How to cook pork belly

Photographs by Scott Phillips; food styling by Ronne Day

My husband, John Stewart, and I were named King and Queen of Pork in 2011, when we won Grand Cochon, a national snout-to-tail pig-cooking competition. Needless to say, I’m enthusiastic about the whole hog. If I had to choose just one cut, though, it would be pork belly.

Pork belly is exactly what it sounds like

Quite simply, it’s the belly of the pig. You probably know it as bacon, which is cured, smoked pork belly. Left uncured, it’s incredibly tender meat layered with silky, lustrous fat, both of which have intensely porky flavor. Often served in restaurants, it may seem tricky to cook, but it’s easy enough to enjoy at home.

The key to cooking pork belly is time-preferably two days.

In some of my recipes, I season the pork the day before cooking so that the seasoning can penetrate. In others, I braise it the day before serving, because everything braised is better the second day. Cook times are long, too, to break down all the connective tissue in the meaty part of the belly and melt the fat so that the whole thing is tender enough to give at the mere sight of a fork. 

I have several methods for cooking pork belly. I often like to use a rub that has sugar in it, and then roast it so the dry heat caramelizes the sugar on the surface. Other times, I’ll give it a quick sear to enhance the pork flavor, then braise it in a really flavorful liquid to break it down into silky luxuriousness. I love pork belly with the skin on, too, for a crunchy pop. When I’m cooking it skin on, I simmer the belly in water so that the meat and fat get the tender quality that comes with wet cooking; then I broil it skin side up before serving to puff and crisp it.

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The surrounding elements on the plate are really important, no matter how the belly is cooked.

The meat is so rich that you eat only a small portion, so you want to incorporate it into a delicious dish. Below, you’ll find three of my favorite pork belly dishes. Try one, and soon enough, your friends and family may be calling you the king or queen of pork, too.

The Pork Queen Manifesto

If I told you I was a vegetarian for more than 20 years, you might wonder how I came to win a pork-cooking competition. Well, I met a guy. He made his own bacon and salumi, and wanted to raise pigs. He eventually became my husband, so we had to come to an arrangement. We agreed that our pigs would be raised on pasture so they could roam and enjoy each day with their faces in the sun and the wind. This isn’t just an ethical imperative—pigs raised this way taste better. Eating diverse diets of foraged food (plus scraps from our kitchen) makes the meat flavorful. Heritage breeds, which we raise, have more fat, which means more flavor still. When you’re buying pork, try to learn about how it’s raised—find a local farmer, or talk to your butcher. if your butcher doesn’t normally stock pork belly, the shop can get it for you with a few days’ notice, or you can mail-order it. it comes in slabs that weigh from 1 to 5 lb., and you can ask your butcher to remove the skin or leave it on. Occasionally, it’s sold bone-in, but for these recipes, ask for boneless.

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No Instant Pot? No problem!

I know I’m a gadget girl. I love to use kitchen appliances to make cooking dishes I love for friends and family easier. However, I know not everyone may have all of these appliances (although the Instant Pot and Air Fryer are two of the most used appliances in my kitchen and come highly recommended), so I also included instructions below on how to do the main cooking portion on a stove top, as opposed to using your Instant Pot.

The Instant Pot does make it simpler so you can focus on other things in the kitchen (like side dishes, clean-up etc), but it’s not going to ruin the dish if you don’t have one. Just will make it a little more hands-on. It’s worth it for this Crispy Pork Belly.

Pork Belly

 DID YOU MAKE THIS RECIPE? DON’T FORGET TO GIVE IT A STAR RATING BELOW! JUST CLICK ON THE STARS TO RATE.

Pork BellyKeyword:crispy pork belly, lechon kawali, pork belly recipes Cooking Style:Air Fryer, Instant Pot/Pressure Cooker Recipe Type:Air Fryer, Keto Low Carb, Pork, Pressure Cooker

  1. Cut the pork belly into 3 thick chunks so that it cooks more evenly.

  2. Place all ingredients into the inner liner of an Instant Pot or pressure cooker. Cook the pork belly at high pressure for 15 minutes. Allow the pot to sit undisturbed for 10 minutes and then release all remaining pressure. Using a set of tongs, very carefully remove the meat from the pressure cooker. Allow the meat to drain and dry for 10 minutes.  

  3. If you do not have a pressure cooker, place the ingredients into a sauce pan, cover, and cook for 60 minutes, until a knife can be easily inserted into the skin-side of the pork belly. Remove the meat and allow the meat to drain and dry for 10 minutes.  

  4. Cut each of the three chunks of pork belly into 2 long slices.  

  5. Place the pork belly slices in the air fryer basket. Set the air fryer to 400°F for 15 minutes or until the fat on the pork belly has crisped up, and then serve.  

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Note: I suspect the nutrition is off on this one since so much of the fat melts off the pork belly, but I don't know how to account for that. The good news is that there are truly no carbs in it, so that's great for keto.

594kcal | Fat: 60g | Saturated fat: 21g | Protein: 11g

I am not a registered dietician or nutritionist. Nutritional information is provided a courtesy, and can vary depending on the exact ingredients you use.

TwoSleevers Books

Every one of the recipes in this book can be made in an hour or less, and many are on the table in as little as 30 minutes. You won’t find “cream of anything” cans in the ingredient list: instead, you’ll start with fresh ingredients–healthful meats and vegetables–and let the air fryer do the hard work. Unleash the full potential of your Air Fryer and eat healthfully every night.    

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