Pork Belly Burnt Ends are super tender, full of flavor, and so easy to make. A delicious twist on classic brisket burnt ends, we smoke then braise our pork belly bites until they are tender and sweet. These morsels of goodness have developed the nickname “meat candy” for good reason.
We’ve got the full recipe AND a video tutorial (viewed over 22 million times) for these incredible smoked pork belly burnt ends just for you![feast_advanced_jump_to]
What Are Pork Belly Burnt Ends
Pork Belly Burnt Ends are cubed pieces of pork belly that are slowly smoked, sauced, and then finished in the same way beef brisket burnt ends are made. Pork Belly is the best cut for this style of cooking with the perfect meat-to-fat ratio.
We started experimenting with them early in our Catering Days back in 2014. Originally we cut them in long slices, and then realized by making them in cubes we get more surface area for smoke and flavor.
The transformation of pork belly into something that resembled the classic perfection of beef burnt ends, was a pretty magical experience.
And in fact, shortly after I released this video for our recipe, it had over 2 million views in less than 2 days. People loved this recipe! The video now has over 22 million views and counting, and is also featured in our cookbook, Fire + Wine.
Cooking low and slow provides more time to dissolve the fat and allow the pork belly bites to absorb the incredible smoky flavor. If you want crispy skin, you can also check out our recipe for crispy pork belly.
The Cut – What is Pork Belly
Pork belly comes from the belly of the pig and is attached to parts of the loin and ribs. Pork belly is raw and unprocessed with an incredibly rich flavor. This incredibly marbled and tender cut is the base for bacon or Porchetta.
This cut will come in many sizes, from small strips to a full slab (10+ lbs). Make sure to ask the butcher for the skin to be trimmed off when purchasing pork belly (saves some weight when you have to pay by the pound). If the slab is the only option, then look to be sure it isn’t overly fatty.
When buying a smaller belly, be sure it’s the center cut of the slab. One side of the belly is thin and not very meaty. Another end tends to be mostly fat, which is difficult to fully render. So the center cut is ideal as it has a ratio of 50% meat and 50% fat.
Be sure you get enough to feed a crowd because they will be coming back for seconds, and thirds. I like to get at least 3 pounds of pork belly as it gives me enough to get good size bites. When we cater events we think 5 ounces of meat per person for a serving, so you roughly get three servings per pound.
Butcher Tip – If you see cubes that are all fat, those won’t render. Discard them. If you are buying the pork belly, look to make sure you have a cut that is a balance of fat and meat. Ask the butcher for the center cut of the belly for the best fat to meat ratio.
You can also find quality pork belly from online retailers, like Snake River Farms Kurobuta Pork, shipped right to your door.
If you still see the skin on the pork belly, or there is a little extra fat, trim that off. Then cut the meat into 1 1/2 to 2-inch cubes. Don’t be afraid if at first the cubes seem a bit large. After cooking, your pork belly burnt ends will shrink down to the perfect sized bite.
Apply olive oil (enough to coat the meat) and our pork belly seasoning on the cubes. Be generous (we use about 1 cup of dry rub for 5 pounds of meat). Feel free to adjust the amount based off your portion size. Because there is so much fat in the belly, don’t bother with a brine in advance.
Using a wire rack rather than a pan is more ideal for smoking pork belly bites since it allows for better smoke circulation. Also, it will take much less effort to get the meat cubes on and off the grill.
How to Smoke Pork Belly Burnt Ends
The objective is to smoke for flavor, then cover in sauce to baste and rendering out the fat, and then finish uncovered to let the sauce firm up.
- Smoke for three hours at degrees Fahrenheit, or until you like the color of the meat. A nice bark will form starting around the three-hour mark. This can take longer based on so many factors like wind and how much bark you like. The key is, once you put it into the braising liquid, your bark is done forming.
- Next, add the pork belly cubes to a pan (we like a heat-proof disposable pan). Into the pan add the braising liquid. We use BBQ sauce to really add that extra flavor (about 1 cup), 3-4 tablespoons of butter, which adds richness and acts as a fatty binding agent for bringing the sauce and honey together, and then 2 tablespoons of honey (or agave) to bring a stickiness and sweet characteristic. Then mix them all together.
- Then cover and braise in the smoker for another 60 – 90 minutes. You will find that the liquid braises at or near a boil and that the fat renders down in the pork belly burnt ends keeping the pan moist. Again, you have added additional fat in the butter, the honey as a binder, and the sauce for the flavor to really render out the fat that is in the pork belly. braise until the internal temperature of the bites are 200-205 degrees F. We always recommend using a good digital thermometer to check your temp.
- Finally, remove the foil pan cover and cook for another 15 minutes to let the heat tack up that sauce, as you would with ribs or other sauced meats. Remove and eat some well-made pork belly burnt ends. It’s that simple. And that delicious!
Frequently Asked Questions
Yes. Remove the skin as it won’t render during the cooking process and will be chewy when eating. A more effective way is to buy the pork belly with skin off so you aren’t paying for the extra weight.
Yes. It is possible that over smoking them will make them dry out. Also cutting the cubes too small will cause them to dry out.
If you have leftovers, be sure to save the sauce and juices it is sitting in and store in the refrigerator. The sauce will harden up.
To reheat, pre-heat an oven or the smoker to 300 degrees Fahrenheit. Place the pork belly and all the juices it’s in into an oven safe dish and cover in foil. Reheat until it’s warm and the sauce has liquefied. About 20 minutes.
Yes. To modify for the oven follow the same directions of slowly cooking in the oven at 250 degrees Fahrenheit, then covering with sauce, and finishing as the recipe suggests.
It will take 5 hours to cook and 15 minutes to finish uncovered to let the sauce harden up.
Wine Pairing for Pork Belly Burnt Ends
While I highly recommend a glass of rosé while cooking (since, well, it takes upwards of 4 hours for the magical meal to come to fruition). But come burnt end time, we’re going big — Syrah!
The flavors here are big and bold. You’ve got the smoke, some richness, sweetness, possibly spiciness (if your BBQ sauce has some spiciness). You need something that can handle that weight. There are several options, but I love a bold Syrah.
Syrah from Washington State is my go-to. It has some richness, bold fruit, and some herbal notes. Big and balanced flavors, just like the burnt ends! Malbec and Zinfandel are also good pairings.
Other Great BBQ Recipe Ideas
Food and Cooking Safety Considerations
Pork belly has considerable amount of fat that will render. This means you need to be sure that you have a CLEAN smoker and a clear path for the fat to drain AWAY from the fire. The grease from the rendering will ignite if it comes into contact with a flame source. If you are cooking a large amount on a small cooking surface be sure that you are changing out the grease tray during the cook.
For consideration, be sure to follow safe food handling practices. You are cooking the pork belly well over the USDA recommended temperature of 145 degrees F so the finished product is safe to eat.
- Do not use the same utensils on cooked food, that previously touched raw meat.
- Wash hands after touching raw meat and consider using gloves when prepping.
- Don’t leave food sitting out at room temperature for extended periods.
Mary (a certified sommelier) and Sean (backyard pitmaster) are co-authors of the critically acclaimed cookbook, Fire + Wine, and have been curating content for the IACP nominated website Vindulge since 2009. They live in Oregon on a farm just outside Portland.
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This post was originally published in May 2017, and updated in October 2021 with frequently asked questions and more specific recipe details. The original recipe remains the same.
Smoked Pork Belly Burnt Ends Recipe
For the Pork Belly Burnt Ends:
For the Sauce:
- 1 cup Pinot Noir BBQ Sauce
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 2 tablespoons honey
- Preheat smoker to 250 degrees Fahrenheit using fruit wood (we used cherry for color and sweeter flavor).
- Trim excess skin and fat off the pork belly and slice into 2 inch cubes and place into a large bowl. Add olive oil and dry rub liberally and mix with your hands. Place cubes onto a wire rack or directly on the smoker.
- Smoke uncovered for three hours. Look for a darker red color and a modest bark develop.
- Remove the pork belly cubes from the smoker and place into a foil pan and then add your BBQ sauce, butter, and honey, and stir. Next cover the pan with aluminum foil and place back on the smoker.
- Cook for an additional 90 minutes or until the internal temperature (IT) of the pork belly is roughly 200 – 203 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Remove the foil, close the lid to the smoker, and smoke for another 15 minutes to let the sauce thicken up.
- Remove from smoker and serve.