My niece is a bacon fanatic, and she requested some homemade bacon after reading my last blog “How to Cure and Smoke Bacon at Home”. Homemade bacon seemed like a great idea for one of her Christmas presents! I ordered two pork bellies so I could also re-stock my supply of bacon.
I discovered a video for pork belly burnt ends while I awaited my delivery from Snake River Farms and knew I needed to try this right away.
Most of us think of beef brisket when “burnt ends” are mentioned. There are barbecue purists who only consider the crispy parts of the point as true burnt ends. Nowadays, burnt ends are made from the “point” of a smoked brisket. The flat and point are separated before or after smoking. Techniques are as varied as the pit masters who make burnt ends. The point is cubed up, potentially painted with barbecue sauce, and returned to the smoker to render the fat and create a crispy “burnt” and luscious bite.
Burnt end sandwiches have become popular menu items at barbecue restaurants. An online search will reveal “burnt ends” made from pork, hotdogs, corned beef, chuck roast, and ham. There are even burnt end hamburgers, nachos, and soups.
There are countless number of recipes and videos online about “Burnt Ends”. I recently watched a digital series titled “Burnt Legend” about the history of burnt ends that can be seen on Kansas City PBS (KCPT). If you like to eat or cook burnt ends, I recommend you check it out.
Arthur Bryant’s Barbecue is credited with making burnt ends popular. Author Calvin Trillin describes “burnt edges” in a 1972 article in Playboy magazine where he stated, “The main course at Bryant’s, as far as I’m concerned, is something that is given away free—the burned edges of the brisket”. The burned edges were considered scraps and left on the counter for customers to eat while waiting in line.
Now I’m hungry for some brisket burnt ends! So, why the interest in pork belly burnt ends? My first thought was that they would be delicious since it is bacon. Second, it would not take as long to make as brisket burnt ends. Third, I like to try new recipes.
Based on my research here is what I did to make pork belly burnt ends.
How to Make Pork Belly Burnt Ends
I heated my Big Green Egg to 275 degrees. Use your smoker or even a charcoal grill set-up for indirect grilling and heat it to 275 degrees. Add cherry wood chips or chunks to generate wood smoke.
While the smoker comes up to temperature, prepare the pork belly. Cut the skinned pork belly (mine was 7.7 pounds) into strips and then into cubes about 1.5 inches by 1.5 inches. Season liberally with your favorite barbecue rub on all sides. I make my own. Steven Raichlen’s Kansas City Smoke Rub would pair well.
Next, spray a wire rack with cooking spray. The rack makes it easier to move the pork on and off the grill. Place the cubed pieces of pork belly on the rack and place it in the smoker. Smoke the pork belly for 2 ½ to 3 hours.
Remove the pork belly from the smoker and place all the cubed pork in 1 large or 2 medium-sized foil pans in a single layer. Then sprinkle one cup of brown sugar over the pork. Drizzle honey over each piece of cubed of pork belly. If you want it to be really luscious…add one stick (8 tablespoons) of cubed butter. Next, cover the pan(s) tightly with foil and return to the smoker or grill for an additional 1 ½ to 2 hours.
The next step is optional, but definitely ramps up the flavor: Before removing the cubed pork belly from the smoker, make a glaze. I made the glaze by mixing of 1 cup of my homemade barbecue sauce, ¼ cup of peach jelly, and ¼ cup peach cider in a saucepan. I heated it over medium heat until all ingredients where incorporated. Steve Raichlen’s Spicy Apple Barbecue Sauce would pair well with apple jelly, and apple cider as an alternative to the peach profile. For more barbecue rub and sauce ideas, refer to Steven Raichlen’s book, Barbecue Sauces, Rubs, and Marinades.
Next, remove the foil pan(s) from the smoker and move the cooked pork belly to a clean foil pan. Drizzle with the glaze. Return to the grill for 10 mins toallow the glaze to caramelize.
Let the burnt ends cool for 5 to 10 minutes (if you can wait that long to taste them).
The pork belly takes on a smoky flavor from the initial smoking process. The smoke adheres to the rub and the pork belly starts to develop a crust. The time spent in the brown sugar mixture gives the pork a sweet flavor and tender bite. The sugar, honey, and the rub give the pork belly a crisp caramelized bark. The slow cooking melts the fat and gives the pork belly its luscious mouthfeel. The final glaze adds one last bit of flavor before eating.
The pork belly burnt ends can be served with toothpicks or eaten with your fingers and they will be devoured in 2 bites or less. You will not be disappointed if you are now inspired to try pork belly burnt ends!