Pork belly is a cut of meat that comes from the abdominal or underside area of a hog. It is layered with rich meat and plenty of fat. This cut is best when slow cooked until quite tender.
The preparation of pork belly can vary and each method will render a different texture. Pork belly is commonly prepared by braising, pressure cooking, smoking, or cured to make bacon. I think the best way to prepare pork belly is in your Masterbuilt Smoker.
Dry brining a pork belly with salt, sugar, spices, and herbs helps to draw some of the moisture out of the meat so that there is an inhospitable environment for bacteria to grow. After brining, the belly is smoked for 3 to 4 hours until cooked through.
This recipe calls for a sweet and savory dry rub brine on the pork. You prepare this the day before you actually smoke the belly. You do have to trim the skin off of the pork. But, leave some of that delicious and moisturizing fat cap beneath the skin. Feel free to change up some of the rub ingredients. For instance, if you don’t have Chinese five spice on hand, you can add a little cinnamon and ground ginger.
Pork belly prepared this way can be assertive in flavor and texture that is very satisfying. I like to serve it with other bold sides, such as smoked baked beans, smoked macaroni and cheese, and cabbage slaw. If you don’t want your side dishes to compete with the belly, try serving it with creamy polenta, grilled corn on the cob, or roasted butternut squash.
Smoked pork belly is actually really good the next day or even 2 to 3 days later. You can make this ahead of time, especially if you want to take it to a football game tailgate party. I have included some suggestions for reheating and repurposing the smoked pork belly.
Dry Brined and Smoked Pork Belly
- 3 to 4 pound pork belly, refrigerated
- 3 TBS brown sugar
- 2 TBS Kosher salt
- 2 TBS sweet paprika
- 1 TBS Chinese five spice powder
- 1 TBS chili powder
- 1 TBS garlic powder
- 2 tsps freshly ground pepper
- 1 tsp mustard powder
- Water and semi-dry sake (optional)
- Apple or cherry wood chips
Total time:3 hour 45 min – Prep time:15 min + 12 to 24 hours to brine – Smoke time:3 hour 30 min – Serves:6 people
1. In a small bowl, whisk together the sugar, salt, paprika, five spice powder, chili powder, garlic powder, pepper, and mustard powder. Set this aside while you trim and prepare the pork.
2. Place the cold pork, flesh side down, on a cutting board. Using a sharp knife, remove the tough skin, also known as the rind, from the pork being careful not to remove too much of the fat. Try to leave at least 1/4 inch of fat cap. Slice the fat in 1-1/2 inch spaced scores in a checker board or diagonal pattern being careful not to slice into the flesh.
3. Coat all sides of the belly with the dry rub, patting it into the fat and flesh. Line a sheet pan with enough plastic wrap to fold over the pork belly. Place the pork belly on the pan and enclose with the plastic wrap. Place the pan in the refrigerator for at least 12 hours and up to 24 hours.
4. Remove a grill rack from your smoker. Take the pork belly from the refrigerator 45 to 60 minutes prior to smoking to bring it to room temperature. Unwrap it and place it on the smoker rack, fat side up, to air dry.
5. Fill the bowl of your smoker half way with 3/4 water and 1/4 sake. Fill the tray with wood chips. Open the vent and preheat the smoker to 250°F.
6. Place the rack with the pork in the smoker. You can place a disposable pan on the rack below the pork to catch the drippings if desired. Cook for 3 hours, remembering to replenish the liquid and wood chips as needed, approximately every 45 minutes. At 3 hours, check the internal temperature of the meat with a digital thermometer. You are looking for 165°F. Continue to smoke until you achieve the desired temperature.
7. Remove the pork belly from the smoker and place it on a clean cutting board. Tent loosely with foil and allow the meat to rest for 20 minutes before slicing.
8. Slice the belly into 1/4 inch thick portions and serve it with a side of smoked baked beans and cabbage slaw.
Ways to Reheat or Prepare Leftover Pork Belly
Leftover pork belly is really delicious when reheated. Here are some ideas.
Grilled Smoked Pork Belly
Set up your charcoal or gas grill for direct grilling and preheat to medium-high. Slice the pork into 1/2 inch thick strips. Place across the grill grates and cook approximately 2 minutes per side until sizzling and browned.
Serve as is or make into BLT style sandwiches with lettuce, tomato, and spicy mayonnaise on grilled Kaiser rolls.
Smoked Pork Belly Burnt Ends
Warning: These are decadent! Take your smoked pork belly and cut into 2 inch cubes. Place them in an aluminum foil roasting pan. Mix together 1 cup of your favorite BBQ sauce, 3 tablespoons melted butter, and 2 tablespoons honey. Pour this all over the cubes of pork and toss to coat. Cover the pan with foil and place it back in the smoker for 90 minutes. Remove the foil and continue to smoke for an additional 15 minutes to thicken the glaze.
Alternatively, you can make these in your oven or on a grill. Just be mindful that this may take less time than in the smoker.
Serve your burnt ends with toothpicks and lots of napkins. These make a great tailgating or backyard party snack with cold beer or iced sweet tea.
Smoked Pork Belly Ramen
A great way to use pork belly is to add it to pho or ramen noodle soup. Prepare noodles in broth and add some veggies, such as bok choy or baby spinach and sliced green onions. Season the soup with ginger, soy sauce, and sriracha. Top the bowl with sliced hardboiled eggs and slices or small cubes of smoked pork belly. Serve while steaming hot with chop sticks and a spoon.