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How to: smoked pork belly burnt ends

Sweet, sticky, smoky bites of pork perfection.

  • 1 whole pork belly #4 (skinless)
  • 2 cups BBQ sauce
  • 1 cup apple juice
  • ½ cup pork BBQ rub
  • Prep time: 30 minutes
  • Cook time: 4 hours
  • Servings: 8

The pork belly burnt end is a thing of beauty — crispy, juicy, tender and delicious. So much so that after a single bite your friends won’t be able to stop talking about it. Smoky, sweet and the hit of any party, the one thing pork belly burnt ends are not is burned. Bring these and you’ll become legendary in the local social scene.

Pork is no stranger to getting the center stage at parties. From the Sunday ham to a full-on pig roast and all the brunch bacon in between, a great cut of perfectly cooked pork will always be a crowd-pleaser.

Here’s how it’s done:

  1. 1

    Prep that pork belly.

  2. Cut the pork belly into 1.5-inch cubes, and place them into a lasagna pan or heavy-duty foil pan that can fit into your smoker.
  3. Season the pork belly cubes liberally with the BBQ rub. Using your hands, toss the cubes in the seasoning making sure all sides are covered.
  4. 2

    Preheat your pellet grill.

    Load up the hopper and preheat your pellet cooker to 225°F. With its balanced blend of hickory, oak and cherrywood, Kingsford® Signature Pellets are perfect for smoking pork belly.
  5. 3

    What temperature to cook pork belly.

  6. Place the cubes fat side up on a wire rack with a baking sheet below. Space the cubes evenly on the wire rack so the meat isn’t touching. Smoke the pork belly for 1 hour. After 1 hour, raise the heat on your smoker to 300°F and cook for 1 hour more.
  7. 4

    Sweet sticky pork belly.

  8. Mix the BBQ sauce and apple juice in the same pan you seasoned the pork.
  9. By now, the cubes of pork will have rendered down and should be slightly smaller. Pull the cubes from the liquid fat, and place them individually into the apple juice and BBQ sauce mixture. Fold the cubes into the mixture until they’re fully coated. The pork cubes should be sitting about ½ to ⅔ submerged in the liquid.
  10. 5

    How to braise pork belly.

  11. Cover the cubes in the pan with foil, and return to the smoker. Adjust the heat on your smoker to 250°F. Cook the pork belly covered for an additional 60 minutes, then remove the foil and cook for another 30 minutes.
  12. 6

    Enjoy your pork belly burnt ends.

  13. Remove the pan of pork belly from the smoker and check for doneness. The meat should slice easily but offer some resistance. Internal temperature should be between 190°F-195°F.

Where can I find pork belly?

Not all that long ago, if you wanted to find pork belly your options were somewhat limited. You could either visit your local ethnic market, like an Asian grocery store, or a butcher who specializes in breaking down whole animals. But today, pork belly is a common item at many supermarkets and most box stores.

Recently, pork was limited to a few basic options. Most of the animal was available in some form but it fell into two categories: fresh and cured.

It may come as a surprise that as little as one third of the pork produced annually is sold fresh. Fresh pork consists mostly of roasts, the loin, ground pork, tenderloin and various types of pork chops. The rest of the meat gets shipped off for smoking, curing and other processing.

Although scratch cooking never really goes out of style, a resurgence of home cooks wanting to take ownership of the ingredients in their food has led to once hard-to-find cuts like pork belly being more readily available than ever before.

Fortunately for us, with availability comes adaptation. Although this dish has been adapted from the beef brisket burnt end, people love it because it cooks in a fraction of the time. Unlike the brisket, pork belly burnt ends are perfect to cook a few hours before game time. 

What is a pork belly burnt end?

The burnt end is a fatty cut of meat taken from the pork belly that’s been separated from the rib cage and cut into large bite sized cubes. Properly cooked, these boneless bites virtually melt in your mouth. This tender bite has lots of flavor because the meat is heavily seasoned, smoked, then braised in its own juices and a flavorful sauce.

How long should I smoke pork belly burnt ends?

Pork belly burnt ends take about 4 hours to cook. They smoke for 2 hours and then take a braise bath for 90 minutes. A final finish on the smoker uncovered for another half hour sets the glaze, if you can wait that long.

What type of pellets should I smoke pork belly with?

Kingsford®Signature Wood Pellets are perfect for smoking pork belly. Cherry wood is a popular choice for coaxing sweet flavors from pork, and this pellet blend does just that with a blend of hickory, oak and cherry wood, making it ideal for this dish.

How do I smoke pork belly burnt ends?

The most common method is to use a wire rack with a tray underneath that will collect any rendered fats and juices. We know from cooking bacon that there’s a lot of fat in the pork belly. Catching it in a sheet tray as it renders saves you time during cleanup, and is much safer than allowing the oils to find their way into your smoker’s grease trap.

Is this dish burned?

When cooked properly, burnt ends aren’t burnt at all. They have a dark exterior that is slightly crisp. A delicious blend of caramelized sugars and rendered fat surrounds the tender interior.

Pork belly burnt ends pay tribute to the beef brisket burnt end which is cooked similarly but taken from the point side of the brisket. BBQ joints brilliantly re-branded the fatty brisket point meat as “burnt ends” to make it more appealing to consumers. Since the point is a small portion of the brisket, supply is extremely limited, making burnt ends a dish you’ll need to order early in the day, before they sell out.

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