How to Brine & Smoke Pork Belly

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Cured and smoked pork belly takes on flavors redolent of the hardwood used to smoke it.
Cured and smoked pork belly takes on flavors redolent of the hardwood used to smoke it. (Image: Jupiterimages/Photos.com/Getty Images)

The technique for curing and smoking pork belly entails a three-day brining process, which preserves the pork, and an eight-hour smoking session, for flavoring and further preservation. Curing and smoking pork belly at home typically produces a higher quality of bacon than that of commercially available products, and does not rely on the addition of nitrates and nitrites for preservation.

Things You'll Need

  • 1 cup white granulated sugar
  • 1 cup kosher salt
  • 4-gallon stainless steel pot
  • 1/2 gallon apple cider (optional)
  • 8 oz. molasses (optional)
  • Plastic or glass storage container
  • Wire rack
  • Sheet pan
  • Fan
  • Smoking hanger
  • Hardwood chips for smoking, such as maple, apple or cherry

Add 1 gallon of water, 1 cup sugar and 1 cup kosher salt to a 4 gallon stainless steel pot. Stir to incorporate. Options for the basic brine include substituting 1/2 gallon of apple cider for an equal amount of water and adding 8 oz. of molasses.

Bring the brine to a boil and stir. Remove the brine from heat, allow it cool and place in a plastic or glass storage container in the refrigerator. Allow the brine to cool to 40 degrees Fahrenheit.

Distribute 2 tbsp. freshly ground black pepper over a pork belly chilled to 40 degrees Fahrenheit and press to incorporate. Place the pork belly in the brine and refrigerate for three days between 36 degrees Fahrenheit and 38 degrees Fahrenheit. Turn the pork over daily for even curing.

Rinse the pork belly with water and dry with paper towels. Place the pork on a wire rack placed over a sheet pan. Air-dry the pork further with the aid of a household fan for 30 minutes on each side. Pellicle, a thin, sticky membrane composed of protein, will form on the pork’s surface when adequately dried.

Hang the pork belly on a smoking hanger and cold-smoke it at 80 degrees Fahrenheit in an outdoor smoker. Types of wood commonly used to smoke pork include maple, hickory, apple, cherry and mesquite.

Smoke the pork for approximately eight hours or until its surface reaches a golden-brown color.

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