My little boy is a pretty lucky kid. He ate at more world-ranked BBQ joints before the age of one than most people do in their whole lives, and at some of those more than once. He spends most of his time while I am on the grill or smoker with his nose pressed up against the patio door glass. He’s a kid who loves his ‘cue. Unsurprisingly, he also loves bacon (and now my Bacon Burnt Ends) and eats them with glee and an expression on his mug that we’ve come to jokingly call “bacon face”.
Given his love of BBQ and bacon, I was excited to be passing through Houston on a BBQ road trip this past year so I could stop at Heim’s BBQ and try their famous bacon burnt ends.
The name is sort of a misnomer. They’re not sliced thin like bacon, burnt to a crisp, or necessarily from the end of the pork belly. What they are is cured or dry brined pork belly, smoked to doneness, chunked, sauced, and cooked until the sauce coat is baked on like you would ribs. So, they’re basically heaven. They along with beef short ribs are my two favorite pieces of BBQ. (By the way, may I recommend our Texas Keto BBQ Sauce?)
So, I finally was going to get the Heim’s bacon burnt ends experience, except I had made a rookie BBQ fanboy error in planning the trip — always check the hours. Texas BBQ joints have a bit of a reputation for having random hours and open days. I managed to schedule our trip during one of these times. For the time being, I had to be satisfied with reading about them in Texas Monthly’s BBQ section and doing enough research to attempt what I feel is my own platonic ideal for smoked and chunked pork belly.
This recipe is the culmination of about a half dozen attempts and a few grease fires later, but my chief BBQ tester didn’t seem to mind at all.
Bacon Burnt Ends
Season meat liberally on both sides. Wrap and refrigerate at least three hours, and preferably overnight.
Set up your smoker or oven (oven-method here) for 225 degrees. Position the seasoned pork belly fat-side up in the smoker. Smoke until the internal temerature at the thickest part of the pork belly registers at least 165 degrees on an instant read thermometer. (I often go a little higher to 170-175 degrees for this application, as I like the pork belly a little more dense and rendered out.)
Remove meat from the smoker, wrap in aluminum foil, and let rest for an hour. I often will refrigerate at this point and tackle the rest another day.
Slice meat into chunks about 1-1 1/2" square and toss in bbq sauce.
Heat your grill for medium heat and spread the chunks out evenly over the surface. Cook the chunks until heated through and the sauce is baked on. If you like a thicker sauce coating, you can re-apply at this stage if you like.
Remove the chunks from the grill and let cool slightly before you cover so the sauce coating does not get gummy again. Serve with extra sauce on the side.
Pork belly at Costco generally comes in 8-10 lb packages. I generally take half and freeze half for later. As much as I love fatty pork, it is so rich that I get burnt out on it quickly.