How to get next-level Pork Crackling using a BBQ!

Who else just loves beautiful pork crackling? It’s one of those divine eats that in theory seems simple but in actual fact can be tricky to master!

So we’ve reached out to our #teamfiretribe who are master’s at Q to ask. We found the perfect person to help! Brother Mikey of The Shank Brothers BBQ QLD team fame, who has nailed this time and time again with a load of #instapork pics to prove it!

So get ready to rumble on your next cook following Brother Mikey’s tried and tested tips and tricks.

Firebrand: So brother Mikey, what’s the best cut that will give us that elusive perfect crackling? What do we ask for at our butcher’s? Are supermarket cuts OK to use? How much do we need?

Mikey: I always look for a nice fatty piece of pork belly, with good, even skin consistency. Fat is flavour and adds lubrication during a longer cook, meaning your pork will be super moist. I always support our local, independent butcher and buy the best piece of meat I can afford, remember, garbage in, garbage out!! One good 20x20cm piece of belly will more than happily feed 2-4 people.

Firebrand: How do you prepare the belly for best results? Is there a preferred seasoning? Any additional flavour combos that work?

Mikey: A big part of achieving killer crackling is in the prep, get your belly at least a day before you plan to BBQ it. Nothing ruins crackling more than wet, soggy skin, so the trick is to dry it out prior to cooking as best you can. First, pat it down with paper towels and then score the skin in a nice, fine, chequerboard pattern, then load up with salt. Place the pork in the fridge, uncovered for 24 hours. Just before cooking, wipe the excess salt off the skin, and give it a thin coat of oil and reapply another fresh dusting of salt. On the meat side of the belly, make a few deep cuts again forming a chequerboard pattern, but much bigger cubes this time. Get your favourite bbq rub and work it into the meat side – not the skin.

Firebrand: What type of BBQ can be used? What fuel do you prefer and whats the best set up?

Mikey: Pork belly can be done in any BBQ that can do hot, indirect style of cooking, my favourite is using either a kettle or a rotisserie. Prepare for a 4-5 hour cook time.  For that length of cook, the Firebrand Professional Briquettes are perfect for this job. I set up a couple of charcoal baskets full at either side of the BBQ, leaving room in the middle for the belly.  Place a foil pan under the belly to catch the drippings and make cleanup a lot easier!! The idea is to start your cook really hot, 450F (230°C) for the first hour or so, and then back your vents off a little and let it come down in temp a bit to around 300F (150°C)

Firebrand: What’s the best set up for beginners? Do you recommend any other equipment?

Mikey: For BBQ’rs of any level, I’d say a digital BBQ thermometer is a handy bit of kit! Even if it’s just used to probe the meat for tenderness, I like to take the internal temp to around 195F (90°C) for that wobbly, tender unctiousness! (We had to Google it too!)

Firerband: So what’s the optimal cooking time? How do you troubleshoot during the cook? How do you know when it’s the best time to take off the heat?

WARNING! The best tip EVER is coming up!!!!!!

Mikey: Once your internal hits the mark, you should also have great looking crackling, but don’t worry if not, there’s still a little hack you can do to save your bacon!! Grab a red-hot hex briquette in a set of tongs, and hold it just above the skin and watch it start to popcorn out like magic. You shouldn’t need to use this method, but it’s great to know you have a backup if all else fails. Take your belly off the BBQ and let it rest for 5-10 mins, this will also help set the crackle, and never wrap it to rest, we want that skin to stay dry!!

Firebrand: Any tips on the best way to slice and serve? What’re your favourite sides to have with pork belly?

Mikey: Get yourself a big, sharp knife, like a Santoku, and with confidence, cut through the crispy skin, the meat should offer very little resistance to your blade. Being a fatty, full flavoured cut, the perfect sides for me are the ones that have an element of sourness, like pickles, kraut, vinegar based coleslaw or kimchi.

Firebrand: Thanks Mikey. You’ve just saved our bacon… literally!