Start with a skin-on, lean center-cut pork belly in the 3 to 5-pound range. Remove any skin and trim any areas of pure fat. Rinse it under cold running water and blot dry with paper towels. Then score a grid pattern across the meat about an ⅛-inch deep.
Combine all the ingredients for the rub in a small bowl; stir with a whisk to mix to remove any clumps. Rub 3 tablespoons of the spice rub onto the pork belly on all sides reserving about 1 tablespoon for later.
#2 PREPARE THE SMOKER AND PREHEAT FOR SMOKING
Preheat the smoker or charcoal grill to 250 degrees F. To maintain this low temperature, use only half as much charcoal as usual. (A half chimney-full.) Fill the drip pan inside the smoker with water and place the grate over the drip pan..
Alternatively, using a charcoal grill set up for indirect heat with a drip pan of water directly underneath the meat to stabilize the temperature.
#3 SMOKE THE PORK BELLY
When the coals are ready to cook, place the prepared pork belly onto the hot grate, centered over the drip pan filled with water. Insert the temperature probe (if using).
Toss a dry wood chunk or a handful of dry chips onto the hot coals. Cover the smoker or grill and allow the pork belly to smoke between 225 degrees F and 250 degrees F for 4-hours, or until a nice reddish bark starts to form on the surface of the meat and the temperature is about 160 degrees F.
#4 CUT THE PORK BELLY INTO CUBES
After 4 hours, remove the probe from the pork belly. Remove the pork from the smoker and place it on a carving board.
Cut the meat into 1 ½ inch cubes. The pork will be hot, so you may want to wait about 5 minutes or so to cut it.
Place the cubes of pork belly onto a grill grid or wire rack. Sprinkle the cubes with the remaining tablespoon of rub.
Return the pork belly to the grill and smoke for another 60 to 90 minutes, until the internal temperature of the cubes reach about 190 degrees F with a instant-read digital meat thermometer.
#5 SAUCE THE PORK BELLY BURNT ENDS
Butter is added to the sauce to give it richness and helps to bind the sauce and maple syrup together. The maple syrup provides a sticky sweetness to the sauce.
Meanwhile, add 1 cup of barbecue sauce to a small saucepan over low heat. Add in the butter and maple syrup. Stir until the butter has melted and the sauce is warmed through; about 5 to 7 minutes. Turn off the heat.
Remove the burnt ends from the smoker and place them inside an aluminum pan. Pour the sauce over the burnt ends. Use tongs to toss the burnt ends in the sauce.
Bring the burnt ends to simmer in the sauce. Allow them to simmer for another 60 to 90 minutes, maintaining the low and slow heat. Toss the burnt ends every 15 to 20 minutes. The purpose of braising is to render the fat from the pork belly and binds the sauce with a delicious smoky flavor.
#6 TEST FOR DONENESS
Check for doneness using an instant-read digital meat thermometer to check the internal temperature of the cubes. They are done when they read about 190 degrees F when pierced into the center of the cube.
You can also test the burnt ends with a toothpick. If the toothpick goes in and come out without resistance, they are done.
#7 SERVE EM HOT!
Remove the pan from the smoker and serve!
Wood For Smoking: We used applewood, but hickory, pecan, maple or any of the fruit wood varieties work well. Barbecue Sauce:We have a secret recipe for BBQ sauce made up of butter, ketchup, vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, mustard, sugar, salt, and pepper. [Click HERE for a classic barbecue sauce recipe.]Digital Meat Thermometers: Knowing the temp in your grill is crucial, so if your grill doesn’t have a temperature gauge, purchase a digital BBQ thermometer. David uses a Thermoworks Smoke™ thermometer. This thermometer has 2 channels, one for the meat and one for the smoker, with a remote control. David loves it. Having the remote control saved him a lot of worrying about the smoker temperature. The alarm sounds each time it falls below or rises above the ideal smoking temperature. If you are a serious pit master, we highly recommend it.David also uses a Thermapen Mk4 digital instant-read meat thermometer, by Thermoworks, to test for doneness.
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