You need two crucial skills, in order to roast the perfect pork belly.
1. You need to be able to turn your oven on.
2. You must be able to tell the time.
Assuming you’re comfortable with the above, congratulations - you’re in the game.
There are a couple of key points to achieve crispy-crackling-crack, with the wobble of juicy, perfectly cooked meat. The first tip is to season your meat in advance. Overnight is ideal, but even a few hours before cooking will work. What you’re doing here is drawing moisture out of the skin and encouraging the crackling to…well…crackle. The second key tip is to understand that you need to nuke the skin at a high temperature while cooking the meat at a much lower temperature. This means blasting it with a high heat either at the very beginning or at the very end of the cooking process. Both will work but I prefer to wait until the end, which gives me more control as to the amount of time I crank the heat up for. A third tip is to raise the meat off any cooking surfaces, using a wire rack. Wire racks are friends for ANY kind of cooking where crispiness is involved, by the way. Lay the rack over a baking tray, lined with tin foil and half a cup of water. You can even throw in some fennel bulbs (or any seasonal veg that blows your hair back) towards the end of the cooking process. Vegetables + rendered pork fat = good times. Lastly, as with any roasted meat, please allow the meat to rest once you’ve taken it out the oven. Do not cover with foil, or the meat will steam and your beautiful skin could end up soggy. Just trust the meat to retain its heat for longer than you think. (15 - 20 minutes is fine).
For seasoning, the recipe below calls for salt and pepper and a smidge of fennel. That’s it. In my opinion, too many recipes out there call for complicated marinades. There’s a purity that comes through with eating ethically-reared pork that deserves to be celebrated.
With all of this knowledge, there really is only one thing to do. Set some time aside this weekend and cook one. You will surprise yourself, trust me.
What you’ll need:
1.5kg deboned pork belly, skin left on.
1 cup sea salt
3 tbsp cracked black pepper
2 tbsp fennel seeds
1/2 cup water
What you’ll do:
1. Using a Stanley knife, a sharp chef’s knife or a razor blade, score your meat. I like to make long, parallel cuts as close to each other as possible. (Feel free to ask your butcher to do this).
2. Rub sea salt onto both sides of the meat and refrigerate overnight, or for a few hours.
3. When ready to cook, preheat oven to 160 Degrees Celsius. Wipe excess salt off meat and pat dry with kitchen towels.
4. Season both sides of meat with black pepper and fennel seeds and place meat, skin side up, on a wire rack. There is no need to add any additional salt here.
5. Place rack on a baking tray and add water to the tray, being careful not to let any moisture get onto the skin of the meat.
6. Cook meat in the oven for 2 hours. (The skin will take on a beautiful colour).
7. Increase heat to 220 Degrees Celsius and turn on the grill function of your oven. Cook for another 20 - 30 minutes, checking often to ensure skin isn’t burning.
8. When skin has puffed up nicely, remove meat from oven and allow to rest. Instead of fussing around with too much carving, I like the option of peeling off the entire piece of crispy skin and breaking it up to serve with shredded pork. Serve it however you want (hint: tacos), and marvel at yourself for the stellar job you did.