Sweet and Savory Dry-Brined and Smoked Pork Belly Recipe

Sweet and Savory Dry-Brined and Smoked Pork Belly Recipe

Pork belly, sourced from the hog's abdominal area, boasts a rich combination of meat and ample fat. This cut thrives when slow-cooked to achieve supreme tenderness. The approach to pork belly preparation can yield diverse textures. Options encompass braising, pressure cooking, smoking, or crafting bacon through curing. My preferred route is smoking the pork belly to perfection.

Dry-brining involves applying a blend of salt, sugar, spices, and herbs to the pork belly, drawing out moisture and deterring bacterial growth. Post-brining, the belly is smoked for 3 to 4 hours until achieving full doneness.

This recipe employs a sweet and savory dry rub brine, to be applied a day prior to the smoking process. Trimming the skin off the pork is essential, while leaving a layer of sumptuous and moisturizing fat beneath the skin. Don't hesitate to adjust certain rub components; for example, if Chinese five spice isn't on hand, a hint of cinnamon and ground ginger can suffice.

The resultant flavor and texture of this smoked pork belly preparation can be boldly satisfying. I recommend pairing it with robust accompaniments like smoked baked beans, macaroni and cheese, and cabbage slaw. Alternatively, opt for creamy polenta, grilled corn on the cob, or roasted butternut squash to complement the belly without overshadowing it.

Remarkably, smoked pork belly maintains its excellence even on subsequent days, up to 2 or 3 days later. This make-ahead option is particularly convenient for events like football game tailgate parties. I've included guidance for reheating and repurposing this smoked delight.


Dry Brined and Smoked Pork Belly


3 to 4 pound pork belly, refrigerated

3 TBS brown sugar
2 TBS Kosher salt
2 TBS sweet paprika
1 TBS Chinese five spice powder
1 TBS chili powder
1 TBS garlic powder
2 tsps freshly ground pepper
1 tsp mustard powder
Water and semi-dry sake (optional)
Apple or cherry wood chips

Prep time: 15 min

Smoke time: 3 hour 30 min

12 to 24 hours to brine  Total time:3 hour 45 min

Serves:6 people


1.In a small bowl, whisk together sugar, salt, paprika, five spice powder, chili powder, garlic powder, pepper, and mustard powder. Set aside as you prep the pork.

2.Position the cold pork, flesh side down, on a cutting board. Use a sharp knife to remove the tough skin (rind), being mindful not to strip too much fat. Aim for at least a 1/4-inch fat cap. Create scores on the fat in a checkerboard or diagonal pattern, maintaining care not to cut into the flesh.

3.Coat all sides of the belly with the dry rub, pressing it onto the fat and flesh. Prepare a sheet pan with enough plastic wrap to enclose the pork belly. Lay the pork on the pan, wrap it with the plastic, and refrigerate for 12 to 24 hours.

4.Remove a smoker grill rack. Bring the refrigerated pork belly to room temperature by taking it out 45 to 60 minutes before smoking. Unwrap and place it on the smoker rack, fat side up, for air drying.

5.Fill your smoker's bowl halfway with a mixture of 3/4 water and 1/4 sake. Load the tray with wood chips. Open the vent and preheat the smoker to 250°F.

6.Position the rack with the pork in the smoker. Optionally, place a disposable pan below for drippings. Smoke for 3 hours, replenishing liquid and wood chips roughly every 45 minutes. After 3 hours, verify the meat's internal temperature with a digital thermometer, aiming for 165°F. Continue smoking until the desired temperature is achieved.

7.Remove the pork belly from the smoker and set it on a clean cutting board. Tent with foil and allow it to rest for 20 minutes before slicing.

8.Cut the belly into 1/4-inch thick slices and serve alongside smoked baked beans and cabbage slaw.