Last year, my wife gave me a Camp Chef Smoke Pro DLX Pellet Grill for my birthday.
I’ve had a Weber Spirit grill for the last 10 years and it’s been a convenient grill to have. Convenient is the key word, as it starts fast, cooks evenly and well, however, it was missing something that I used to enjoy prior to that as I had a Weber Charcoal grill that always left the food tasting great but wasn’t the easiest grill to maintain or cook efficiently. The Camp Chef seems to have hit both marks, as it’s easy, convenient, cooks with wood smoke flavor, and now this year my wife surprised me with the side searing unit. I’ve played around with smoking different types of meat, but port still seems to be my favorite. I shop at Costco and every time I’ve been through the meat section, I noticed they had sliced porkbellies. I’ve typically grabbed the double pack of pork shoulder, but lately I’ve been playing with pork belly to try and get it close to candied bacon. I’ve been to a few places lately that serve this as a breakfast appetizer like at Cafe Hollander, or if you ever make it to Milwaukee’s Five O’Clock Steakhouse, they have a dinner appetizer that’s really more like super thick candied bacon. This has been my science project for the last couple tries to see how close I could come.
I’ve prepared this the same way both times, by layout out the pork belly on a cookie sheet and dry brining it by salting it with Pink Himalayan salt and putting in the fridge for about 30 minutes on each side. Then, I take some of the BBQ seasoning I get from Costco and sprinkle on both sides. Then off to the pellet grill, set on high smoke (Ron Popeil style – set it and forget it) which smokes at about 220 degrees for about 3-4 hours. I use a combination of the BBQ seasoning, water, brown sugar and organic apple cider vinegar to mop it about every 30 minutes. I’ve made this twice so far and both times worked out well with the exception that I dialed back the salt on the second go around. First time the pork bellies were on the smoker and then I took them off and cooked on my weber grill (before I got the searing accessory) while basting with a brown sugar and honey mixture. This turned out pretty good, but a little too salty. This last go around, I followed the same procedure, with the exception of using the new searing unit to give each side of the pork belly a good crisping while basting with the brown sugar and honey mixture. Once cooked, I usually take them off the grill and put in a resealable bag in the fridge and when ready to eat, I’ll take them out and pop them in the microwave for a minute and baste with some of the brown sugar and honey as more of a glaze drizzled over the top. I’ll continue to experiment with the glaze and seasonings used, possibly adding some cracked black pepper, but so far, this is a tasty treat that rivals some of the best bacon I’ve had, but I need to remember that it’s a treat and be cautious of over indulging.