Smoked Pork Belly Recipe with BBQ
While there's a lot of debate on what the best type of meat for barbecuing is, one thing we can all agree on is that pork is definitely a contender for that top spot. Specifically, the pork belly. Succulent, tender, and versatile like nothing else, a smoke pork belly is one of the most delicious things you can slap on the grill this summer.
If you somehow haven't tried to cook this classic yet, here's your chance. We'll give you a great recipe for an amazing BBQ smoked pork belly that's easy to make and packed with flavor. Let's quit talking, though, and get started.
What You Need For This Pork Belly Recipe
Like most recipes, this one requires that you have a few things before you can begin. One of the great strengths of any take on pork belly is that the things needed to make it delicious are often pretty easy to get your hands on, so this shouldn't be much of a hassle. The basic list of ingredients and tools includes:
- Pork belly, ~4 lbs.
- 3 gallons fresh, cold water.
- 1/2 gallon apple cider plus more for spraying.
- 1 1/2 cups kosher salt.
- 1/2 cup dark molasses.
- 1/2 cup dark brown sugar.
- 1/2 cup BBQ sauce of choice.
- 2 tablespoons crushed black peppercorns.
- 1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper.
- 2 teaspoons garlic powder.
- 2 teaspoons onion powder.
- 1 teaspoon hot paprika.
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano.
- Paper towels.
- Large food-safe bucket or steel pot.
- Meat thermometer.
- Plastic spray bottle.
- Food-safe brush.
- Large aluminum baking pan.
- Charcoal smoker.
- Chunk charcoal and apple wood chunks/chips.
Once you've managed to get all your supplies together, then you can move onto the fun part. That would be actually cooking this delicious cut of pork.
Step 1: Brine the Meat
Pork belly is a naturally flavorful and fatty piece of meat but there's no rule saying you can't make it even more delicious. For that, we'll use a simple brine. Mix together your cold water, your apple cider, your molasses, your peppercorns, and a cup of salt until well combined (you may wish to heat the apple cider in a small pot on the stop with the molasses to help it incorporate easier).
When your brine is mixed and all the salt and molasses have dissolved into the liquid, take a sharp knife and, if need be, trim up your pork belly by removing any little bits of fat or meat that make the shape too irregular. You can also remove the skin if desired but this will crisp up beautifully during the cook and is not advised. Once trimmed, simply score the top of the skin and fat in a diamond pattern, taking care not to cut into the meat itself.
Once scored, drop the pork into the brine and allow it to sit in a cool place for one to three days.
Step 2: Season the Meat
After brining for your desired amount of time, remove the pork belly from the brine and pat dry with paper towels. Discard the brining liquid. If you notice any of the peppercorns are stuck into the cuts you made on the pork, go ahead and pull those out of there in the interest of not breaking a tooth on the final product.
With your pork thoroughly dried, mix together your remaining salt and the dry spices into a rub. Apply this liberally to the outside of the meat, making sure to work it into the scoring. After seasoning, let the meat sit out at room temperature to warm up slightly for around 10 to 20 minutes as you move onto the next step.
Step 3: Prep the Smoker
Step outside to start preparing your smoker now that the meat is seasoned up and ready to go. Fill up the smoker around halfway with charcoal, lighting it and closing the lid with the air vents fully opened. Allow this to burn for a good several minutes so the coals get nice and hot. Additionally, if you're using wood chips, this is a good time to start soaking them in hot water.
After the charcoal has burnt down and gotten ashy, place on some more along with your wood. Top with the smoker grate and close the lid again to let things get back up to temperature, filling the water tank if your device uses one. When the new fuel has had a chance to burn and the inside of the cooker is nice and smoky, you're ready to cook.
Step 4: Smoke the Meat
Lay the pork down on the smoker grate with the skin facing up. As the fat renders, it will drip down and baste the meat rather than simply falling into the open flames. If you want, you could place a tray underneath the meat and sit it on top of a wire rack to catch all the drippings to use for any number of things later.
Either way, you'll be letting the meat smoke for several hours, keeping the temperature consistent by adding more charcoal, wood, and water as needed and adjusting the air vents whenever new fuel goes on. Every half hour or so, spray the meat down with some apple cider. This helps the meat to stay moist and adds a bit of extra tang to the crust that's forming.
You're looking for a temperature of around 190 degrees Fahrenheit in the thickest point. When you get there, it's time to brush the top of the meat down with some BBQ sauce, then invert directly onto the smoker grate. Let this cook for around five minutes before repeating the process with the underside. You can keep doing this as many times as you like to continue to build a crust, though be careful not to let the sauce burn. Around three times on each side is a good place to start.
Step 5: Rest the Meat
After finishing the pork with the sauce, remove it from the smoker and allow it to rest at room temperature for around 20 minutes, preferably inside a large aluminum baking pan. This lets the meat relax and the proteins reabsorb the juices that would otherwise be lost when you cut into the meat. While it's going to be hard to wait with so many good smells and empty stomachs, it'll be more than worth it not to compromise the final product.
Step 6: Serve the Meat
Once the agonizing resting process has ended, it's finally time to eat. A smoked pork belly is super versatile, so serve it up however you like. You could cube it up, cut it into strips like bacon, or shred it like pulled pork. Whatever you do, remember to toss it with its resting juices for some extra flavor and juiciness. After that, it's all about plating it next to some baked beans, coleslaw, fresh corn on the cob, and any of your other backyard BBQ summer faves.
Smoked pork belly is a delicious treat that everyone will love, especially when cooked up like this. With a few simple tricks like our brine and easy spice rub, you'll be the talk of the whole neighborhood with people almost busting down your door asking for a second helping.
If you liked this recipe, let us know in the comments. Anything from your favorite spice rub you think we should add to ours? Tell us about it and we might just try it. As always, remember to share this (and your leftovers) with a friend who might be struggling to smoke quite as well as you are.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the difference between bacon and pork belly?
Pork belly is a raw, uncured piece of meat located on the belly of the pig. It can be cured and hung to make pancetta, or cured and smoked to create bacon. Bacon is sometimes sold as a slab, but it is more often sliced to make it easier to cook. Pork belly, on the other hand, is almost always sold as a whole piece of meat. Specialty butcher shops sometimes slice it, but you will want the whole belly for this smoked pork belly recipe with BBQ.
How do you score pork belly?
Some recipes call for scoring the pork belly. This involves using a sharp knife to cut shallow slices into the fat side of the belly. Scoring makes it easier for the brine to season the meat, as the fat layer is thick and hard to get through. It’s not strictly necessary, so you can score the pork belly for this recipe if you want, but you can also skip it if it feels too intimidating.
Do you take the skin off pork belly?
Some pork bellies are sold with the skin on, and others are sold with the skin removed. For this recipe, we recommend looking for a skinless pork belly. Because the skin won’t crisp up on the smoker, it will end up tasting a little chewy. You can ask the butcher to remove the skin for you, or you can do it yourself at home with a sharp knife.
What temperature do you smoke pork belly?
If you want to infuse the maximum amount of smoke flavor into your pork belly, we recommend smoking at 225 degrees Fahrenheit. You can smoke at a higher temperature and your pork belly will be finished more quickly. When the thickest part of the pork belly registers 190 degrees with an instant-read thermometer, the pork belly is ready to eat!
Can you freeze pork belly?
If you want to smoke a frozen pork belly, it’s best to thaw it first. Large roasts (like pork belly) take anywhere from four to seven hours to thaw in the refrigerator, which is the safest way to thaw meat. Once it’s completely thawed, you can cook it on the smoker following the recipe above. If you want to freeze the cooked pork belly, let it cool down completely in the refrigerator. Then, wrap it tightly in plastic wrap or store it in an airtight bag. After freezing, the pork is good for about six months.