Pork belly is popular among foodies, pitmasters and professional chefs.
I think one of the best ways to cook pork belly is by smoking it, which imparts a smoky flavor and tender texture to the meat.
However to get the best results from a smoked pork belly, you need to choose the right smoking wood.
There are many varieties out there and each with natural flavors suited to your pallet.
So what is the best wood for my smoked pork belly recipe?
Let’s take a look!
Table of contents
The Best Type of Wood for Smoking Pork Belly
Many chefs and experts suggest that pork works well with mild types of wood
But I think we can agree that ‘best’ can be subjective! I think it’s based heavily on personal taste and experience and the ingredient being smoked.
So I broken up the section below into three sections and made recommendations from each category.
1. Wood Chips or Pellets for a Sweet Mild Flavor
2.Wood Chips or Pellets for a Balanced & Milder Flavor
3. Wood Chips or Pellets for a Strong Smoke Flavor
A Quick Note On Smoking Pork Belly
A beautiful pork belly has a very high-fat ratio and these layers of fat will hold onto the smoke flavor better than meat?
The smoke binds to molecules in the fat for bold flavors.
You should always apply a rub to your pork belly before cooking. This helps to tenderize the pork belly and add flavor.
A Quick Note on Hardwood Pellets & Hardwood Chips
– Hardwood pellets are compressed sawdust made specifically for pellet smokers.
They have a longer burning time and do not need to be soaked before use.
– Wood chips are wood offcuts and can be spread onto hot coals or in a smoke box.
Traditionally used for charcoal smokers and electric grills.
Wood chips burn quickly and should be soaked in water a day before you plan on cooking.
My Favorite Mild Flavoured Wood Chips/ Pellets
Apple wood is the most popular pick for smoking any cut of pork.
This wood has a neutral and sweet taste, producing a light smoky flavor.
Cherry wood chips are another great choice for smoking pork belly.
Cherry hardwoods will enhance the taste= without overpowering.
This is a good pick if you don’t want a smoky and assertive flavor in your belly.
I like to use cherrywood for my smoked pork belly burnt ends. It allows the natural flavor to shine though but you still get that smoky flavor
Wood Chips or Pellets for a Balanced & Milder Flavor
Orange wood is less common but pairs well with pork belly.
The light and citrus notes from the mild/medium smoke gives a tasty tang to the dish.
Like cherry, mix this type with a stronger flavored wood for complex flavor profiles.
The flavor profile of maple pellets is mild and sweet, with hints of caramel and toffee.
Like apple chips, maple-flavored wood will sweeten up your tender pork belly.
Maple pellets are a great choice for smoking as they provide a subtle sweetness.
Pecan has a milder smoke flavor than other woods that pair nicely with the savory taste of pork.
This wood are widely available and popular for infusing meat with flavors.
Sweet and mild with black pepper notes, consider smoking pork belly with pecan.
This will not overpower the natural pork flavor.
Wood Chips or Pellets for a Strong Assertive Smoke Flavor
Oak has a heavy smoky flavor that can add intense flavors to the pork.
A small cup of wood goes a long way and infuses an almost spicy and earthy flavor.
Consider using it in moderation as it can overpower the taste of the pork if too much is used.
A combination of oak and lighter wood can help to balance out the flavor profile.
A strong and bold tasting wood for a dense and hearty flavor.
Hickory wood pellets have intense flavor profiles.
Mix hickory with apple wood to get a balanced flavor in your pieces of pork belly.
Looking for a strong flavor to infuse in your pork belly?
Mesquite goes well with pork belly however I would suggest mixing it with cherrywood for a balanced flavor.
The Importance of Burning Industrial Wood Pellets & Chips
Industrial wood is made for the food industry and passes safety regulations. You shouldn’t use burn wood that has not been processed for consumption. Doing so can result in serious illness from additives or bacteria.
Smoking Process Tips For Pork Belly
– The internal temperature before consumption of pork belly is 145°F.
– Use a meat probe to accurately monitor the temperature.
– Remove the skin from pork belly before smoking to ensure even heat distrubution.
– Smoking pork belly at 225°F will take 20 minutes per pound.
– Cook the pork belly with indirect heat on the smoker grate furthest away from the heat source.
– Season the remaining fat liberally with kosher salt and veg oil for great crackling.
– Consider cutting down the slab into pork belly cubes for a delicious appertizer.
– Wrap in aluminum foil to avoid meat drying through cooking.
Author: Charlie Reeves
Hi, I’m Charlie, I am head taste tester at Simply Meat Smoking! I love it grilling, smoking, and getting out in the yard with the kids! The family also love to test all my recipes (especially my EXTRA CRISPY pulled pork, smoky pork loin, and ANY SEAFOOD I grill)
You will usually find me playing with the kids, perfecting my brisket bark, or sipping beers with boys around the fire. Can’t wait to share all my delicious smoking and grilling adventures with you!
You can read more on our About Us page.
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