Roast pork belly, with a perfectly crisp and crunchy crackling is a real treat. However, despite appearances it’s a lot easier to cook than you might expect.
Roast pork belly with beautifully bubbled crunchy crackling is one of life’s real delights. I love pork, however I really adore properly cooked pork crackling. Proper crackling is like gold, funnily enough nobody ever offers to share around our table!
We served this pork belly at one of our Supperclubs and it went down a treat with our diners. Everyone raved about the soft pork, full of flavour, the fat properly rendered down and topped with crackling. That is they key to roasting this delicious cut, you must properly render down the layers of fat. Regardless of how good your crackling is, nobody will thank you for a thick layer of fat underneath.
Pork belly is a cut that requires slow roasting at a low temperature. Take it out too early and the fat will not have rendered and you risk the meat being chewy. Cooked like we have here it is a truly delicious cut of pork.
A few of our diners have asked for our roast pork belly recipe, so here it is. Key to cooking this roast is to purchase fresh, good quality pork belly from your butcher. We are very lucky to have great quality pork available to us in the UK.
How do you score pork belly?
Firstly ensure you buy your pork belly with the skin on and you can get your butcher to score it for you if you would rather. However, it is really easy to do this yourself.
You will need a really sharp knife, alternatively Michelle uses a Stanley knife which she keeps solely for the purpose of scoring meat. Score the skin almost down to the meat but you don’t want to cut into the meat itself. It is traditional to score in a diagonal pattern. However, Michelle also likes to score into portion sized sections to make it easier to cut into servings later. The pork belly will shrink a little, so keep that in mind when scoring out your portions.
How do I achieve crisp crackling?
To obtain the best crackling you need to give the heat of your oven access to the fat underneath the skin. Scoring helps this, but Michelle takes this one step further and use a sharp knife to pierce the skin in a stabbing motion all over the layer of skin. Doing this increases the area the heat has access to and in turn gives the most amazing crackling.
Next start with an extremely hot oven. This high heat seals the meat and also starts the fat melting under the skin. This layer of fat melts into the meat as it cooks, ensuring moist, soft meat. Start with the oven as high as 250C for 25 minutes, then gradually reduce down to 140C for the most amazing tender pork and crunchy crackling.
Finally, once the pork belly is cook, to ensure the best bubbly, crisp crackling pop it under a high grill. Just ensure that you don’t leave it or take your eyes off it. You don’t want to have gone to all that effort, then burn the skin just before serving because you took your eye off the ball!
How long should I rest the pork for?
In our recipe for roast pork belly we suggest resting the pork for around 20 minutes. Just make sure you don’t cover the pork while it’s resting or you will soften the crackling.
What can I serve with roast pork belly?
Pork works with a wide range of vegetables, roasted carrots and parsnip with cumin seeds would be delicious. The trick is not to serve something too oily as you want the vegetables to work with the fatty pork.
On the night of our Supperclub we served this roast pork belly with our Savoy Cabbage with Bacon & Cider, the perfect accompaniment, as the cider cut through the pork.
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Our thanks to Donald Russell Butchers, who gifted us the pork belly for use in this recipe.
Perfect Pork Belly
- 1.5 kg free range pork belly – boneless
- 2 tsp fennel seeds
- 2 tbsp rock salt
- 2 large onions
- 2 large leeks
- 1 tsp sunflower oil
- An hour before cooking, remove the pork from the packaging, wiping the top of the skin with a paper towel to keep it dry. Allow to rest at room temperature so its not cold going into the oven.
- Preheat the oven to 250C.
- Start to prepare the pork belly by scoring the skin. Firstly using a very sharp Stanley knife, puncture the skin all over with a stab like motion, taking good care not to allow the knife to penetrate the meat, only the skin and fat. You can also score the skin into 1 inch squares as it usually done by the butcher (or have them do it for you). Then using the same knife, portion the skin into 6 to make it easier to cut later.
- Once the pork is prepared, wash and rinse the leeks to ensure no grit is left in them. Slice them lengthways and set aside. Slice the onions into thick rounds, you don't need to worry about peeling them as these are only for flavour. Set aside.
- In a small pestle and mortar, bash up the rock salt and fennel seeds to a course consistency.
- Now arrange the vegetables in a single layer in the bottom of your roasting tin. Place the pork belly on top of the vegetables. Rub a teaspoon of sunflower oil onto the skin to allow the salt & fennel seeds to stick. Pour over the salt & fennel seeds and smooth to cover all of the skin.
- Place into the oven at 250C for 20 minutes.
- Now reduce the oven temperature to 220C and cook the pork for a further 40 minutes.
- Reduce the oven temperature again down to 180C. Take the pork from the oven and using a spoon or fork crack the salt mixture and remove as much as you can from the belly and push to the side. Put the belly back in the oven and allow to cook another 40 minutes.
- Finally reduce the oven temperature to 140C and allow the pork to cook for another 60-80 minutes until the internal temperature reaches about 95C, or the pork falls apart when tested.
- Remove the pork from the oven, place onto another oven proof tray to finish off the crackling. Discard the vegetables as these will be almost burnt by now and full of salt.
- Turn the oven to grill setting on high, approximately 220C. Once the grill is hot, place the pork under and allow the crackling to finish crisping up. DO NOT LEAVE UNATTENDED at this point! This is a crucial step if you want extra crispy crackling and only takes minutes to ruin. You will see the bubbles start to form on the skin. When its golden brown remove from oven, allow to rest for 20 minutes before cutting and serving. Do not cover the meat as you don't want to allow moisture into the crackling as this will soften it.