Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Slow Roasted Pork Belly

With so much talk of braises and shanks around the cooking blogosphere, coupled with cooling temperatures, my thoughts have naturally strayed to belly pork.

Once upon a time in the bad old days, you could only find it in Chinatown. Now every menu aspiring to gastronomic chic lists it, and every scallop in town wants a date with it. The humble piglet tummy has well and truly ‘arrived’ in contemporary culinary consciousness.

I’ve tried gazillions of recipes for roasted pork belly, ranging from newspaper lift-outs, the Women’s Weekly, featuring a variety of marinated, exotic flavours or plain, cooked at varying temperatures, and incorporating the full range of degrees of complexity But this is the one I consistently return to. Why? Because it tastes fantastic, has a difficulty level only slightly higher than boiling water, and you can watch a good movie while it cooks. It comes from Britain’s antidote to Gordon Ramsay, the gentle and polite Garry Rhodes from his Cookery Year collection (telly repeats currently playing at about 3am on ABC - and no I don't stay up to watch them :).

Get a 1 kg piece of pork belly with the rind still on (I reckon the absolute best place to buy this is from a Chinese butcher in Haymarket, or your local Chinatown). Peel 2 fairly large onions and cut them in half. Lay the onions, cut side down, in a baking dish. They will form a trivet and keep the pork from touching the hot dish. Score the pork skin with a very sharp knife at about 1 cm intervals lengthways and rub with a little olive oil and sprinkle with salt. Place the pork on the onions, add a little water to the bottom of the dish, and bake at 160°C for 2 ½ - 3 hours.

Check it every so often. The alchemy that happens involves the pork skin slowly crisping to a magnificently crunchy crackling, and the fat from the layers dissolving out, not only basting the pork constantly, but basting the slowly caramelising onions underneath.

Add more water to the dish in small amounts so the juices that run out don’t scorch. Never baste the top of the crackling, just keep adding water to the baking dish.

At the end of the cooking time, remove the pork and let it rest, remove the onions and take the rendered fat off the top of the juices (you can scrape the dish and make a jus with these juices by adding wine and water and reducing them down further).

Cut the crackling off the pork ready to snap into deafeningly crispy shards of crunchy delight, and cut the pork against the grain into serving pieces which will be meltingly juicy. Serve with your favourite winter veggies, or make a scallop’s day and sear it and chuck it on top.


Blogger neil said...

We have a butcher's shop close to us that sells ready cooked pork belly, perfect with an oh so fresh bagel. My only complaint is that never get the crackling right. Anyway i think we will give your (Garys) version a try - sounds yum.

9:24 AM  
Blogger Reb said...

DO give it a go 'Taco- it's deceptively simple but the results are just terrific. And short of my mum's traditional roast pork which gets a light and airy crackling, this is the best. Enjoy!

9:32 AM  
Anonymous Helen said...

Get in mah belly!

3:42 PM  
Blogger Haalo said...

This must be Homer Simpson's dream - looks absolutely delish!

4:18 PM  
Blogger Reb said...

Belly's the best, Helen!

ANd Haalo, " mmmmmmmm .... poooooorrrrk" did go through my mind at the time.

8:34 AM  
Blogger Ange said...

Mmmmm, looks lovely, have never tried to cook pork belly yet, sounds so easy & looks so good that I will have to add it to my list

11:09 AM  
Blogger Reb said...

And the smell of it cooking for 3 hours drives you crazy, Ange!

2:54 PM  
Blogger tytty said...

heya! i tried making roast pork belly too. the recipe called for a five spice powder and lye water rub, and the taste was close to the ones from chinatown, but the skin wasn't right. how do they get the skin to be crispy and still stuck to the fat/meat layers?

6:16 PM  
Blogger Reb said...

Dunno tytty - one of the universe's mysteries I guess!

8:08 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

pork was delicious-crackling a dismal failure. Is the temperature of the oven at 160 for a fan forced oven? I dropped it back to 140 and wonder if that was the problem.

5:24 PM  
Blogger Reb said...

Hi Anon - yep that's the problem. The temp is 160 fan forced 180 normal so yours might have been a little low. Sorry - I should have specified. Also make sure the skin is really dry before you salt it or it will come out soggy. Hope this helps!

7:44 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you for your reply to my question regarding the prok crackling and the oven temperature. I have tried it again and it was a sensational meal.

5:21 PM  
Anonymous Danny Webb said...

hi ya

just wondering, If the pork belly is cooked ahead of time, how long can it be held and in what way before it loses quality and the crackling begins to soften. What is the best way to bring it back for sevice and keeping that crackling crisp.

Many thanks

7:55 AM  
Anonymous Johnno said...

If you want to prepare a belly ahead of time, simply wrap it in foil (with aromatics of your choosing) and roast for 3 hours at 160-170, basting after half the time. Once done place in a clean roasting pan with another one on top weighted down with some cans - you can leave this in the fridge for a day or 2. Once it's cold and pressed you can cut into portions and then roast off in a hot oven for 15-20 mins before serving.

9:56 PM  
Blogger Reb said...

Good tip - thanks Johnno. Does it still crisp up the crackling doing it this way? Must try it myself bext time.

10:09 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi... i'm chinese and worked as a delivery guy so... the secret to the crackling skin is to cut your belly into long thick strips for serving, but jus before serving, deep fry it quickly in hot oil for a short while, after than chop it into your chinese pieces and serve it.

8:11 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The important parts if you want good crackling are;
a) Score the rind
b) Dry the rind
c) Rub salt in and leave for an hour. It leeches out moisture
d) Wipe clean of moisture
e) Re-salt and then roast as you describe.
Should the crackling not have reached the desired stage you can always blast it with a higher heat towards the end.

rod bryans

8:30 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I found a cheating way to get the skin crisp: spoon off 2 or 3 table spoons of the fat into small pan, heat it up to smoking, and put the skin side down in the fat for just a few minutes - the skin will "pop" like popcorn and get totally crunchy!

6:18 AM  
Blogger chef124s said...

If you want to crisp it back up the grill works great on a rippin hot setting, or just a bit of DUCK FAT {cant live without it, cook EVERYTHING in it!!} in a screamin hot sautee pan for a couple a min in the oven. Get it rippin..skin side down..right in..wait a couple...done!! Let it rest for a sec to loosen up...smear on crostini.

8:21 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just a trick for those that love crisp pork crackling.

Recently I was advised to place my pork 'rind down' on a trivet above a foil container with water/herbs of choice for the first 1/3 of the cooking time.

Then turn it over on the trivet, and sprinkle/grind sea salt over it (no oil)and cook for the remaining 2/3rds. I have done this twice on a covered BBQ too - outstanding crackle and the fat content is reduced too.

So simple but so effective. I hope it works for you.

6:01 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am a Freanch-Trained Chef in Cortland N.Y. I Sous-Vide my pork bellies, pan-sear with smoked salt, raw sugar, and pepper. brush with a cognac-honey glaze and bake for 8 min. served with pork jus-glaze sauce and port reduction. Yum.

12:38 PM  
Blogger The Caked Crusader said...

Wonderful! I have literally just come back from lunch at Smith's of Smithfield where I had some magnificent pork belly. I thought "I need a recipe for this" and voila - here it is.
Thanks for sharing.

11:27 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for this post.
I made this for 6. Turned out really well!
Bought the belly (a whole belly) from Smithfield market in London at 6am.
One thing I can suggest. My Austrian mate said I should fry the skin at the start (without oil) this (as his Granma mentioned) will dry the skin and help with the crackling. She was right.
Thanks again!

4:45 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Do you cover the pork with foil when cooking?
I always thought slow roast cooking involved covering the meat with foil??

9:55 AM  
Blogger jane said...

i used this recipe last night for our dinner and i have to say that it came out beautifully, just as you said it would, right down to the deafeningly crunchy crackling! Thanks for the recipe:)

12:30 PM  
Anonymous Fanny said...

Hi Guys n gals (fanny's the nickname) John is my real name .....been cooking belly pork for years but never have I been so moved to make as when I saw the pics ........pork tummy tonight !
Thank you Reb

2:19 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi, I believe 160 Celsius converts into 325 F on most conventional oven knobs. If you're using a convection oven in this case you'd want to lower the temp by 25 degrees or so.. ^_^

7:28 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey all,

Look the best way i have found to make your pork skin REALLY crispy!! and taste beautiful is to turn your oven to the option of "grill" (and turn your oven temp to MAX, with the oven door slightly open) do this about 5-7 mins before you take it out of the oven to rest, it works we do it all the time and get really crispy crackling .


p.s make sure your watching the skin while the grill is at work, it can burn really quickly

3:16 PM  
Blogger Kevyn said...

Nice and simple recipe. Always nice to try different variants on roast pork belly. This one works very well!

If you want to get the skin 'bubbly' like Hong Hong-style roast pork, just score it and pour boiling water over it before you put it in the oven. The boiling water literally scalds the skin, causing it to bubble. Then dry the skin, season it and pop it in to roast.

My grand-uncle used to crackle his pork belly skin this way for his Chinese restaurant. Works with this recipe too!

6:45 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

...really easy to reconstitute the crackling is to use a microwave - take a piece of the cold crackling and place it in a microwave for a minute or so - comes out crispy and light.

5:25 PM  
Anonymous Tim Elwin said...

I am going to try this on the weekend with a 5kg Another great place to get perfect pork belly is www.urbanfoodmarket.com.au We sell the delicious Bangalow Sweet Pork and deliver it to your home! please come and check us out!

4:19 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just made this and it was absolutely delicious! My husband is still raving about it. I used "Havoc" Pork (cooking in New Zealand). It was really, really good! Great with yams and apple. Thanks so much!

6:59 PM  
Blogger Tenaya said...

Just wondering if ok to prepare ahead and then reheat to serve. Looks amazing!!

My mouth is already watering.

7:28 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

just before you take the pork out of the oven turn the grill on high for a couple of minutes and the crackling will puff up and go light and crispy be careful though because it doesent take long

4:52 AM  
Blogger James said...

Here is the marinade you need to reproduce the taste as in Chinese babarcue stores.

Fish sauce 1 tbsp
Rose wine (Chinese) 1 tbsp
Five spice powder 1 tsp
Salt 2 tsp


Pinch the pork rind all over with sharp needle ( there is such tools available in Chinatown kitchenware shops). Or you can use an ice pick.

Marinate the pork with the above for at least an hour.

Wipe the rind as dry as possible and rub another teaspoon of salt on it. Pat the rind with some oil.

Place the pork on a rack over a shallow baking pan in the preheat oven 400 degree F skin side down. Roast for 20 minutes. Turn the skin side on top and continue roasting for another 20 minutes.

Pre-heat a cast iron frying pan ( or a heavy bottom pan)under medium high heat. Add 4 tablespoon of oil. Remove pork belly from the oven and place it skin side down on the frying pan.

Like Rod Bryans put it, ' the skin will pop like popcorn and get totally crunchy'.

Rest the roast 10 minutes before cutting to bit side.


7:47 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

what abour putting a couple of sliced cooking apples underneath with the onion. would that work?

10:29 PM  
Anonymous Mrs. L said...

I made this last week. Simple, delicious. Now everyone wants me to make it for them. Thank you again!

6:22 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Alternative "cheat" for crisp skin - I followed the main recipe to the letter, and after 2.5 hours the skin was still soft. So, I popped the whole thing under the broiler (set on low) for a few minutes. It was magic! The skin blistered and popped to crispy bliss! People ended up fighting over the "pork candy".

4:12 PM  
Anonymous Darren A said...

After cooking, pop the belly skin side up under a hot grill. After about a minute or so, keep watching it though!!!, it will go like pork scratchings. Delicious.

8:11 PM  
Blogger Dawn said...

What worked for me is starting the oven at 250 degrees, cooking the pork for 20 minutes and reducing to 150 for 2 hours. Crispy crackling, no fuss, no bother and deeeelish!


10:32 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Another way I've tried successfully as a slight modification is to place the pork skin-side down in a nice hot pan for a few minutes until the skin has started to caramelise. Then follow the rest of the instructions i.e. 160 deg fan forced for about 2 1/2 hours.

6:50 PM  
Blogger carroll l said...

fabulously tasty. I used Rod's suggestions and they worked great. Another quick way to crisp the skin is run the belly (skin side up, of course) under the broiler for a couple minutes. And for us U.S. cooks, oven temperature of 350F worked great.

4:17 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Roasted Belly Pork is one of my favorite dishes, but I've always found that the bottom of the joint goes dry and hard - it tastes great, but it's a bitch to cut up. A hammer and chisel is probably the best bet! The tip about the onions and adding water is definitely going to sort that one out - Many thanks


12:17 AM  
Blogger BT said...

Well, it's in the oven now on the maiden voyage. I had pork belly in a restaurant in New Zealand (can't remember which one) and it was one of the most divine things I have ever tasted. Saw Emeril making it on the Food Channel (in the US) last week, so just had to try it. Your recipe looks the closest to what I remember eating in NZ. We'll see. Thanks for sharing your approach!!

7:50 AM  
Blogger Chef Mike Benninger said...

I just forund this recipe 5 years after you posted it, but am trying it tonight!!

6:28 AM  

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