How To Make Pork Belly Burnt Ends In The Oven

Have you had pork belly burnt ends? (Okay, they're not actually burnt, just deeply caramelized.) If not, get ready for some meat candy that is basically the love child of bacon and Laffy Taffy: crisp on the outside, tender on the inside, smoky, juicy, and utterly addictive. Normally, these little nuggets are made from cubed pork belly, cooked low and slow over a smoker, but this process isn't entirely necessary. Not only can you make them in the oven, you don't even have to sacrifice that hickory-infused deliciousness! 

Pork belly is that wonderfully marbled cut that, because of its fat content, needs to be essentially rendered through an extended, low-heat cooking process. You're probably most familiar with its most famous derivative, bacon. But whereas bacon is relatively thinly sliced, burnt ends are cubed, and therefore emerge with a different texture. Don't worry, they still have that melty, lightly crisp mouthfeel we've all come to love.

Oven-baked pork belly burnt ends

Although this dish is worth whatever resources required to make it, you might not own a smoker, or it might be too cold to fire it up, and yet you still have a jones for the burnt end. No problem! Cut the belly into one-inch cubes as normal, toss with a dry rub of your choice (it could be something as simple as kosher salt, freshly-ground black pepper, and paprika), and place in an aluminum pan. Instead of tossing this into a smoker, simply place it in an oven preheated to 275 degrees Fahrenheit for three hours, spritzing the little guys with apple cider vinegar every hour. Remove the pan, toss the cubes with your favorite barbecue sauce, then return to the oven for another half hour or so.

But wait, where's the smoke? Good question! You can either include a little liquid smoke along with the spice rub, and/or use smoked paprika. It's important not to overdo liquid smoke — a little goes a long way — but if used correctly, it's virtually indistinguishable from the real thing.