Smoked Pork Belly, Asian Style
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Smoked Pork Belly with Asian sauce: A Great Way to Try Something New on Your Smoker
If you are looking for something a little different to try on your smoker, pork belly is a great choice. This recipe for smoked pork belly features an Asian-inspired sauce that really becomes the star of the show (in addition to the tenderness of the pork belly).
The key to success with smoked pork belly is to be sure that you start with a good cut of pork belly for the smoker. You don’t want something too thin and there needs to be a good amount of fat to render (which will increase the moisture of the finished product). Locally I have found pork belly at Fortino’s, but the better cuts were found at Starsky’s. A good local butcher would likely be a great source for this as well. Also, there are different ways to treat the skin on the pork belly. You can carefully remove the skin before cooking, you can remove the skin after cooking (it will get a little tough in the cooking process), or you can crisp the skin over direct heat after smoking to make the skin more edible. For this cook I removed the skin after cooking, but you can try it the way you like best.
The sauce is a big part of this recipe and it can easily stand alone. Once you try it, you may want to experiment with this sauce in other dishes. You can reduce it to make it more of a glaze consistency for use with fish or even ribs.
Smoked Pork Belly Ingredients
For the Pork Belly Rub:
- 1 tablespoon ground black pepper
- 4 teaspoons packed brown sugar
- 2 teaspoons ground cilantro
- 2 teaspoons dry fennel
- 1 teaspoon allspice
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
Combine all spices and mix well to form the rub/crust.
For the Pork Belly Asian Sauce:
- 14 ounces (approx. 400 ml) cold water
- 2 green onions (chopped)
- 2 lemon grass sticks (ends removed, trimmed and sliced lengthwise)
- 2 to 3 inches of fresh ginger (skin removed and sliced)
- 2 cloves of garlic (sliced)
- 1-1/4 cups soy sauce (approx. 10 ounces)
- 1-1/4 cups rice vinegar (approx. 10 ounces)
- 1 cup Turbinado (or Packed Brown Sugar)
- 4 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 4 tablespoons liquid honey
- 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
If you want it spicy…
- 1 fresh chopped chili (use caution as the heat will permeate the sauce and there’s no going back)
How to Prepare the Pork Belly for the Smoker
Lay the pork belly flat on a cutting board and cut the meat neatly into equal cubes measuring approximately 2 inches by 3 inches (or whatever size close to this that works well with your piece of pork). One or two of these will be a serving size.
Season the bottom and four sides of the pork belly liberally with the spice blend. The easiest way to do this is to spread the rub on a baking sheet and press each side of the pork into the rub. Leave the fatty top layer free of the spice rub. Keep the remaining pork rub, as we will be using this in the Asian sauce.
Tie each cube with cooking twine ensuring that all four sides are tied (as if wrapping a bow around a gift). Place all cubes on a cookie sheet and allow them to chill uncovered in the refrigerator for two to four hours.
Smoking the Pork Belly
The cook for this pork belly takes place in two parts.
The Cook, Part 1
One hour before the cook, moisten a big handful of hickory wood chips in a bowl of water. I prefer moist wood chips so that they do not catch fire and burn quickly.
This cook will be indirect. Light your hardwood lump charcoal and get the smoker up to 250F. Drain the hickory wood chips and place them onto the coals. As smoke begins to rise, place the cubes of pork belly (fat side up) onto the smoker grill.
Smoke the pork belly for three hours at 250F.
Prepare the Asian Sauce
While the pork belly is smoking, prepare the Asian sauce.
Heat the vegetable oil in a pan on medium heat and add the chopped green onions and sliced garlic. Cook on medium heat until softened, approximately five minutes.
Add the remaining spice rub to the pan and cook for another minute, mixing it around with a wooden spoon.
Next, add the soy sauce, water and rice vinegar. Mix well and bring to a light simmer.
Add the sliced ginger, chili, honey and lemon grass (not sliced, only trimmed) and bring the sauce to a simmer for approximately three minutes to allow the flavour profile to develop. Remove the pan from the heat, cover and set aside until needed.
The Cook, Part 2
After the first three hours on the smoker, it is time for the second phase.
Pour the sauce into a roasting pan of a size that will fit on your smoker grill. Open the smoker and carefully place the smoked pork belly cubes into the roasting pan so that they are sitting in the sauce in the pan. With the pan and pork belly on the grill of your smoker, close the lid and cook for another two hours at 250F.
After two hours (total smoking time of five hours) the pork belly will be incredibly tasty, tender and moist. You should aim for an internal temperature of 160F.
Remove the pork belly from the pan and remove the cooking twine. You will likely need to cut away the skin as it will be tough at this stage (unless you plan to crisp it up over direct heat). The pork is now ready to be served. Reserve the juice from the roasting pan to use as a sauce drizzled over the pork when serving.
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