Smoked Pork Belly
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Smoked Pork Belly recipes are a dime a dozen, but this one is a cut above the rest. Slathered in a sweet and spicy dry rub, beautifully basted in apple juice throughout the whole process, and slowly smoked to just the right temperature, you can’t deny the results!
The meat is full of moisture and rich, fatty flavor and surrounded by a sticky sweet crust that you can only get from hours of smoking.
Don’t let the summer pass you by without trying a new recipe for your grill or smoker. Now is the perfect time to learn how to smoke pork belly!
Don’t get me wrong, smoking pork belly is certainly an involved process. But I promise, it’s worth it! Once you take that first bite, you’ll be totally hooked.
Smoked Pork Belly
Smoked pork belly strips are tremendously tender, sweet and smoky, and juicy beyond belief. We’re using the cut of meat that’s left over once the spareribs are cut away, leaving behind the richest, fattiest cut you can find.
As far as smoked pork belly recipes go, there are almost countless uses for the meat. Layer pork belly strips onto sandwiches, shred for tacos or carnitas, use to top some nachos, or just serve pork belly burnt ends.
Ingredient Notes and Substitutions
- Pork Belly – This boneless cut is fatty, tender, and flavorful. It’s pretty inexpensive as well, and usually falls between 4 and 8 pounds at the grocery store.
- Sweet BBQ Rub – Don’t worry, I have this one figured out for you! This sweet and spicy mix of New Mexico chili powder, brown sugar, and paprika is the best match for the flavors at play.
- Sweetened Apple Juice – Most fruits complement the notes found in pork: orange juice, pineapple juice, or even grape juice would work!
Tips for Smoking Pork Belly
- Don’t trim the fat – I mean it!
While smoking pork belly, the fat will protect the surface from overheating and over drying. Trimming the fat can directly translate to tough, dry meat. So simply score the fat, without penetrating the meat, for best results.
- Use the right type of wood.
The best wood chip will enhance the flavors of the smoked pork recipes being made. Since we’re using a fruit-based baste, choose a fruity wood: I recommend apple.
- Buy the right cut of pork.
The pork belly should be reddish-pink, with creamy white fat. You also want to choose a cut with the skin removed. This allows the rub to soak into the meat, and also lets the smoke work its magic.
How Long to Smoke Pork Belly
The timing needed for smoked pork belly recipes will depend, of course, on the weight of the cut. The thicker the cut, the longer it will take for pork belly internal temperature to reach 160°F during the first round of smoking.
Generally speaking, though, it will take about 4 hours for the preliminary smoking and another hour of smoking in the apple juice. This is with the smoker preheated to 225°F.
Smoked Pork Belly FAQ
You want to smoke pork belly a bit beyond the safe internal temperature of 145°F and instead take it all the way to 190-195°F. Pork belly smoked to this temperature should fall off the bone and melt in your mouth!
You can overcook anything. If smoked at too high of a temperature or for too long, then the meat will become tough and rubbery.
Remove the meat from the heat once it reaches 190-195°F to prevent overcooking, and don’t add too many wood chips and overdo the amount of smoke.
Fat side up! This way, the drippings will coat the meat as the fat renders and protect the surface from drying out. That creates meat that’s as moist and flavorful as can be.
But wait, there’s more! In the final hour of smoking, we actually flip it fat side down. This helps to prevent overcooking in the final stretch of the smoking and traps those seasonings on the crust.
There are a multitude of ways to eat smoked pork belly! A few suggestions:
- Slice it thin, then pan fry it for the tastiest, crispiest bacon you’ll ever have in your life!
- Shred it for scrumptious pulled pork belly sandwiches
- Cut into cubes or chunks – you’ll have the incredible flavor of smoked ribs, without the messy bones to deal with!
With love, from our simple kitchen to yours.
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Other Scrumptious Pork Dinners
Smoked Pork Belly
- 4-5 pounds pork belly, *See Notes
- 1 cup sweet BBQ rub
- 1 cup sweetened apple juice
- Remove the pork belly from the refrigerator and let it come to room temperature for about 30 minutes. Use paper towels to pat completely dry on all sides.
- Place the pork belly, fat side up, on a rimmed baking pan. Use a sharp knife to score the fat horizontally in both directions, creating a diamond pattern. *Be careful not to cut into the meat.
- Use 1 cup of sweet BBQ rub to cover the pork belly on all sides and edges. Allow meat to sit another 30 minutes at room temperature.
- Place directly onto the grill plate of preheated 225°F. smoker, fat side up. Smoke for 4 hours, spritzing every hour with apple juice. When properly cooked, the internal temperature of the pork should be 160°F.
- Once the pork belly has reached 160°F, place the meat, fat side down, on an aluminum foil lined baking pan and add 1/2 cup of apple juice to the meat. Wrap the pork belly tightly in foil and smoke for another hour, or, until the internal temperature reaches 190-195°F.
- Keep wrapped and allow meat to rest for 15-30 minutes. Remove foil, slice and serve.
All nutritional information is based on third party calculations and is only an estimate. Each recipe’s nutritional value will vary depending on the ingredients used, measuring methods, and portion sizes.
Originally published July 2022
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I never knew how good smoked meat could taste! This is an amazing recipe, going to make this plenty more times. The cooking time is so worth it.