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By: Daniel Vaughn
A few months ago, the special of the day at One 90 Smoked Meats in Dallas was a smoked pork belly sandwich. I’d been drawn back to the joint by its excellent BLT with house-made bacon, but I found myself torn between choosing which of the pork products I wanted for lunch. Suddenly, I had a wild thought. “Can I add bacon to the pork belly sandwich?” I ventured to ask. Co-owner Herman Guerra nodded. “Of course,” he said.
The contrasting textures of silky, soft belly and the crisp, dense bacon was appealing to the point that my mind kept wandering back to it long after my lunch was gone. As I continued to ponder this duo, I ran across a mention of a bacon sausage. Half the appeal of bacon is the crisp texture, which is lost once its ground and stuffed, I thought, so what would be the point? But still, I was dreaming up other pork-on-pork concoctions.
What about bacon sausage with a bacon casing? And why even bother grinding the bacon? A thick slice of smoked pork belly would make the perfect filling, while crisp bacon would be the world’s most flavorful casing. I realized that I had essentially envisioned bacon-wrapped bacon, which sounds about as absurd as a meatball-stuffed burger. I had to try it.
The recipe starts with large portion of pork belly seasoned with a simple rub with no sugar. I smoked it hot, around 350 degrees for three and a half hours, with a target internal temperature of 200 degrees. I wanted soft, tender portions of pork belly with well-rendered fat as the “sausage” stuffing. After it was out of the smoker and had cooled for a bit, it was ready for slicing and wrapping. (I tried chilling a few slices down in the freezer to see if it improved adhesion of the bacon, but it was an unnecessary step.)
The key to bacon wrapping is to find cheap, thin-sliced bacon to act as a proper casing. Artisanal bacon—which is leaner than the cheap stuff—or thick-sliced bacon won’t work as well. Before wrapping the pork belly, it helps also to separate the bacon slices and stretch them out on a flat surface.
When wrapping, I didn’t find it necessary to use toothpicks to keep the bacon on the pork belly slices. After I was done wrapping, I seasoned the bacon wrapping with a sweet rub to encourage browning, then put them back on the smoker. It’s important to get the bacon cooked through before browning it over direct heat to crisp it up. I used a Pit Barrel Cooker, which allowed me to leave it in smoking mode with the lid on, then switch to direct grilling with the lid off.
It didn’t take long for the bacon to brown, and it was ready to eat. The bacon casing had the familiar crispiness of a good bacon-wrapped jalapeño, but the pork belly filling was juicy and yielding. It was as decadent as you’d expect of something that combines two of the best parts of a pig, but it was too good to put it in the realm of stunt food. Bacon-wrapped bacon was a surprising success at the first attempt.
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