Barbecue Pork Belly Sandwich
Inspired by the cult classic McDonald’s McRib sandwich, SAVEUR contributor Ryan Adams created a DIY version for the culinarily-minded home cook that calls for braised pork belly, quick-pickled cucumbers, and a tangy homemade barbecue sauce. This recipe calls for storebought rolls, but you can up the homemade factor and make your own basic white sandwich roll or go really indulgent with a brioche.
For the Pork Belly and Barbecue Sauce
- 3 lb. pork belly, trimmed into a 5″ x 2 1/2″ rectangle
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1 1⁄2 tbsp. vegetable oil
- 2 medium carrots, roughly chopped
- 2 stalks celery, roughly chopped
- 1 bay leaf
- 3–4 sprigs fresh thyme
- 6 cups chicken stock
- 1 cup ketchup
- 1⁄4 cup water
- 1⁄4 cup apple cider vinegar
- 1⁄8 cup brown sugar
- 1 1⁄2 tbsp. yellow mustard
- 1 1⁄2 tbsp. onion powder
- 1 1⁄2 tbsp. garlic powder
- 1 tbsp. mesquite liquid smoke
- 1 1⁄2 tsp. cayenne
For the Pickles and Serving
- 4 medium cucumbers, sliced
- 1 cup kosher salt
- 2 big pinches pickling spices (coriander seeds, bay leaf, peppercorns, dry mustard seeds, fennel and cumin seeds, cloves)
- 3 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
- 5–6 sprigs fresh dill
- 2 cups water
- 2 cups white wine vinegar
- 1⁄4 cup sugar
- 2 (6″) white sandwich rolls, split in half
- 1 tbsp. butter
- 1⁄2 small red onion, cut into batons
- Make the pork: Preheat oven to 350˚F. Season the pork belly with salt and pepper. Heat a heavy-bottomed, medium-size pot over medium-high heat. Add oil to the pot and sear the pork on each side to a deep golden brown. Transfer pork to a plate and set aside.
- Remove all but about 1 tablespoon of the fat from the pot, and discard. Add the chopped carrots, onions, and celery to the pot and cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables begin to soften. Add the bay leaf, thyme, and 2 cups of chicken stock or water. Bring to a boil, then lower heat to a simmer and reduce liquid by about half. Place the pork back in the pot. Add the rest of the chicken stock or water. Bring to a simmer. Cover with a lid, place in the oven on the center rack, and let cook undisturbed for about 3 hours.
- Make the barbecue sauce: Combine ketchup, water, vinegar, sugar, mustard, onion and garlic powders, liquid smoke, and cayenne in a saucepan over low heat. Bring to a simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, until the sauce coats the back of a spoon. Remove from heat and cool to room temperature.
- Make the pickles: Cover cucumber slices with the kosher salt, making sure the slices are covered on both sides. Let sit for 30 minutes, then rinse the salt off and place cucumber slices in a glass or stainless-steel bowl along with the pickling spices, smashed garlic, and fresh dill sprigs. Combine the water, vinegar, and sugar in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Pour the vinegar mixture over the cucumbers and allow to steep for 30 minutes. Remove the pickles from the bowl and lightly rinse them in water to remove the brine. Put the pickles in the refrigerator for at least one hour and up to one day.
- To serve: In a nonstick pan, melt the butter, then add the sandwich rolls, split side down. Toast both rolls to a golden brown crust. Remove from pan and keep warm under foil.
- When the pork belly is fork tender, remove it from the oven. With a slotted spatula, carefully remove the pork belly from the pot. In a bowl, coat the pork belly with the BBQ sauce, making sure to cover every bit of the meat. Slather a small amount of sauce on both the tops and bottoms of the sandwich rolls, then place the sauced pork belly on the bottom halves. Add pickles and red onions to each sandwich and cover with the top half of the bun.