Beef belly, also referred to as beef navel or plate, is the fatty cut from the underside of the cow just behind the front legs. It is the same cut as pork belly only bigger. This monster cut is beautifully layered with fat and meat. When you smoke beef belly the fat melts into the meat tenderizing it and keeping it moist. It is so flavorful.
I learned about smoking beef belly from a local butcher shop that would have beef bacon available once a month. I was so intrigued by these tasty strips that crisped up so nicely in a hot cast iron pan. The only thing that was strange was that the strips of bacon were so long I had to cut them in half to fit in the pan.
I asked the butcher why the bacon was so long. He showed me the beast that had emerged from the smoker that was behind the shop. I am pretty sure it was about 10 pounds. He smoked the slab whole rather than cut it into smaller portions. He really liked showing this off. And, there was no mistaking that this belly was from a steer.
Pro tip #1: Be sure to measure the interior of your smoker before purchasing a beef belly slab. Depending on the size, you might have to purchase a smaller portion of beef. Also, before you start cooking, don’t forget to clean out your grill!
To be clear, beef belly is a tough cut of meat. It is best when cooked low and slow. You can braise it in an oven. But I think you will really be impressed with how nicely the belly cooks for hours in a smoker until the beef is fork tender. Smoked beef makes for really good sandwiches with barbeque sauce.
Easy Smoked Beef Belly: A Step-by-Step Guide
- Sharp paring knife
- Paper towels
- Small mixing bowl
- Pan, dish, or plate for the beef to rest
- Wood chips or pellets (oak or apple are nice)
- Digital meat thermometer
- Aluminum foil
- Clean cutting board
- Sharp carving knife
Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 6 hours
Serves: 8 people
Ingredients for Smoked Beef Belly:
- 3 to 4 pound beef belly slab
- 2 tablespoons yellow mustard
- 3 tablespoons freshly ground black pepper
- 1 tablespoon packed brown sugar
- 1 tablespoon onion powder
- 2 teaspoons Kosher salt
- 2 teaspoons garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon paprika
- 1 teaspoon chili powder
- 1/2 teaspoon cayenne powder
- BBQ sauce of your choice
- Kaiser rolls
Step 1. Trim the beef belly. Remove all but 1/4 inch of the fat cap. Flip the belly over and slice off the silver skin with a sharp paring knife.
Pro tip #2: The silver skin is exactly what it sounds like. It is a very thin membrane that is silver in appearance. It is tough and chewy. Slip the tip of the knife beneath the membrane and slice back and forth while grasping and pulling the membrane with a paper towel.
Step 2. In a small mixing bowl, whisk together the pepper, sugar, onion powder, salt, garlic powder, paprika, chili powder, and cayenne.
Step 3. Coat the beef all over with a thin layer of the mustard. Pat the spice mixture into the meat with your hands. Make sure the entire belly is coated. Set the beef aside to come to room temperature, approximately 35 minutes.
Step 4. Set up your smoker with wood chips or pellets. If not using a pellet grill smoker, fill the water bowl halfway with water or a combination of water and apple juice. Preheat the smoker to 250°F, following the manufacturer’s instructions.
Step 5. Place the beef on a rack inside your preheated smoker. Cook for 4 hours or until the internal temperature reaches 180°F when checked with a digital meat thermometer.
Step 6. Remove the beef from the smoker and wrap it in 2 layers of aluminum foil. Place it back in the smoker and cook for another 1 to 2 hours until the internal temperature reaches 195°F.
Step 7. Remove the wrapped belly from the smoker to a cutting board and allow it to rest for 20 to 30 minutes.
Step 8. Unwrap the beef and place it back on the board. Using a sharp carving knife, slice the meat thinly against the grain and serve on Kaiser rolls with BBQ sauce.
Smoked Beef Belly Recipe
What to Serve with Smoked Beef Belly
You could simply pile some chips and a couple of dill pickle spears on the plate with the sandwich and call it a day. I love beef sandwiches with a creamy stout or even a cold root beer. If you would like to amp up the meal try these easy side dishes.
Red Cabbage Slaw
- 1 head red cabbage, cored and sliced thinly or shredded
- 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
- 2 teaspoons brown sugar or honey (adjust as needed)
- 1 teaspoon sea salt
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
Step 1. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the vinegar, sugar, salt, and pepper. Adjust the sweetness by adding more or less sugar or honey to your liking.
Step 2. Add the cabbage and toss to coat completely. Cover and refrigerate for 1 hour or overnight.
Smoked Corn on the Cob
- 6 to 12 ears of white or sweet corn
- Butter, kosher salt, and freshly ground black pepper for serving
Step 1. Carefully peel back the corn husks just to the stem. Pull out the silk strands and discard. Place the husks back over the ears of corn. Immerse the ears in a sink filled with water and soak for 2 hours.
Step 2. Place the corn on the rack of the smoker that is above the beef belly for the last 2 hours of cooking the meat. Check an ear of corn at 1 hour and 45 minutes for doneness and enough moisture.
Pro tip #3: Rotate the corn every 30 minutes so that it cooks evenly.
Step 3. Remove the husks and slather the corn with butter, salt, and pepper, and serve.
- 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
- 1 teaspoon sugar (optional)
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
- One 15-ounce can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
- One 15-ounce can red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
- One 15 ounce can black beans, drained and rinsed
- 1/2 of a small red onion, chopped finely
- 1/3 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
Step 1. In a large bowl, whisk together the oil, vinegar, and sugar (if using). Season with salt and pepper to your liking.
Step 2. Add the beans, onion, and parsley. Toss well to coat the beans with the dressing. Cover and chill in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.
Step 3. Check the seasoning again and serve.
Wrapping it Up
While not absolutely necessary, I find the 2-step process works best with beef belly. Cook for 4 hours and wrap in foil for the last 2 hours of smoking. This results in a juicy and tender piece of meat. Be sure to check the internal temperature. 6 hours affords you plenty of time to prepare some easy side dishes. Serve sandwiches with lots of napkins.