Fort Worth barbecue joints have become influential for their interpretations of pork belly. Although burnt ends—bark-heavy chunks from the fatty end of a beef brisket—were first made popular in Kansas City, Heim Barbecue innovated by making bacon burnt ends, from pork belly. Dayne’s Craft Barbecue serves a “bacon brisket” that is neither bacon nor brisket but a whole pork belly that’s been seasoned, smoked, and sliced like a beef brisket. I’ve seen both dishes copied in joints across the country. When Brix Barbecue opened its permanent location, on South Main, owner Trevor Sales wanted a signature smoked pork belly dish too. So he introduced the Texas porchetta.
Porchetta (pronounced “por-ketta”) is an Italian specialty that uses an entire pig or the deboned rib section of a pig, which includes rib meat, belly, and lean loin cuts. The meat side is seasoned with salt, herbs, citrus, and pungent fennel pollen, then the whole thing is rolled, tied, and roasted until the skin crisps.
Brix simplifies its version by using boneless, skinless belly meat. “I don’t have to worry about drying the loin out,” Sales said of the method. Pitmaster Jeremiah Jemente seasons the meat side with fresh parsley and thyme, lemon zest, and Calabrian chile oil before rolling it, which can be a challenge if the meat is too thick. “All these packers and all these farms are trying to get as thick a pork belly as possible,” Sales said. “For us it’s the opposite.” After Jemente rolls the meat, he seasons the exterior with just salt and pepper, and it sits overnight in the cooler to let the seasonings sink in. The next day he cooks the porchetta for about seven hours in an offset smoker, then cuts it into half-inch-thick slices for serving. The fat on the outer edge is soft beneath the mahogany bark, and the tender pork pulls apart easily. The herbs and lemon in each bite balance the richness.
The $26-per-pound porchetta is a slightly cheaper option for customers than the $30-per-pound brisket. “I would like to serve more porchetta than brisket, quite frankly,” Sales said, because even at a lower price, it’s more profitable than brisket since it takes up less space in the smoker. The porchetta’s bold flavors combined with Jemente’s smoking skills certainly make it a worthy rival to the king of the Texas barbecue tray.