Pork belly, a succulent cut of meat from the abdominal or underside area of a hog, is renowned for its rich meat and ample fat. To achieve optimal tenderness, slow cooking is key.
The preparation methods for pork belly can yield varying textures. It is commonly braised, pressure cooked, smoked, or cured to create bacon. However, if you ask me, the ultimate way to prepare pork belly is in your very own Masterbuilt Smoker.
Dry brining involves rubbing the pork belly with a mixture of salt, sugar, spices, and herbs. This helps draw out moisture, creating an unfavorable environment for bacteria. After the brining process, the belly is then smoked for a duration of 3 to 4 hours until it reaches the desired level of doneness.
For this recipe, we use a sweet and savory dry rub brine on the pork. It is recommended to prepare the brine a day prior to smoking the belly. While trimming the skin off the pork is necessary, be sure to leave a portion of the flavorful and moisturizing fat cap beneath the skin. Feel free to experiment with the rub ingredients; for example, you can substitute Chinese five spice with a combination of cinnamon and ground ginger.
The resulting flavor and texture of this smoked pork belly dish can be quite assertive, providing immense satisfaction. I personally enjoy serving it alongside bold side dishes such as smoked baked beans, smoked macaroni and cheese, and cabbage slaw. However, if you prefer a more harmonious combination, creamy polenta, grilled corn on the cob, or roasted butternut squash make excellent choices.
One bonus of smoked pork belly is that it actually tastes even better the following day or even up to 2 to 3 days later. This makes it an ideal dish to prepare in advance, especially if you plan to bring it to a football game tailgate party. To assist you further, I have included suggestions for reheating and repurposing the smoked pork belly.
In a small bowl, whisk together brown sugar, Kosher salt, sweet paprika, Chinese five spice powder, chili powder, garlic powder, freshly ground pepper, and mustard powder. Set this mixture aside while you trim and prepare the pork.
Place the cold pork belly, flesh side down, on a cutting board. Use a sharp knife to remove the tough skin, also known as the rind, being careful not to remove too much of the fat. Aim to leave at least a 1/4-inch fat cap. Score the fat in a checkerboard or diagonal pattern, making 1-1/2 inch spaced slices without cutting into the flesh.
Rub the dry brine mixture all over the pork belly, ensuring it coats both the fat and flesh. Line a sheet pan with plastic wrap, fold it over the pork belly, and enclose it tightly. Refrigerate the pan for a minimum of 12 hours and up to 24 hours.
Remove a grill rack from your smoker. Take the pork belly out of the refrigerator 45 to 60 minutes prior to smoking to allow it to come to room temperature. Unwrap the pork belly and place it on the smoker rack, fat side up, to air dry.
Fill the bowl of your smoker halfway with a mixture of 3/4 water and 1/4 semi-dry sake (optional). Fill the tray with apple or cherry wood chips. Open the vent and preheat the smoker to 250°F.
Place the rack with the pork belly in the smoker. If desired, you can position a disposable pan on the rack below the pork to catch the drippings. Cook for 3 hours, making sure to replenish the liquid and wood chips approximately every 45 minutes. After 3 hours, check the internal temperature of the meat using a digital thermometer. The target temperature is 165°F. Continue smoking until you achieve the desired temperature.
Once the pork belly is fully smoked, remove it from the smoker and place it on a clean cutting board. Loosely tent it with foil and allow the meat to rest for 20 minutes before slicing.
Slice the smoked pork belly into 1/4-inch thick portions and serve it alongside smoked baked beans and cabbage slaw.
Ways to Reheat or Prepare Leftover Pork Belly
Leftover pork belly can be incredibly delicious when reheated. Here are a few suggestions:
Grilled Smoked Pork Belly
Prepare your charcoal or gas grill for direct grilling and preheat it to medium-high. Slice the pork into 1/2-inch thick strips. Place the strips on the grill grates and cook for approximately 2 minutes per side until they sizzle and turn brown.
Serve the grilled pork belly as is or transform it into mouthwatering BLT-style sandwiches by adding lettuce, tomato, and spicy mayonnaise on grilled Kaiser rolls.
Smoked Pork Belly Burnt Ends
Warning: These are indulgent! Cut your smoked pork belly into 2-inch cubes. Place the cubes in an aluminum foil roasting pan. Combine 1 cup of your favorite BBQ sauce, 3 tablespoons of melted butter, and 2 tablespoons of honey. Pour the sauce mixture over the pork cubes, tossing them to ensure they are adequately coated. Cover the pan with foil and return it to the smoker for 90 minutes. Uncover the pan and continue smoking for an additional 15 minutes to thicken the glaze.
Alternatively, you can prepare this dish in your oven or on a grill. Just remember that it may require less time than when using a smoker.
Serve the burnt ends with toothpicks and plenty of napkins. They make a fantastic snack for tailgating or backyard parties, particularly when paired with cold beer or iced sweet tea.
Smoked Pork Belly Ramen
One fantastic way to utilize pork belly is by incorporating it into pho or ramen noodle soup. Prepare noodles in broth and add vegetables such as bok choy or baby spinach, along with sliced green onions. Season the soup with ginger, soy sauce, and sriracha. Finally, top the bowl with sliced hard-boiled eggs and either slices or small cubes of smoked pork belly. Serve the steaming hot ramen with chopsticks and a spoon.
With its mouthwatering flavors and delightful texture, smoked pork belly is guaranteed to delight your taste buds. Give this recipe a try and enjoy the delicious results!
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