Traeger BBQ Recipes – Smoked Pork Belly Burnt Ends

Pork Belly Burnt Ends are one of the most delicious appetizers you will ever make in your Traeger pellet grill. The next time you’re asked to bring something to a barbecue, a tray of this ‘meat candy’ will make you the star of the party. Pork Belly Burnt Ends are easy to prepare and you could finish the entire process within 3-hours. I wanted to become a master of this dish, so asked some pitmasters how they smoke this pork deliciously using a Traeger or pellet smoker.

1. Buy a Whole Pork Belly

Pork burnt ends are made from the pork belly, the same cut of pork used to make bacon. To make Pork Belly Burnt ends, you will need to buy a whole pork belly from your butcher. Have the skin removed if possible, otherwise you can skin the meat yourself once you get home and cook the crackling separately. Select a belly with a good ratio of meat and fat. The thing that makes this appetizer so delicious is the fat, but you want a bit of meat on there as well.

Whole pork belly with skin on

2. Cut The Pork Belly Into 2 x 2 Inch Cubes

You can buy pork belly that has already been cut into long strips. To turn pork strips into burnt ends, all you need to do is remove the skin on each strip, then cut them into cubes. If you buy pork belly strips, make sure they are about 2 inches thick otherwise they won’t make good burnt ends.

Cutting the belly yourself will give you full control over the size. You will need to allow for shrinkage, so make the cubes 2 inches by 2 inches. A whole belly should weigh between 10-12 pounds and cost $30 -$40. A whole belly will make enough burnt ends for a large gathering, but most recipes call for 2-5 pounds of pork belly.

Pork belly cut into 2×2 inch cubes

How To Prepare Pork Belly For Burnt Ends

  1. Remove the skin from the belly, because the smoke and flavor can’t penetrate the rind.
  2. Trim the pork belly, removing any excess fat.
  3. Slice the pork belly into strips, then cubes. I’ve heard people cut one by one-inch cubes, but most pitmasters go bigger with two by two-inch cubes to allow for shrinkage (see video below for demonstration).

3. Apply a Barbecue Rub to the Pork Cubes

Once you’ve cut the pork belly into cubes, apply a decent covering of your favorite pork rub or whatever seasoning you prefer. If you like chilli powder, this is when to mix it in. Make sure the rub and seasoning cover every cube of pork, so it has a nice coating. Once you have applied the rub, let it sit for at least 15-minutes, but longer is better. Some people place the pork cubes in a zip-lock bag overnight to allow the rub to penetrate the meat.

What’s the Best Rub for Pork Belly Burnt Ends?

There are a number of good pre-made rubs on the market, and I can recommend barbeque competitor Harry Soo’s championship rubs here, or BBQ Guru Malcolm Reed’s Killer Hogs rubs here. Sweet always goes well with pork, so add some brown sugar if that’s your preference.

If you prefer to make your own seasoning rather than used a store-bought rub, a basic homemade seasoning includes a mix of:

  • Kosher salt
  • Pepper
  • Garlic powder
  • Onion powder
  • Chilli powder
  • Brown sugar

The best rub recipe I have found, check the video below posted on How To BBQ Right. I use this recipe on all my meats, but alter the ingredients for my own liking. This recipe is a good foundation to make any rub and can be altered for specific meats. For pork, I add in more sugar, but for beef I add in less sugar. This recipe contains lots of spice, so I only use about 1/4 of the chilli, paprika and cayenne pepper.

4. Place Pork Cubes On An Airing Rack

Before you put the pork cubes into the Traeger, make life easier for yourself by using an airing rack rather than placing each individual cube onto the Traeger grill grate. If you lay the pork cubes directly onto the grill on your smoker, you’re going to have a hard time transferring the meat, and the lid to your pellet grill will be open for too long causing massive temperature swings. If you don’t have an airing rack, just use a spare grill grate that can fit inside your Traeger. Otherwise, buy an airing rack from a cookware store or on Amazon here.

5. Set The Traeger Between 250°F and 275°F

The best temperature for pork belly burnt ends is between 250°F and 275°F. Some pitmasters start lower, in the 180°F range, to allow more time for the pork to absorb smoke flavor, and this is something you can experiment with. We don’t want to cook our pork belly too high because we want to give the fat on the belly a chance to melt. The low-and-slow temperature is very important so we can get the right chewy texture.

6. Add Smoking Wood

Choose any wood that blends well with pork such as apple or cherry. You can use a stronger wood like hickory or mesquite if you like bold smoke flavors. Wood choice is like rub choice, it all comes down to individual taste preference. Experiment with wood until you find the right flavor profile.

WoodFlavor Description
AppleMild Has a hint of sweetness. Safe to use on any meat,
but blends particularly well with pork.
CherryMild Great to mix 50/50 with other woods. Adds a dark color to meat. Another wood perfect for pork.
HickoryStrongA strong smoke flavor. May overpower pork belly, so perhaps mix hickory 50/50 with a fruit wood such as apple or cherry.
PecanModerateA safe smoking wood that blends well with pork. Has a slight nutty flavor. Mixes well with fruit woods.
Smoking Wood

7. Smoke The Pork Cubes For 1.5 Hours

Place the airing tray with the pork belly cubes into the Traeger and cook for about 1.5 hours. Open the lid and check the pork cubes, and they should have dried and have a reddish color depending on your rub. Pitmasters do varying things at this point; some will spritz with apple juice or apple cider vinegar, others will place them in an aluminium pan and add butter. Either way, the pork should nearly be done at this stage, so they need to be monitored carefully. Check them every 30-minutes until the cubes are tender. You can probe them with an instant-read thermometer and look for an internal temperature of around 200°F, or you can gauge the doneness by probing and feel. Once they are done, remove the rack from the grill.

8. Apply Barbecue Sauce To The Pork Belly

The last stage of the cook is applying the glaze.

  • Remove the pork belly cubes from the airing rack and place them in an aluminium pan.
  • Apply some more rub and nearly every recipe will drizzle honey onto the cubes in this final stage of the cook because sweetness is key to this barbecue dish.
  • The next step is to add a barbecue sauce into the tray and mix it all around until it coats every pork cube in sauce. As with the rub, people use all kinds of different barbecue sauces for the glaze. So add your favorite barbecue sauce. I like to use the same barbecue sauce I use with pork ribs.

The 4 Best Barbecue Sauces For Burnt Ends

  1. Sweet Baby Ray’s Honey Chipotle Barbecue Sauce (see here)
  2. Stubb’s Original Bar-B-Q Sauce (see here)
  3. G Hughes Smokehouse BBQ Sauce (see here)
  4. Rufus Teague Whiskey Maple BBQ Sauce (see here)

9. Cook For Another 15 Minutes To Set The Glaze

The last step is to set the glaze by placing the tray back into the Traeger for a short stint. Once you have placed the pork cubes into a tray and added the sauce, place the pork belly back into the smoker for 15-25 minutes. After 15-minutes, the glaze should have set and caramelized, giving the pork belly burnt ends the chewy, sticky texture that we are all trying to achieve.

About The Pork Belly

Pork belly is a fatty cut of pork, taken from the abdomen of a pig. It contains a 50/50 fat to meat ratio, which is why it has so much flavor. Pork belly is used to make bacon, and is extremely popular in Asian cooking.

How To Serve Pork Belly Burnt Ends

  • Smoked baked beans
  • Coleslaw.
  • Salad.
  • Smoked sweet potatoes
  • Mac and cheese
  • Mashed Potatoes
  • Cornbread
  • Vegetables

The Best Dry Rubs On The Market

Dry RubMSGSizeDescriptionIngredientsPriceWhere To Buy
Killer HogsYes12 OzChampionship winning rub made by Malcolm Reed, the guy with the number 1 barbecue YouTube channel ‘How To BBQ Right’. Brown sugar, sugar, paprika, salt, spices, dehydrated garlic, oleoresin paprika, dehydrated orange peel, natural flavor, and less than 2% tricalcium phosphate added to prevent caking$20Amazon
Slap Yo Daddy All Purpose RubNo12 OzMultiple barbecue world champion Harry Soo now shares his competition-winning secrets with his line of barbecue rubs. Sea salt, cane sugar, garlic, chili powder, paprika, cumin, chipotle powder, black pepper, rosemary, cayenne pepper, rice concentrate, spices, parsley flakes, natural flavors

Meat ChurchNo14 OzWell respected name in barbecue. Southwestern style rub. Versatile, works on beef, chicken, pork and seafood. Adds great color to your meat.Sugar, salt, spices including paprika, dextrose, dehydrated garlic, celery, silicone dioxide & spice extractives. Gluten free. No MSG.$15Amazon
Butcher BBQNo16 OzWorks on great on beef, pork, chicken, wild game, and vegetables. Championship winning formula made by David Bouska, World BBQ Champion and featured on TV show Barbecue Pitmasters. Sugar, salt, garlic, onion, spices, lemon powder, corn syrup solids, natural flavors and BHA as an antioxidant$20Amazon
Kosmos Killer Bee Honey Rub13 OzAward winning rub. Sweet, savory rub. Works well on brisket, chicken and pork.Sugar, Salt, Honey Powder (Refined Syrup, Honey), Spices Including Paprika, Dextrose, Dehydrated Garlic, Celery, No Greater Than 2% Silicon Dioxide To Prevent Caking, And Extractive of Paprika$16Amazon
Killer Hogs Texas Brisket RubYes16 ozAward-winning Championship brisket rub made by barbecue guru Malcolm Reed. Salt, spices, dehydrated garlic, dehydrated onion, dehydrated parsley, refined soybean oil, and less than 2% calcium silicate added to prevent caking$20Amazon
McCormick Montreal Steak SeasoningNo29 ozMade with all natural herbs and spices. Very popular seasoning from a well-known brand. Garlic, extractives of paprika, and coarsely ground pepper.$20Amazon
Dry Rub Comparison

My Favorite Meat Smoking Tools

Thanks for checking out this article. I hope you learned a few things. Here are some of my favorite tools I use when smoking brisket that may be useful to you. These are affiliate links, so if you decide to purchase any of these products, I’ll earn a commission. But in all honesty, these are the tools I recommend to my family and friends who are just starting out.

Meat Thermometer: There are dozens of fancy thermometers on the market, but I still use my trusty TP20. For around $50, I have a high-quality meat thermometer with two probes, and can track the temperature of my smoker with one probe, and my meat with the other probe. The ThermoPro TP20 is an Amazon Best Seller because it’s the easiest thermometer to operate, is durable, highly accurate, and comes with pre-programmed meat settings.

Instant Read Thermometer: Arguably, the second most important tool you need is a fast and accurate instant-read thermometer. These tools play an important role in the latter stages of the cook when the meat needs regular checking in multiple areas. I use the ThermoPro TP19 because it can do everything a ThermaPen can do, but for a fraction of the cost. You can check out the TP19 on Amazon here.

Butcher Paper: Wrapping brisket in butcher paper has become a huge trend in barbeque thanks to Aaron Franklin. Wrapping your brisket in paper will give you a nice brisket bark. However, you can’t just use any old paper, it has to be unwaxed, food grade paper. You can find it on Amazon here.

Advanced Thermometer and Automatic Temperature Controller: Once you’re ready to take things seriously, the FireBoard 2 Drive is a six-channel Bluetooth/Wi-Fi thermometer that can monitor up to 6 pieces of meat, control and graph your cook sessions on your smartphone, and attaches to an an automatic blower that will convert your charcoal smoker to a set-and-forget. This is one of the most advanced meat thermometers on the market. You can check it out on the FireBoard website here.


27 Essential Tools Every Pitmaster Owns

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