Bourbon Maple Bacon "Burnt Ends"


Burnt ends are very tasty, and a classic staple of good BBQ joints everywhere. This recipe takes the traditional technique and makes something really special. The pork belly needs to be fresh and uncured, or the finished burnt ends will be very salty. Once you master this, you will never purchase bacon again!

Serves: 8 to 10 people

Prep Time: 10 minutes of prep, 2 days to cure

Cooking time: 2 ½ hours to smoke, 1 hour more to finish burnt ends

Special Equipment:

1 Gallon size freezer reseal-able bag

iGrill thermometer 

Cherry wood smoking chunks

Shallow aluminum foil pan


For the Cure

2 tablespoons Black pepper, fresh ground

2 tablespoons Kosher salt

3 tablespoons Brown sugar

1/3 cup maple syrup, good quality

1 pork belly, fresh, skin off (about 3 pounds total weight)

For the Burnt Ends

1/3 cup good quality bourbon

3 tablespoons Vanilla sugar (or light brown sugar)

1 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1 tablespoon black pepper, very coarse ground


To Cure the Pork Belly:

1. Combine the pepper, salt and sugar in a bowl. Sprinkle the seasoning mix all over the pork belly.

2. Place the pork into the resealable bag and pour in the maple syrup.

3. Press as much of the air out of the bag as possible and seal it shut.

4. Massage the maple syrup throughout the bag to distribute it evenly all over.

5. Place the bag in a shallow pan in the refrigerator and let it cure for 2 days. Flip the bag over after day 1 to cure top and bottom evenly.

6. After 2 days, remove the pork from the bag and place on a pan. Discard any leftover cure and the bag.


To Smoke:

1. Set the grill for indirect, low heat smoking (250-350F). Place a foil pan filled halfway with water on the indirect zone of the charcoal grate.

2. Once the grill is ready, add the cherry wood chunks to the charcoal, close the lid, and wait for the smoke to appear.

3. When the smoke appears, open the grill and place the cured pork belly over the indirect portion of the grill. Insert the iGrill meat probe into the center of the pork and close the lid. Set the iGrill for 195 F. Smoke the pork belly until it reaches 195, about two hours. 

4. When the pork reaches 195 degrees, remove from the grill and place in a warm place to rest for 20 minutes, loosely covered. If making ahead, this can be chilled in the refrigerator overnight before finishing.


To Finish the Burnt Ends:


1. After the pork has rested, cut it into large chunks, about 1 ½ to 2 inches wide.

2. Combine the cayenne, vanilla sugar and black pepper in a small bowl.

3. Sprinkle the seasoning all over the smoked pork pieces and toss to coat all over. Add the bourbon and toss again to coat.

4. Spread the pork in a single layer in shallow foil pans so they are not touching each other.

5. Set the grill for indirect, medium-low heat smoking (300-350F) with a foil pan halfway filled with water placed in the indirect zone of the charcoal grate.

6. Once the grill is ready, put a few chunks of cherry wood onto the coals and close the lid.

7. Once the smoke appears, set the aluminum pans with the pork in the indirect part of the grills and close the lid. Set the timer for 45 minutes.

8. After 45 minutes, check the pork. It should be darker in color and crispy on the edges. The fat will have rendered out into the pan, too.

9. Remove the pork from the pans and serve while still warm.