And on the eighth day, God created pork belly.
While best known as the gateway to bacon, pork belly truly shines when prepared so low, and so slow, that it literally melts in your mouth. Reaching that perfect state can be a daunting task as you seek to keep the meat moist and tender while also waiting for its significant amount of intramuscular fat to render.
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To ensure fall apart tender meat, I like to employ the sous-vide-que cooking method in which the pork belly is slowly cooked in a temperature controlled water bath before being finished on the grill. The time and temperature used in this recipe are based on our guide found here. While the process takes over 26 hours start to finish, the meat is almost entirely unattended during that time, and the end result is well worth it. You and your guests will dive mouth first into what is arguably the most succulent BBQ pork you have ever encountered.
Serve with: IPA beer or Riesling wine.
- Sous vide immersion circulator
- One gallon sealable freezer bag
- 3 pounds fresh pork belly
- ⅓ cup soy sauce
- ⅓ cup rice wine vinegar
- 3 tablespoons mirin (sweet cooking rice wine)
- 1 tablespoon honey
- 1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
- Prep. Prepare a sous vide immersion circulator such as Joule by ChefSteps according to the manufacturer’s instructions and set the water temperature for 150°F.
- If the skin (also called the rind) is still on the pork belly, leave it intact for additional flavor. Note that the sous vide stage of cooking will soften the skin significantly.
- Place pork belly in a sealable freezer bag. Carefully submerge the freezer bag in the water bath until most of the air has been removed and then seal the bag. Submerge the bag completely in the water bath and cook the pork belly for 24 hours.
- As the pork belly approaches the 24 hour mark, prepare the marinade by combining the soy sauce, vinegar, mirin, honey and sesame oil in a small bowl and blend well.
- Remove the bag from the water bath then submerge in a large container filled with a 50/50 mix of ice and water to quickly reduce the meat's core temperature to a safe range of 34-38°F. Open the bag and add the marinade. Seal the bag and refrigerate for at least 45 minutes and up to 2 hours to let the marinade soak in to the pork belly.
- Fire up. Prepare a grill for 2-zone cooking. On a charcoal grill, place a chimney full of pre-heated charcoal briquets on one side of the grill's charcoal grate in order to create direct and indirect cooking zones. Adjust the grill vents to maintain a temperature of about 225°F on the indirect side for smoking. Add 2 to 3 chunks of your favorite smoking wood to the charcoal for flavor. On a gas grill, adjust the temperature knobs so that the gas on one half of the grill is off and the other side is heated enough to maintain a temperature of approximately 225°F on the indirect side.
- Cook. Once the grill is ready, remove the pork belly from the marinade and pat dry. Use a sharp paring knife or chef’s knife to score the skin by making a series of diagonal cuts 1-inch apart, followed by additional diagonal cuts the opposite way to create a crosshatch pattern.
- Place the pork belly skin side up in the indirect zone on the main cooking grate as far from the heat source as possible. Position the lid on the grill with the fully opened top vent positioned directly above the indirect side in order to force the smoke over and around the meat.
- Allow the pork belly to smoke for approximately 1 hour until it reaches an internal temperature of 185°F (this may take slightly longer if cooking from a chilled state). Flip the pork belly over and grill the skin over the direct heat cooking zone, moving the meat frequently with tongs until it is evenly browned and crisp.
- Serve. Remove the pork belly from the grill, slice and serve immediately. Slices can also be refrigerated for up to two days and re-heated in a skillet over medium heat.