Burnt ends - To the die hard Grillaholic, these little nuggets are tangy, meaty, smoky little morsels from heaven.
Now, you may have had burnt ends before. They're typically made from beef brisket, and are sold at any BBQ joint worth their salt, but today, we're going to teach you how to make burnt ends from a less traditional, but (some would argue) incredibly more flavorful cut of meat - the pork belly.
If you haven't yet worked with pork belly (most famously known as the starting cut for bacon), you're in for a real treat. It's fatty, very flavorful, and lends itself well to smoking.
Be warned though, once you try one of these things, you'll be making more every weekend. While somewhat time intensive - They're worth the wait.
Here's what you'll need to get started:
- 5 lbs pork belly, sliced into 1" cubes
- 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 1 cup of your favorite dry rub
- 1 cup Honey BBQ Sauce
- 1 cup apple sauce (for spritzing)
Step 1: Fire up the smoker
Fire up your smoker to 225-250 degrees F. For this recipe we like to use Apple wood for smoking, but really any smoking wood you have on hand will do just fine. While you're waiting, let's go ahead and move on to step 2.
Step 2: Trim & cube your pork belly
While you're waiting for your smoker to preheat, we're going to need to (in most cases) trim the excess skin and fat off your pork belly. I prefer to leave a small fat cap on mine, but that's just preference. Alternatively, your local butcher should be willing to do this trim for you.
To do this, you'll want to lay the pork belly on a cutting board in front of you, and starting at one of the corners, insert your knife horizontally. Then grab the layer of fat/skin and lift it as you trim the fat from the meat.
After the fat/skin are trimmed, I'm gonna have you cut your pork belly into 1" cubes - Really the size is up to you, but I find . that 1" cubes are the perfect bite!
Step 3: Rub your belly
No, not like that... Stop it.
Once the excess fat and skin are trimmed off, it's time to grab your favorite dry rub, or make your own! Making a dry rub is actually very simple - I like to (in no precise measurement) add together a mixture that consists mostly of brown sugar, then add some salt, pepper, paprika, garlic & onion powder, and some red chili flakes. Easy enough and works REALLY well!
Sprinkle this mixture over the pork belly, and in a small bowl, massage the dry rub into the cubed belly pieces.
Step 4: Get smoking!
Okay, so this is the first part of the cooking process where we impart that deep, smoky flavor we all love in burnt ends.
Once your pork belly is rubbed down, we're going to need to place it on a wire rack in the smoker.
PRO TIP: Better yet, get yourself a Grillaholics Non Stick MESH Grill Mat! We designed these mats specifically for smoking meats so you still get that smoky flavor, but don't end up with a huge mess to clean up. Since they're dishwasher safe, just toss them in after you're done - It's as easy as that!
You'll want to smoke your pork belly cubes for about 3 hours, or until they get that dark red color and some bark develops.
Once you're there - let's move on to the next step!
Step 5: Wrap, sauce, and cook some more
Is your pork belly dark red and ready to move on? Perfect! The next step is to remove your pork belly cubes from the smoker, transfer them to a foil pan, and bathe them in that honey BBQ sauce recipe we gave you - Or your favorite sauce, we won't judge.
If you'd like, I actually prefer to add a stick of butter as well. Paula Dean would be proud.
Once they're fully covered in the BBQ sauce, go ahead and cover the foil pan with foil, and place them back in the smoker for about 90 minutes. Alternatively, since we've already smoked our pork belly, and if you're feeling lazy, you can finish these in the oven as well.
After about 90 minutes in the smoker (or oven), go ahead and remove the foil lid, stir the pork belly around a bit, and cook down for another 15-30 minutes, or until the sauce thickens and coats each cube - It should be sticky.
Step 6: Remove & Enjoy
So, you made 5 lbs of pork belly, but after trimming and cooking, you may end up with half that, or about 2.5 lbs of pork belly burnt ends. In my experience, that's enough for about... 1 serving.
KIDDING! Kind of.
Let these guys sit for about 15 minutes before serving, and then watch as they disappear in about the same amount of time - If you're lucky.
We hope you enjoy this new little treat - I know I make them at least twice a month during the Summer months, and I hope you find yourself doing the same.
As always. Happy grilling!