This simple smoker recipe teaches you how to make crisp and crackly pork belly burnt ends. Seasoned with a smoky dry rub and finished with BBQ sauce, it’s an always crowd-pleasing snack, small plate, or appetizer.
While similar to pork belly, these crispy and crackly bites of smoky goodness are loaded with flavor and deceptively fun to make (seriously!). Honestly, they are even more delicious!
Table of Contents
Why this recipe works
I love whipping out my Traeger grill to make these mouthwatering bites which are deceptively easy to whip up.
- Perfect texture. Smoking the burnt ends results in maximum tenderness and an irresistible CRUNCH.
- Incredible flavor. While pork belly is decadent on its own, a simple dry rub and a rich finishing glaze take this recipe to the next level.
- Crowd-pleasing party food. There is a reason why this is the FIRST dish that gets polished off at every event I bring it to!
What are burnt ends?
Burnt ends are a popular BBQ dish made from slow-smoked cubed meat (usually brisket or pork) that is glazed in a sweet sauce and then caramelized.
Smoked pork belly burnt ends are so easy, and besides brown sugar and spices, there isn’t much else that is needed to make. Here is what you’ll need:
- Pork belly. Opt for a well-marbled slab of pork belly without the skin.
- Brown sugar. The sugar adds sweetness to the dry rub and helps form a caramelized crust around the meat. Either light or dark brown sugar works.
- Dry spices. The rest of the pork dry rub is made with paprika, red chili pepper, onion powder, garlic powder, salt, and black pepper. If you are a little wary of the hot spices, don’t fret- it only adds a subtle heat that enhances the dish.
- BBQ sauce. Use your favorite store-bought or homemade BBQ sauce to brush over the burnt ends.
- Honey and brown sugar. These two enhance the barbecue glaze and help form a flavorful, crispy exterior layer known as the “bark.”
- Butter. For a rich flavor and mouthfeel.
How to make pork belly burnt ends
Traeger pork belly burnt ends are so easy: just remember to pat dry the pork completely before seasoning it.
- Season the pork belly: Mix the pork belly dry rub ingredients in a small bowl. Cut the pork belly slab into bite-sized cubes and rub them with the seasoning mixture.
- Smoke the pork belly: Place the pork belly pieces on a wire rack, then cook them in the smoker until the meat takes on a dark red color.
- Add the sauce: Transfer the pork to an aluminum dish. Add the BBQ sauce, brown sugar, honey, and butter.
- Continue smoking: Cover the pan with foil and continue smoking until the meat has an internal temperature of 200ºF.
- Make it crispy: Finally, remove the foil and continue smoking for 10 minutes to help thicken the glaze and to get the burnt ends crispy. Serve and enjoy!
Can you bake this?
Did you know pork belly burnt ends can be baked in the oven? Here is the process to do so:
- Preheat oven to 275°F (135°C).
- Season pork belly cubes with dry rub.
- Bake for 2.5-3 hours.
- Glaze pork belly, then bake for an additional 20-30 minutes.
Just remember to check the internal temperature of the pork. Fully cooked pork should be 200°F.
Tips to make the best recipe
- Always pat the meat dry: Use paper towels to pat the pork belly dry before applying the dry rub. This helps the rub stick to the meat and will give you crispier results.
- Apply the rub in advance: Did you know that you can deepen the flavors by rubbing the pork belly dry rub over the meat a few hours before or the night before cooking? We often do this and notice a huge difference in flavor.
- Use mild wood chips: Mild fruit woods, like apple, cherry, or pecan, complement the delicate flavor of the pork belly. I recommend avoiding stronger varieties of wood, like mesquite and hickory. These can sometimes be a little too overpowering.
- Rest before serving: When the burnt ends are done, remove them from the smoker and let them rest for 15 to 20 minutes. This gives the juices time to soak back into the meat, resulting in a more flavorful and succulent dish. Yes, I know it’s hard to resist, but trust me: it is worth it!
Put your own spin on this recipe by customizing the spice rubs or sauces:
Dry rub spices: Mix and match the seasonings in the dry rub to find your perfect flavor. For more heat, add cayenne pepper or red pepper flakes. I love warmth and smokiness, so often add cumin and/or mustard powder.
Glaze: The honey, brown sugar, and butter in the finishing glaze are non-negotiable. You can, however, swap the BBQ sauce for any sweet and savory sauce.
To store: Once cooled, refrigerate the pork belly pieces in an airtight container for 3 to 4 days.
To freeze: If you want to freeze leftover burnt ends, let them cool, then wrap them in foil or plastic and place them in a ziplock bag. Freeze for up to 3 months. Thaw in the fridge overnight before reheating.
To reheat: You can reheat the pork in a baking dish in a 350ºF oven until they’re warmed through.
More smoky barbecue recipes
Frequently asked questions
It’s up to you! I like to remove the pork skin because it can be pretty tough and chewy. Plus, without the skin, the spice rub sticks easily, and the smoke better penetrates the meat, resulting in a more flavorful finished dish.
Pork belly burnt ends must be cooked low and slow so they can stay tender. Leaving them in the smoker for too long or cooking them at too high of a temperature will cause the fat and moisture to render out, leaving the meat tough and dry.
Yes, you can overcook pork belly burnt ends. It’s important to keep an eye on the smoker and use a reliable meat thermometer to avoid overcooking. You want the pork to be cooked to an internal temperature of 195ºF to 205°F (90ºC to 96°C).
Pork Belly Burnt Ends
- Preheat the smoker to 250F.
- Cut the meat into 2-inch cubes.
- In a small bowl, combine the brown sugar, paprika, salt, red chili pepper, onion, garlic and pepper. Rub the meat with the spice mixture to cover it well.
- Place the meat on a wire rack and place it on the smoker for 2 hours or until it gets a dark red color.
- Transfer the pork to an aluminum dish and add BBQ sauce, brown sugar, honey, and butter.
- Cover with foil and return to the smoker for another 60 minutes until the meat reaches an internal temperature of 200F.
- Remove the foil and cook for another 10 minutes to crisp the meat and thicken the sauce.
- Preheat oven to 275°F (135°C).
- Season the pork as instructed.
- Line on a large baking sheet and bake for 2 1/2 hours.
- Toss through the barbecue sauce, brown sugar, honey, and butter.
- Place back in the oven and bake for another 20-30 minutes, or until crispy.
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