over the food on the sheet pan
- Close the lid until the chicken reaches an internal temp between 170F-180F
- Place the basil and walnuts into a food processor and pulse a few times
- Add the garlic and cheese, pulsing a few more times making sure to scrape the sides with a rubber spatula every couple pulses
- Set the food processor on to a low speed, slowly drizzle olive oil into the pesto until desired thickness
- Add salt to taste
The post Grilled Sheet Pan Chicken Legs with Pesto first appeared on GrillinFools.
Scott Thomas, the Original Grillin’ Fool, was sent off to college with a suitcase and a grill where he overcooked, undercooked and burned every piece of meat he could find. After thousands of failures, and quite a few successes, nearly two decades later he started a website to show step by step, picture by picture, foolproof instructions on how to make great things out of doors so that others don’t have to repeat the mistakes he’s made on the grill.
By: Scott Thomas
Title: Grilled Sheet Pan Chicken Legs with Pesto
Sourced From: grillinfools.com/blog/2021/09/21/grilled-sheet-pan-chicken-legs-with-pesto/
Published Date: 09/21/21
Did you miss our previous article…