The most important word in the title of this post is crackling. In a world of skinless chicken breasts, pork belly and its’ glorious crisp crackling are the delicious, satisfying antithesis of every fat-free food and healthy recipe out there. The blistered top of the pork belly skin, yum, with a creamy fat beneath, oh yum! My mouth is watering at the very thought… Just look. Amazing right?! Yes about the little piece missing. Well that’s what happens when you leave the kitchen and pork belly unattended to get your camera.
The secret to good crackling is getting the moisture out of the skin. Moisture is cracking’s kryptonite. Scoring the meat is key. This is step one. If you are not comfortable you could always ask your butcher, but it is a relatively easy task to do yourself. You might be concerned your home knives are not up to the task, and if this happens just use a utility knife. So simple, but a good old utility knife will help you achieve your goal. With cuts about a finger width apart the trick is to not cut into the meat. If it happens it isn’t the end of the world, but it will allow the juices of the meat to escape, which could result in dry meat. To combat this you may want to consider adding liquid to the bottom of your pan if you do happen to cut the meat.
After the meat is scored there are various methods and schools of thought on how to best proceed. When I say various I really mean various. From pouring boiling water over the skin, to blow drying (yes blow drying with a hair dryer), to removing the skin and allowing to dry out by an open window…. I don’t know about you, but those all sound like a lot of work to me! Another popular method is rubbing oil on the skin. Now as much of a fat fancier that I am, I feel that fat on top of fat is unnecessary.
My method is much simpler. I promise no flabby, rubbery skin, which would be crime against meat. Pork belly without crackling is okay… and bonus your tears from weeping over the missing crackling will keep the meat moist. Okay in all seriousness in the war against flabby pork skin your best weapons are salt and time.
I start my pork belly the night before I plan to serve it. I score the skin and then give the pig a little salt massage. Wrapped back up in butcher or parchment paper then a clean dish towel, place the pork into the fridge overnight is best but at the very minimum you could get away with 4 hours. Overnight the salt will draw the moisture out of the skin.
The next day when you are ready to roast the pork, give the skin a quick pat dry and one more salt rub before going into the oven. With the high heat of your oven or BBQ you will be rewarded with the most perfect crisp crackling that will leave your family and friends begging for more!
- 4 pound pork belly
- 1 red onion, sliced
- 1 apple, cored and sliced
- 10 sage leaves
- 1 tbsp fennel seeds
- 1 head of garlic, lightly smashed
- corse sea salt
- Score the skin of the pork belly. Rub with corse sea salt, rewrap in butcher or parchment paper and refrigerator overnight.
- An hour before roasting, take out the meat to bring to room temperature. Pat dry and sprinkle skin with fennel seeds and sea salt.
- Pre-heat oven to 450F
- Arrange sliced apple and onion in the bottom of a large roasting pan. Add sage leaves and garlic cloves. Place the pork on top of the apple and onion.
- Roast the pork in oven for 30 minutes at high heat to start the crackling. Reduce the oven to 300F and continue to cook for 2.5 - 3 hours until fat is rendered and meat is tender. If the crackling needs more time, place meat under the broiler rotating to crisp the skin.
- Allow meat to rest for 20 minutes before slicing
To Grill: Heat your BBQ to 600F. The high heat will render the fat very quickly. Place the pan on the grill, checking until you see the scored skin bubbling. Reduce the heat of the BBQ to 300F. I usually turn off one burner and move the pan to the indirect heat. Cook for 1 hour, do not open the lid of the BBQ. Check after one hour and using a meat thermometer. Just your judgement with the meat/crackling. Allow to rest for 10 minutes before serving.
Pork belly loves a creamy mash. I served my roast and crackling with potato parsnip mash with cauliflower crumb and sautéed asparagus. And a big Californian Cabernet Sauvignon. Simply delicious.
Are you a fan of crackling and pork belly? How do you achieve crisp crackling? Have you tried any of the complicated methods of blow drying or air drying?
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