Whisky smoked pig cheeks: “Your new bucket list leader!”

Whisky smoked pig cheeks: “Your new bucket list leader!”

However I can be very proud about my food, my wife even calls it a bad habbit… I’ve always been careful with entitling a recipe as “The best you’ve ever had”. Simply because that’s a subjective thing every pitmaster/cook might claim and who are we to disagree? I’ve only done it once before as far as I can remember. Guess what recipe? Yes indeed… Smoked Pig Cheeks. 

Disclosure: "This post contains test products and affiliate links, which means that if you buy one of the products through the mentioned links, I'll get a small commision to keep this blog running. All opionions shared are my own."

Are they that good?

I have to say I’m pretty convinced about this recipe. However I like to talk about “how I like my food”, I have to admit I’m mostly somewhat insecure about it. Since half of the fun in cooking comes when you see people enjoy what you’ve prepared with love, it’s always a bit frightening. My wife will agree I’m not the easiest on this point. I try to hold my horses on this small side of me. But these smoked pig cheeks were battle tested and approved twice now. So I could safely say they are now! So that’s why I decided to share them again in a serious post with better pictures now.

Smoked pig cheeks

Smoked pig cheeks: the secret ingredient

To me cooking with love is cooking with time and patience. I’ve mentioned these secret ingredients before but we can’t get enough reminders. These pork cheeks were prepared in several stages. First they have been brined in a dry salting cure. 4 Hours of patience will improve both the flavor of the smoked pig cheeks and their structure. The salt cure extracts some juices out of the meat and replaces them with the spices you added in the cure. Your cheeks will get firm and perfect for smoking! Don’t worry they won’t dry out, but make sure you rinse them well after the brining session or you’ll end up with some pretty salty cheeks.

Smoked pig cheeks

Besides the dry cure there’s also some patience needed for the cooking process. I’ve made these cheeks inspired on the “321 method for ribs“. But just like for spareribs I’ve chosen to reduce the time by each stage. I started by smoking the pig cheeks for about 1.5 hr. in my smoker. Afterwards I’ve put them in a baking tray with some whisky, apple juice and a bouquet garni for an hour. The 3th stage is unpacking the smoked pig cheeks and cook them unpacked for the last 45 minutes. Basting on minute 15 and 30. Before serving I’ve sprayed them with some white wine vinegar and grilled for a minute on each side.

Smoked pig cheeks

A late birthday

It has been a somewhat crazy year. I don’t talk a lot about negative things… It’s hard to share it with the ones I love so I won’t openly talk about it over here. Plus I believe we should give enough attention to the good things in life too. That’s exactly why I still wanted to invite some friends to share some food. I have to admit celebrating right before Christmas (my birthday is in march) is not that bad. We had a great time drinking some beers and preparing our belly for the big meals. These smoked pig cheeks were served along the Smoked Chili where I added pulled pork shoulder. Before the main course I made some baked brie with cranberries and pulled turkey nachos (recipe might follow but no pictures were taken).

Smoked pig cheeks

Awesome presents!

Since my friends know quite a lot about smoking and BBQ too and some of them can be critical in a constructive way I think I can believe them when they said the smoked pig cheeks were something to be proud of. I’m glad they liked the food since they got me some pretty awesome presents. Those following my instagram for instance might have noticed my recent baking obsession. The reason is the book I got “Larousse book of bread” by Eric Kayser. I also got the awesome book “Heston Blumenthal at Home” a lot of awesome beers and a book cheque to buy “Over worst” from Meneer Wateetons (dutch only). I guess you understand why it was important to serve a good meal?

Anyway I had an awesome time cooking and serving this meal. I hope you understand why I need you to put this on top of your bucketlist. You won’t regret! If you’d like to give a late birthday present too, leave a comment or share with your friends. I would be grateful.

Whisky smoked pig cheeks (for 2 persons)

Whisky smoked pig cheeks (for 2 persons)

Ingredients

  • 600 gr. skinned pig cheeks
  • White wine vinegar
  • Whisky barrel wood chunks
  • Salt cure for 600 gr. pig cheeks
  • 60 gr. salt
  • 20 gr. brown sugar
  • 1 star anise
  • 1 bay leaf
  • ½ tsp. black peppercorns
  • 2 juniper
  • ½ tsp. smoked chili powder
  • For the broth
  • 100 ml. whisky
  • 300 ml. apple juice
  • 1 Bouquet Garni
  • For the glaze
  • Broth juices
  • 2 Tbsp. honey (or more if you want them sweeter)
  • 1 Tbsp. cider vinegar (or more if you want it less sweet)

Instructions

Salt curing the pig cheeks

1. Put all ingredients except the salt in a Mortar and grind them until they have a powder structure.

2. Mix the spices with the salt and put the salt at the bottom of a food container. Put the pig cheeks on top and the remaining salt mixture on top of the pig cheeks. Make sure they're packed in the salt cure.

3. Put the pig cheeks in the fridge for about 4 hrs. You will see the pig cheeks will loose a lot of juices but don't worry! If you keep it low and slow and follow the instructions you will still have juicy pig cheeks in the end!

4. Put the pig cheeks in a big pot and rinse them thouroughly with clean water. This is really important. If you don't take this part seriously they will get salty in the end.

5. Put them aside in the fridge for about 2 hrs. so they can dry out a bit. Meanwhile start your smoker for indirect cooking at low temperature (90/110°C or 194/230°F).

Start smoking

6. Add some lemon tea to the water pan in your smoker and toss some whisky barrel wood chunks in the fire. Make sure you're temperature doesn't drop or wait until your smoker has the right temperature before moving on.

7. Smoke your pig cheeks for 1.5 hrs;

Broth time

8. Put the pig cheeks in a cast iron tray. Pour in the whisky and apple juice and toss in the bouquet garni. Make sure the pig cheeks are 2/3 submerged at least. Cover the tray with tinfoil and put back on the smoker for an hour.

9. Remove the pig cheeks from the cast iron tray (save the broth) and put them back on the smoker for 45 minutes. Now start by making the glaze. You'll need it after the first 15 minutes.

Shiny glaze

10. Put the tray with the broth on a hot fire add the honey and cider vinegar (at taste) and cook until it's a nice slightly thickening glaze.

11. Once the cheeks have been on the smoker for 15 minutes unpacked you baste them with the glaze. Repeat this a second time 15 minutes later.

12. At the end of the 45 minutes spray your cheeks with some white wine vinegar! Believe me, this is a really important step. I sprayed them with two thin layers.

13. Remove the water pan and make sure you get a hot fire. Grill the pork cheeks 1 minute on each side before serving.

14. Slice and serve with delicious fennel slaw! It's truly a killer combo!

Have a nice meal

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