Thu Mar 15, 2012
Dealing with three weeks of a mini veggie-wave deserves a grand reward. In my opinion, can't get much more grand than this—a whole smoked pork belly. Swimming a sea of luscious and flavorful fat, this isn't everyday eats, but for a special occasion like the enduring a prolonged exploration of vegetables on a site call "The Meatwave," it's my best offering to make you feel at home once again.
This was my first pork belly I've done in the smoker. Taking the mantra "go big or go home" to heart, I went all in on my first try with a four pound beauty, skin on and all. Being a newbie in the belly realm, there were ups and downs with my process, staring with scoring the skin for the marinade to better penetrate the meat, which left me wishing I had freshly sharpened knife—it was tough work even with my fairly sharp six-inch parer.
The effort was not for naught though, as I compiled a very tasty marinade that ended up being a real hit in the end. It started with char siu sauce—the sauce applied to make Chinese "barbecue"—that was mixed with pineapple juice, garlic, salt, and pepper. I left this in the fridge overnight to let the meat soak in as much flavor as possible.
The next day, I wasn't entirely sure the best method to smoke pork belly, so I went low-and-slow, thinking that no harm can be done slow cooking a fatty piece of meat. So it went in at 225 and cooked until the meat hit 160 degrees—unlike barbecue, you want to cook pork belly to, not above, temperature to keep a lot of the amazing fat that makes it so great.
After about four hours, it emerged and red-hued beauty—the common color for anything done up in char siu-style. Combined with a moist meat, I should have been fairly happy, except .
While the skin was cooked, it was also tough and hard, not crisp and crackling texture I was looking for. So I knew the best way to fix this...the grill, right?
Wrong! Or maybe I'm right, but just haven't gotten the technique down yet. While all looked good to start, the melting fat quickly turned into a massive ball of fire. I moved the pork around to avoid the flare-ups as much as possible, but by the time the skin had finally crisped, it was also a blackened mess. I took out my knife and started scraping some char off to try to salvage my mistake, but the damage was already done.
Incredibly, even a burnt skin could not hold back the shear power of the pork belly. To minimize the burnt aspect, I cut the belly into small pieces, letting the deep flavor of the marinade and crazy awesomeness of the fatty meat overcome the charred top, keeping it a semi-solid champion. Not one to give up though, I'll be doing this again, but maybe finishing the pork in the broiler instead of grill—fat can't drip up onto a fire—unless anyone has a suggestion on getting perfect crackling on the grill or smoker.
Smoked Pork Belly Marinated In Char Siu Sauce
- Prep Time:
- 15 Minutes
- Inactive Time:
- 4 Hours
- Cook Time:
- 4 Hours 15 Minutes
- Total Time:
- 8 Hours 30 Minutes
- 8-10 servings
- For the Char Siu
- 1/3 cup hoisin sauce
- 1/4 cup honey
- 1/4 cup soy sauce
- 3 tablespoons dry sherry
- 1 teaspoon Chinese five spice powder
- For the Marinade
- 1/2 cup char siu sauce
- 1/2 cup pineapple juice
- 5 cloves garlic, finely minced
- 1 tablespoon Kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 4lbs pork belly, skin on
- 4-6 chunks apple wood
- To make the Char Siu: In a small bowl, mix together Hoisin sauce, honey, soy sauce, sherry, and five spice powder.
- To make the marinade: In a medium bowl, mix together 1/2 cup char siu sauce, pineapple juice, garlic, salt, and black pepper.
- Score the skin of the pork diagonally every 2-inches, repeat in the opposite direction, making a diamond pattern. Place pork in a large resealable plastic bag and pour in marinade. Seal and toss to evenly coat. Marinate in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours to overnight.
- Remove pork belly and allow to come to room temperature while preparing the smoker or grill. Fire up smoker or grill to 225 degrees for indirect heat, adding chunks of apple wood when at temperature. When the wood is ignited and producing smoke, place the pork in the smoker or grill, skin side up, and smoke until pork registers 160 degrees on an instant read thermometer inserted into the center of the belly, about 4 to 5 hours.
- Place pork belly on a medium hot grill, skin side down, or in a broiler, skin side up, and cook until skin is crisp. Remove to a cutting board, let rest for 10 to 15 minutes, then slice and serve with remaining char siu sauce.