I’ve been badgering and hounding Leo over the past few months to write something for the blog, especially after he went and made a roast pork belly without me one weekend (sad face)! After a solid week of pushy, cohersive tactics and petty whines, here’s a tasty sample of what’s to come from this guy. Photos are also by him. – P
“You might say that the secret ingredient… is salt.” – Marge Simpson
Pork belly is a widely available and relatively inexpensive cut of pigmeat you may know as PURE AMERICAN BACON. In Toronto, porcine crackling has been observed as a storefront staple of Chinese BBQ restaurants for decades now, and one hopes that same longevity will be shared by the recent spate of Italian porchetta in hogtown (not to mention the gold standard that is Filipino lechon). As a fan of all these varieties but not the prep work required, I was taken by the results of this stripped-down DIY version. This may well be the most forgiving (read “easy”) pork crackling recipe ever and you can count on it to yield crisp savoury crackling that peels away to reveal a succulent roast every time:
Ingredients & Tools
- Coarse salt
- Slab of pork belly
- Blow dryer (yes, a hair dryer)
- Box cutter (I’ve found that a single edge razor blade works best)
- Kettle of boiling water
Step 1 – Buy some Pork Belly
Start with a slab of nice, fatty pork belly that’s available at most grocery stores. Your choices will be with bone or without bone. I usually go boneless as bones weigh/cost more and can take longer to cook through, but it’s your preference. Don’t be afraid to buy a fattier cut either, this is where bacon comes from remember?
Step 2 – Score, Scald & Salt
Carefully score the skin if your butcher didn’t already do it for you. Break out the hardware supplies for a box cutter with a new blade or razor. You’ll need a sharp blade to do this cleanly because scoring raw pig skin is a bit like cutting through a piece of leather on a foundation of jello.
Score about 1 cm deep through the skin and down into the fat (or just before you hit the meat in leaner areas). Once you’re done, set the pork on a baking rack in the sink and slowly pour an entire kettle of boiling water over the skin, scalding the entire surface evenly. The runoff will cook the sides of the meat a bit too but don’t worry, scalding the skin is essential as it causes separation between the scoring – its edges will curl up slightly and create nice gaps for you to rub salt into.
Pat everything dry with tea towels and blow-dry the meat for about 10-15 minutes until it is drier than a Woody Allen joke. Drying out the skin thoroughly is the trick here for crispy crackling. Finish the preparation by rubbing salt all over, making sure you get lots of salt into the gaps of the skin.
Cover your dehydrated and salty pigmeat with a dry tea towel and stick it in the fridge overnight to let the salt draw out any remaining moisture.
Step 3 – Baking
Preheat your oven to the highest setting. Some people brush the skin with oil or even hot fat before baking but I find it’s not necessary if your cut is fatty enough to begin with. In a deep baking tray, place your pork belly on the middle shelf skin side up (you can roast some potatoes on the side if you have the room) and leave it to crackle on the highest setting for about 20 minutes or until you see that all the skin is browned, bubbled and blistered. Turn the heat down to 180 ˚C (356 ˚F) and let it slow-roast for an additional 30 minutes per pound of meat.
You’ll know it’s ready to eat if you can pull the pieces of crackling off and away from the fatty layer effortlessly. At this point you can singe off any unappetizingly stubborn pig hairs that survived the fires using a lighter or blow torch.
Enjoy it with rice, potatoes, or in a sandwich (with lots of mustard).