If you peek into Jack’s dictionary under the word sumptuous, you’d find pork belly burnt ends with gold star ratings. Burnt ends are juicy, lightly smoky, seductive, and saucy. They’re flexible to nearly any occasion-an awe-inspiring appetizer, shred into tempting tacos, or enjoyed as the main feast. Just make sure to put some aside for yourself. They disappear in a blink!
Never had pork belly burnt ends? You’re in for a rich, salty, sticky morsel. Don’t worry. Using a Traeger grill, you’ll find burnt ends easy to make. If you follow the grilling rule of “low and slow” you’re bound to be pleased, as will your guests.
- 4-pound pork belly, trimmed
- 2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 2 Tbsp coarse sea salt (or Kosher)
- 1 Tbsp coarse black pepper
- ¼ cup dark brown sugar
- 1 Tbs smoky paprika
- ½ tsp. each onion & garlic powder
- ¼ tsp. “heat” – your choice of chili powder or cayenne pepper
- 1/3 cup cider vinegar
- 2/3 cup light brown sugar
- 1 ½ Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
- 1 ½ tsp. Celery salt
- ½ tsp. Paprika
- ½ tsp. Cracked pepper
- 1 tsp. Granulated garlic
- 2 Tbsp. Molasses or honey
- ½ tsp. Butter
- 1 Tbs. Tabasco sauce (optional)
- Cut the pork into 1 ½ cubes. Don’t worry about them being too big. They shrink while cooking. To make the process easier, put the meat in the freezer for 3o minutes. This lessens the slippery surface.
- Sprinkle the meat with the olive oil, followed by the dry spices. Rub the spices into the surface. Place these on a wire rack suitable for your smoker.
- Smoke the pork at 240 for 2.5 to 3 hours until you see a nice bark forming (Yum!)
- Move the smoked pork belly ends to a disposable foil pan. Toss them with the barbecue sauce until coated evenly.
- Cover the pan with aluminum foil and return the ends to the smoker for about 75 minutes. You’re looking for an internal temperature of 200 degrees F. If you don’t have a meat thermometer you can use a baking trick. Put a toothpick into the center of the pork and if it comes out easily, the meat is done.
- Remove the foil. Move the pan to your grill for about 15 minutes so the sauce thickens. You are now ready to serve.
Tips & Tricks
One of the best woods for smoking pork belly burnt ends is cherry. Maple or any fruit woods are also good choices.
If you cannot find pork belly, substitute pork shoulder.
A four-pound pork belly feeds approximately 5 people as a main dish.
On the rare occasion, you have leftovers you can freeze them. They reheat perfectly.
What is Pork Belly?
Pork belly comes from the same cut of meat as your bacon. It isn’t cured, flavored, or sliced. It looks like bacon in terms of the layers of meat and fat. If you can’t find it, don’t be afraid to ask the guys at the counter of your store. They often have some stashed away (hey, they have barbecues too!)
The beauty of Pork Belly is that when you cut it into bites, cook it slowly, and maintain a low temperature, it stays moist. It is one of the few proteins that can be cooked in this delicious way. Pork belly burnt ends are generally better than rib tips because they capture more smoke and have a crunchy bark.
Burnt Ends in History
Depending on who you ask (and EVERYONE has an opinion), Burnt ends had humble origins in Kansas City. It’s a suitable place ranking among the best barbecue Meccas in the United States. You can find all kinds of sauce here ranging from sweet and smoky, to hot and spicy.
Stories claim burnt ends started by accident. Truth be told, odd flukes can be thanked for much of the Culinary World’s best dishes. Apparently, a brisket came out too charred to sell, so the cooks handed it out as a snack. In the line of folks eagerly awaiting a taste stood Calvin Trillin who wrote for Playboy. He created an article about them, and suddenly burnt ends were in “fashion.”
Of course, 101 people wanted to change up the basics and make their own food trend. They trimmed off parts, re-sauced meat, changed to a wet rub, altered the flavor profile, or cooked it longer. No matter what, burnt ends became the heart’s desire for many foodies.
Some will say Brisket and pork belly burnt ends are the same. We beg to differ. By applying your creativity, you can produce the best pork belly burnt ends in your town. No two methods or recipes are the same, so there’s no reason not to toss your hat, er, recipe into the ring.