Tocino (Filipino Cured Pork) | Make Ahead Mondays

UPDATE: The National Pork Board has generously extended the deadline for The Foodbank donation partnership with you all because you’ve been asking such great questions! In other words, every question you leave for pork producers in the comments on this post, the Foodie With Family facebook page, or on Twitter with the hashtag #sustainablepork will translate to 1 pound of pork being donated to The Foodbank of Ohio. No strings attached!


It’s what’s for dinner in one form or another in our house most nights of the week. We are a porkcentric household. That has probably been pretty obvious here with all my use of bacon, chops, roasts, Cuban Pork, Cola Pulled Pork, Hot Tex Mess, and more (scroll down for porky goodness.) So when the National Pork Board contacted me to see if I wanted to take a tour of a sustainable pork farm, I replied with a pretty quick ‘yes’.  Then they contacted me again and made me an offer I couldn’t refuse.

They are going to donate one pound of pork to The Foodbank in Ohio for every question you all leave here for me to ask them when I go on the tour up to 1,000 pounds. Holy cow. Or should I say holy pig?

Just think of how many people we can feed if you all are curious enough!

Let’s talk for a moment about what I’ll be looking at when I head out to Dayton. According to the information sent to me by the National Pork Board, within a 50 year time frame, pig farmers have reduced their carbon footprint by 35%, reduced water usage by 41% and decreased the amount of land needed to grow feed by 78%. Additionally, we are getting more meat from fewer pigs – which helps reduce the use of natural resources to raise pigs.

 The Pork Checkoff has been honoring the sustainability efforts of pig farmers for 18 years with the Pork Industry Environmental Steward Award. The farm I will be visiting on July 24 was recently honored with this award.

So where do you come in on all of this? Just leave me a question in the comment area below (or on Twitter using the hashtag #SustainablePork ) between now and July 13th. All comments and tweets that have questions for me to ask the farmers and the National Pork Board representatives will count and one pound of pork will be donated per question or tweet.


Now I figure you all know me well enough to realize that I couldn’t talk this much about pork without giving you a great recipe for it. That would just be unkind. Without further ado, I present to you one of my favourite freezer pleasers; Tocino. (Pronounced toe-see-no.)

Tocino is a Filipino dish that I have loved longer than I can remember. Starting with a humble and inexpensive pork shoulder (about $1.29/lb where I shop), a little slicing and a quick cure in some sugar and spice in a resealable zipper top bag, you end with a salty but sweet, crisped pork that tastes like super meaty bacon. It doesn’t take much work, and once you’ve tossed the pork with your sugar and spices, you can stash the bag in the freezer for up to six months before frying or grilling. Low investment, mega-payoff.

The sugary salty cure that enrobes the thin slices of pork keeps the mixture from freezing totally solid, so you can scoop out what you’d like to serve for dinner and leave the rest frozen for future meals. The traditional accompaniment for tocino is garlic fried rice and a fried egg for the classic Filipino breakfast called Tosilog. Doesn’t that sound like just about the best possible way to start a day? I speak from experience when I say it makes one heckuva lunch, dinner or snack, too.

Tocino is traditionally cured with red food colouring or other agents (like the pink salt, or saltpeter, used in curing other meats). I’m not super keen on food colouring, so I use beet powder as recommended by Jun-Belen. That man is a genius. The beet powder adds an appetizing red colour without adding any funky insect or chemical colouring. Lest you fear the beet, let me assure you it does not impart any beet-y flavour to the finished product.

Tocino (Filipino Cured Pork) | Make Ahead Mondays
Do you love meaty bacon? Give this traditional Filipino, quick-cured, pork a try. An inexpensive pork should gets a boost from the fast-curing sugar, salt and spice combination and yields salty, sweet perfection that is reminiscent of thick cut bacon. It stores beautifully in the freezer for whenever cravings strike.
  • 3 pounds pork shoulder, sliced into ⅛-inch thick pieces
  • ¾ cup raw or granulated sugar
  • ¾ cup brown sugar (light or dark)
  • 1 clove garlic, peeled and minced
  • 3 tablespoons kosher salt
  • 3 tablespoons beet powder (you can substitute about 15 drops of red food colouring if you prefer.)
  • 1 tablespoon light soy sauce
For Cooking:
  • Vegetable, peanut or canola oil for pan frying
  1. Combine both sugars, the garlic, salt, beet powder (or food colouring), and soy sauce in a very large resealable zipper top bag (2 gallons) or a stain-proof container with a tight fitting lid. Close the bag or container tightly and shake to combine ingredients evenly. Open the bag or container, drop the pork slices in and reseal. If using a bag, squeeze the bag to thoroughly coat all of the pork with the sugar and salt mixture. If using a container, use your hands to move the pork around to be sure it is thoroughly coated in the mixture then close the container tightly.
  2. Put the bag or container in the refrigerator and let it cure for at least 2 days before using, but up to 4. Alternatively, you can put the container or bag directly into the freezer (letting it sit for at least a week before using) for up to 6 months.
To Cook the Tocino:
  1. Whether using fresh from the refrigerator or directly from the freezer, remove the amount of tocino you want to cook and let it sit in a colander for several minutes to drain any excess liquid.
  2. You may either grill the tocino over high, direct heat, or pan fry in batches. To pan fry, heat about 2 teaspoons of oil in a heavy-bottomed skillet over medium-high heat. Fry the pieces until cooked through and browned with little charred bits, about 2-3 minutes per side.
  3. Serve, if desired, with garlic fried rice and a fried egg for a traditional Filipino breakfast.

Don’t forget to leave your question for the pork farmers and National Pork Board below. Every question you leave will provide a hungry family with a pound of pork!

From July 23-24, I will be attending a tour of an Ohio family’s pig farm with the National Pork Board (NPB) focused on sustainability efforts in the pork industry. NPB will cover the costs of my trip, but all opinions expressed are my own.



  1. Katie says

    Maybe this would be a good cross over to the Vietnamese Thit Nuong with rice noodles and pickled carrots? It looks wonderful. I am always trying to find pork shoulder recipes because it is so cheap!

  2. Lisa says

    This sounds wonderful! I am wondering how I can incorporate some real maple syrup (and/or honey)into this and hopefully take out or reduce the sugar, what do you think?
    I also think it is wonderful that the NPB will donate pork to a food pantry, what a great idea! Do they do a pound of pork for every question even if it is in one post? Here are some questions, if I need to post them separately, let me know!
    How long does it take to raise a pig to slaughtering size?
    What is slaughtering size?
    What is used for feed?
    How are the animals sheltered/penned?
    Are pigs raised without added hormones or growth boosters?
    The safe to eat temp for cooking pork to was lowered recently, what brought that about?
    What are the dangers/risks of getting parasites from eating pork?
    What changes have there been in the last 20-50 years in raising pork?
    I’m sure I will have more questions after thinking this over some more, so I will post again later!
    Thanks for the opportunity to help feed people, and for a great recipe for my favorite meat!

    • says

      Those are all great questions, Lisa. I’ll ask the NPB whether it needs to be separate posts to count, but those are good ones! And thank you for participating!

  3. Laureen says

    I love pork belly! In fact, I’m making a braised pork belly for a competition at the Gilroy Garlic Festival at the end of this month. But I have to drive to a nearby town to purchase pork belly at an Asian market. Is this cut (uncured, whole bacon) getting more popular for home cooks and will I possibly see it at my grocery store sometime in the near future?

  4. Dooder says

    I have a feeder pig with a herniated testicle. Can I safely castrate him or do I run the risk of spilling his guts? The other testicle was removed without problems.

    How much will this affect the flavor of the meat at slaughter weight if not removed?

    What might cause a pig to ‘blow out’ his rectum. I had one do this a few years back while fed & watered normally (as was the rest of the group that did not have problems).

    Is there anything I can do to correct the problem once this happens?

  5. Sherri says

    I haven’t eaten pork since 1994. What would the farm say to encourge me to try pork again and add it back into my diet?

  6. says

    What a wonderful program! I’ll ask some questions.

    I have to eat a low fat diet. What’s the lowest fat cuts on the pig and how many grams of fat are there per serving? Are there ways of cooking pork to remove most to all of the fat from it? Do you have any good low-fat pork recipes? How are the pigs slaughtered? Do they feel much, if any, distress or pain when slaughtered in this method? What techniques are used to raise the pigs ethically in a healthy, humane atmosphere?

  7. KG says

    My question: How are we getting more meat from fewer pigs? Are the pigs being butchered more speciously, or bred to grow larger? If it’s the latter, how are they doing it without aversely affecting us (i.e. do they avoid growth hormones)?

  8. Becca says

    I wish I had a question, because I think that’s totally awesome of them… How about, what do pigs eat? That count?

  9. Michelle W says

    I know that pork is much different now than it was when I was growing up. It’s a good thing, too, since the pork I remember was always dry and hard as shoe leather. My question is: What cooking tips would you give to help me make moist and tender pork to help erase my dry porky memories?

    Also, with the increased interest and demand for imported pork products, ie. pancetta, proscuitto, jamon and the like, what US grown and made products would you recommend for me to try in place of them and/or are there new US made products that are being developed as a result of this interest in porks of other countries?

  10. Pamela says

    I feel like you would know those sorts of things already.
    I totally had fifteen pounds of pork to ask about but I’m so distracted by pig nuts and blown sphincters

    Okay. Here’s one.
    What is it about whey that makes pork so stinking good?

    I will be back with more questions when I’ve recovered.

  11. says

    That is an awesome thing to promise – in support, I’d like to know more about the different varieties of pigs. I’m guessing that there is one type which is more often used as pork while others are better for different roles – could we get a breakdown of some of the more popular breeds and their uses?


  12. Rhonda Ahrens says

    Love Pork! But I am concerned about farms that do not treat animals humanely.
    Recently here in CO there were reports in the news about WY pig farm where pregnant sows were kicked, piglets thrown around. It was disturbing. I would like to know about inspections, controls being put in place to prevent this abuse?

  13. Linda Sch says

    Do Americans eat pig from snout to tail or do we waste a lot of food. I know my family tends toward only the popular cuts (number one being bacon)

  14. Megan says

    This is really interesting. I have some friends who will love me if I feed this to them!

    On that note, my question for the NPB: In your post you make a statement that the NPB is getting more pork from fewer pigs. What is the process involved in this? Are they adding more growth hormones to grow larger pigs or is there something else that is allowing this to take place? In other words, how is (if at all) the humane treatment of the animal being considered when approaching the sustainability of pig farming? Further, what is the effect of any hormone given to the pig on the population eating the pig?

    Another question, What are the living conditions, including type of feed given to the pigs, like?

    Thanks and I really look forward to the follow up post!

  15. Bethk says

    I have visited dairy factory farms and seen how the animals waste is processed and used to fuel electric for the farm.

    Do the pork producers have a similar process?

    How many hogs are typically housed in a factory farm?

  16. Christine says

    Sorry, I’m with Pamla on the floor laughing. Was not expecting some of those questions! I would like to know if what a pig eats affects the taste of any of the cuts of meat. I would also like to know if the theory that enlarging the yield from an animal reduces the effective production cost is good for the animals’ quality of life. Like a writer above, what about hormones? And anti biotics? Is there product I can get without these? And I suppose knowing how much more of the yield is fat would be interesting too. Where is pork used that we wouldnt expect? Finally, I hear about Berkeshire pork. Is that like kobe beef? ie is it a breed or a producer or a method? Any other ‘names to know’ in pork? Thanks! (Me thinks you will have a book here!)

    • says

      It is optional, but traditional. While it doesn’t impart flavour, it does give some visual appeal. If you’re averse to it, though, you can definitely leave it out!

  17. Jeanene says

    I love pork, and would really love to try this! for NPB – I would like to see more pastured pork and natural pork in my market, are you encouraging pastured pork production? Is there a way to make pastured pork more affordable? What can we do as consumers to encourage pastured pork?

  18. kate C. says

    How many pigs are kept per square foot of pig pen? (or whatever the ‘official’ name is for these structures these days)

    Also, how many pounds of waste (ie pig crap) does each pig produce in a day?

    And finally – do sustainable pig farms stink less than regular pig farms? (I’m from Iowa… so I know a thing or two about pig farms and their smells!)

  19. Lynn D. says

    How is pig waste handled on a sustainable pig farm?

    I am a big fan of pork but married to a fish eater, so I just get pork occasionally. It is much easier to digest than beef – why is that?

  20. M in ME says

    What’s the difference between Ham and pork shoulder? I can get a ham shoulder, so I’ve never been quite sure. And I love food banks!!!!

  21. Rica says

    I don’t really have any questions since most of them were already asked! Thanks ladies! :)
    But I do love, love, love tocino! Once in a blue moon (I guess) I would go and shop at a Filipino store and buy it. I would like to try your recipe.

    P.S. – where can I buy the beet powder? Thanks!

  22. Tamara says

    I understand these pigs are raised for slaughter but they are also one of the most intelligent farm animals. How do they keep them healthy and happy? Are they kept stimulated or locked up in the dark before they are killed? Is it like free range chickens? How do you ensure you use almost every piece of the pig?

  23. Shellee says

    In terms of sustainability, is there more than one system for dealing with the pig waste? When there is a stillborn or other premature death, how is it dealt with in terms of sustainability?

  24. Mary says

    Will you please outline what all the names of pork cuts of meat are and which are synonyms? I hate it when a recipe calls for a certain cut and I have never heard of it or I can’t find it in my grocery store.

  25. Brenda says

    I avoid pork because I seem to overcook it to the point of shoe leather. What tips would you give me so that I can be assured the meat is done, but not over done?
    Thank you!

  26. Sarah says

    I recently heard an NPR article about how almost all of the processing for beef is done by just a few giant conglomerates. Curious if pork is the same way, or if there are more local/regional farmers in the mix beyond just raising the pigs.

  27. Gayle E says

    Hello. My question is….Why are cuts of pork called different names in different regions of the US? Thanks :).

  28. Born27 says

    Wow! This Filipino cured pork looks way too tempting. I cant wait to make this. I’ve added your link to my list. Thanks for sharing the recipe and i’m looking forward on your next post!

  29. Christina says

    What are the favorite breeds of pig to raise for meat?
    How does our national pork consumption compare to that of other countries?
    How many pork eaters are lost (for a number of years or forever) at any early age from reading Charlotte’s Web?
    What is the healthiest cut of pork?

  30. mattie says

    I hope my question is not too late to help with the food donation!

    ***While bacon has been beloved for a long time, I feel that there has recently been a huge cult uprising in bacon loving. Chocolate bacon, bacon sundae’s, bacon jam, I love bacon tshirts, youtube channels dedicated to loving bacon etc… Has this changed the pork industry in any way? Has advertising and marketing changed, Do they breed or raise pork differently?

  31. Peg says

    Hope this is not too late, for the food bank and because I really would like to know the answer. I have raised pork for my family for years and each year I try new things to decrease the cost of feeding my pigs while increasing the amount of fresh fresh grasses and nutrution without increasing the workload of our already busy lives. So recently I have heard of cattle farmers feeding sprouted grains to their animals. Can you tell me about feeding sprouted grains to pigs, specifically what blend of grains you can recommend to get a complete ration of food and when sprouting, would you allow the grains to just sprout or to grow a few inches first before feeding them? I know that there is lots of vitamins and minerals, but how do sprouts differ from the protein value in grains. Thanks, Peg Eisenhardt


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