Smoked Char Siu Pork Belly

“Char siu” literally means “fork/burn/roast”.  This refers to the ancient Chinese cooking technique of hanging long strips of seasoned pork boneless over burning charcoal using long forks.

Traditionally wild boar was used to make char siu but you’ve likely encountered it at your local Chinese buffet – those sticky bright red ribs with the sweet and tangy flavor. Pork tenderloin and pork belly are also commonly used.

Pork belly is my favorite way to prepare char siu. The outside gets a nice crackle to it. Although the recipe I use does turn the meat a reddish color I don’t bother with the red food coloring common in today’s preparations.


  • 5-7 pounds pork belly


  • 7 tablespoons dark brown sugar
  • 3 tablespoons Chinese five-spice powder
  • 3 tablespoons freshly ground white pepper


  • 7 tablespoons honey
  • 7 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 5 tablespoons oyster sauce
  • 5 tablespoons rice vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons dark sesame oil
  • 3 tablespoons hoisin sauce
  • 3 tablespoons chopped ginger

Start by making shallow criss cross cuts about 1/4″ deep in both sides of the the pork belly. Next combine the dark brown sugar, five spice powder and white pepper in a bowl. Mix thoroughly and generously rub it into both sides of the pork belly.

Pork belly scored and seasoned with rub

Using a whisk mix the honey, soy sauce, oyster sauce, rice vinegar, sesame oil, hoisin sauce and chopped ginger together in a large bowl. Place the pork into a 2 gallon sealable bag or large glass dish. Pour the marinade over the meat being sure to cover both sides. Marinate overnight in the refrigerator.

Marinade the pork in the refrigerator overnight

Preheat your smoker to 250 degrees. I use hickory for char siu pork. While the smoker is preheating remove the meat from the marinade. Drain and pour the leftover marinade into a pan. When the smoker is ready place the pork belly directly on the grate.

Monitor the internal temperature with a good thermometer

After the pork is in the smoker heat the marinade in the pan slowly until it reaches a slow boil. Let it boil 3 minutes and then set aside to cool. After the pork has been smoking about an hour baste it with the marinade. Repeat with more marinade every 60-90 minutes.

Baste with marinade every 60-90 minutes

Smoke the pork until the thermometer shows an internal temperature of 200 degrees. At 250 degrees this will usually take 5-7 hours. Remove from the smoker. Drizzle any leftover marinade. I also like to sprinkle toasted sesame seeds on top and serve with hot Chinese mustard. Enjoy!

Ready to serve – look at that gorgeous color

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