We haven’t yet gone so far down the pork belly rabbit hole that we need to change the name of this site to “the PorkBellyBlog,” but that’s only by a sheer act of will. It would be easy to put out blog post after blog post, each one detailing the nuances of a new pork belly recipe, re-iterating the essential thermal principles at play while dancing freely with flavors and textures. I mean, you’ve already seen us cook classic BBQ pork belly burnt ends, Asian-sticky pork belly burnt ends, Filipino adobo pork belly burnt ends, and Roman-accented porchetta—plus homemade bacon and even a crispy oven-roasted pork belly. But guess what? There’s no end in sight for one of our favorite cuts!
Today we bring you another amazing pork belly dish, one that goes the extra heart-clogging mile by actually battering and deep-frying those smoky-tender cubes. Yes, we’ll be smoking pork belly, cubing it, dipping it in a truly remarkable corn batter (made with extra corn), and frying them to a beautiful golden brown. Then we’ll dip them in barbecue sauce. Yum.
Here, we’ll talk about the right temps you need for pork-belly tenderness as well as for frying. To do so, we’ll be adapting our recipe from the culinary tempters at All Things BBQ. Smoked pork belly fritters, here we come!
Cooking pork belly on the smoker
As delicious as pork belly is, it is not as straightforward to cook as, say, a steak. However, the thermal principles at play are par for the course with BBQ. We need long, slow cooking to break down the collagen in the pork belly and to render down some of the fat. For this recipe, we cooked our pork belly at a very low 225°F (107°C), giving it plenty of time to absorb smoke and develop bark. If you want to speed up the cook a bit, you can push that smoking temp up to 250°F (121°C). You’ll save a little time and still get great flavor.
We used a 2.5″ needle probe in the pork belly while smoking it. We set our Smoke X2™ to 210°F (99°C) and let them cook. It takes 4–6 hours to get there. You can drop that finish temp a bit, depending on what texture you like. We took some off at 201°F (94°C) and still loved them!
If you have Billows™ BBQ-control Fan, this is a great time to get it out. Keeping the fire running while low is what Billows was made to do.
The best batter for pork belly fritters
Getting the batter right is very important. We want something thick enough to cling to and coat the pork, but not so thick that it’s lumpy or heavy. This batter hits all the right notes in all the right ways. It has cornmeal for crunch and texture, beer for taste and lightness, and creamed corn for a deeper corn flavor.
When you dip the pieces of pork belly (you will have cut the strips into pieces) into the batter, you’re likely to think that it’s too thin, that this just won’t do—I did! But it inflates beautifully and becomes light, almost airy, and perfect.
Of course, how the batter behaves is dependent on the temperature of the fry oil. The old instruction to flick a crumb or bit of batter into the oil to see if it sizzles just won’t do: batter and crumbs can sizzle at temperatures that are too hot for cooking properly and at temperatures that are too cold for cooking properly! A good thermometer is really necessary for any kind of repeatability. ChefAlarm is pretty much the best deep-frying thermometer you can get, and we used one in making these fritters. Set the high-temp alarm to 375°F (191°C) and the low-temp alarm to 350°F (177°C), then you can know how to adjust your flame to keep your frying oil right in the perfect temperature window, despite the drops in temperature when you add fritters.
The frying takes almost no time. The pork is already fully cooked, so all you need to do is cook and brown a thin coating of batter. It takes maybe a minute.
Why haven’t we cooked these before?
This recipe has one of the highest deliciousness-to-effort ratios of anything I’ve cooked in a long time. The hands-on work is mere minutes, and because I had Billows monitoring the pit temp, my smoking time was pretty well freed up. With ease of preparation, thermal guidance on how to get them right, and an incredibly tasty payoff, the only question left is Why didn’t we make these sooner?!? Some mysteries are too great to answer, I guess.
I hope you won’t make the same mistake and wait to make these any longer than necessary. Get some pork belly, get out your Smoke X2 and get cooking at your next opportunity. You will be glad you did, because, folks, these things are simply not to be missed.Print
Smoked pork belly, dipped in corn batter and deep-fried. Adapted from a recipe at All Things BBQ.
- 2 1/2 lb pork belly, cut into 1.5” strips
- Yellow mustard
- Your choice of BBQ rub—something both sweet and spicy is good
- ~2 quarts vegetable oil for frying
For the corn fritter batter:
- 1 C— minus 2 Tbsp—all-purpose flour
- 2/3 C cornmeal
- 1 Tbsp BBQ rub (something that is both salty and spicy is best)
- 3/4 tsp baking powder
- 1/2 tsp baking soda
- 1/2 C buttermilk
- 1/2 C creamed corn
- 1/2 C beer
Use your favorite BBQ sauce for dipping.
Smoke the pork belly
- Preheat your smoker to 225°F (107°C). Connect your Smoke X2 and Billows BBQ-control Fan to smoker and bring it up to temp. Add your choice of smoking wood. We used cherry.
- Apply just enough mustard to the pork belly to act as a binder.
- Season the pork belly strips generously with BBQ rub.
- Place the pork in the smoker. Insert a probe (we used a 2.5″ needle probe) into the thickest piece of pork belly.
- Set the high-temp alarm of your meat channel to 210°F (99°C) and smoke the meat. It should take 4–6 hours to get up to temp and become probe tender.
Prepare the batter and fry the fritters
- When the pork is nearly done, prepare to fry.
- In a medium-large bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients: flour, cornmeal, baking powder, baking soda, and BBQ rub.
- Add the buttermilk, creamed corn, and beer to the dry ingredients and whisk vigorously until well combined.
- Preheat 2–4 inches of oil in a heavy-bottomed pot. Do not fill it more than halfway. Clip a probe to the side of the pot and attach ChefAlarm. Set the high- and low-temp alarms to 375°F and 350°C (191°C and 177°C) respectively.
- Remove the temperature-verified pork from the smoker. Cut it into about 1-inch pieces.
- When the oil comes to temp, drop 5-8 pieces of pork into the batter. Coat them well and place them piece by piece in the oil.
- Allow the fritters to fry until golden brown and crispy-delicious. It will not take long!
- Use a kitchen spider to remove the fritters to a paper-towel-lined sheet tray to drain.
- When the oil comes back up to temperature, cook another round of fritters. Repeat until they are all cooked.
- Serve with your choice of BBQ sauce for dipping, then go buy more belly and get going on a second batch.
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