Pork Belly isn’t everyone’s cup of tea and I’ll glady admit that.
I suspect that it’s partly due to the ratio of meat to fat (i.e. it has a lot of fat compared to most cuts) but mostly suspect it’s due to it not being cooked for long enough to render down the fat and turn the skin into gloriously crisp and golden crackling, leaving an unpleasantly chewy and somewhat slimy mouthful of food.
If, however, you cook it properly it is – in my opinion at least – one of the most enjoyable things you could ever hope to eat. Tender meat that melts in the mouth, topped with gloriously crisp, golden cracking.
Follow this method and you’re pretty much guaranteed success…
Slow Cooked Pork Belly
- 700 g Pork Belly Joint
- 1 tbsp Sea Salt
- 1 Onion, peeled and thickly sliced
If you're buying your pork from a butcher, ask them to score a diamond pattern into the skin on the top of the pork belly joint. If you can't do that and it doesn't come pre-scored then you'll need to do it yourself. Be careful and make sure you use a very sharp knife - otherwise you could injure yourself. Cut diagonal lines across the skin so that they go through the fat but not into the meat itself. Repeat in the opposite direction until you have a diamond pattern.
Put the whole joint on a wire rack over a deep baking tray or a draining board then slowly pour over water from a freshly boiled kettle. This will make the edges of the diamonds slightly curl up and will make a difference to your crackling later on. Take care to tip off the excess water then dry the meat well. Rub in the sea salt, then cover with a tea towel and refridgerate for a few hours (or overnight).
When you're ready to cook the pork belly pre-heat the oven to 220°C. Remove the pork from the fridge half an hour before cooking to bring it to room temperature.
Lay the sliced onion in the bottom of a deep roasting pan and place the pork belly on the top. Put into the oven for 30 minutes until the edges of the fat are starting to blister.
Turn the oven down to 140°C and cook the meat for a further 2½ hours. Check every half hour or so and turn the pan as needed to stop one side cooking faster than the other.
Turn the oven back up to 220°C and cook for a further 20-30 minutes, until you have crisp, golden crackling. Keep an eye on the meat during this stage as you don't want it to burn.
Remove from the oven and allow to rest for a few minutes before carving into generous slices or chunks (you may find it easier to remove the crackling and carve the meat separately - that's up to you).