How To Make Perfectly Crispy Pork Belly
This crispy pork belly is one of my favorite things to make in the whole world. It is so delicious, and for some reason it strangely impresses people even though there is only 1 ingredient. That’s right, this is a one ingredient recipe, which means the most important part is the technique. This is also why I’m not doing a printable recipe for this post because I want to show why this method works so well, as opposed to just telling you that it does.
A lot of people will call this Asian pork belly, or Hong Kong Pork belly, as it is popular in Canto style restaurants. I know when I was living in Hong Kong, I would always get an order of Siu Yuk from my favorite place for it, Lei Garden. While it isn’t by far my favorite restaurant in Hong Kong, they do have one of the best Siu Yuk dishes I’ve ever had. That being said, Asia isn’t the only place that does pork belly in this style.
Roasting pork belly like this has long been a popular method of cooking in Europe. In fact, the most popular restaurant in Europe (by visitors per annum) is right here in the city I live: Lviv, Ukraine. The restaurant is called Kryivka and their pork belly is some of the best in the world in my opinion. It is prepared using much more meat than the Asian style dish, which you can see in the picture. They usually serve it with a baked apple, and a roasted bulb of garlic, along with a hot mustard to dip the crispy pork belly into.
Being that salo, or pork belly lard, is pretty much Ukraine’s national dish, it is no surprise that they know how to perfectly roast a pork belly to get that delicious crispy pork belly skin.
How To Make Crispy Pork Belly Step-By-Step
1. You’ll have to start with procuring the pork belly to begin with. Any decent butcher shop should sell it, just make sure to buy skin on and not skin off. After all, it is the skin that crisps up.
2. Next you want to place the belly skin side up on a plate or pan. Then you will pour boiling water over the skin to tighten it up. It may look like the meat is cooking, but don’t worry about it, there’s a whole lot more cooking to do.
3. After you have poured on the boiling water (I pour about 2 liters slowly) you want to pat the meat dry with a paper towel or napkin. To make crispy pork belly you want to remove as much moisture as possible from the skin.
4. I then place the pork belly onto a wooden cutting board and place it in my refrigerator uncovered for at least 4 hours. I know, that seems like a long time, but it is important because you are really trying to dry out the pork (who ever though that sounded delicious). It is true though, there is enough flavor in the fat to permeate the rest of the meat as it renders in the oven. So don’t worry if the meat dries out, that’s what you want.
5. While the pork belly is in the fridge, I pull it out every hour or so and pat dry some more with paper towels just in case some more water is coming out. This is not a mandatory step, but it makes me feel like I’m doing something.
6. Once I’m satisfied that the pork belly skin is fully dried out, I place it on a baking pan and check for evenness. This means that I want the skin to be perfectly level so that when I put it into the oven to roast, no one part of the skin cooks differently than the rest. I do this by cutting off a little meat on the opposite side of the skin, until I’m satisfied that it is even.
7. Into the oven it goes. The oven should be pre-heated to 250 degrees Celsius until it looks right, about 35-40 minutes. The oven should have the fan on, to circulate the air, which helps more with the drying out of the skin. Keep the pork skin about 4-5 cm below the heating element, as seen in the picture below.
8. When the pork looks done, meaning you are happy with how the skin is looking, you can remove it from the oven. Let the pork belly rest for 10 minutes at least before you cut it. As for cutting, the easiest way is to use a chef’s knife and cut the crispy pork belly from its side. If you try to cut straight down on the skin, you will slide the skin off the meat. This is not Chinese pork belly, so the skin is more like brittle glass than bubbly and airy.
Should You Poke Holes In The Skin?
Many people suggest poking holes in the skin, with either a special tool, or just using toothpicks or needles. This is the Cantonese way of doing it, and you end up with a more bubbly airy crispy pork belly. I personally like the cracked glass kind of mouthfeel so I don’t poke holes in the skin, following a more European tradition.
If you do want to poke holes in the skin, you just need to make sure to only poke through the skin. You do not want to poke so low you go through the fat layer. This is because the pork skin will get too wet during the baking time and wont crisp up correctly.
Some people like using a salt crust to help crisp up the skin as well. Salt of course will help remove moisture which is what we are always trying to get rid of when making crispy pork belly. I personally don’t care much for this method, as I don’t feel it adds much and it just takes more time.
How To Serve Crispy Pork Belly
Being that this dish is extremely hard to cut with table knives, I always cut it into small bite size pieces in the kitchen before bringing it out to guests. Otherwise they probably won’t be able to get through the skin.
I always serve crispy pork belly with mustard since it complements the meat so well. Pictured is a whole grain French mustard, and a hot English mustard. Always better to give choices I say. If you want to go more Asian style you can make a traditional Canto dipping sauce, or be unique and try my Cashew Butter Satay Sauce.
How To Make Perfectly Crispy Pork Belly
Ingredients: Pork Belly
Prep: 1 minute
Cook: 35 minutes
Passive: 4 hours