When we last placed an order from our friends who have a pig ranch, we asked for fresh pork belly – 10 pounds of it! The only problem was that we’d never actually cooked pork belly. Boy had we been missing out! Crispy on the outside, juicy and flavorful inside and so versatile.
If you’ve had poorly cooked pork belly – chewy or otherwise unpleasant, you know that technique is important. We looked at several recipes and settled on the master recipe from Momofuku, which Dave Chang was kind enough to share at Lucky Peach. We expected that he probably knew what he was talking about. What we didn’t expect was how ridiculously simple the recipe would be!
What is the difference is between pork belly and bacon?
They’re often confused, but here’s the difference. Pork belly is a fresh, thick slab of meat cut from the abdomen of a pig. It hasn’t been cured or smoked. Bacon has been cured, smoked and sliced and typically comes from pork belly or back cuts (less fatty).
A Few Important Tips Before you Begin:
There are some things to keep in mind when making this recipe to be sure that it comes out perfectly every time. First, despite the fact that you’ll only have a few moments of active time, you’ll want to start the process three days ahead. You’re essentially dry brining the meat and it needs an overnight stint in your refrigerator to take on all of that wonderful flavor. Then (ideally) you’ll refrigerate overnight again after roasting and before slicing and crisping.
Second, when you’re buying pork belly, look for a slab that is skinless, close to an even thickness, and around one pound (larger cuts will work, but will increase the roasting time). If you have thin areas, they are likely to burn during the first 30 minutes of roasting at 450˚F.
Third, I’ve recommended that you wrap and chill the cooked pork belly overnight before slicing. This has two benefits: it’s much easier to slice and stays together beautifully when crisping up in a pan. That said, we almost always have a sample or two when it’s fresh out of the oven because it smells irresistible!
Finally, be sure to use a heavy bottomed, oven-proof pan or skillet for roasting (not a glass baking dish where the fat that renders will burn and smoke excessively).
How to Cook Pork Belly
1. Season a one-pound slab of fresh pork belly with a dry rub of sugar, salt and pepper.
2. Cover and refrigerate overnight.
3. The next day roast in a heavy, oven-safe pan or skillet in a 450°F oven for the first 30 minutes and then an hour at 275°F. Remove from oven and let cool to room temperature. Wrap tightly in plastic and refrigerate until chilled through – at least a few hours and up to 2 days.
4. Once chilled, slice into thick pieces and brown until crispy to enjoy alone or in a variety of recipes from salads to soups to sandwiches and more!
Pork Belly Recipe Video
Oven Roasted Crispy Pork Belly
- 1 pound skinless pork belly
- 2 teaspoons fine salt
- 2 teaspoons sugar
- a few grinds of black pepper
- Season pork belly with salt sugar and a few grinds of black pepper. Cover and refrigerate overnight.
- Preheat oven to 450°F.
- Roast pork belly for 30 minutes in a heavy, oven-safe pan or skillet, fat side up. Reduce heat to 275°F and roast for an hour or more, until tender but not mushy. (Larger pieces of pork belly will take longer. Our one-pound belly was done after an hour at 275°F.)
- Remove from oven and let cool to room temperature. Wrap tightly in plastic and refrigerate until chilled through – at least a few hours and up to 2 days.
- Once chilled, slice into thick pieces and brown in a skillet on the stovetop until crisp. Enjoy alone or in soups, salads, pasta sauces, ramen and more! *See Recipe Notes for Ideas!