Pork belly burnt ends may become your favourite thing to serve off your BBQ or smoker. ‘Burnt Ends’ started out as a Pitmaster’s snack. Like a “baker’s dozen” for BBQ. It all started with beef brisket, and morphed to pork due to the similarities in protein structure and fat makeup. They are also called the “poor man’s burnt ends”, but don’t let the name fool you. It just might be the best thing to come out of a pit or BBQ without busting the bank.
Quick Disclaimer About What We Do Here
Not certain if we’ve made it clear enough here at “Getting Sauced” when it comes to our modus operandi with recipes/how-to’s. Speaking with just about everyone I know, when you google a recipe/method for cooking, you just want the goods. Nothing drives a cook more nutty than googling a recipe, then needing to wade through the soap opera attached by the author. Becky Butterworth says this recipe reminds her of her Grandma’s emergency hysterectomy, and here’s all the gnarly details of it before we tell you how to make pierogi filling. We try to keep the food rich, but the articles fat-free.
That Being said, “Burnt Ends” have a cool history I can sum up in a paragraph.
It all began at Arthur Bryant’s Barbeque, a legendary African American restaurant in Kansas City, Missouri, which Bryant ran from 1946 until he died in 1982. Barbecue restaurateurs who sold brisket used to cut off and throw away the burnt ends before they chopped or sliced the remaining brisket for serving. They assumed that no one would want to eat them. Bryant’s stroke of genius was to save those scraps, chop them up, and hand them out as a free snack to customers while they waited for their orders. He realized that the crispy, rendered fat and bits of smoked meat are irresistible.
Enough story time. Pitter patter. If you have a (friend with) Costco membership, hands down this is the best place to buy pork belly. Costco meat is aces, by the way. They don’t mess with quality, even though they are a big box place. Their pork is great quality, it comes skinned and sliced and super cheap. Pork belly freezes well too, so don’t be shy. This picture is about $25cdn worth of pork belly. If it’s just Ashley, Kaylee and I, we use two (MAYBE three) of these strips and there are always leftovers.
Cut Strips into cubes and Season
Today, we’re making “Texas Gold Burnt Ends.” They are simple. The rub is just my signature SPG recipe you can find here.
Once you have them rubbed well, get your grill/smoker pre-heated to 250°F. Maple or Pecan smoke are stellar for this dish. Stay away from the mesquite or other heavy flavours. Pork, fish and chicken do well with fruit and nut hardwoods. We’ll do a post on that later. Place the cubes on the rack and walk away slowly. You’re opening that lid every hour to give em a quick spritz of ACV (apple cider vinegar) and closing it. These morsels need about 4-5 hours of smoke to render the fat into a liquid gold that forms a razor-thin crust that literally explodes in your mouth when you bite into it.
Head back to the kitchen and prep the sauce
Texas Gold is usually just a description for Spicy Honey Garlic Chicken Wings. Not today, friendo. It’s going to transform this pork belly into a gooey, sweet and sticky explosive little pillow with a bit of a bite, made with super simple ingredients. Rub, honey, garlic, soy sauce and brown sugar.
In a saucepan, combine:
- 1 Cup Filtered (or melted raw) Honey
- 1\4 Cup Low Sodium (green cap) Soy Sauce. The table stuff is really salty. It will work, but you may need to water it down a bit.
- 2 Tbsp Chopped Garlic (You can use the lazy store bought stuff in the jar, or chop and roast some off for an even deeper flavour. Your call.)
- 1 Tsp cayenne pepper powder (or ancho, or chipotle, or whatever flavour you love most.) Add more for heat.
- 2 Tbsp Brown Sugar
- 1 Tsp Black Pepper
On really low heat (like 2-3 max on a stove) stir together constantly until the sugar dissolves. Let stand for at least an hour to let the flavours blend and spices to soak in.
Honey is The Secret to Good Sweet n’ Sticky BBQ
Why? It doesn’t burn bitter like sugar does. Sugar has a burn point of about 350° where it turns acrid and bitter. Honey on the other hand does degrade at a lower temp, but doesn’t get nasty. That’s why we add the brown sugar (molasses & refined sugar) to give it a little crutch. We aren’t hitting those temps here though, so not to worry. This is why we don’t make the sauce at high heat, by the way.
At around 3.5 hours, you’re gonna want to slather the hell out of these things with that delicious sauce you just made. Leave them on the grate for another hour to allow them to caramelize and get sticky.
Remove from the smoker once they are sticky. Let them rest uncovered at room temp for about 15 minutes and serve with Jalapeno Bacon Cheddar Cornbread and Maple Garlic & Red Pepper Sticky Beans. What are those? Oh baby… Stay tuned for Ashley’s recipe next!
Cheers to you, and big ups to Arthur Bryant, the BBQ Pitmaster Legend,