Sweet Glazed Pork Belly and Grilled Pineapple on Hawaiian Bread
Inevitably the Meatwave comes to an end each season—while I'll grill all year long, I have to face the fact that once you hit around or below the 60°F mark, it's not sitting outside and eating weather any longer. Luckily in my new home in North Carolina, the Meatwave season is extended, but back in New York this put a cap on things around early to mid-October. Last year was the first year I scaled back my ambitious every-other weekend Meatwaves to a more reasonable once-a-month affair, and when it came time to close down shop, I was left feeling like I didn't get all my normal summer grilling in. This led me to the idea of keeping that summer feeling alive and I ended the 2014 season with a Tiki-themed menu that admittedly would have been better suited for early summer festivities. I stocked up on pineapple, sugar, and meats and put together a menu filled with sweet and savory items that included some real stand outs like these tiny glazed pork belly and grilled pineapple sandwiches.
After making some killer grilled short ribs, I've come to realize that overly fatty meats don't necessarily mean they'll be tough when cooked over a hot fire and I'm now less hesitant to grill items that more commonly need to be braised or slow smoked to be optimally tender. When I think of fatty meats, usually pork belly takes the cake, and that's exactly where I started here. I picked up a three pound slab of pork belly that was heavily streaked with fat.
After removing the skin—that part would just be tough when cooked as quickly as I was planning to—I cut the belly into quarter-inch strips. Next I applied a rub that started to introduce the upfront sweetness I was after by way of brown sugar, a bit of earthiness from chili powder, a touch of heat from cayenne pepper, and salt of course. I let the seasoned belly sit the fridge for a while as I prepared everything else I needed for these sandwiches.
I knew the rub would only be a small element of the flavor profile I was after, while a glaze would do the real heavy lifting. This glaze spanned all components of an ubiquitous "island" flavor by bringing sweetness by way of honey and brown sugar, using hoisin and soy sauce to deliver a distinctly Asian feel, having both garlic and ginger continue to build upon that theme with their own respective unique bites, and finally adding crushed red pepper to balance the sugars with a touch of heat.
After slicing a while pineapple into grill-able rounds, I was ready for some high heat action. I built a two-zone fire so I could first cook the pork belly slices over direct heat to give them a nice sear.
Then I could move them to indirect heat to apply the glaze and let it caramelized under a closed lid. The indirect heat here is important because with so much sugar in that glaze, it would certainly burn quickly if applied and grilled directly over the burning coals, and I wanted a glistening piece of belly, not a blackened and charred one.
Once I had the strips of belly in that beautifully shiny state, I moved them over to a cutting board and worked on my pineapple and buns. I cooked the pineapple slices over direct heat until they developed grill marks on each side. For the bread, I chose Hawaiian sweet rolls to further the Tiki theme and gave them a quick stint over direct heat as well to get them a little toasty.
Next I sliced the belly and pineapple into squares the same size as those small rolls—roughly 2-inches. I then stacked both onto the roll and topped each one with a couple cilantro leaves.
I only realized I sliced the pineapple a bit too thick after assembling the sandwiches, but that was of little consequence as these mini-sandwiches preformed everything I set out to do. While the belly fat was obviously not as soft and luscious as it would have been had it been slow cooked, it was still pleasingly tender and that rub and glaze pairing made the meat incredibly flavorful with sweet Asian-y profile that defines "Tiki" in my mind. The pineapple fulfilled another piece of that Tiki equation, while the cilantro lent just a touch of freshness that you may not immediately notice, but would miss if it weren't there. I also couldn't imagine a vessel more appropriate for these sandwiched than the sweet Hawaiian bread they were on. One bite of these and it was easy to forget that we were in the last throes of the Meatwave at the time as they transported me back to start of the summer feeling with their sweet, bright, and fruity flavors.
Sweet Glazed Pork Belly and Grilled Pineapple on Hawaiian Bread
- Yield Serves 9-12
- Prep 20 Minutes
- Inactive 1 Hour
- Cook 15 Minutes
- Total 1 Hour 35 Minutes
- For the Glaze
- 1/3 cup honey
- 1/4 cup soy sauce
- 3 tablespoons hoisin sauce
- 2 tablespoon light brown sugar
- 2 teaspoons freshly minced garlic, about 1 medium clove
- 1 teaspoon finely grated fresh ginger
- 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
- For the Rub
- 1 tablespoon kosher salt
- 2 teaspoon light brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon chili powder
- 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 3lbs pork belly, rind remove and cut into 1/4-inch thick strips
- 1 small pineapple, peeled, cored, and cut into 1/4-inch slices
- 24 Hawaiian sweet rolls
- 1 small bunch fresh cilantro, washed and dried
- For the glaze: In a medium bowl, whisk together honey, soy sauce, hoisin sauce, brown sugar, garlic, ginger, and red pepper. Transfer to an airtight container and refrigerate until ready to use.
- For the rub: In a small bowl, mix together salt, brown sugar, chili powder, and cayenne pepper. Sprinkle pork belly slices all over with rub and place in refrigerator for at least 1 hour and up to 24.
- Light one chimney full of charcoal. When all the charcoal is lit and covered with gray ash, pour out and arrange the coals on one side of the charcoal grate. Set cooking grate in place, cover grill and allow to preheat for 5 minutes. Clean and oil the grilling grate. Place pork belly on hot side of grill and cooked until browned on both sides, 2-3 minutes per side. Move to cool side of grill and brush with glaze all over. Cover grill and let cook until glaze caramelizes, about 2 minutes more. Transfer to cutting board and let rest for 5 minutes.
- Place pineapple rings on hot side of grill and cook until seared on both sides, 2-3 minutes per side. Transfer to cutting board. Place rolls on hot side of grill, cut side down, and cook until lightly toasted, about 1 minute. Remove from grill.
- Cut pineapple and pork belly into 2-inch squares. Place belly and pineapple on rolls and top with cilantro leaves. Serve immediately.
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David Somerville Josh, great post! I have been seeing pork bellies at Costco and have been trying to figure out what I could do with them other than make more bacon. This is a good lead :)
I really enjoyed your grilled beef short ribs post as well. It never would have occurred to me to try grilling these two cuts "hot and fast".