So today I wanted to smoke a pork belly but working on a Sunday means I either have to get up mega early to cook it before I go (not happening) or cook it when I get back meaning a late dinner (not terrible) or set the pit up to cook whilst I'm at work, ta da, seems like a plan. Soon we will have our own Barbecue Shack at the shop so I can cook it whilst at work but for now I decided to have faith and set the kettle (I'm waiting for my new pit to arrive) to cook low and slow whilst I'm at the shop serving you lot!
My Father in Law bought a pork belly and pinched some steaks off it and asked if I wanted to 'do whatever I do' with the rest.....yes please! So I trimmed the floppy bits and since it came from a shite supermarket the skin wasn't even attached so get rid of that and I ended up with a good looking piece of pork belly. The trim is in the freezer waiting for me to make venison sausages (it's buck season after all), I then made up a marinade to put the meat in overnight. 'Why marinade, there is no need' I hear you cry but for me it does a few things. Marinating imparts flavour, helps make the meat tender and keeps it moist whilst cooking plus it helps to break down the intermuscular tissue that can be a bit stringy. Plus why not, it can't do any harm only good. I like to marinade pork in orange juice as the acid helps to break down tough tissue plus pork and fruit is delicious. I add herbs and spices such as coriander, garlic and chilli flakes plus salt as the salt keeps moisture in whilst inside the meat keeping it moist during a long cook.
So this morning I removed the pork from the marinade and put it back in the fridge for an hour uncovered to form a bit of a pellicle which will not only help the rub stick but also the smoke to penetrate the meat. Then apply a liberal amount of your favourite rub which in my case is Angus & Oinks Fools Gold. You will see that the marinade was more herbs and spice than sweet and the Fools Gold will contrast this, I can't wait.
Believe it or not on the five or six years I have been barbecuing 'properly' I have never used the snake method as I like to tend my pit as I enjoy the cook. However today no one is home so the snake method it is. As you can see from the picture I have mixed some charcoal in with the briquettes, I don't wholly trust briquettes to ignite and burn properly whilst I'm not there so the charcoal is an insurance to ensure that they will burn and burn hot enough to cook the pork. I have also scattered whisky oak chips over the coals to offer some wood smoke flavour throughout the cook as the pit burns slowly through the coals, they should burn clean as they will be hot when they ignite.
I put a cast iron plate on the cook side of the pit then a water pan on top, this is to ensure that the air is forced up through the coals and convective heat is blown over the pork whilst that water pan is there more to catch drips of fat so that they don't smoke. The air flow in a kettle is in the centre of the pit and you get inconsistencies in heat this way so forcing the flow through the coals keeps the heat flowing over the meat, no cools zones! Now some will argue that fat dripping down and coming back up as smoke adds flavour, they would be right but as I'm not there and can't control it I don't want to upset the neighbours. My pits burn clean and there is normally very little smoke that you can see.
As I am writing this I am at work scribbling this drivel in between serving customers, I have no idea how the cook is going as Chris has nicked my Meater and we have sold out in the shop (typical) but I have faith that when I return home around 2:30 my pork belly will be smoked to perfection and delicious ready for Cubanos later (watch for that blog). If it isn't you won't be reading this as I would have took the blog down!! Is 2:30 pm to early for Cubanos at 5pm? No, I'll just wrap the pork in foil then an old towel (honest love it looked old to me) and put it in my cool box.....to keep it warm! Any hoo this will stay at an internal of around 65 C (150 F) until I slice it and fry it for Cubanos. Not got a cool box, we should be getting a quite well known make of them in the shop soon so watch this space.
Get out there folks and cook outside. Do it on charcoal and wood, (gas isn't proper barbecuing) and cook something tasty. I promise you it is simple and straight forward just don't rush your cook and it will be better than anything you cook inside. Oh and make sure that you cook plenty as everyone will want seconds!