Episode 102: Shoulders and Bellies

Barbecued Pork Belly

Barbecued Pork Belly

Bacon is about smoke and salt. Barbecue is about smoke and spice. They join forces in this barbecued pork belly—inspired by a new-school barbecue restaurant in Kansas City, Missouri, called Q39, run by an old-school chef and pit master named Rob Magee. What is most remarkable about this sizzling, spice-crusted barbecued belly is how it retains the sweet, meaty taste of fresh pork. You’d never mistake it for bacon.


Barbecued Pork Belly

Recipe Notes

  • Yield: Serves 6
  • Method: Hot smoking
  • Equipment: Big Green Egg; Fuel: a mix of hickory and cherry


  • A 3- to 3-1/2-pound section of pork belly
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper for seasoning

For the rub:

  • 2 tablespoons kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 tablespoons sweet paprika
  • 1 tablespoon granulated garlic
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 tablespoon ground black pepper
  • 1/2 tablespoon mustard powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground white pepper (or more black pepper)
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Recipe Steps

Step 1: Remove the skin (also called rind) from the pork belly (if still on). Score both sides with a sharp knife, cutting a 1-inch crosshatch pattern with cuts 1/4 inch deep.

Step 2: Make the rub: Place the salt, sugar, paprika, garlic, chili powder, cumin, black pepper, mustard powder, white pepper, and cayenne in a bowl. Mix well with your fingers.

Step 3: Sprinkle the rub over the top, bottom, and sides of the pork belly, rubbing it into the meat with your fingers.

Step 4: Set up your smoker following the manufacturer’s instructions, and preheat to 225 degrees. Add the wood as specified by the manufacturer.

Step 5: Smoke the pork belly fat side up until bronzed with smoke and the internal temperature is 165 degrees. This will take about 3 to 4 hours.

Step 6: You can serve the pork belly hot out of the smoker, but you’ll get a better texture and flavor if you chill and reheat it. If using the second option, transfer the pork belly to a wire rack over a baking sheet and let cool to room temperature, then cover and refrigerate until cold. The recipe can be made up to 3 days ahead.

Step 7: Cut the chilled pork belly crosswise (against the grain) into 1/2-inch thick slices. Lightly season each slice on both sides with salt and pepper.

Step 8: Meanwhile, set up your grill for direct grilling and preheat to medium-high. Ideally, you’ll be grilling over wood or will add some wood chunks to your fire.

Step 9: Arrange the pork belly strips on the grate on the diagonal and grill until sizzling and browned on both sides, about 2 minutes per side. (Give each slice a quarter turn after 1 minute to lay on a crosshatch of grill marks.) Don’t over-crowd your grill. The melting fat may cause flare-ups—so you want to leave yourself plenty of maneuvering room to dodge the flames.

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