Smoked Pork Belly

My first attempt at not poultry in the smoker. And piggy nipples.

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I finally watched enough Steven Raichlen and Aaron Franklin to try smoking some of the bigger cuts of meat.  Pork belly seemed like a natural choice for a couple of reasons.  The pork belly is consistently the same thickness throughout the cut, which means no trimming and even smoking all the way through.  Pork belly is relatively cheap.  Not a lot of people actually know what pork belly is, so it is easier to impress  a crowd when serving.

First step, I had to obtain a pork belly.  Raichlen preaches “How your pork is raised is ever bit as important as how you prepare it.”  That makes sense to me, so I thought I would give it a try.  Fortunately, I live near Cleveland’s West Side Market.

pork-chop-shop

In the West Side Market, there is a stand called the Pork Chop Shop.  Ohio raised, steroid free, hormone free, preservative free pork.  There are other butcher stands at the market, but the Pork Chop Shop is the only one that is exclusively pork.  I figured I couldn’t go wrong.

I took my pork belly home and prepared it for the smoker.  The skin was still on the cut.  I wanted to leave the skin on for the cracklin.  I cut a cross hatch pattern into the skin to allow smoke and seasoning to get through to the meat.  Make sure you have a sharp knife, and keep the belly cold to ease cutting.  I had a chuckle while making the cuts because the belly came complete with two nipples, and I’m juvenile like that.  Seriously.  Piggy nipples. After the cutting was complete, I dusted both sides with my favorite rub, Pensey’s BBQ 3000.

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I started pre-heating the Mighty MasterBuilt to 250° and filled the water pan before preparing the belly.  I put the belly on a middle rack and loaded up the hickory chips.  Only thing left to do was wait.  And wipe up the kitchen counter.  And check the temperature on the meat probe when I added more hickory chips.  After a few hours, the probe hit 188°, and I pulled the belly.

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The pork was good.  Nice smoke flavor without being overpowering.  Possibly the sweetest, tenderest pork I ever had.  I chalk that up to the Pork Chop Shop.  My pork belly was successful, but, it could have been better.

What will I do different next time?  I think I will go heavier on the rub.  I could taste the rub, but, not enough.  Despite the looks of it, pork belly is a big ol’ hunk o’ meat, and soaks up rub without remorse.  I think I will let the meat temperature get to 200° next time.  This is to render the fat more, and crisp up the skin.

I will be doing pork belly again, though, and it will come from the West Side Market.
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