What is pork belly?
Pork belly is cut from the middle section of a carcass of pork. Containing both the flesh that made up the belly of the animal, plus also a large part of the rib cage, the belly follows on from the loin. It is made up of layers of flesh and fat that make it a flavoursome and versatile cut to cook.
How long to cook pork belly?
One of the great things about pork belly, and one of the reasons it is so popular in many cuisines around the world, is that it is fantastically versatile. It can be cooked in so many different styles, from smoking or confiting for several hours, to grilling or searing in a matter of minutes. Even when roasting you have a choice, with some preferring a long slow roast, so the flesh is falling apart, while others are inclined to roast for a shorter time, so the flesh maintains a little pinkness and moisture. In short, there is no definitive answer to this question.
How to cook a pork belly joint
As we have established, there are a plethora of methods and techniques for cooking pork belly but we had to agree on one. So here is a recipe for slow roasting a pork belly for Sunday lunch:
- Remove the belly from the fridge and its packaging and pat dry with some kitchen towel.
- Season well with salt and then place the belly on a trivet of roughly chopped vegetables.
- Place the belly in the oven at 200°C for 15 minutes, then reduce the temperature to 140°C and cook for a further 2 ½ – 3 hours.
- Check on the belly and in particular the state of the crackling. If the crackling needs a little helping hand then turn the heat back up to 200°C and cook for 15 more minutes, to crisp the crackling.
- Remove from the oven and rest for at least 30 minutes before carving.
- Add some fennel seeds and black peppercorns to a pestle and mortar and finely grind, then mix with the salt to season the skin.
- If possible, season the meat up to 6 hours before cooking. This will give the salt a chance to really penetrate the meat.
- Scoring the skin of the belly with a sharp knife will help to create better, more even crackling.
- When serving the belly, remove the rib cage first before carving. These ribs can be kept for another meal later in the week.
Pork belly recipes
Whilst the recipe described above is crying out for all the traditional roast dinner trimmings, you could try roasting the belly and serving with an endive gratin and a watercress salad. Or, for a more challenging recipe, why not these glazed pork belly bao buns.