When you’re looking for incredible flavor and texture, crispy grilled pork belly certainly qualifies. It has all the satisfying qualities of bacon while presenting a slightly different character and complexity. Add smoke into the equation, and it can’t be beaten.
It’s no wonder pork belly is growing rapidly in popularity, especially as a restaurant item. We’ve learned the secret that Asian, African American, and Latino cuisines have known for a long time. I find crispy pork belly delectable and irresistible. One whiff, and you can feel your stomach say, “feed me!” It’s so scrumptious, you almost feel guilty eating it (hey, I said almost!)
What is Pork Belly?
Pork belly, as the name implies, comes from the belly of the pick. It’s the muscle that just overlaps spareribs. It’s approximately 50% fat and 50% muscle, which can produce a savory profile.
You know that bacon you adore? It comes from pork belly! And while you might be tempted just to enjoy it as bacon, there are many dishes in which pork belly could play a role. By the way, a whole pork belly serves about ten people, so choose your size accordingly.
Chef Jack’s Crispy Grilled Pork Belly Recipe
TIP: I look for a slab of pork belly with the most meat on it.
- Set up your smoker for a steady 250-degree temperature.
- Cut the pork belly into 1.5 x 1.5 sections using a good cutting board
- Rub with a binder of choice (hot sauce, mustard, olive oil, apple sauce, mayo, melted butter, etc.)
- Season with a barbecue rub of your choosing. Suitable rub components include kosher salt, coarse black pepper, smoked paprika, onion powder, garlic powder, and chipotle.
- Smoke for 3 hours.
- Transfer into a tin container with barbecue sauce. You can get creative here as with the rub blend. Think about a little dark beer, orange juice, honey, ketchup, crushed garlic, Worcestershire, ginger, soy sauce, cider vinegar, and a little more rub
- Cover and smoke for another 1.5- 2 hours
Enjoy melt-in-your-mouth deliciousness.
Tip: You can go one step further and turn this into burnt ends!
Smoking Wood Options
You have a lot of options in terms of the type of smoking wood you choose.
- Apple brings out a little sweetness. So, it’s great if you used apple sauce as a binder.
- Orange brings out citrus notes and adds to a sauce with orange juice
- Peach: not as floral as cherry or orange.
- Pecan is mild and blends nicely with orange pieces
- Sugar Maple: it’s hard to find but worth the effort. It’s subtle and sweet.
Tip: Consider adding some charcoal to the mix for another layer of flavor
Pit Master’s Memo
It appears that the Roman philosopher, Pliny the Elder, was a fan of pork (smart guy!). In “Natural History,” he wrote that pig meat had some fifty flavors, while any other meat only had one! Pork is the most eaten meat throughout humankind’s history.
Thousands of years ago, you could find salted pork belly on tables in China. Later, the Romans developed pork curing methods, and the clever Anglo-Saxons cooked with bacon grease! It’s worth noting that until the 16th-century, pork, in general, was called bacon (bacoun in Middle English).
A humorous note in Pork Belly’s history (in this case, the bacon) is that it was offered as a prize. A church in an English town (12th century) offered a side of bacon to any man who could swear before God he had not squabbled with his wife for a year and a day. Thus, the phrase “bring home the bacon” was born. It was a prize for being patient and determined.
On the other side of the pond, we have Queen Isabella to thank for sending eight pigs with Christopher Columbus on his journey. Spanish explorer Hernando de Soto brought thirteen. By the mid-1600s, swine were running around freely and interfered with the construction of a wall in Manhattan, where Wall Street now stands. Ever wonder from where the phrase “pork belly futures” comes? Yep, it’s thanks to uppity pigs.
From the Bar
Beer: Pale Ale or any hop-heavy brand that’s not too tart.
Wine: Riesling. Bright, fruity reds.
Cider: Any type, really, but pear makes a great pairing (pearing?)
Cocktails: Mojito or a classic old fashion
Non-Alcoholic: Virgin Bloody Mary or Sangria