I wanted to make the half a pig’s head from The Greenhouse Tavern, Jonathon Sawyer’s monument to tender, fatty, crispy pork. He slow cooks the head, basting it with barbecue sauce. The half head is presented on a platter, with a plate of buns and a pile of crisp raw vegetables. You take it from there – shred the skin, meat, and fat from the head and use it to build sandwiches, with the crisp vegetables to help cut the fattiness of the pork.
Unfortunately, a pig head is not going to work in my back yard. The snout, the floppy ears, the wails of “it’s staring at me”…it’s too much for the kids.
*I took my 11 year old to the butcher. “Darn,” I said, “they don’t have pig’s heads today.” He looked at me like I was insane.
My solution? Pork belly. Almost as fatty as a pig’s head, it has the same tender meat and crisp skin. I cook my pork belly on the rotisserie, of course, but if you don’t have a rotisserie, check out the “No rotisserie? No worries.” section in the variations.
Recipe: Rotisserie Barbecued Pork Belly
Inspired by: Jonathon Sawyer The Greenhouse Tavern
Cooking time: 4 hours
- Grill with Rotisserie attachment (I used a Weber Summit with an infrared rotisserie burner. Here is the current version of my grill.)
- Aluminum foil drip pan (9″x12″, or whatever fits your grill)
- Butcher’s twine
- 6 pound pork belly, skin on
- 2 quarts water
- 1/2 cup kosher salt (1/4 cup table salt)
- 1/4 cup brown sugar
- 2 teaspoons paprika
- 1 teaspoon granulated garlic
- 1 teaspoon granulated onion
- 1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
- Hamburger buns
- Barbecue sauce (Store bought or homemade)
- Thin-sliced napa cabbage
- Thin-sliced red onion
1. Brine the pork belly
Mix the brine ingredients in a large container until the salt and sugar dissolve. Score the skin and meat in a 1 inch diamond pattern, then submerge the pork belly in the brine. Refrigerate for 4 to 8 hours.
2. Prepare the pork belly
One hour before cooking, remove the belly from the brine and pat dry. Mix the rub ingredients in a small bowl, then sprinkle over the meat side of the belly. Roll the belly into a cylinder, with the skin facing out, then truss every two inches along its length. Skewer the belly with the rotisserie spit and secure it with the spit forks, then let it rest at room temperature until it is time to grill.
3. Prepare the grill
Set the grill up for rotisserie cooking on medium-low heat, about 300°F. For my Weber Summit, this means removing the grates, turning the two outer burners (burners 1 and 6) to medium, and leaving the infrared burner off. Then I put my drip pan in the middle, over the unlit burners, and preheat the grill for ten to fifteen minutes. (See rotisserie poultry basics for more rotisserie setup details.)
4. Rotisserie the pork belly
Put the spit on the rotisserie, turn on the motor to start it spinning, and close the lid. Cook on until the pork belly measures 190°F in its thickest part, about four hours. The skin should be nicely browned at this point. To get the skin extra crispy, you want it to blister. Turn the grill up to high heat (add more coals, or turn up the burners and turn on on the infrared rotisserie burner if you have one) and cook for another ten to fifteen minutes, until the skin starts to bubble and blister.
Remove the spit from the grill, remove the pork belly from the spit, and remove the twine from the belly. Let the belly rest for fifteen minutes. Slice the belly with a serrated knife, which helps cut through the crunchy skin. Serve as sandwiches, topping with barbecue sauce and crunchy vegetables.
- No rotisserie? No worries. Brine, rub and truss the pork. Set your grill up for indirect cooking on medium-low heat, with the drip pan under the grill grates. Put the pork over the drip pan and cook, turning once an hour, for the four hour cooking time. To crisp up the skin, move the pork belly over direct heat, turning every minute or two. Continue with the “serve” step.
- I was torn about brushing the barbecue sauce on the pork belly as a glaze, or serving it on the side. I went with on the side, to keep the pork skin as crispy as possible.
- If you get a smaller piece of pork belly, don’t bother rolling it up. My first rotisserie pork belly was a 1 1/2 pounder, which was the perfect size to skewer as a flat piece.
- Special thanks to Sherman Provision for the beautiful piece of pork
What do you think? Questions? Other ideas? Leave them in the comments section below.
Jonathon Sawyer The Greenhouse Tavern
|Check out my cookbook, Rotisserie Grilling.
Everything you could ask about the rotisserie,
It’s available in paperback, and as a Kindle e-book, so you can download it and start reading immediately!
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