Pork Belly

Everything you need to know to make tender, juicy pork belly with shatteringly crisp skin.

Everything you need to know to make tender, juicy pork belly with shatteringly crisp skin.

I’ve seen pork belly on menus at Chinese restaurants for years, but lately, it’s also showing up at other kinds of restaurants. Which is no surprise. This stuff is gooood—juicy, tender, and, yes, succulently fatty on the inside plus beautifully crisp on the outside. Yum.

Well, I’m here to tell you that it’s easy to make at home. There’s a bit of a technique, but it’s not hard. And with a little practice, you can be a pork belly master.

But what is pork belly? According to the National Pork Board, it’s the same part of the pig that’s used for bacon—not surprisingly, the belly—and if you look at a piece of pork belly it basically looks like a slab of bacon that hasn’t been sliced yet. To make bacon, pork belly is cured, salted, and sometimes smoked, while pretty much every other pork belly preparation uses “fresh” pork belly.

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You’ll probably need to get it from a butcher, and I recommend calling ahead to make sure they have it. If they don’t, they’ll likely be able to order it for you. You want pork belly with skin, so be sure to ask for that, too.

This is where super crispiness comes in, and there are really four factors that make all the difference.

  1. Without the skin, you can get it crisp, like the crispness that comes on the fatty edge of a seared pork chop. But if you want that super crispy, crunchy, pork rind-like experience, you need skin-on pork belly.
  2. Pricking the skin. You need to prick dozens of tiny holes in it. I use the tip of a metal skewer to do this, but you can also try the tip of a knife or an ice pick. It’s a little tedious and it might take a little practice, but it’s worth the effort because the more holes, the more shattering-in-your-mouth crispness.
  3. Salt. But I don’t mean salt for seasoning—I mean a salt crust that helps draw moisture to the surface of the skin so that moisture will cook off and leave you with, you guessed it, more crispiness. (You’ll see some recipes that use a mixture of salt and baking soda, but I don’t find the baking soda makes a big difference and using simply salt is easier.)
  4. A final blast of heat. The pork belly initially bakes low and slow, to cook and tenderize the meat and render out some of the fat. At this point the skin won’t look like much. But the final cook is in a very hot oven, which will make that skin get crisp and almost puffy-looking. (The more holes in the skin, the more puffiness, the crispier.)

That’s it! That’s all it takes for super crispness!

(I got to all this with a lot of trial and error, but also with the help of this post from Nagi at Recipe Tin Eats and this one from Jess Pryles.)

You can marinate or season the meat of your pork belly beforehand if you want, but that’s optional in my opinion. I like to cook it pretty much as is then serve it with a dipping sauce. The sauce can be Asian-influenced, barbecue sauce, your favorite vinaigrette, or simply mustard. Generally, it’s nice to have something with a little tang to complement the pork belly’s richness.

Now get cracklin’!

Christine :)

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Pork Belly


  • Author: Allie McDonald
  • Prep Time: 20 minutes
  • Cook Time: 2 1/4 hours
  • Total Time: -25844808.45 minute
  • Yield: 6 servings

Description

Everything you need to know to make tender, juicy pork belly with shatteringly crisp skin.


Ingredients

  • 2 pounds skin-on pork belly (see note)
  • Your favorite marinade, seasoning blend, or spice rub (optional)
  • 1 cup kosher salt
  • Dipping sauce or mustard, for serving (optional)

Instructions

  1. Use a sharp metal skewer or small knife to prick the skin of the pork belly all over. The more pricks, the better for shatteringly crisp skin, but do your best to pierce just through the skin—piercing through to the meat works against crisping. This part can be tedious and takes a little practice, but it makes all the difference.
  2. If you want to do the optional marinade, put the pork in a shallow dish skin side up and add your marinade, making sure the liquid doesn’t reach high enough to touch the skin. If you want to use optional seasoning or spice rub, add it to the meaty side of the pork, avoiding the skin. Either way, refrigerate your pork belly, ideally uncovered, for at least 1 hour or up to overnight.
  3. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
  4. Remove the pork from the marinade if you did that. Line a shallow baking pan or dish with foil (this is optional—it makes cleanup easier) and add a rack of you have one. Put the pork on the rack skin side up and pat the skin dry with a paper towel. Spread the salt over the skin, spreading it evenly and all the way to the edges.
  5. Bake for 1 1/2 hours.
  6. Remove the pork from the oven and increase the temperature to 450°F.
  7. Meanwhile, remove the salt. It should have formed into a solid crust that can be carefully lifted off in large pieces. Brush off any remaining salt with a pastry brush or paper towel.
  8. Once the oven is up to temperature, continue baking the pork until the skin is completely crisped and bubbly, about 30 minutes.
  9. Let the pork rest for about 10 minutes before cutting. Serve with dipping sauce or mustard if you want.

 

Notes

Call your supermarket or butcher ahead of time to make sure they have pork belly. If not, a good butcher should be able to order it for you. Make sure you get pork belly with the skin on.

Love ordering pork belly in a restaurant? This recipe has everything you need to know to make tender, juicy pork belly with shatteringly crisp skin.

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