When I got into BBQ, I kept hearing people talk about pork belly. I had no idea what it was, but played it cool like I did. Thankfully, we can summon the powers of cyberspace
to save us the embarrassment of asking others to find out for ourselves. Upon further research, I discovered pork belly is where bacon comes from! And that there’s more than one way to eat it! Before I go that far, I want to share how I prepared it. A lot of people cure it. However, I learned from the guys at amazingribs.com that you can get people sick if you don’t cure it right. At first I was afraid, I was petrified. But did you know you could smoke up some pork belly without having to cure it? It’s true, BBQ family. I found a simple recipe from the Barbecue Bible man Steve Raichlen’s website to try. It did not disappoint. Here it is (NOTE: I improvised by not using the rub recipe shown and simply replaced that with Honey Hog from Meatchurch):
SMOKED PORK BELLY
- one 3-4 lbs. slab of pork belly
- 2 Tablespoons spicy brown mustard
- 2-3 Tablespoons rub of your choice
- Temp: 225-240°F
- Wood: apple
- Time: 3-4 hours
- Internal finish temp: 165°F
There is more than one way to do pork belly, hence the title of this post is Pork Belly 1.0.
You may need to put in a special request for pork belly from your local store’s meat department, but most butchers should have it in stock. The belly cut I receive from Costco comes in a roughly 10 lbs. package. When removing the meat from the package, it is recommended to rinse it off and pat dry with a paper towel because the meat has been trapped in an airtight plastic package and stewing on its own juices. Keep in mind it’s not the end of the world if you don’t do this. Side note, I’d recommend getting your smoker up to temps when you being this process so you’re not waiting too long to start smoking this.
With the pork belly released from its plastic cocoon, turn the meat fat side up and start scoring it. Scoring the fat is done by making criss cross cuts one inch apart into the fat layer, cutting about 1/4-1/2 inch deep. I like to barely cut into the meat to help the fat juices render down into it and provide it some extra flavor. I’m not sure if it makes a world of difference, but I haven’t had any issues with it.
Now that you’ve scored the fat, slice the pork belly into thirds.
Time to use your favorite rub. With pork, I like a sweeter taste, so I prefer Honey Hog from Meat Church (although I have been known to mix it up on occasion). Be generous with your application. Once this is done, let it rest a little while to let the meat sweat a bit and have the juices and rub blend together.
Once your smoker has hit the 225-240°F range, open her up and put ’em in. Keep them in there for 3-4 hours, checking internal meat on occasion. Using a Smoke or Chef Alarm from Thermoworks will help you keep an eye on the temps without having to lift the lid. The internal temp you are aiming for is 165°F.
Once the pork belly is taken out of the smoker, let it rest for about 20 minutes so it can build up juices. Once that is done, put it in the fridge and let it chill for a few hours. This helps make it more firm and easier to cut.
You can slice it like bacon (pork belly is where bacon comes from, after all) or chop it up into cubes and make pork belly burnt ends. Slices are good for sandwiches and burnt ends are just dang good. You can’t go wrong either way.
To make pork belly burnt ends, you slice up the pork belly into 1-1 1/2 inch cubes. Next, I like to sprinkle some more rub on there and then drizzle with honey. You can either put them back in the smoker for another hour or so or
you can be impatient like me and put them in the skillet on medium heat for a few minutes. I like the skillet method because it helps cook the meat to have more texture like skillet-cooked bacon.
I hope you enjoy this as much as I did! Feel free to share any best practices you may have in either the comments below or on my Instagram feed @learningtosmoke (link via Instagram logo at the top of my page).