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Texas-Style Smoked Pork Belly

by Brad Prose

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This salty, savory, sinful Texas-Style Smoked Pork Belly needs to be on your table. Smoked slow like a brisket, each slice is like a juicy, tender slab of smoked bacon. Wipe up the drool and let’s cook!

Texas-Style smoked pork belly sliced and ready to serve.

Low and slow barbecue doesn’t always need to be complicated. Smoked brisket shines in this way, a simple rub with a patient cooking process that provides delectable slices of incredibly tender meat. Repeating this same process with pork belly gives us the same results.

Why You’ll Love Smoked Pork Belly

  • Bacon. This isn’t cured, but the salty smoked pork belly sure tastes similar to bacon when it’s done. Some people refer to this cook as a “bacon brisket” and it’s not far off.
  • Pork flavor. Smoked ribs, pulled pork, and some other recipes generally involve many layers of flavor and sauces. Smoked pork belly is straightforward, giving you that punch of pork you’re looking for.
  • Tender beyond imagination. Think of smoked pork belly like a meaty marshmallow, literally just melting away as it hits your tongue. You’ll almost be disappointed, and have to grab another slice to verify how amazing it was.
  • Simple process. Preparing a smoked brisket is like a ritual, with many tricks along the way. Thankfully, pork belly is very straightforward and is mostly on autopilot. With this guide, you should be able to nail it first try.
This slice of smoked pork belly is mine. You need to smoke your own!

Prepping the Pork Belly

It’s helpful to work with a pork belly that’s a manageable size. I typically look for a cut that is about 3 ½ – 4 pounds, about the size of a brisket flat. Sometimes if I’m purchasing a larger pork belly which is 10-12 pounds, I will portion it into halves or thirds, sealing up the rest.

Lightly scoring the fat cap provides a chance for additional seasoning and a slightly crispier top. Doing so creates a way for the heat to permeate the fat. This is not necessary, but I do find it improves the final texture of the fat cap.

What to look for when purchasing pork belly

Fresh pork belly is the most important factor. Check out the color, the fat should be a creamy white color. If there is yellow or grey, that’s a sign of aging. The meat should be a healthy pink – try to avoid pork with a brown or grey hue, another sign that it’s not fresh.

Look for a slab that has a good amount of meat ribboned through. If it’s mostly fat, try to find another one that is meatier, around the 50:50 range. Having an even distribution of intramuscular fat and muscles creates the ideal eating experience.

Make sure you're purchasing a high quality pork belly with a good color.

Seasoning the Pork Belly

Similar to smoked chicken, pork belly is a blank palette for flavors. It can take on any rub or seasoning you’d like to use and is very flexible.

Season your pork belly generously on all sides, at least 30 minutes before you’re ready to smoke. You can also dry-brine by seasoning the pork and placing it in the fridge on a wire rack with a baking sheet for at least 2 hours, up to overnight.

  • Signature Sweet & Smoky Rub – This is my favorite, which leans more into the category of pork ribs. It has a brown sugar base with added smoky notes of ancho chile, chipotle, and smoked paprika. The end result is a deep reddish brown color, typical of smoked pork recipes.
  • Smoky Southwest Dry Rub – Slightly less sweet with stronger aromatics, this darker rub provides a more natural flavor with earthy cumin, Mexican oregano, and coriander. You should expect a deep brown color, closer to a traditional smoked brisket bark.
  • Dalmatian Rub – It’s hard to beat ½ kosher salt and black pepper. There are many ways to customize this by adding in granulated garlic, chile powder, or even espresso grounds.
Scored and seasoned pork belly is ready to be added into the smoker.

Smoking Process

Step 1: Preheat your smoker to 275°F

If you’re using a grill, create a 2-zone setup with a warm and cool side. Choose your wood flavor to pair with the pork. A combination of cherry, mesquite, or hickory works very well with pork. Make sure you take the pork belly out of the fridge if it’s in there, allowing it to warm up before it hits the smoker.

Step 2: Smoke the pork belly

Place the pork belly in the smoker, fat-side up. Allow it to cook for 2 hours before spritzing if needed. Apple cider vinegar diluted with a little water works well.

There might be juice that pools on top of the fat, which can happen depending on the shape of the pork belly. Lift the pork belly periodically and allow that juice to drip off, otherwise, it will hinder forming a bark in that area.

Cook the pork belly until it feels tender, which should be around 200-210°F. A temperature probe should slide right through with little resistance, almost as if you’re sticking it into a jar of creamy peanut butter.

Smoking at 250°F until the pork belly is done.

Step 3: Rest is important.

Remove the pork belly from the smoker and allow it to cool at room temperature for about 45 minutes, resting on a cutting board loosely wrapped in butcher paper. Using foil will create too much steam, and ruin the bark. Pink butcher paper is porous enough to allow it to cool slowly without compromising the hard work you’ve put into that crispy bark.

If you try to slice through too soon, the fat might shred. It’s important to use a very sharp knife or even a brisket slicer. I mean, you just smoked the pork belly like a brisket, might as well slice it like one too!

Pork belly is smoked and is resting before slicing.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I prepare the pork belly in an oven?

Yes, I do get this question often. You can absolutely cook the pork belly at the same time and temperature, however, you will obviously be missing out on the smoke flavor. I would recommend using a wire rack with a baking sheet to cook it, so the pork belly is elevated.

How do you prevent it from drying out?

Spritzing periodically, if it needs it, will prevent it. There’s so much fat and moisture that renders out from the top, that it’s very unlikely you’ll have an issue.

Should I buy the pork belly without the skin?

Yes, this recipe will not work in the same way if it has the skin attached. If that’s your only option, carefully remove the skin before attempting to make this recipe.

Smoked pork belly slices are ready to eat

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Texas-Style smoked pork belly sliced and ready to serve.

Texas-Style Smoked Pork Belly

This salty, savory, sinful Texas-Style Smoked Pork Belly needs to be on your table. Smoked slow like a brisket, each slice is like a juicy, tender slab of smoked bacon. Wipe up the drool and let’s cook!

  • Total Time: Almost 6 hours
  • Yield: Serves about 6

Ingredients

Scale

Instructions

  1. Score the top of the pork belly with a crosshatch pattern, carefully cutting into the fat cap. Be careful not to slice down to the meat, just about ⅛” should be deep enough.
  2. Season the pork belly on all sides generously. Allow the pork belly to rest for at least 30 minutes with the seasonings, or you can choose to dry-brine overnight by having it rest on a wire rack with a baking sheet in the fridge uncovered.
  3. Preheat the smoker for 275°F. Place the pork belly with the fat-side up into the smoker. Allow it to cook for about 4-5 hours.
  4. Check the pork belly. Make sure that juices are not pooling on top – simply tip it to let the juices drop off the side. If you notice the sides are drying out slightly, spritz it with apple cider vinegar once or twice during the cook.
  5. Smoke the pork belly until it’s probe tender, where there is little resistance when you prod the meat. This will happen around 200-210°F, which can vary.
  6. Remove the pork belly from the smoker. Wrap it loosely in pink butcher paper. Allow the pork belly to rest at room temperature for about 30 minutes before slicing.
  7. Use a sharp blade or a brisket slicer to cut into ¼” slices. Serve, roll your eyes, drool, or however else you’d react when you take a bite.

Notes

  • The meat is done when it’s done. Don’t focus too much on temperature as much as you should to feel for tenderness. Start checking around 200°F.
  • Author: Brad Prose
  • Prep Time: 10 minutes
  • Marinade Time: 30 minutes
  • Cook Time: 5 hours
  • Category: Pork
  • Method: Smoking
  • Cuisine: Barbecue

Keywords: smoked pork, smoked pork belly, pork belly, bacon brisket, texas-style pork belly, bbq pork

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