5 Easy Steps to Smoke Pork Belly Without Curing

Smoke pork belly without curing in 5 easy steps: prep the belly, set up smoker, slow cook, add smoke flavor, season, and cook to perfection for a delicious outcome.

can you smoke pork belly without curing it

Smoking pork belly isn’t just for experts; with some knowledge, you can do it too. We’ll guide you through five simple steps to smoke uncured pork belly. Put on your apron, prepare your smoker, and get ready to savor delicious smoked pork belly!

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Step 1: Pork Belly Preparation

Pieces of pork belly with spices and bay leaves on wooden background.

For the best-smoked pork belly, Jeff Phillips advises choosing a 9 to 13-pound cut with an even thickness from a trusted butcher, who can also remove the skin for you, saving time and hassle. When skinning at home, use a sharp knife to keep the fat cap mostly intact. Peel back the skin and slice carefully between it and the fat. Incisions in the fat cap, ¼ inch deep and 1 inch apart, enhance smoking by letting the flavor infuse deeper into the meat.

Once your pork belly is properly prepared, it’s time to add some flavor. Jeff Phillips recommends using a blend of barbecue sauce and rubs. A combination of ¼ cup barbecue sauce, ¼ cup yellow mustard, and ½ cup each of original and Texas-style rub is a good starting point. However, feel free to tweak the seasoning to your liking.

Step 2: Setting up the Smokehouse

Meat smoked with warm smoke in a wooden smokehouse, natural cold cuts

The next step in smoking your pork belly is setting up the smokehouse or barbecue smoker. The goal is to achieve a low and slow cooking process, so preheat your smoker to 225°F (107°C). While you can use different types of smokers, those that allow you to control the temperature easily are ideal. Barrel smokers, pellet grills, or traditional offset smokers all work well for this purpose.

Your choice of wood can significantly impact the final flavor of your smoked pork belly. Jeff Phillips suggests a mix of cherry and/or apple wood for a sweet and mild smokey flavor. To prepare the wood chips, soak them in water for about 30 minutes before placing them in the smoker – this helps to slow down their burn rate and produce more smoke.

Step 3: Slow Cooking the Pork Belly

Once your smoker is up to temperature and the wood chips are smoking nicely, it’s time to introduce the star of the show – your prepared pork belly. Place the pork belly directly onto the grill plate of your smoker, fat side up. You want the indirect heat to slowly render the fat, keeping the meat moist while it cooks.

Jeff Phillips suggests letting the pork belly cook for about 4 hours or until it reaches an internal temperature of 160°F. You can also judge readiness by the color – when it achieves a dark brown hue, you know it’s time to move on to the next step.

Once your pork belly has reached this stage, carefully wrap it in foil, or butcher paper, or place it in a foil pan. Cover it tightly and return it to the smoker. The aim now is to let it continue cooking until it reaches an internal temperature of 195-200°F. This usually takes an additional 1.5 hours.

Step 4: Adding Smoke Flavor

Adding smoke flavor to your pork belly is a delicate process that requires patience. The key is to allow the smoke to infuse the meat over a long period, without overpowering the natural pork flavor.

The choice of wood chips mentioned earlier is crucial here. Cherry or apple wood chips offer a sweet and mild smokey flavor that complements the rich taste of pork belly. These types of wood chips are perfect for smoking meats because they burn at a slower rate, producing a steady stream of smoke over several hours.

Using indirect heat is also essential. Direct heat can cook the outside of the pork belly too quickly, preventing the smoke from fully penetrating the meat. By contrast, indirect heat cooks the meat more slowly, allowing the smoke to infuse throughout the pork belly, giving it a deep, rich flavor.

As B & B Charcoal Products explains in the video –

  1. Fillet and remove the bone from a pork butt to reduce cooking time and create more bark and texture.
  2. Trim excess fat, leaving about 1/4 inch, so smoke and flavor can better penetrate the meat.
  3. Use a combination of wood pellets and chips in a smoke tube to fill space and make it smolder longer.
  4. Light smoke tube for 30-45 seconds, let it burn, then blow out flame so it smolders and makes more smoke.
  5. Place lit smoke tube off to the side of the grill so it doesn’t touch meat but makes more smoke.
  6. For a pellet grill, set temperature to 250-275 F, not too high or low, for ideal smoke absorption.
  7. Let meat rest after cooking so juices can absorb back into the meat.
  8. The fillet method and smoke tube can reduce cook time to just 3 hours versus 8-10.
  9. The resulting pork butt has crispy bark, smoke flavor, and tender yet slightly textured meat.
  10. Add your favorite BBQ sauce to pork butt for extra moisture and flavor if desired.
B & B Charcoal Products

Step 5: Seasoning and Cooking Time

Smoked pork bacon on a wooden board with several cut pieces

Proper seasoning and accurate cooking times are fundamental to a successful smoked pork belly. As mentioned earlier, a combination of barbecue sauce, yellow mustard, and dry rubs make for a flavorful seasoning. However, don’t be afraid to experiment with different seasoning combinations. Some people enjoy adding a bit of sweet BBQ rub or even a hint of cayenne for an extra kick.

As for cooking time, the rule of thumb is to allow about 1.5 hours per pound of meat at 225°F. But remember, smoking is more of an art than a science, and each piece of meat is unique. So while this guideline provides a good starting point, always verify doneness by checking the internal temperature of your pork belly. It should reach a minimum of 195-200°F for optimal tenderness and flavor.

With these steps, you’re well on your way to enjoying a delicious, home-smoked pork belly. Remember that the key to perfect smoked pork belly lies in patience – taking the time to prepare it properly, slow-cooking it to tender perfection, and allowing the smoke to infuse right through the meat. So go ahead, give it a try, and savor the flavorsome results!

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