If you are into making a big group of people super happy, you serve them up some crispy smoked pork belly. Even people who don't eat pork will be happy. You don't have to do anything else. If you don't believe me, just try it. Their eyes will light up.
To get amazing results with pork belly; it's really just buying high-quality meat, dry brining overnight, and then putting it in a smoky room at a specific temperature for a long time. There isn't much else to it. The heat and smoke are doing all the work for you.
Smoking meat is really quite simple, but it can feel daunting because of the amount of time it takes and how complicated it can seem with all the temperature variations you read about. The great thing is that you aren't really doing anything during most of the time that the meat is in the smoker but smelling the smoky air and obviously drinking your favorite cold beverage.
The art of smoking comes into building the fire, choosing the right wood chips and the amount to use. That's where the variables come in. You might like something more or less smoky than the next guy or gal. You will start to figure it out after a few tries at it.
What is pork belly anyway?
Pork belly is bacon's better half. It's actually the same thing as bacon, but it's way better than bacon. As the name suggests, it comes from the belly of the pig and is a boneless fatty cut of meat.
Most regions of the world have their own way of preparing it, but pork belly is especially popular in Asian cuisines.
Where to buy pork belly
Pork belly is usually not a very expensive cut of meat and buying quality makes a huge difference. Your local butcher is a great place to buy pork belly or Whole Foods has great product for $5.99/lb (around here at least). That makes this recipe cost just $12 + some spices that you probably already have.
How to smoke pork belly
Pork belly is cooked low and slow for at least 3 hours or until the internal temperature reaches 165 degrees F, and up to 6 hours for even more tender pork belly. The longer the pork belly smokes, the more fall apart tender it gets. Sometimes you might want it slightly firmer and other times you want it to practically melt in your mouth.
- Remove the skin from pork belly (if it is still attached) and score the skin in a 1" cross pattern.
- Sprinkle the dry rub over all sides rubbing it in all the nooks and crannies, then cover the pork belly with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 24 hours.
- Let the pork belly sit out to come to room temperature while you bring the smoker at 225 degrees F.
- Add the wood chips and once it starts to smoke, place the pork belly in the smoker over indirect heat for 3 to 4 hours, or until it comes to an internal temperature of 165 degrees F.
- Remove from the heat and let rest for at least 20 minutes.
Pork belly dry rub
The dry rub is an essential part to enhance the flavor and tenderness. The amount of salt and sugar in the dry rub also makes it like a dry brine. Let the pork belly sit covered in the refrigerator for at least 12 hours, and preferably for 24 hours before smoking it.
Dry Rub ingredients
The dry rub for smoking the pork belly is made up of ingredients you probably already have in your pantry. Kosher salt, sugar, black pepper, chili powder and smoked paprika are are all you need for the basic dry rub that enhances the flavor and helps to make the pork belly even more tender.
Best wood chips for smoking pork belly
Wood type for smoking often comes down to preference and there's always a debate around it. You might not have formed your strong opinion about the subject yet, but you will after you have experiment a few times.
The go-to wood chips around here for smoking is apple wood. It is subtly sweet with a mild flavor that goes great with the pork belly. Avoid maple and mesquite for smoking pork, as they are much too strong.
What temp is smoked pork belly done?
Pork belly is ready to eat when it reaches an internal temperature of 165 degrees F, which takes about 3 to 4 hours at 225 degrees F. At that time, you can wrap the pork belly in aluminum foil or butcher paper and continue to cook it until the internal temperature reaches 200 degrees F. This will make the pork belly fall apart tender, but might not be best for every use.
Don't OVER-smoke it!
It's easy to keep adding wood chips to keep the smoke going the entire time the meat is in the smoker. That can lead to an inedible piece of meat that you spent hours and hours working on.
Less is usually more when it comes to smoking. If you are in doubt about how much chips you need, then go with less. If it's not smoky enough, you can add more next time, but at least you will be eating it. 🙂
Pork belly is high in fat, and fat really takes on smoke flavor. I will usually add less wood chips for fattier pieces of meat because of how the flavors react.
How do you smoke a pork belly in an electric smoker?
While the best flavors come from a wood/charcoal smoker, the easiest way to smoke anything is in an electric smoker, like a Masterbuilt (affiliate link). Just set the temperature to 225 degrees F with the water drip pan in place, add wood chips and place the pork belly on the rack. Set the timer for 3 to 5 hours and check the internal temperature of the pork belly then to see if it has reached 165 degrees. Add more wood chips as desired, but don't oversmoke it.
What to make with the smoked pork belly
Once you have your smoked pork belly, the possibilities for enjoying it are endless. As good as it is to enjoy right out of the smoker, it can also be used to enhance so many dishes.
- Slice it thin and crisp it on the griddle for the ultimate bacon that is wonderfully smoky and not too salty.
- PB&J sandwich - A pork belly and jam sandwich? Something I've always wanted to try and I bet it will be amazing.
- Eggs and belly - dice up the pork belly and crisp in a pan with some scrambled eggs and fresh herbs.
- Add sliced pork belly to Ramen.
- So good in Tacos with quick pickled onions.
- Add it to baked beans.
- Make pork belly sliders with BBQ or an Asian sauce.
- Pork belly BLT is heaven.
- Pork belly bahn me.
- Pork belly burnt ends are bite-size perfection. You would first cut the pork belly into 1" cubes before smoking, and then add a sauce to finish smoking for a longer time.
- Crisp it up and add it to your favorite seasonal salad.
Special Equipment Used
Contains affiliate links where I might receive a commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.
- Smoker: Big Green Egg, Traeger Wood Pellet Smoker, or a Masterbuilt Electric Smoker
- Apple or cherry wood chunks
- Thermoworks Smoke two-channel thermometer
- Thermapen digital instant-read thermometer.
- Disposable aluminum steam pans
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Smoked Pork Belly
- 2 lbs pork belly
Pork Dry Rub
- 2 tablespoon Kosher salt
- ½ cup packed brown sugar
- 1 tablespoon smoked paprika
- 1 tablespoon Dark chili powder
- ½ tablespoon Ground black pepper
Prepare the pork belly and dry rub
- Mix all ingredients of the dry rub together in a small bowl using a fork or a whisk.
- Prep the pork by removing the skin (if it is still attached). Slice scores through the fat but not through the flesh with a very sharp knife to make 1" cross-hatch throughout the whole skin. This is much easier to do when the pork belly is cold.
- Place the pork belly on a sheet pan or baking dish and sprinkle a liberal amount rub on the belly, rubbing it into all the crevices. Cover and refrigerate for 24 hours.
To smoke the pork belly
- Remove the pork belly from the refrigerator at least 1 hour prior to smoking to bring it to room temperature.
- Follow your smoker's instructions and bring the temperature up to 225 degrees Fahrenheit / 107 degrees Celsius. Add wood chips to start the smoke and place an aluminum drip pan with a few inches of water under the grates to catch drippings.
- Place the pork belly fat side up on the grates and smoke until it reaches an internal temperature of 165 degrees F, which will take 3 to 4 hours.
- Remove the pork belly from the smoker and let rest on a wire rack for at least 15 minutes.
- It can be sliced and eaten right away, or it can be chilled, sliced and crisped up on the grilled/pan fried for a few minutes on each side.
- This recipe takes two days to complete. One day to dry brine and one day to smoke the pork shoulder.
- Try not to open the lid until close to the 3-hour mark, unless you need to add more wood chips.
- The pork belly is even better the next day after it has been refrigerated overnight.
Jack Pickering says
Just wondering what I have done wrong. I put the marinade on it and wrapped it in aluminium foil to put in the fridge overnight. When I got it out the next day it had a lot of liquid in there more like a marinade than a rub. The pork was submerged. Is this normal and if not how do I avoid it?
Hi Jack! Did you just marinate with the dry rub in the recipe? The salt can pull some moisture out of the pork belly and the brown sugar can dissolve into a liquid. It shouldn't be a big deal. Just let excess drip off and pat dry before smoking it. Let me know how it turned out.
I've made this several times, and it always comes out amazing. I have also add minced garlic, onions, and sweet bell peppers all sliced thin enough to put inside the fat scoring, and lime slices on top for additional flavor. Works great for those amazing pork belly tacos!
Sounds fantastic, Tim! Love how you change up the flavors. Definitely going to have to try doing it your way.
First try of this recipe today with great results. The dry brine overnight no doubt adds a huge amount to the finished result.
The fat content of the cut makes this very forgiving. Soft, supple, succulent meat.
A winner in my eyes.
Next time I’d remove the skin. The recipe recommends this but the butcher scored the skin prior to me collecting it. Still an overall excellent result.
Great to hear, Michael. Thanks for sharing and it sounds like it came out delicious!
Jon tangaro says
Iv made this a couple of times now and I can honestly say it’s a massive hit. Everyone love it the combination of spicy and sweet is a perfect pair. I use hickory to start and I finish with applewood for a sweet counter to the bitterness of the hickory. It’s my buddies birthday today and he asked me to make him this over a brisket or anything else I put on my smoker this is what he asked for so that says a lot. It’s very cheap compared to beef cuts at this time. It’s very fatty after a couple pieces I find my self eating around the fat and only picking out the meat. It’s definitely not something you want to have all the time but it’s a great treat for football games or get togethers. Thank you foe the recipe
I tried this recipe last thanksgiving (2020) was a hit. Now I'm doing it this year for a party and was wondering if I could smoke the pork belly the day before and then reheat. I know the note says that the pork belly taste better the next day but can you explain the process of reheating the belly without drying out the meat? Thank you
So glad to hear it was a hit, Stephanie! You can definitely cook it the day or a few days before and re-heat it. You can reheat in a hot oven (around 400° F should be good) to get it crisped up and warmed through. You don't need to worry about overcooking it.
Alternatively, you can also slice it and cook it in a hot skillet until it's crispy and warmed through. This is usually how I do it, but depends on how you are serving it for your party.
Let me know if there's anything else I can help with. Cheers!
Does the smoking time decrease if the pork belly is already cut into strips for burnt ends?
Hi Linda! Yep. Since the pieces are smaller, the smoking time will decrease.
Wonderful easy recipe that turned out great!
So glad to hear it, Chris! Cheers!
Gerre Gannaway says
This looks like one my wife would love. I'll use pecan wood chunks in the smoker instead of the recommended apple or cherry, because pork and pecan work extremely well together. Thanks for posting, Justin.
Hi Gerre! She is definitely going to love it. 🙂
One part of this says to wrap the meat in tin foil when it reaches 165 then return to the smoker until it reaches 200 and another says let it rest at 165 and it can be served. Which is best? If returning to the smoker until 200 approximately how long will that step take (@225)?
Hi Karin! My preferred temperature to cook the belly to 165° F (which is when it's "done"). I was saying that you could wrap it and continue to cook until the internal temp reaches 200°, which will make it fall-apart tender (if that is what you are going for).
It's hard to say how long it will take to go from 165 to 200 since it depends on a lot of factors. Could be a few more hours or more.
Let me know if you have more questions and how it turns out. 🙂
Paul Chartier says
Can I freeze the pork belly after I smoke it
Hi Paul! Sure, you can freeze it after it is smoked. Just try to remove as much air as possible from the bag. 🙂
I did this recipe today and did a taste test at 190 F and thought it was still a little fatty so kept it going until 198 F. Sliced it for pork belly tacos and served it with pickled onions, carrots, red cabbage and jalapenos with an avocado/sour cream lime crema. My wife is not a fan of tacos and ate 3! Needless to say, s a make again.
Sounds absolutely melty amazing, Bob! I'm drooling. Glad to hear your wife loved them too. 🙂
Mitch Lamoureux says
Do you need to rinse the brine off before smoking?
Hey Mitch. Nope, you don’t rinse the rub off. Happy smoking!
If I want it to be crispy on top do I put it under the broiler after smoking?
Yep, you can put it under the broiler. You can also grill it or what I usually do is crisp it up in a hot skillet.
Tim & Janet says
The smoked pork belly is super good and it’s a very versatile dish. We had it with pancakes one morning for breakfast, we had it for dinner with sweet and regular potatoes. The smoked pork belly goes well between two pieces of sourdough bread and a slice of pepper-jack cheese for lunch. Three different delicious meals out of smoked pork belly
So glad to hear it, Tim and Janet! Sounds like it will pair with just about anything. It's also a great gift too! 🙂
Ok, Justin. This is over the top in the best possible way. Pork belly + smoke?! I will definitely try this recipe. I have a smoked short rib recipe that is so rich and good that you can only eat it once every 6 months...I'm imagining that's what this is like. Can't wait to taste this! Great shots by the way.
Hey Sara! Not going to lie, it's pretty amazing. It's kinda like bacon but even better. You can do so much with it without even eating much, it adds tons of flovor. Smoked pork belly tacos are amazing! Mixing in with some eggs is insane. 😛
How long for a 6 lb pork belly?
Hi Debi! Figure 1.5 to 2 hours per pound. However, I would personally cut your pork belly up into smaller pieces (probably 4), which would keep it in line with this recipe's estimate.
Also, pork belly is usually even thickness, so it might take less time than what I gave. It's all about cooking to temp rather than time. I hope this helps.
Jason K Snodgrass says
Is it possible to leave the skin on, and crisp it up after smoking? Kinda, burnt ends method?
Yep, you can. Definitely score the skin. I'd love to hear how it turns out.
We tried it and our whole family went absolutely crazy over it! Sweet, Salty, Juicey, Savory with just the right amount of spice and smokiness! Basically Melt in your mouth Happiness! Great recipe. Thank you!
So glad your whole family loved it. You'll definitely have to try it again soon. 🙂