When we last placed an order from our friends who have a pig ranch, we asked for fresh pork belly - 10 pounds of it! Why? Because it's crispy on the outside, juicy and flavorful inside, and oh 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 David 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!
Skinless Pork Belly vs. Skin On Pork Belly
This easy recipe works beautifully for both skinless and skin-on pork belly! The only difference is that you'll need to score the skin with the skin-on variety before roasting to get that perfectly golden brown and crisp crackling (crispy pork skin) and allow the seasonings to permeate the fat and meat. With the skinless variety, you'll skip the scoring and go straight to seasoning.
Side Pork vs. Pork Belly
Pork belly and side pork are the same thing. A pig's belly wraps around the sides, thus how the two terms came to be synonymous. If you ask for side pork or pork belly from your butcher, you will get the same exact cut of meat.
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 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, no matter if it is skinless or skin on, look for a slab that is close to an even thickness, and around one pound (larger cuts will work, but will increase the cooking time). If you have thin areas, they are likely to burn during the first 30 minutes of roasting at 450˚F.
Third, for the best pork belly, I recommended that you cook and then wrap and chill it overnight before slicing (don't worry, the skin-on version with still have crispy skin). 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 and tastes amazing!
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: Skin-On or Skinless
1. If you're cooking skinless pork belly, move on to the next step. For skin on pork belly, pat skin dry with a paper towel and score skin with a very sharp knife on the diagonal about ½-inch apart. Repeat this cutting in the opposite direction to create a diamond pattern (see image below). Take care to make shallow cuts - it's okay to go into the fat, but don't cut so deep that you go into the meat.
2. Season a one pound piece of pork belly (skin on or skinless) with a dry rub of sugar, salt and pepper. Cover and refrigerate overnight.
3. The next day roast in a heavy, oven-safe pan or skillet in a 450°F oven on the middle rack 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 pork belly skin on or skinless
- 2 teaspoons fine salt or 4 teaspoons kosher salt
- 2 teaspoons sugar
- a few grinds of black pepper
- For skinless pork belly, move on to the next step. If using skin on pork belly, pat skin dry with a paper towel. With a sharp knife, score through skin every ½-inch at a diagonal, cutting through skin and into fat, but not so deep that you hit meat. Repeat cutting in an opposite diagonal to create a diamond shape pattern. (recipe note #1)
- 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 on the middle rack in a heavy, oven-safe pan or skillet, skin side up / 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! (recipe note #2)
- Scoring the pork belly skin allows it to crisp up and allows the seasoning to penetrate into the fat and meat below the skin.
- Be sure to check out my collection of Pork Belly Recipes for ways to use this delicious crispy pork belly!