This post is sponsored by Bernzomatic.
For those of you familiar with Texas BBQ or active on social media platforms, I’m sure you’ve heard of burnt ends. Traditionally, burnt ends are cubes of beef cut from the point of a brisket after it has been smoked. Those cubes are then tossed back on the smoker with a combination of BBQ sauce, butter or whatever one chooses. The sugar in the sauce ends up caramelizing on the surface of the beef to make a sticky and wonderfully delectable bite.
Eventually and might I add controversially, people started making burnt ends from other types of meat. High up on this list are pork belly burnt ends. Wait, pork belly? Don’t be scared, pork belly is the cut of meat that bacon is made from. Bacon is just cured pork belly that is then smoked and cooked.
Pork belly is sold as “skin on” or “skin off”. For this recipe you want the skin off of the pork belly. Pork belly can be found at some food clubs such as Costco or Sam’s Club, online meat retailers, your local butcher shop (if you are fortunate) and at Asian grocery stores. Usually the belly sold at Asian markets is sold skin on and I’m not going to lie, it can be a
little troublesome to cut off evenly. For me, my best bet is always Costco as I don’t have a market that carries it locally.
Let’s make cooking even more fun by using a Bernzomatic torch!
For this recipe we are going to use a Bernzomatic BZ4500 torch with Bernzomatic propane fuel cylinder. Blow torches are such an asset to have around the house. Whether you use it primarily for cooking as I do, or for little DIY projects, they are incredibly handy. When I bought my first smoker a few years back, this was the next purchase I made. To this day I still use them to light the charcoal in my grills.
To start, pick out a nice thick and meaty piece of pork belly at the market. At Costco they carry whole pieces of pork belly and for this application, I cut the large piece in half. Feel free to use only half of it if you aren’t serving many people.
As for your smoker, plan to smoke this pork with the wood of your choice such as oak, hickory, cherry or pecan at a temperature between 250-275F. This recipe is more “Texas Style” with basically a salt and pepper rub as opposed to sweet rub as many do on pork as you travel further outside of Texas.
Fat cap up or down?
The decision to smoke really any cut of meat that has a fat cap such as brisket or pork really comes down to which smoker you own, where the heat source is, and if you are going for aesthetics. Having said that, how much does it truly matter when doing a home cook over perhaps 4 hours vs smoking a brisket for say 16 hours. Honestly, I have done it both ways for pork belly burnt ends and can’t appreciate a difference. For this cook I smoked mine fat cap up.
Wait, you are cubing the pork after you smoke it?
Sure, why not? Some will argue that you should cube it prior to initially smoking the pork, but I learned a little trick from Brendan Lamb of Smiley”s BBQ in Ponder, Texas. He smokes the belly whole then cuts it prior to adding the braising components. Why do I like this method? It’s less work. The pork goes on whole, I can make nice symmetrical cubes and put them in the liquid. There is no balancing them on a wire rack prior to putting them on your smoker, No, you don’t get bark on all sides of the cube but they take on plenty of smoke and it don’t personally feel it is essential. I find his method quite crafty.
After heating the braising liquid, the pork is tossed to coat and returned to the smoker to allow the internal temperature to rise further. Once the pork is up to a finished temperature of about 200F, the pork is uncovered, sauce allowed to thicken, and then we use the torch to provide the final caramelization and beautiful color on the pork. I like this recipe because although the pork is glazed, it is not an overly thick coating like some other burnt end recipes, but truly lets the taste of the pork shine through.
Torched Bourbon Pork Belly Burnt Ends
1 whole pork belly cut in half
1/4 cup kosher salt
2/3 cup coarse black pepper
1 tbsp granulated garlic powder
1/4 cup light molasses
1 cup honey
4 tbsp butter
2 tbsp tomato paste
2 oz bourbon
Preheat smoker to 250F, adding preferred wood (I used cherry)
Combine salt, pepper, and garlic to make a dry rub. Season all sides of the pork evenly
Smoke pork belly uncovered for 3-4 hours or until internal temperature is approximately 180F and a nice bark is starting to develop.
Pull the pork belly off of the smoker and cut it into 2 inch cubes. Place cubes bark side up into an aluminum pan.
Mix braising liquid: Add honey, tomato paste, butter, molasses and bourbon in a sauce pan and place over medium heat on the stove until all combined. Continue to cook for approximately 10 minutes on low until reduced and thickened slightly.
Add liquid to aluminum pan with pork, toss pork cubes so all sides are coated, cover with aluminum foil, and place back on the smoker until internal temperature of pork is approximately 200F (approximately 30-45 minutes)
Take foil off of pan and close lid on smoker so the sauce thickens a bit.
Using your Bernzomatic BZ4500 torch with Bernzomatic propane fuel cylinder using a side to side motion, caramelize the top of the pork cubes. Use caution as this does not take long at all and you don’t want to burn the sugar on the pork.
For more information about Bernzomatic torches visit www.bernzomatic.com.