posted December 15, 2020
If you’re looking for the perfect, juicy holiday roast to grace your festive table, look no further than this Smoked Porchetta. It’s a beast of a roast that is just as big on flavors as it is on size.
What is Porchetta?
Before diving into the recipe, let’s answer the question what is porchetta? Porchetta is a skin-on pork belly roast with the loin attached. It can also be made with a rectangular cut of skin-on boneless pork belly with a piece of pork loin rolled up inside. Porchetta is amazingly flavorful and juicy from being tightly wrapped with in nice, fatty pork belly before being slow roasted.
Porchetta is dry brined before being seasoned with a paste-like “stuffing” of salt, pepper, herbs, and spices. Fennel is a popular flavor in porchetta, giving the meat a rich flavor that lends itself well to holidays, special events, and large family gatherings.
For this recipe I purchased a 12-pound loin-on piece of belly meat. I had to custom order this cut of meat from my local butcher. If this is not an option for you, you can buy a 6-pound boneless pork loin and approximately 6 pounds of belly with the skin on to make your own roast.
Porchetta Roast on the Smoker
The most common way to cook porchetta is in the oven, but at Hey Grill Hey, we’re fond of cooking all our meats on the grill or in the smoker. The smoke adds an extra layer of flavor to an already delicious pork roast.
The smoke married with the spices in this recipe cannot be beat. Not only will you bite into incredibly juicy pork, but you’ll enjoy sweet and savory orange and fennel, with a tiny hit of spice from red pepper and black peppercorns. It tastes like the holidays wrapped up in a nice, pork package.
Quick Note: This is not a beginner smoking project. This is considered an intermediate recipe. You need to do some butchering and have a good knowledge of heat management. If you feel confident in your smoking abilities and you want to give yourself a delicious challenge, smoked porchetta is worth a try.
How to Make Porchetta
Making porchetta is quite the feat, but no fear my BBQ friend! I have the step by step instruction below with some fairly good detail. You can also scroll to the recipe card below for the video and follow along with me. Together will will conquer with pork beast together!
1. Trim the Fat
This hunk of meat is quite…well…meaty (and fatty!). We need to trim a bit of that excess fat off the meat so it’ll roll nicely and have exposed skin all around. Grab a sharp knife, and use your judgement here. Practice rolling your meat to see how much you’ll need to cut off the loin to allow the meat to roll evenly.
2. Pierce the Skin
Get ready to release any pent-up aggression you’ve had lately. It’s time to stab the fat. Grab something sharp and stab little holes all over the skin to allow dry the skin and crisp when it’s cooking. I used the end of a metal kabob skewer for this step, but you can use anything you have on hand that will make uniform holes.
3. Butterfly the Loin and Score the Meat
Turn the meat fat side down and make a cut where the loin portion begins to get thicker from the belly. Cut a straight line across to open the meat up without cutting all the way through.
Next, make diagonal cuts 1/2 to 1-inch deep into the meat across the belly to be able to work the seasoning into the meat.
4. Make the Seasoning
The seasoning for this porchetta is a classic fennel seasoning. It also combines fresh herbs and fruit zest for an herby, fresh flavor. To make the seasoning, begin by toasting the fennel seeds, black peppercorns, and red pepper flakes for 2-3 minutes in a small skillet over medium heat. Next, crush them in a mortal and pestle. Combine this and all remaining ingredients (scroll to the recipe card below for a full list) in a small bowl to make a paste.
Add the olive oil slowly, and adjust the amount as needed to get a semi-thick paste you can spread over the roast.
5. Season the Meat
Spread the seasoning paste all over the meat, including inside the loin that you butterflied in Step 3. Take extra care to lightly press the paste into the meat, focusing on getting it into the portion of the scored belly.
6. Roll the Roast
Tightly roll the meat (rolling the loin into the belly) and secure tightly, wrapping every inch along the roast, with butchers twine. The roast should be nice and tight and fairly uniform in thickness and shape once rolled.
7. Dry Brine the Porchetta
Place the porchetta roast on a flat cooling rack over a baking sheet and season all over with salt. I prefer using a coarse kosher flake salt here so I can see exactly where my salt is going (and how much I’m putting on!). This salt helps to release some of the moisture from the skin to get a nice, crispy exterior.
Place the roast unwrapped and uncovered in your refrigerator for 24 hours to allow the salt to penetrate the meat and work its magic.
8. Smoke the Porchetta Roast
Pat the entire surface of the porchetta with a paper towel until it is completely dry. Make sure to remove any excess salt still remaining on the exterior of the roast. as well. Next, with your smoker preheated to 275 degrees F, place the roast directly on the grill grates, close the lid, and smoke until the internal temperature of the roast reaches 140 degrees F.
I used my favorite Camp Chef pellet smoker for this recipe with pecan wood. As always, use whatever smoker you are comfortable with and what you have available on your porch.
Regarding cooking time for porchetta – A good estimate for smoking porchetta is to estimate around 20 minutes per pound of cooking time, but this will vary from smoker to smoker and roast to roast. Always go off temperature when cooking a large piece of meat.
9. Crisp the Skin
Porchetta is known for it’s crunchy, crisp skin. This step is extremely important, and extra care should be taken to do it correctly to get the authentic porchetta experience. There are a couple ways to accomplish this step.
- Oven. Preheat your oven to 500 degrees F. Place the porchetta on a baking tray in the oven and bake for 10 minutes (or less) until the skin is golden brown and nice and crisp. Rotate the roast every couple minutes so each side gets nice and crisp.
- Smoker. Crank up the heat on your smoker to 500 degrees F (or as high as it will go). Cover the porchetta with foil while your smoker preheats so you don’t lose any heat in the roast. Once your smoker has reached temp, unwrap the roast and place the porchetta directly on the grill grates. Do not leave the smoker. You’ll want to stand by and watch for flare ups since you’re now working with very high temperatures. It’s wise to have an indirect heat side of your grill on standby in case of a nasty flare up. Rotate every 2-3 minutes to crisp all the sides of the porchetta.
10. Slice and Serve the Smoked Porchetta
Once your porchetta is crisped to your liking, remove it from the heat. Allow the roast to rest for 20-30 minutes before digging in. Don’t forget to remove the butchers twine prior to slicing! With the porchetta rested and twine removed, grab a sharp chef’s knife and slice along the porchetta to reveal a lovely spiral.
Make sure to invite some folks over when making this porchetta! It’s large and in charge and serves 16! It tastes best eaten day-of, so save it for special dinners instead of a simple weeknight meal.
What to Serve with Porchetta
Porchetta makes quite the main course, so don’t forget some tasty sides to make it a complete meal. Here are some of my favorites, that would taste delicious with smoked porchetta.
- Grilled Carrots with a Balsamic Glaze
- Homemade Rolls on the Grill
- Bacon Wrapped Brussels Sprouts
- Grilled Butternut Squash with Browned Butter and Sage
Smoked Porchetta Recipe
- 12 pound porchetta roast (skin on belly with loin attached)
- ⅓ cup salt
- 8 cloves garlic (grated)
- 2 Tablespoons olive oil
- 1 Tablespoon fennel seeds
- 1 Tablespoon black peppercorns
- 1 Tablespoon coarse Kosher salt
- 1 Tablespoon orange zest
- 1 Tablespoon fresh sage (minced)
- 1 Tablespoon fresh rosemary (minced)
- 1 Tablespoon fresh fennel fronds (minced)
- 2 teaspoons lemon zest
- 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- Prepare your Roast. Roll the belly meat around the loin and remove any excess skin on top of the roast that will be overlapped by the belly. Pierce the belly skin all over with a sharp skewer or the tip of a paring knife. Flip the roast over, skin side down, and use the tip of a sharp knife to carefully butterfly open the loin roast. Then use your knife to cut a cross-hatch pattern into the flesh of the belly, about 1/2 inch thick.
- Make the filling. Preheat a small skillet over medium heat and toast the fennel seeds, black peppercorns, and red pepper flakes for 2-3 minutes until fragrant. Crush in a mortar and pestle or in a spice grinder. Add the toasted spice blend to a bowl with the lemon and orange zest, minced garlic, and fresh minced herbs. Combine and then drizzle with the 2 Tablespoons of olive oil.
- Assemble the roast. Rub the seasoning paste all over the flesh side of the belly and loin. Be sure to press the seasoning into the cut cross-hatch sections of the belly and the butterflied open section of the loin. Fold the loin closed and begin rolling the loin roast into the belly. Once the roast is rolled into a cylinder shape, tie off every inch or so with butcher's twine. The roast should be fairly uniform in shape and thickness when tied.
- Dry brine the porchetta. Place the tied roast onto a flat roasting rack set on top of a rimmed baking sheet. Season the porchetta on all sides with the 1/3 cup of salt. Refrigerate the roast, uncovered, for at least 12 hours (1 hour per pound of roast). Dry brine the porchetta. Place the tied roast onto a flat roasting rack set on top of a rimmed baking sheet. Season the porchetta on all sides with the 1/3 cup of salt. Refrigerate the roast, uncovered, for at least 12 hours (1 hour per pound of roast).
- Smoke the porchetta. After the porchetta has brined, remove it from the refrigerator and pat off any excess salt and moisture. Preheat your smoker to 275 degrees F with your favorite hardwood. I prefer pecan for this recipe. Place the porchetta directly on the smoker grates, close the lid, and smoke for approximately 4 hours, or until the internal temperature of the roast reaches 140 degrees F. You can plan approximately 20 minutes of smoking for each pound of roast. Remove the porchetta from the smoker and set on your cutting board to rest while you prepare for the next step.
- Crisp the skin. This step can be done on a grill or in your oven. If using the same smoker you used to slow smoke, be sure to remove any fat or grease drippings before this step to prevent any additional flare ups. Preheat your smoker or grill to 500 degrees F. If using an oven, place the porchetta on a roasting rack over a pan to catch any drippings and roast in the center rack of the oven. If using a grill, have tongs handy to roll the roast around easily and keep a no-heat zone on your grill to mitigate flare ups. Place the roast directly on the grill grates and rotate every couple of minutes to crisp the skin on all sides. Pork belly is fatty, so move regularly and carefully to prevent excessive burning or char on the skin. This step should take less than 10 minutes in both the oven and the grill.
- Rest and slice. Remove the crisped porchetta roast to your cutting board and allow to rest for at least 20 minutes before slicing into thin rounds and serving.
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