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You make pork belly burnt ends from uncured pork belly. Uncured belly isn’t bacon, but it’s the closest you can get. Barbecue pork belly ends are delicious as an entrée or appetizer. The highly caramelized cubes of smoked pork belly are usually covered in sauce or glaze, and they make great appetizers or amuse bouche.
In my breakfast and lunch restaurant, I had trouble selling barbecued ribs. That’s probably because my primary clientele consisted of women who worked in offices downtown. These women often had short lunch breaks and big concerns about negotiating sloppy food. When I put pork belly burnt ends on the menu as an appetizer, sales skyrocketed.
The bite-size pieces are the perfect appetizer for bridging the sloppiness gap because simple toothpicks enable you to pop the bits hands-free. These piggy tidbits are perfect anytime.
What Are Pork Belly Burnt Ends?
If you frequently eat at barbecue joints, you might have noticed brisket burnt ends on the menu or whiteboard with a note that the supply is limited. These are the ends of the brisket that get more heat because they aren’t as thick. People accidentally discovered that these “burnt” ends were irresistibly flavorful underneath the charred surface.
Pork belly burnt ends cook up the same way, but they’re no accident. Rubbed with proprietary spice mixes — and often smothered in barbecue sauce — the cubed ends make a fabulous appetizer, filling for tacos, meat for nachos or pork belly sandwiches.
The dish is made from pork belly, which also produces bacon, that’s been trimmed of the skin and excess fat and cubed into bite-size pieces. The meat is seasoned and cooked in various ways. Finishing touches usually include drizzling — or slathering — the meat with your favorite barbecue sauce.
Are Burnt Ends Healthy?
Eating any fatty meat excessively is not recommended by health professionals, but that said, you can enjoy these bite-size flavorful morsels within reason. According to gq.com, cooking any food at a high temperature produces heterocyclic amines, HCAs, and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, known as PAHs. HCAs and PAHs are known to increase cancer rates in animals.
The term “burnt ends” suggests charcoaled, unhealthy food, but the truth is that these caramelized ends disguise the underlying moist, tender meat. You’d be a health-conscious prude to turn down these barbecued tidbits when all you need to do is limit your consumption.
As the barbecue master, you can achieve good caramelization of the ends without applying high heat. The char can be limited, and the meat retains the ability to produce tender insides that ooze superior barbecue flavor.
How to Prepare Pork Belly Burnt Ends?
Preparation is the key to success for ensuring even cooking. Prepare the meat by trimming excess fat off the belly and cutting it into ½-inch cubes. They smoke in only 4 hours because they’re cut into such small pieces, and they don’t dry out because of all the fat that renders off while smoking.
Pork belly is just what the name says, but this magical substance transforms into bacon, pancetta and pork belly burnt ends. Choose a 4-pound piece of pork belly at a minimum, but you might choose a whole pork belly, which weighs 8 to 10 pounds. Have your butcher remove the skin, or you can trim it yourself.
You season the cubes with salt and pepper or other seasonings like your favorite dry rub for pork barbecue. Cover and refrigerate the meat for an hour or so so while you prepare the smoker with your favorite wood chips. I like cherry wood chips, but you can choose your favorite. Prepare the smoker for indirect heating at 250 degrees F.
The temperature of the smoker is low enough not to trigger the production of cancer-causing HCAs and PAHs. The edges of the small-cut cubes caramelize nicely, producing a bark like crust that provides a great crunch in opposition to the moist and tender meat inside.
How to Cook Pork Belly Burnt Ends?
I prefer smoking my pork belly burnt ends on my Traeger grill over low and slow heat to give the meat time to absorb the smoky flavors from the wood. The fat melts slowly to season the meat to perfection while most of the fat drains away. You can leave these flavorful appetizers as-is or dress them with a low-fat barbecue sauce for a healthier version. The steps for cooking pork belly burnt ends include:
- Place the pork belly cubes on a full-sized cooling rack, and put the rack on the smoker tray.
- Smoke the pork belly for 2 hours.
- Transfer each piece to an aluminum pan.
- Add 2 tablespoons of both butter and honey.
- Cover the pan with aluminum foil, and place the pan in the smoker.
- Continue to smoke for 1.5 to 2 hours, checking the temperature with a ThermoPro Meat Thermometer.
- Drain excess fat and liquid from the pan.
- Toss cubes with Pork Glaze, making sure that each cube is well-coated.
- Return the pan to the smoker and cook for 5 to 10 minutes.
These tasty cubes will feature caramelized edges and a deep brown color, which is highlighted by the red of your barbecue sauce. Fork-tender, sweet and spicy, the pork belly burnt ends melt in your mouth and leave behind a tremendously complex flavor. You make the dish your own by your choice of seasoning and barbecue sauce for the glaze.
Pork Belly Burnt Ends Glaze Recipe
The recipe for pork glaze starts with your favorite barbecue sauce. The ingredients include:
- 1 cup of barbecue sauce
- ¼ cup of apple juice
- ¼ cup of apple elly
- 1 teaspoon or more of hot sauce
Place all the ingredients in a small saucepan, and bring to a boil. Turn the heat down, and simmer the sauce for a few minutes to thicken.
Sweet and Sticky Barbecue Sauce
The ingredients for a basic red barbecue sauce for pork include the following:
- 1 cup of ketchup
- ½ cup of brown sugar
- ¼ cup of honey
- ¼ cup of apple juice or cider
- 2 tablespoon of apple cider vinegar
- 1 teaspoon of salt
- ½ teaspoon of garlic powder
- ½ teaspoon of onion powder
- ¼ teaspoon of cayenne pepper
Mix all the ingredients in a medium-sized saucepan, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat, and simmer for 10 minutes.
Dry Rub for Pork Belly Burnt Ends
A great dry rub for slow, low heat is perfect for this recipe. The ingredients for the rub include the following ingredients in equal proportions:
- Kosher salt
- Brown sugar
- Smoked paprika
- Coarse black pepper
- Onion powder
- Garlic powder
- Cayenne pepper
Mix these ingredients together in equal proportions, You might want to cut the cayenne pepper in half. Store in a covered bowl or plastic bag.
Essential Temp and Time for Cooking Burnt Pork Belly Ends
Although testing every piece of pork isn’t necessary, you should check several of the larger pieces. When the temperature registers at 205 degrees, you’re golden. That’s considerably higher than the minimum safe temperature of pork, but that’s because of the long smoking process that takes about 4 hours.
During the long smoking time, the fat melts off, which leaves behind moist nuggets of pork that are so tender they barely hold together. You can also put on a pair of gloves and squish a cube or two to confirm they’re tender.
Burnt pork belly ends combine the best aspects of barbecue – promoting your favorite dry or wet rub, caramelizing the meat aggressively and serving up bite-size pieces – with the timeless appeal of bacon.
The pork belly is uncured, so it’s important to use a high-quality thermometer to ensure cooking the pork to a safe temperature. The ThermoPro Meat Thermometer comes in different styles and is very affordable, durable and accurate.