Barbecued Smoked Pork Belly Burnt Ends are prepared with trimmed and cubed pork belly which has been dry rubbed with a sweet spice blend. The pork is smoked with apple wood before being tossed with sauce and returned to the smoker to char up.
Back in April, I bought a smoker. I have been dying to use it, but mother nature has been messing with my timing. I swear, Dear Reader, every time I wanted to break in the smoker, it would rain. Finally, after verifying with my phone’s weather app that two consecutive days of sun was on the way, it was time. I used the first day to season the smoker. Then next morning, Barbecued Smoked Pork Belly Burnt Ends came to life!
I know the title doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue, but I wanted a title that would capture what this recipe is about. First of all, it’s about pork belly. Now, Dear Reader, you know how much I love pork belly! And, luckily, even though McKenna isn’t a lover of pork, she does love pork belly. That was the reason I was able to justify buying so much of it. A whole side of pork belly can weigh close to 12 pounds. I bought three!
Why not? I trimmed it and cut it up into manageable pieces. Some was left with the skin on so that I could make some with the crispy skin. Some was cut into strips like bacon. And, some of it was cut into very large cubes that could be quickly thawed and thrown on the grill.
PORK BELLY RECIPES
One of the most popular dishes at Lord Byron’s Kitchen is my Easy Baked Pork Belly. As much as I love that recipe and would never grow tired of it, I wanted to show you that grilling pork belly can be just as easy and just as delicious. Grilled Pork Belly Skewers relies on the marinade and high heat to get the most out of this wonderful piece of meat.
Just in case you’re unfamiliar with pork belly, it does have a lot of fat content. Steak has what we call marbling, which is in its most basic form, fine lines of fat running through the meat that melt during cooking and keep the steak tender and moist. Well, if steak has marbling, then pork belly, in comparison, has layers of fat. But, it’s delicious!
That’s what makes pork belly so perfect for a smoker. In contrast to most cooking appliances, a smoker applies a slow and low cooking method. This slow and steady heat helps to render out some of the fat and break down the fibers. When the fat in pork belly renders out, it acts as its own baste. Recall how you have to take your turkey out of the oven every hour or so at Thanksgiving to baste it? There’s no need to do that with pork belly. It takes care of itself.
It just made sense to me to smoke it. And, I had to add the barbecue sauce, because I love the contrast of the two together. The deep smokiness is paired so well with the sweetness and spiciness of my favourite store-bought barbecue sauce. It was a win! Another successful pork belly recipe joins the others here at Lord Byron’s Kitchen!
WHAT IS PORK BELLY?
Pork belly is an inexpensive, fatty cut of meat from the underside of the pig near the loin. Spareribs also come from this area. When kept whole, the cut looks like a brick of meat with a thick layer of flat running along the top and smaller layers of fat marbled throughout. A whole side of pork belly can weigh close to 12 pounds.
Pork belly can be cooked so many ways, but the most common and most recognizable functionality of pork belly is bacon. The side of pork belly is stripped of its fatty outer layer and then smoked, cured, and sliced thinly. With a good recipe, a smoker, and some patience, you can make your own bacon at home. It seems to be everyone’s go-to breakfast meat.
Pork bellies are more traditionally seen in the cuisines of northern Europe and Asia. It’s traditionally used in cuisines where it plays both a starring role, like in a pork belly bao, and a salty add-on to other dishes, like pancetta.
WHAT PORK BELLY SHOULD I USE?
I’ve seen pork belly in two different formats. The first, is a solid piece that resembles a package of thick cut bacon. It is usually about an inch or an inch and a half thick. It may or may not have the skin still attached and running along the top side of the pork.
The second format looks like extra thick cut bacon that has been laid flat. It’s usually found layered on a Styrofoam meat tray. Most packages have four or five slices that are layered in a slightly overlapping fashion. For these Barbecued Smoked Pork Belly Burnt Ends, you will want a solid piece of pork belly – about 5 pounds in total. The skin was left on the pork belly, but I removed it. I find that the skin in this type of recipe is just too chewy and almost inedible.
HERE IS WHAT YOU WILL NEED FOR THIS RECIPE:
- Pork Belly – Buy your own and trim it or have your butcher do it for you. You will need five pounds. Remove and discard the skin. Trim away the top layer of fat, but be sure leave about 1/4 of an inch behind. Next, cube the meat into large 1 1/2 – 2 inch pieces.
- Brown Sugar – This is the main part of the rub. It will add sweetness and will help to caramelize the pork.
- Salt – You must use coarse or flaked kosher salt, not regular table salt!
- Ground Black Pepper – You will need quite a bit of this – remember, you’re seasoning a lot of pork!
- Paprika – This helps with flavour and colour.
- Chili Powder – Because a dry rub without chili powder is almost impossible to find! All barbecues need a little bit of heat.
- Garlic Powder – For flavour – do not be tempted to use real garlic. It will burn.
- Onion Powder – Again, for flavour. Do not use real onion.
- Barbecue Sauce – Use your absolute favourite sauce whether it be store-bought or homemade.
SETTING UP YOUR SMOKER
At this point, I will trust that your smoker is already seasoned. If not, please follow the steps found inside your smoker’s manual. If you have already seasoned and/or used your smoker, then you’re ready to go! Here’s how to get your smoker ready to take on this pork recipe.
Be sure that your smoker’s grilling rack is clean. Remove the charcoal chamber and charcoal grate from the smoker. If the smoker has been previously used, discard any remaining debris or used charcoal ashes. Fill the charcoal chamber with standard, untreated briquettes or lump charcoal. Saturate the charcoal with smoker-approved lighter fluid. Allow the charcoal to soak in the lighter fluid for a few minutes.
Carefully lift the charcoal chamber and grate back into the smoker. Again, following your smoker’s safety guidelines, light the charcoal. Allow the charcoal to burn until covered with a light ash – about 5 minutes. Close the door and ensure that the smoke stack and vents are open to allow air flow. In 20 minutes, you can add the woodchips to your smoker.
For this particular recipe, you can add pre-soaked woodchips which have been wrapped in aluminum foil to the smoker. Or, you can add dry woodchips directly onto the coals, which is what I did. I added two cups of apple wood. Finally, insert the water bowl/grease drip catch bowl if your smoker has one.
HOW TO SMOKE YOUR PORK
Here comes the fun part! Well, as fun as it can get when it comes to smoking meat! Load up the smoker with the pork belly. Pork belly should be placed on the middle rack. Close the smoker and smoke the pork for 3 hours while maintaining a temperature of 250 degrees F.
Depending on your smoker, this could be easier or hard to manage. The basic rule is this – charcoal coals need air to burn or smolder. To increase the temperature of your smoker, fully open the smoke stack and vent. Once the temperature reaches 250 degrees F, you will need to partially close them. Preventing air flow will cause the burning to calm.
The temperature of a smoker is not instant. It’s not like turning the faucet in your shower to get hotter or cooler water almost instantly. It can take up to twenty minutes for a smoker to drop or increase its cooking temperature. It’s a good idea to pay close attention for the first thirty minutes or so. Once you get the temperature regulated, you can leave it unattended.
After the three hour mark, use tongs to remove your pork from the smoker. Transfer them to an aluminum pan. Add the barbecue sauce and gently toss to coat each piece. Return to smoker for 45 minutes to char. Remove from smoker and enjoy! It is imperative that your pork reaches an internal temperature of at least 195 degrees. In fact, I prefer my pork to be closer to 205 degrees F.
In Lord Byron’s house, anything that is prepared with barbecue sauce is best served with very typical summer sides, such as coleslaw, macaroni salad, and potato salad. The problem is, I have so many variations of those three items, sometimes it’s hard to choose! But, for you, I will narrow it down.
Make yourself a good coleslaw. I love my homestyle coleslaw. It’s creamy and probably the most common. But, if you’re feeling more adventurous, why not try my Jalapeno Buttermilk Ranch Coleslaw? It can certainly stand up to the strong flavours of Barbecued Smoked Pork Belly Burnt Ends! Next, you need a pasta salad. I have this classic pasta salad, this cheesy version of a macaroni salad, and finally, this delicious Coleslaw Pasta Salad. That’s right, it combines a coleslaw and a pasta salad all in one!
I grew up eating this potato salad every Sunday for dinner. I’m now in my 40s and I still have not tired of it! Vegetable Potato Salad is not your every day potato salad, but there’s also nothing special about it either. It is inspired by my Newfoundland heritage, and I’m sure you will love it just as much as I do!
I think that should just about do it! Now, are you as hungry as I am? I’m writing this up at 4pm and I think it’s going to be an early dinner for me tonight. Writing about this pork belly has made me very hungry! Enjoy, Dear Reader; it’s a good one!
Barbecued Smoked Pork Belly Burnt Ends
- 5 pounds pork belly, remove and discard the skin; trim the top layer of fat, but be sure leave about 1/4 of an inch behind; finally, cube the meat into large 1 1/2 – 2 inch pieces.
- 1/4 cup brown sugar
- 1 1/2 tablespoons kosher salt
- 1 tablespoon ground black pepper
- 1 tablespoon paprika
- 1 teaspoon chili powder
- 1 teaspoon onion powder
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 1/2 cups barbecue sauce
- Once the pork is trimmed and cut, set aside.
- In a small bowl, combine all ingredients except the pork and the barbecue sauce, to create a dry rub.
- Rub the dry mixture into the pork pieces until well coated. Set aside while the smoker is prepared.
- Preheat smoker according to manufacturer's guidelines. Preheat to 250 degrees F.
- Once the smoker is thoroughly heated, add 2 cups of apple woodchips directly onto the charcoal. If you prefer, you can pre-soak the woodchips in water for 30 minutes. Drain and wrap well in aluminum foil. Poke holes into the top of the foil packet and place the packet onto the coals.
- Load up the smoker with the pork belly. Pork belly should be placed on the middle rack. Close the smoker and smoke the pork for 3 hours while maintaining a temperature of 250 degrees F.
- After the three hour mark, use tongs to remove your pork from the smoker. Transfer them to an aluminum pan.
- Add the barbecue sauce and gently toss to coat each piece. Return to smoker for 45 minutes to char.
- Once the pork reaches an internal temperature of 195 degrees F, it is safe to remove from the smoker. You can leave the pork in the smoker until it reaches an internal temperature of 205 degrees F.
- Remove from smoker and enjoy!