Smoked Pork Belly 101: How To Make It Like A Chef

For different reasons, the smoked pork belly has become popular in the grilled food world for a few years. It is versatile and delicious with a unique recipe. 

Besides, the high-fat content also makes it become juicy and tasty meat that needs to be slowly cooked. 

You can serve smoked pork belly with the common dishes to complete its taste. Have you craved it yet? This article will help you learn how to cook it and other information about this type of meat. Scroll down for more details. 

Smoked Pork Belly

What Is Smoked Pork Belly? 

To begin with, pork belly is a prime boneless cut of meat from the underside of a pig with the thickest meat layers. The cut contains a high-fat content, and the fat layers can be visible from the side. 

You can cook pork belly in various other ways. Case in point, this fatty cut is an ideal choice for processing bacon, just salting meat and smoking it to make tasty bacon for breakfast. Still, smoked pork belly shows many edges to rival bacon for the best recipe with this cut.

A smoked pork belly is a BBQ-friendly fatty dish, made from pork slowly cooked on a charcoal grill, wood pellet or electric smoker. And this smoking recipe will add a smoky touch to the juicy and tender meat, boosting its flavor to a new height.

This dish has gained popularity in Asian and Hispanic cuisine. Smoked pork belly also exists in different variations in Chinese recipes. The Chinese often slice and serve it with steamed rice. 

As the dish has become familiar in the United States in recent years, you can easily find it in the barbecue area on the dinner table at any great dining restaurant in a blink. 

Smoked Pork Belly
Source: Flickr

Smoked Pork Belly – Everything You Need To Know

Pork Belly Nutrition Value 

Pork belly has a rich nutrition value, including calories, protein, fat, vitamin, copper, and other components. 

Since the cut includes fat as a key ingredient, each serving provides up to 60 grams of total fat, 585 calories, and 22 grams of saturated fat. 

Besides, it is also a great source of B vitamins, including  B1 (37.3%),   B2  (21%), B3 (33%), B5 (5.8%), B6 (8.6%), and B12 (39.5%). 

Even better, pork belly is chock-full of other essential nutrients such as zinc (10.5%), copper (6.6%), vitamin E (3%), protein (11 grams), and iron (3.3%). 

Yet, this food contains low sodium, with 36.2 mg per serving. Thus, you should care about preparing dishes with pork belly to compensate for the sodium levels. 

Benefits And Drawbacks Of Smoked Pork Belly

Benefits

Smoked pork belly gives you multiple culinary benefits such as good taste,  versatile serving, and affordability. Indeed, this recipe is popular thanks to its juicy and lip-smacking taste. 

You may increase the rich flavor profile of this food by slowly boiling it to release the fat. To offset the greasy and strong taste, cook it with fresh and light ingredients, such as onion pickles, lettuce, herbs, or citrus fruits. 

Because of its variety, pork belly has become a familiar ingredient in worldwide cuisine with various serves. It can appear in tacos, bread rolls, ramen, sandwiches, and other dishes. You also serve it by grilling, roasting, or frying. 

In addition, pork belly is an affordable and delicious option you can choose and enjoy in your daily meals or big parties to save your budget. 

Drawbacks

However, this food has several drawbacks, such as high calories and low protein.

Due to its high fat content, it is rich in calories with an approximate index of 585 calories per 4 ounces (113 grams). 

Thus, you should consider consuming it if you are on a diet to lose weight or lower calorie intake. Also, this food contains less protein than other cuts, so it is not perfect for developing your muscles or other body parts.

If you want to control your weight goal, you don’t eat it so much. Besides, this meat is also higher in saturated fatty acids than other types of pork. 

It is not a good choice when you are building a healthy diet because it can affect your health and trigger dangerous diseases such as heart disease. Eating it with a small amount is better on special occasions. 

Drawbacks
Source: Flickr 

Choosing Pork Belly

You should look for fresh pork belly cut in half. Most grocery stores and local butchers offer pork belly, but you may also buy them online. Below is a full guide to choosing the best pork belly and where to purchase it. 

You can opt for pork belly without skin to shorten the time of removing the skin before smoking it. If you purchase a cut with skin, tell the butcher to help you remove them, or use a sharp and small knife to separate them from the first layer of fat and crust. 

When choosing this meat, seek rich reddish-pink or fresh red meat with a new appearance and enough meat layers. 

You should go for a small pork belly cut of about 4-5 pounds. Should you purchase a bigger slab,  slice it into smaller pieces to easily cover the surface area with a barbecue rub later on.  

Choosing Pork Belly
Source: Flickr 

How To Smoke Pork Belly 

If you don’t know how to properly smoke pork belly to enjoy your breakfast or daily meals, follow the detailed steps below to turn it into a breeze. 

Remove Skin Or Rind if Required

Skinning pork slab after purchasing will help you reduce the complicated cooking process and increase the taste of this food. 

Locate the position between the fat cap and skin with a small, sharp knife and move the knife slowly to cut out the rind or skin. Be careful while removing skin to keep the fat cap and get rid of tough skin.

It is easier and saves time to work in small areas with the knife’s sharp edge first to pull up the rind or skin. 

Remove Skin Or Rind if Required
Source: Flickr

Season The Pork Belly

The next step is to season pork belly with your favorite barbecue by using pepper, garlic, and salt. 

If you love to enjoy a classic and sweet pork flavor, add brown sugar, salt, and pepper to your pork dish. 

This recipe usually calls for a large amount of brown sugar and a small amount of pepper for a delicious smoked pork belly. Be careful when choosing and adding spices because they will decide the taste and quality of the pork food. 

Otherwise, you can turn to the dry rub for pork belly to perfect its flavor. Ingredients for dry rub include chili powder, peppercorn, salt, sugar, and smoked paprika powder. This seasoning recipe will intensify the flavor and help your pork meat tender.

Using the right spices with the proper amount will give your pork belly a unique flavor and eye-catching color. Still, weigh up your taste to adjust the seasonings at will.

After that, place the well seasoned meat in the fridge for at least 1 day, covered with plastic wrap.

Set Up Smoker

After taking the pork out of the refrigerator, preheat the smoker at 225 degrees F with indirect heating for the ideal cooking process. 

It is best to use sweet fruit wood for smoking to make the smoky note more appealing. Choose apple, oak, or the pecan nut wood when smoking pork if you like. But you should not use strong woods to smoke the pork to avoid overwhelming its flavor.

Fire Up The Smoker

You should smoke your pork belly at low temperatures for a long time. 

Adjust the smoker’s temperature to 250 degrees F (from 225 degrees F in the previous step) and put the meat on the grate. Add in some apple juice every 1 hour to enhance the glossy brown color and keep the meat moist. Cook for 3 to 4 hours. 6 hours can be fine if you want a more tender cut.

Fire Up The Smoker
Fire Up The Smoker

Wrap The Meat With Foil Or Butcher Paper

Wait until the pork’s internal temperature reaches 165 degrees F (3-4 hours), wrap the pork belly in a kitchen or foil paper, and pour in a little apple juice.  

If the internal hits approximately 175 degrees F inside, you can wrap it using butcher paper. 

Yet, you can ignore this step if you want your pork belly to absorb the smoky taste. 

Take The Meat Out

Your pork belly dish is done when the meat reaches 195-200 degrees F inside. You can determine if it is done by equipping a thermometer probe. 

If you want to enjoy a softer and tastier smoked pork belly, you can wait for the temperature until 205-207 degrees F. Then, take it out.

Let It Cool Down

Place it in a fresh tray and let it cool down after smoking within 30-45 minutes. This step will help the smoked meat rest and disperse the inner juice.

Finish And Serve

After completing the smoking,  slice it about 1/4 inch thick to enjoy.  You can serve it with about three eggs or vegetables for a mouthful and nutritional breakfast. 

Finish And Serve
Source: Flickr

Dishes To Serve With Smoked Pork Belly

Cornbread

Cornbread is a starchy accompaniment to smoked pork belly. It breathes in a simple and tasty vibe for your meals. You can combine cornbread with pork belly to enjoy this food’s sweet and smoky taste. 

Mashed Potatoes

Besides, mashed potatoes are traditional American dishes with simple ingredients, including butter, milk, boiled potatoes, pepper, or depending on your favorite. 

This flavorful and unique dish can go well with your smoked meat dishes, such as smoked pork belly. This serving is easy to make with the abundant carbs to keep you healthy. 

Cheese And Mac

If you have a bowl of mac and cheese, it is great to pair  it with your smoked pork meat. It can go well with this meat to give you a complete recipe. 

Because smoked pork belly contains a low greasy intake, you can enjoy it with creamy dishes such as cheese or macaroni without hassle.

Cheese And Mac
Source: Flickr

Baked Sweet Potatoes

Another option is roasted sweet potatoes to serve well with smoked pork belly. Despite two opposite flavors, you can get a perfect combination of the two dishes to enjoy a unique recipe. 

This combination will bring a well-balanced meal with the smoky, spicy taste of pork meat and the smoothness and sweetness of roasted sweet potatoes.

Roasted Vegetables

Do you want to eat a rich vitamin and mineral meal with pork belly? Serve it with roasted vegetables. The plentiful mineral and vitamin sources in the vegetables will contribute to a healthy and tasty smoked pork belly in your meals. 

Some common vegetables such as broccoli, potatoes, carrots, or asparagus are suitable for smoked pork belly. 

Roasted Vegetables
Source: Flickr

Ways To Enjoy Smoked Pork Belly 

Cubed For Grain Bowls And Salads

You can enjoy a smoked pork belly by cutting it bite-sized, about ½-inch cubes for your salad or grain bowl. After cutting the cubes, you can bake them slowly to make them tastier and tender. It is best to serve these grilled cubes with tacos,  burritos, salads, or cereal bowls.

Sliced For Sandwiches

You can place the smoked pork belly slices between the layers to enjoy delicious sandwiches.  Or, you can use a small and sharp knife to cut into strips and stuff them into sandwiches. 

The smoky and tasty flavor of smoked pork meat will complete the sandwiches’ taste. It is ideal for eating the dish while enjoying a glass of milk or coffee in the morning. 

Finely Chop And Sprinkle With Barbecue Sauce

Do you love the traditional barbecue smoked pork sandwich but want to enjoy it luxuriously? Chop or shred the tender pork belly into small pieces with two forks or a small knife and toss it in your favorite barbecue sauce. 

Put the shredded or chopped pork belly on toasted hamburger buns or stuff it in tortillas. Besides, place sliced ​​smoked meat on a classic grill platter and serve it with your favorite food. 

Other Smoked Pork Belly Recipe Options 

Smoked Pork Belly Burnt Ends

This pork belly burnt ends oven recipe is another option to replace the smoked pork belly with similar preparation and ingredients. You need to remove the textured skin after purchasing it. This will make the burnt edges special with juicy fat content during the low-temperature and low-speed cooking processes. 

Place the pork belly on the grate. Supply enough wood for at least the first 3 hours of cooking to ensure a consistent smoking process. 

Remove the pork meat from the smoker and increase the smoker’s temperature to 300 degrees F to create gorgeous burnt pork ends

After the meat is cooked, you can wrap it with a piece of aluminum foil. Pour apple juice and add three honey tablespoons into your smoked pork. 

After finishing the mixture, fold the foil carefully to cover around the meat to avoid the steam and air penetrating and return the foil cocoon to the smoker. Ensure the smoked pork meat is tightly packed and single-layered. 

Smoked Pork Belly Burnt Ends
Source: Recipes.net

Hot Honey Pork Belly Burnt Ends

Hot honey pork belly burn ends are another substitute option for your smoked pork belly.  You can prepare this dish the same as processing the smoked pork belly. 

Remove the skin or rind of the pork first by taking a small, sharp knife and running it along the first fat layer and skin’s edges. 

Pork belly has plenty of fat but a poor taste, so you need to season it with the main spices to maximize its flavor and color. 

This serving is ideal for your favorite barbecue with a little honey and perfect flavor. 

This pork belly is more delicious when you cook it at low temperatures. And it is better to give it enough time to reduce the fat during the cooking process. 

You should set the temperature for the smoker at 250 degree F in this recipe. If you like the appealing flavor of pecan nuts, add them to your hot honey pork belly while smoking. 

FAQs

How Long Can You Smoke Pork Belly?

The time for smoking pork belly depends on the texture of the kitchen utensil you use. Put the pork belly on the grate with the fat facing up and smoke until the internal temperature reaches about 165 degrees Fahrenheit. This process can take 3-4 hours. After this time, you can check if your pork belly is done. If it is well cooked, remove the pork belly from the smoker and place it on a wire rack for cooling down for at least 15 minutes.

So the total time could range from 4 hours 15 minutes to 4 hours 30 minutes. It can be longer if you want it to be more melt-in-the-mouth.

Is Smoked Pork Belly The Same As Bacon Burnt Ends?

No. Although both are taken from the same region of the pork, the bacon burnt ends are different from the other. Making bacon by slicing and curing will reduce moisture significantly, compared to the smoked pork belly. 

There are important differences between pork belly and bacon, such as taste, curing process, uses, and price. 

The curing process is a clear distinction between bacon and pork belly. Bacon is cured and preserved in nitrate and salt to avoid spoilage and extend its shelf life, while pork belly is uncured. 

Because of being cured with salt, bacon is salty when roasted, and smoked bacon is outstanding with a smoky taste. But, when smoking pork belly, you need to add salt to enhance the flavor.  Also, pork belly is cheaper than bacon with a faster cooking process. 

For bacon, you can slice it into thin pieces and fry them in a flat pan in the traditional style. Then, serve it with soups, salads, or sandwiches when consuming it. 

For pork belly, there are various ways, including slow cooking, roasting, and smoking in the oven. Serve it with sandwiches, salads, and grill spreads.

What Should The Temperature Be For Cooked Pork Belly?

The smoked pork belly is ready when reaching  200 degrees F regarding its internal temperature. However, your best bet to get tender meat is maintaining a temperature of around 225F-250F degrees in your smoker.

What Should The Temperature Be For Cooked Pork Belly
Source: Kimchi Halfie 

How Can You Store Leftover Smoked Pork Belly?

If you have leftover smoked pork belly, keep it in an airtight container or refrigerate for up to 2 weeks. 

However, you don’t store it in the fridge for a long time because this can affect its flavor or texture. Keep the leftovers in a container or a freezer bag for the best storage for up to 2-3 months.

What Should You Do When Smoking Pork Belly For Bacon?

You must prepare the right smoker and know how it work with the proper temperature to make your tasty bacon. 

Besides, you also need an accurate reading thermometer to monitor the temperature of the pork belly during smoking or cooking. You must consider the fundamental ingredients that can produce unique bacon with flavorful taste and appealing color. 

How To Make Smoked Pork Belly With An Electric Smoker?

The best flavors of smoked pork belly often come from charcoal or wood smokers, but the simplest method to smoke it is using an electric smoker such as Masterbuilt. 

When making this dish, you can easily adjust the temperature and follow the cooking process for the perfect final pork meat. 

After placing the pork on the grate, connect with the electric power and set the proper temperature up to 225 degrees F. Set the timer for about 3-5 hours and monitor the internal temperature of the pork belly to check if it can reach up to 165 degrees F. 

Conclusion

The above is everything you need to know about smoked pork belly. We’ve covered its benefits, drawbacks, and nutrition value. This article also provides a complete guide on smoking pork belly and various ways to enjoy this dish. 

This is a common recipe in countries around the globe that can pair well with different food such as potatoes, vegetables, cheese, or cornbread. 

Hopefully, this post has helped enlighten you with interesting and useful information about smoked pork belly.

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