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Porchetta on a Pellet Smoker?

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  • Don Pickrell
    Club Member
    • Jan 2019
    • 4

    Porchetta on a Pellet Smoker?

    I'm trying to master a home version of the Roman dish called Porchetta. The authentic version apparently uses a boned whole pig that is heavily seasoned and cooked overnight in a pit, but that's a little beyond my skill level, so I'm working on a home version, which is a pork shoulder rubbed with a mixture of fennel, rosemary, and garlic and cooked very slowly, sort of like an Italian version of pulled pork.

    I've tried cooking it in a roasting pan on my gas grill set on the lowest heat it will produce (just one burner on the lowest setting), but the fat drippings accumulate in the pan and ultimately catch fire, which is a bit of a disaster. I could periodically drain them out but that's more work and mess than I had in mind, so I've been thinking of using my pellet smoker instead. For a change, I don't want a strong smoke flavor because that would probably clash with the seasonings, and might offend my Italian neighbors. Can I just set it on the low-smoke mode at the required temperature (about 225) and cook to the recommended internal temperature as usual? Any suggestions for a pellet flavor that's pretty neutral and won't make it taste like a strange version of American barbecue?

    Many thanks in advance for any guidance you can provide!
  • pkadare
    Club Member
    • Jun 2019
    • 894
    • Bobcaygeon, Ontario
    • My gear:
      22 Weber Kettle
      Napoleon PRO Charcoal Kettle Grill
      Broil King Keg
      Traeger Pro 34
      Napoleon Prestige Pro 500
      Pit Barrel Cooker
      Blackstone Range Combo Griddle

    #2
    I've tried it with a shoulder and it really doesn't work all that well. Way, way better with belly.
    https://amazingribs.com/porchetta

    Comment

    • Donw
      Club Member
      • Jul 2017
      • 2977

      #3
      It is better with pork belly. I attempted one Meathead did in the BBQ All Stars series and it turned out great on my Yoder. Since that was pay per view I am adding a link to Traegers take on it https://www.traegergrills.com/recipe...oked-porchetta

      Comment

      • IowaGirl
        Club Member
        • Dec 2018
        • 595
        • Northeast Iowa, USA

        #4
        "...I've tried cooking it in a roasting pan on my gas grill set on the lowest heat it will produce (just one burner on the lowest setting), but the fat drippings accumulate in the pan and ultimately catch fire..."

        I can't quite wrap my mind around the fat in the pan getting hot enough to catch fire. Admittedly, I've never made porchetta, but I have cooked pork butts. I'd set the pan on the side of the grill that's not heated, and there'd be little or no risk of fire in that case. If you're using only one burner and low temps and the fat is collecting in a pan, not dripping on an open fire, how can the fat possibly get hot enough to catch fire?

        Comment

        • pkadare
          Club Member
          • Jun 2019
          • 894
          • Bobcaygeon, Ontario
          • My gear:
            22 Weber Kettle
            Napoleon PRO Charcoal Kettle Grill
            Broil King Keg
            Traeger Pro 34
            Napoleon Prestige Pro 500
            Pit Barrel Cooker
            Blackstone Range Combo Griddle

          #5
          One additional comment on Porchetta, it isn't something that needs to be cooked low and slow, which is one reason that a belly is a better cut. 325 degrees or so would be a much better temp. Even with a shoulder.

          Comment

          • Troutman
            Club Member
            • Aug 2017
            • 7198

            • OUTDOOR COOKERS

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            #6
            I've done several porchettas but I've always used pork belly with the skin attached. And I agree, you don't want low and slow but hot and fast, like 325-350*. You want that skin to get "cracklin'" hard. I usually cook mine on a Weber kettle but could easily see doing one on my pellet cooker. As you mention you just get a little less smokey flavor. Here's a step-by-step of one a did a couple of years ago.....

            Porchetta


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            Comment


            • Greygoose
              Greygoose commented
              Editing a comment
              Lookin' good !!!!

            • treesmacker
              treesmacker commented
              Editing a comment
              O. M. G. !!
          • Bobmcgahan
            Former Member
            • Jul 2018
            • 76

            #7
            +1 on using pork belly to wrap. I’ve used pork shoulder instead of pork loin as the “inside” meat. And, remember, the key is fennel pollen. So said to me by an Italian who gave me his recipe.
            Last edited by Bobmcgahan; December 6, 2019, 03:59 PM.

            Comment

            • Henrik
              Founding Member - Moderator Emeritus
              • Jul 2014
              • 4246
              • Stockholm, Sweden

              #8
              Agree with everyone else, pork belly is THE way to go.

              Comment

              • Potkettleblack
                Club Member
                • Jun 2016
                • 1960
                • Beautiful Downtown Berwyn
                • Grill: Grilla Original / Weber Genesis EP-330 / OK Joe Bronco Drum
                  Thermometers: Thermapen / iGrill 2 / Fireboard
                  For Smoke: Chunks / Pellet Tube / Mo Pouch
                  Sous Vide: Joule / Nomiku WiFi (RIP Nomiku)
                  Disqus: Le Chef - (something something something) - it changes

                #9
                Belly wrapped around loin, with the skin on. Or just all Belly, if you're into that. I think you could maybe wrap a shoulder clod in belly, but the roast version (as opposed to the festival/street vendor version) is usually a belly on a loin.

                Here's one (subtitled) that's supposedly the best commercial one in Italy:
                https://youtu.be/o5qJ3MAPxS8
                Note, the whole side of the pig, ribs removed, is rolled. He rolls the top end to the interior. That's the back of the baby backs (aka Pork Loin) wrapped by the back of the spare ribs (aka Pork Belly).

                This is a special occasion one, with a stuffing.
                https://youtu.be/UhkjPBuabLc

                The history of the dish is really interesting, the first video gets at it a bit... folks farmed pigs in Italy, but didn't butcher them. Roving butchers came around and processed their pigs for them. Made sausages and set up charcuterie. And built them a full hog porchetta. These roving butchers all had their own recipes and techniques, which is why there's such a different between the Lucky Peach Rome one, and the Gennaro Christmas one. Fennel pollen is preferable, but it's kind of ridiculously expensive, so, cheating with some ground fennel seed is acceptable. I don't know that chili pepper is mandatory, but all the best ones I've seen in Italy had some element of picante spice to it.

                Comment


                • treesmacker
                  treesmacker commented
                  Editing a comment
                  O.M.G. again! Love those videos!

                • Potkettleblack
                  Potkettleblack commented
                  Editing a comment
                  treesmacker There's an extended bit in the first episode of Salt Fat Acid Heat on Netflix that is also very good. I couldn't find it on Youtube, but it gets to the history of the dish, and shows a full hog porchetta.

                • barelfly
                  barelfly commented
                  Editing a comment
                  Great video PKB...starting my research for Easter dinner and finding some great stuff!
              • Don Pickrell
                Club Member
                • Jan 2019
                • 4

                #10
                Thanks to all for the enthusiastic responses and generous tips -- I'm persuaded, and will definitely give the rolled belly version a try the next time I make it. The loin wrapped in belly version sounds extremely promising as well, even if a little more ambitious.

                The recipe I've been using has you roast it slow (300 degrees) until the interior is done, then raise the heat to 500 degrees to crisp the outside (that's when the fire started!), but I can see that having the skin on would probably make the second step unnecessary, and should produce a much crisper crust to boot. Cooking at the higher temperature somehow doesn't seem intuitive, but since everyone seems to endorse it, I'll convert to that method in the future. But where do I get fennel pollen? I asked at my usually-reliable Italian market and they just looked at me funny, but they're mostly from the far southern area of the country, so maybe that explains it?

                My goal will be to match the beautiful look of Troutman's version...

                Comment

                • Donw
                  Club Member
                  • Jul 2017
                  • 2977

                  #11
                  Try The Spice House for the pollen. I think Amazon also carries Pollen Ranch products.

                  Comment

                  • rickgregory
                    Founding Member
                    • Aug 2014
                    • 635
                    • Seattle, WA

                    #12
                    If you want to experience something like traditional porchetta I'd not go with a straight rolled belly version. Since the 'real' version is a full pig, you're after the complexity and contrast you get from going, er, whole hog and a single cut version just can't give you that.

                    Assuming the full pig version is what you want to emulate, I'd recommend using at least 2 cuts. For me, using pork shoulder inside isn't enough of a contrast, hence using loin (you CAN do a loin wrapped in shoulder wrapped in belly version but it's... large. Honestly, the loin wrapped in the belly isn't really any harder. If you're unsure about your ability to 'unwrap' the loin (you don't just stuff a whole loin inside) ask a butcher to do it for you. Here's a YouTube video showing the technique... https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v-zRcnLXhng

                    I get that some people are all about fatty stuff and of course everyone should make what they like, but to me an all belly porchetta vs a more complex version is like comparing Italian American food with actual Italian food. Both can be really tasty, but the former isn't really like the latter.
                    Last edited by rickgregory; December 29, 2019, 03:35 PM.

                    Comment

                    • Ahumadora
                      Club Member
                      • Oct 2015
                      • 2048
                      • Pilar Buenos Aires, Argentina

                      #13
                      Secret to crispy skin is make is as dry as posible before cooking. You can do this by wiping the skin dry with paper towels then vigorisly rubbing on the skin mountains of salt . Leave the skin exposed in the fridge for 2 days to dry and it becomes nearly transparent. Don't use a water pan when cooking and resonably high heat. You can always hit any areas that are not crackeld with a burner to finish it off.

                      Comment


                      • Ahumadora
                        Ahumadora commented
                        Editing a comment
                        Dial it up a notch by making the pork into bacon first . (Lots of black pepper/honey/jalapeno) then make the porchetta as per the recipe..
                    • rickgregory
                      Founding Member
                      • Aug 2014
                      • 635
                      • Seattle, WA

                      #14
                      Found this... Just a fun 7 minutes on how a third generation Italian butcher known for his porchetta makes it:

                      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o5qJ3MAPxS8

                      Comment

                    • viola2572
                      Former Member
                      • Apr 2020
                      • 2

                      #15
                      Hi a bit late in to this but this is how you make it forgive my swearing (once)

                      Comment

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