Smoking pork belly is a great way to enjoy the tender flavor of pork. When smoked, the pork belly has a distinct smoky aroma. After it’s prepared, it can be served either as a main course or as an appetizer. Whichever way you choose, your guests will appreciate its rich taste.
I learned this recipe years ago in cooking school, and I’ve tweaked it a little to make it just perfect. The simple preparation steps and readily available ingredients mean you can prepare this recipe with minimal effort and cost.
Read on as I break down this smoked pork belly recipe in detail. By the end of this article, you’ll be able to prepare this amazing meat cut like a pro.
How to Smoke Pork Belly? A Step-by-Step Guide
Here’s all you’ll need to make smoked pork belly:
- 4-pound slab of pork belly
- ½ cup of dry rub: I use SuckleBusters Honey Rub for this recipe.
- ½ cup of water
- ½ cup of apple cider vinegar
To get started, you’ll also need a sharp knife, a cutting board, measuring spoons, and a spritz bottle.
Start by preheating your smoker to 275 degrees Fahrenheit. While the smoker heats up, lay your pork belly slab on the cutting board, with the fat side up, and score the meat in a crosshatch pattern with a sharp knife. Make sure you cut into the fat of the pork belly slab and don’t cut into the flesh.
After scoring the meat, season it with half a cup of pork dry rub. Massage the dry rub into the meat, particularly into the crosshatch cuts.
Next, arrange the pork belly, fat-side up, on the preheated smoker grate. Smoke the meat for 4 hours, or until the internal temperature reaches 160 degrees Fahrenheit on your meat thermometer. For a more tender belly, spritz the pork belly with apple cider mix one hour into the smoking session. Mix equal parts of apple cider vinegar and water into the spritz bottle and spray on the meat.
Transfer the smoked pork belly from the smoker to a cutting board when it’s done. Then, create a foil tent over the meat and let it rest for about 10 minutes.
Once the meat has rested, thinly slice it and serve it. Smoked pork belly is a versatile dish, so you can enjoy it in many ways. You can serve it as a main course. Simply serve thick slices of smoked meat with roasted mashed potatoes, pasta, baked beans, ramen, or rice. Smoked pork belly tacos and quesadillas with shredded pork belly are another tasty choice.
Smoked pork belly is also delicious as an appetizer. Just cut the meat into small chunks and serve with sauces like mustard or barbecue sauce.
Pork belly sandwiches are also delicious. Just layer a thin slice of smoked pork belly, coleslaw, and your favorite condiment between toasted bread. You can also top nachos, salads, and creamy soups with shredded meat. Yum!
Another Way to Smoke Pork Belly
Here’s a delicious way to make pork belly burnt ends. This recipe produces pork belly covered in a sweet and tangy sauce.
- 4 pounds of pork belly
- 1 cup of BBQ sauce
- ⅓ cup of brown sugar
- ½ stick of butter
- 1 tablespoon of onion powder
- 1 tablespoon of chili powder
- 1 tablespoon of kosher salt
- 1 tablespoon of black pepper
- 2 tablespoons of olive oil
- 3 tablespoons of honey
- ½ cup of beer
Preheat your pellet grill to 250°F.
Chop the pork belly into 2-inch cubes. Start by slicing the meat vertically into 2-inch strips, then chop it into cubes. Next, drizzle olive oil on the meat and toss until it is evenly coated. Next, mix the onion powder, chili powder, kosher salt, and black pepper in a small bowl to make a dry rub. Sprinkle the dry rub over the pork belly cubes and massage it into the meat.
Smoke the seasoned pork belly bites on the grill for 2 hours, or until the meat’s internal temperature reaches 160°F.
Combine the BBQ sauce, butter, honey, brown sugar, and beer in the skillet and stir. Now, cover the pan with foil and place it in the smoker to cook for 60 more minutes. 20 minutes into smoking the sauce, remove the pork belly from the pellet grill and pour it into the skillet. Continue smoking until the meat reaches a 195-degree internal temperature.
Now, remove the foil and continue smoking the pork for 15 minutes so the sauce thickens. Once the sauce thickens, remove the pork from the cooker and let it rest for 10 minutes before diving in.
Extra Tips for Making Smoked Pork Belly
Let’s look at a few extra tips to help you prepare the most delicious pork belly.
- Experiment with different seasonings and sauces. For example, you can brush smoked pork with mustard before applying the BBQ dry rub for a subtle tang. You can also experiment with the spices in your barbecue rub.
- For added flavor, brush the pork with your favorite BBQ sauce near the end of the smoking process. For more unique flavors, experiment with different types of wood chips if you’re using a pellet smoker. Fruitier woods, such as cherry and apple wood chips, will impart a mild smoke flavor to the meat. More intense woods, like pecan, hickory, and mesquite, will produce a stronger smoky flavor.
- Ensure your smoker maintains a consistent temperature during the smoking process. Temperature fluctuations can cause the meat to come out dry and cook unevenly.
What is Pork Belly?
Pork belly comes from the underside of the pig. It is essentially uncured, unsmoked, and unsliced bacon.
This pork cut is available at most stores nationwide. That said, if you don’t see pork belly at the nearest store near you, check at your local butcher shop. Make sure you choose a fleshy piece of pork belly while at the butcher shop.
Pork belly is one of the few parts that can be cut into small bites and smoked in this manner. The meat’s fat layer keeps it moist and prevents it from drying out during the slow and long smoking session.
Bacon vs. Pork Belly
Bacon and pork belly are both cut from the underside of the pig. The main difference between these two cuts is their preparation. Bacon is typically cured, smoked, and sliced into strips, whereas pork belly is less processed and not cured or smoked.
The minimal processing of pork belly makes it versatile, so you can prepare it in many delicious ways. Let’s take a deeper look at some other differences between these cuts.
Bacon and pork belly have contrasting flavors. This is because the bacon is already cured and cooked, while the pork belly is raw. The curing process imparts a salty flavor to bacon. So, you’ll need to watch the salt when preparing bacon. Pork belly, on the other hand, tastes less salty and has a more robust flavor when cooked. Additionally, bacon has a crispy texture, whereas pig belly tastes tender and soft.
Bacon is generally more expensive per pound than pork belly. Bacon costs more because of the extra ingredients and work involved in curing and smoking the meat. In contrast, pork belly is cut from the belly of the pig and transported to stores for sale.
Bacon is usually cut into thin strips, whereas pork belly is sold whole. Pork belly is typically preserved as a single slab that can be cut into smaller slices. Bacon, on the other hand, is sliced into thin pieces, giving the bacon a crispy and tender mouthfeel.
Pork belly can be prepared in many delicious ways. This meat can be fried, braised, slow-cooked, or even roasted. Remember that smoked pork belly flavor goes well with savory meals rather than sweet-tasting dishes.
On the other hand, bacon is best prepared by frying in a skillet or braising in the oven. In comparison to pork belly, bacon is more commonly served as a side dish than as a main course. This crispy pork cut goes well with toast, eggs, and baked beans. The saltiness of the bacon complements the sweet dishes perfectly for a balanced dish.
How to Buy Pork Belly?
Here are some things to consider when purchasing pork belly:
- If you’re undecided about whether to choose pork belly with the skin on or off, remember that your choice will depend on how you want to cook the meat. For instance, when I want to make a roast, I buy skin-on pork belly. When I want to smoke the meat, I use a skinless pork belly so that the smoky flavors easily penetrate the meat.
- Make sure the fat on the pork belly is silky white; anything less means the meat is low quality. Furthermore, look for a cut with a thin layer of fat. The fat will render the meat and make it more tender.
- One of the important signs to look for in pork belly is the streaks of meat. I recommend going for pork belly with thick layers of meat. The meat should also appear red. A more vibrant color indicates the pork belly is fresh.
- For the best value, I recommend buying a boneless pork belly. The boneless cuts cook quicker and take less effort to prepare. That said, you may opt for bone-in cuts if you want the meat to be more tender.
How Long Does It Take to Smoke Pork Belly?
Remember to focus on the cooking temperature, not the cooking time. You can even experiment with the cooking time to achieve the bacon-like firmness or fall-apart texture of pork shreds.
Either way, ensure you remove the meat from the smoker once the internal temperature reaches at least 165 degrees Fahrenheit. Personally, I let the meat sit in the smoker for another 15 minutes for more tender results.
Best Smokers for Pork Belly
You can prepare pork belly with different types of smokers. Here are three of my favorites:
My preferred smoking method is using a pellet smoker. I like the smoky flavor it gives the pork belly. All you have to do on a pellet grill is set your preferred cooking temperature and allow the smoker to do its thing! From my experience, a pellet smoker is simple to use and allows you to experiment with different types of pellets and cooking methods.
I enjoy using electric smokers because they are inexpensive and easy to use. Whenever I cook pork belly, this smoker keeps the temperature stable. This means I can smoke the pork without repeatedly checking it.
Despite being the traditional choice for barbecues, I’ve found it challenging to control the smoker’s temperature. You’ll need to regularly stoke the flame to maintain a constant temperature. So be ready for some hard work. That said, the smokiness it imparts on the meat makes all the effort worthwhile.
Can You Store Smoked Pork Belly in A Freezer?
Freezing pork belly is the best way to keep it for a long time. To begin, cut the pork belly into small chunks that will fit inside a moisture-proof container or bag and place it in the freezer. The leftover pork belly should last for up to three months. Remember to use the meat within two months, or else it will lose its distinct flavor and texture.
How to Reheat Smoked Pork Belly?
You can easily reheat smoked pork belly in the microwave. Simply heat it for 2 minutes and remove it when hot enough or once the internal temperature reaches 165 degrees. Alternatively, you can pan-fry the pork belly until it is hot enough.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. Can I Cook the Pork Belly in the Oven?
You can cook pork belly in an oven. You might miss out on the smokiness of a smoker, but it produces delicious, crispy meat that you and your guests will love. Preheat your oven to 450 degrees, then prepare your pork belly by scoring and seasoning it. After seasoning, place the meat in the oven and cook until the internal temperature reaches 165 degrees. I recommend cooking the pork belly on a wire rack with a baking sheet so it stays elevated as it cooks.
2. Do You Need a Smoker to Make Smoked Pork Belly?
If you don’t have a smoker, you can cook the pork belly on the grill and then finish it in the oven. Start by coating the pork belly in dry rub. Then, sear it on the grill over high heat until it is charred on all sides. Place the pork in a baking dish and bake at 250 °F for 30 minutes. Roast until the internal temperature reads 160 degrees F.
3. Can I Sear Smoked Pork Belly?
You can definitely sear smoked pig belly to give it a bacon-like crunch. Simply cut the steak into strips, season it, and cook on medium heat in a skillet.
That’s all there is to know about making smoked pork belly. You can enjoy this dish with several side dishes and prepare it in two delicious ways. Feel free to experiment with different spices and sauces for a unique eating experience that’ll leave you wanting more. Remember to smoke the pork bell till it reaches the recommended internal temperature and give the meat some time to rest before devouring.