Smoked Pork Belly Burnt Ends are irresistible, juicy bites of mouthwatering meat (the same kind used to make bacon) that is rubbed in spices, infused with smoky flavor, and tossed in a fabulous barbecue sauce. Eat them as an appetizer by spearing with toothpicks, or throw them into tacos or salads, onto buns for pork belly sandwiches, or over nachos. Be sure to watch the video in the recipe card to see how I make these!
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If you've ever been to a barbecue joint before, chances are you've seen classic brisket burnt ends on the menu, along with a note about how the supply is limited and they run out quickly. That's because burnt ends are the most flavorful, incredible piece of meat you can think of.
These succulent pork belly bites are basically meat candy and they have this unique quality of having bark (the crusty exterior you get from a long, slow smoke) with a caramelized sauce that makes for sticky, salty, deliciously rich smokey bites.
Pork belly burnt ends are a little different, but similar to brisket burnt ends in a lot of ways. The important part being that they are incredibly tender and full of flavor. They practically melt in your mouth. We love serving these with a cool and crunchy broccoli salad for excellent contrast in textures and flavors.
We make our smoked pork belly recipe using our Traeger grill and it's incredibly easy to do. Like most smoked meats I can think of, the key is to cook them low and slow. It gives time for the fat to melt and render down and for each morsel of cubed pork belly to absorb the amazing smoky flavor from the wood pellets.
What You'll Need
Scroll down to the recipe card below this post for ingredient quantities and full instructions.
- Pork belly
- Olive oil
- Dry rub - You can make the one in the recipe below using brown sugar, Kosher salt, black pepper, paprika, chili powder, garlic powder, onion powder, and cayenne pepper. Or just use your favorite pork rub!
- BBQ sauce - Use your favorite bbq sauce. We really like Kinder or Sweet Baby Ray's.
- Salted butter
What is pork belly?
If you aren't familiar with pork belly, it's the same cut of meat that bacon is made from. Pork belly is basically just uncured, non-smoked, unsliced bacon. It comes from the belly of the pig (not the stomach, but rather the piece of flesh on the underside of the pig), and it is made from layers of fat and meat.
Even if your local grocery store doesn't have pork belly on display, I have found that they often have it in the back if you ask the butcher. Look for a piece of pork belly with as much meat as possible.
Pork belly is unique because it is one of the only proteins that can be cut into small bites and smoked like this. The layers of fat in the pork belly allow it to stay moist and not dry out during the long, slow smoke.
House of Nash MEATS
For several years now, Paul and I have enjoyed smoking meats on our Traeger smoker. A few months ago, Paul had a great idea and recommended I do a series devoted to the meats we smoke, called House of Nash MEATS!
So far I've shared Texas smoked brisket, hot smoked salmon, brown sugar & honey baby back ribs, and smoked pulled pork, but it's possible I've saved the best for last with these smoked pork belly burnt ends.
We've made these pork belly burnt ends dozens of times now, but Paul was originally inspired by this post from Vindulge, along with tips from a number of other sources, when he was learning how to make pork belly burnt ends.
How to Make Pork Belly Burnt Ends
Trim off the skin and top layer of fat. You can ask the butcher to trim the skin for you, but you run the risk of them taking off quite a lot of the top layer of fat. We do like to trim off the fat on top when it is pretty thick, but some people love the fat and like to leave most of it on. A lot of it will render off anyway. You don't want to trim it all away, but our preference is to trim some, if not most, of the areas of pure fat away. To do this, just use a very sharp knife to make gashes horizontally across the top of the piece of pork belly, peeling away the top layer of skin and fat as you go.
Cut the meat into cubes. Aim for 1 ½ inch cubes of pork belly. They might seem large, but they will shrink quite a bit as they cook, just like bacon. By the time they are done, your pork belly burnt ends will be perfectly bite-size. If the pork belly is too slippery to slice easily, try sticking it in the freezer for 30 minutes so the fat can firm up a bit, then slice it.
Rub the meat with dry rub. Drizzle the cubed pork belly with a little olive oil, then sprinkle generously with your favorite pork rub. Try to cover every piece of pork belly evenly with the rub, then arrange them on a wire rack. This makes it easy to get the cubes of meat on and off the grill and it also allows better smoke circulation than putting the pork belly in a pan for the initial smoke.
Smoke. Set the wire rack directly onto the grill grates and smoke between 225°F and 250°F for 2 ½ to 3 hours until dark red and a nice bark starts to form.
Sauce the meat. Transfer the pork belly cubes to a disposable pan and add BBQ sauce, butter, and honey, stirring to evenly coat the cubes of pork belly. This will create a braising liquid that will give the sticky sweetness that is characteristic of smoked pork belly burnt ends.
Cover the pan with aluminum foil, then return the sauced pork belly to the smoker and cook for another 60 to 90 minutes, until the meat reaches an internal temperature of 200°F to 205°F when a digital meat thermometer is inserted into the middle of one of the burnt ends. Really though, the easiest way to really tell if the pork belly burnt ends are done is to test them with a toothpick. If it goes in and comes out easily, the burnt ends are done.
Remove the foil and cook for another 15 minutes to let the sauce thicken up a bit, then remove the pork belly burnt ends from the smoker and serve.
Leftovers warm up really well the next day. You can even freeze the finished burnt ends, then reheat in the oven and they will still taste delicious!
How to Store & Reheat
Leftover pork belly burnt ends can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for 3-4 days. They reheat really well in a 350 degree F oven for 15 minutes or you could always throw them back on the smoker.
Yes, if you just want the rub without making them saucy, you can leave off the sauce and have sauce-less burnt ends.
We like to use cherry wood for smoking our pork belly burnt ends. I've also read that hickory, pecan, maple, and pretty much any of the fruit woods like apple or peach are good choices for this cut of meat, but we haven't tried them yet.
Yes, you can use a gas or charcoal grill and turn it into a smoker by soaking wood chips and then placing the meat over indirect heat. The soaked wood chips will create the smoke needed to get that deep smoky flavor in the pork belly cubes.
More Appetizer Recipes
- Bacon Wrapped Jalapeno Poppers
- Jalapeno Popper Dip with Bacon
- Bacon Green Onion Deviled Eggs
- Slow Cooker Little Smokies in Honey Garlic BBQ Sauce
More Favorites from House of Nash Eats
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Smoked Pork Belly Burnt Ends
- 4-5 pounds pork belly
- 2-3 Tablespoons olive oil
- ¼ cup brown sugar
- 2 Tablespoons coarse Kosher salt (be sure to use the right kind of salt!)
- 1 Tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1 Tablespoon paprika
- 1 teaspoon chili powder
- ½ teaspoon garlic powder
- ½ teaspoon onion powder
- ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
- ½ to 1 cup BBQ sauce
- 4 Tablespoon salted butter
- ⅓ cup honey
- Trim off the skin and top layer of pure fat of the pork belly. Cut the meat into 1 ½-inch cubes.
- Rub the meat with a drizzle of olive oil, then combine the rub ingredients and sprinkle generously over the meat, rubbing it in to cover each piece.
- Arrange the pork belly cubes on a wire cooling and baking rack, then place on the smoker and smoke between 225°F and 250°F for 2 ½ to 3 hours until dark red and a nice bark starts to form.
- Transfer the pork belly cubes to a disposable aluminum pan and add BBQ sauce, butter, and honey, stirring to evenly coat the cubes of pork belly.
- Cover with foil, then return the sauced pork belly to the smoker and cook for another 60 to 90 minutes, until the meat reaches 200°F to 205°F when a digital meat thermometer is inserted into the middle of one of the burnt ends or until a toothpick inserted into the burnt ends goes in and comes out easily.
- Remove the foil and cook uncovered for another 15 minutes to let the sauce thicken up a bit, then remove the pork belly burnt ends from the smoker and serve.
- Wood pellets: We like to use cherry wood for smoking our pork belly burnt ends. I've also read that hickory, pecan, maple, and pretty much any of the fruit woods like apple or peach are good choices for this cut of meat, but we haven't tried them yet.
- Storage: Leftover pork belly burnt ends can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for 3-4 days. They reheat really well in a 350 degree F oven for 15 minutes or you could always throw them back on the smoker.
This post was originally published in June, 2019. The photos and content were updated in September, 2022.