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Pork Belly Techniques Question

Hey guys,

I have made pork belly before and it was good, but not perfect. I've seen several "David Chang Pork Belly Recipe" and all of them were different then the one described in his Momofuko Book.

So here are the questions about the technique I have:

1. Wet or dry brine (or no brine at all??)
2. Start with High heat and lower or start low and crisp up in the end?
3. Liquid in the pan or not (I once used a cup of pineapple juice and while the taste was amazing, the meat part fell apart)

Looking forward to your thoughts!

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  1. I suppose it depends on what effect you're trying to achieve.

    Chinese style will involve a long braise. More often, we simply roast it - high heat to start so the skin crisps, then bring it right down to cook the meat.

    Where I am in the world, we don't brine meat - I think of it as very much an American technique.

    1. Like Harters says, it depends on what you're going for.

      There was a "competition" of sorts in the Montreal Gazette quite awhile back pitting 2 local chefs against each other doing pork belly.

      The winner roasted the belly sitting on onions in water. I tried the recipe and it was amazing; crisped skin, tender, flavorful meat. Not Asian, though.

      If you want, I could post the recipe.

      2 Replies
      1. re: porker

        Pineapple accelerates the tenderizing process, so if you marinate too long or slow cook in pineapple juice, you run the risk of proteins basically dissolving, as you found out. Perhaps a different liquid would be the solution.

        I made a Vietnamese preparation which is very easy. It involved little more than pork belly, cut in substantial chunks, hard cooked eggs, the juice of a young coconut, fish sauce, onions and caramel sauce (simple to make, but I subbed amber agave syrup with great results). I threw in garlic, as was my wont. It turned out great. It was a low and slow braise that was fantastic on rice.

        I saw a chef on TV do a whole piece of pork belly in the oven. I believe she used Calvados and other seasonings, scored the skin in a diamond pattern, then hit it with high heat in the oven for a bit to get the skin crisping. After a short time, she turned the oven down to a much lower temp for the bulk of the cooking time. The finished product looked phenomenal.

        1. re: 1sweetpea

          Presentation of a whole belly is indeed impressive
          ahh, roast *pork* belly.

      2. Thank you! I should have been more specific. I did a dry cured and high-low roasted 2lb. belly tonight and it rather tasted like bacon then the melt in your mouth pillows I had made before by slow braising it.

        My problem with the slow braising was (pineapple juice or simple chicken broth/veggies) the meat came out crispy but chewy or fall apart soft and didn't crisp up. I chilled it and sometimes weight in down to get even pieces before slicing, but that didn't seem to make a difference besides the presentation.

        So how do I get it crisp on the outside and melt in your mouth on the inside?

        @porker YES! please share the recipe!

        2 Replies
        1. re: WabbitNY

          "So how do I get it crisp on the outside and melt in your mouth on the inside?"

          As I suggested upthread. High heat to start, then bring it down. So, 30 minutes at around 220, then reduce down to 160 - 170. Time at the lower temperature will depend on whether you're roasting a flat piece or if it;s been rolled. Say an hour for the former, maybe 2.5 for the latter.

          But that's for a roast. I think it'll be difficult to get crispy skin in a braise because of the steam. You might want to detach the skin and cook it separately under the grill

          1. re: WabbitNY

            This recipe is from the May 07 2011 edition of The (Montreal) Gazette. My rat-ass, tattered cookbook has the following intro:

            "The Gazette featured a pork belly throwdown + this recipe was the winner. Intrigued, I bought 2 pieces of belly from Chinatown + made this for Mothers Day. IT IS SIMPLY FANTASTIC *****"

            Reading your post, you want a crisp outside and a tender inside. I never gave it thought before, but the process of half-submerging the belly in this recipe gives just that.

            OK OK, enough talking, to the recipe!

            Pork Belly (I used 2 pieces about 12"x12" each)

            12 large onions peeled and cut in half (if small, use whole. They should cover most of the bottom of the roast pan)

            12 to 24 cloves garlic (don't bother peeling)


            bunch of marjoram

            The night before, using a razor knife, score skin 1cm deep, 2 cm apart (approx 1/2" deep, 3/4" apart) across the grain of the meat. Rub sea salt into the slits, place on a rack on a tray, leave out overnight.

            Whoa, did he say "leave out overnight"?

            Yeah, its pork and we're leaving it out at room temp before cooking. Don't worry, it'll be fine.

            Next day, place onions and garlic in roasting pan, season with S&P, and set belly on top, skin side up, some onions under, some peeking out.

            Put on middle rack of preheated 475F oven for 45 minutes until skin starts to crisp.

            Add water halfway up the onions. Lower to 350F, roast for 5 hours (adding water if necessary to keep level).

            Remove from oven, let stand 30 minutes. Remove pork from pan, keep warm. Defat pan liquid, reduce to half.

            Serve 2 onion halves on each plate, slice belly in same direction as scores (about 2" thick per serving, but thats up to you), plate, drizzle with reduced juice.


            The winning chef served his belly with a dollop of a Parsely-Mustard sauce (I made this the first time. Its interesting, but I feel the dish does not need enhancement or condiment. Certainly give it a try to add pinache)

            1/2C shallots minced

            1/4C red wine vinegar

            good pinch of salt

            3/4C flat leaf parsely

            1TBL whole grain mustard

            1/2C olive oil

            juice 1/2 lemon

            sea salt & pepper

            put shallots/vinegar/pinch salt in bowl, mix, let marinate 10 minutes

            pound parsely in mortar&pestle, add to bowl, mix

            stir in mustard

            whisk in oil

            season with lemon, S&P

            Theres also a wine column in the same section of the Gazette Saturday edition. The wine columnist suggested a dry Riesling to go with the dish..."Sip after bite after sip after bite, I kept thinking "wow" "

            I made this dish 3 times since May. Its practically a no-brainer and the results are always a hit. As I mentioned, the Parsely-Mustard condiment is interesting, but not mandatory for the dish. Maybe give it a try, who knows, maybe you'll love it.

            The Riesling? I think the wine columnist was saying "wow" because of the pork belly more than the wine. I'd venture any good, dry, crisp white would go great with this dish.

            If you do try it (the pork, not necessarily the Riesling...), I'd like to hear your comments.

          2. i cook it often and it gets wows, even with a lazy version, which is:

            put thick sliced large onions in a roasting dish. can add slices of ginger and garlic cloves to the onion bed. score the top of the meat and lay the pork belly on top. if it won't stand up, pierce together upright with skewers. add boiling water to roasting dish to just cover the onions. put in a 350 degree oven for about 30-45 minutes, or til skin starts to crisp. lower oven to 300. cook about 3 hours, or till meat is very tender.

            remove meat and strain stuff out of cooking liquid. reduce and add mustard to make a sauce. the onions are a great side here. while sauce is reducing, heat broiler. peel rind off meat and place the meat, fat side up, under the broiler to crisp.

            sauce, serve with onions.

            you can use wine or stock in place of the water, but this is an easy/everyday way to go.

            1. All this delicious pork belly speak has me smitten. This recipe looks fantastic:

              1. If you have a whole pork belly (uncut) try baking it in a salt crust. Awesome.

                1. A friend made pork belly last year following Chang's recipe, and his turned out excellent.

                  I've had very good results with pork belly - tender inside, crispy outside - using an unconventional technique.

                  Using a 3-4 pound piece of belly, seasoned with S&P, and browned in a large heavy skillet to achieve a good sear. Then I place it into a crock pot with whatever flavoring agents I want, and let it go for 8-10 hours. When that's done, I carefully (emphasis on carefully) transfer the belly to foil, and blast it in the broiler for about 6 minutes to get the exterior crispy. I defat the juice left in the crock, and reduce it while the broiler is heating/doing it's thing.

                  While a bit fussy, the results have been fantastic - tender and flavorful inside, and crispy on the outside. Another advantage is that I can cook a belly while at work, with minimal fussing in the morning, and just a little bit of work when I get home. For a mid week preparation, it's as simple as it gets, and the results suggest a very carefully oven-braised belly.

                  On the brine question, something as fatty as a belly doesn't need a brine, in my opinion. The only cuts that need brine are those in danger of drying out before fully cooked, such as turkey and most modern pork loins. A belly doesn't have that problem.

                  4 Replies
                  1. re: foreverhungry

                    Thanks, that's kinda how I did it in the past (high heat or broiler in the end) but I brined it before and only cooked it 3-4 hours (longer it fell to pieces) and didn't crisp up enough. I thought the brining was rather for the flavor then preventing it from drying out. And like I said before, the overnight dry brining Momofuko technique resulted in more bacon flavor with a better crust but not as soft.

                    I just gotta buy 3 cuts and a lab coat and try all techniques at once and compare! ;-) I'll probably be oinking by the time I'm done trying and EATING!

                    1. re: WabbitNY

                      I have had success braising it for the extreme tenderness, letting it rest overnight to firm up slightly, then cutting it into chunks and either deep frying them or pan frying them to get all the sides crispy.

                      1. re: WabbitNY

                        "I'll probably be oinking by the time I'm done"
                        -You say that as if its a bad thing {;-/)

                        1. re: porker

                          Oh no! Not at all, I'm usually just more of a moooooo type of girl!

                    2. I usually start with low heat and at the end, i put a high heat on to reduce the sauce...usually ends up with nice syrupy sauce that's delicious with rice. I don't like braising too long as I like my meat somewhat chewy...not falling off the bone.
                      but my favorite pork belly recipe is one of the easiest..I put s&p and grill/smoke on charcoal fire for about an hour or more...the interior is juicy and tender and exterior is super crisp..it's SO SO good!!!

                      1. I have a PB in oven as I type. I decided to try Ann Burrells Mustard Pork Belly. It had a dry rub that sat 24 hours before finishing and then a braising liquid. Her recipe starts and stays at 325° for 6 hours. I have questions about what to do with it afterwards. I want to try a BLT sandwich with tomato fennel jam (had this at Longman and Eagle in Chicago) and I also want to try a BLT appetizer with it. My question is can I cut it in squares and freeze until I want to finish it off?
                        Anne's recipe had skin off. Her braising liquid was fennel, onion, garlic, white wine and chicken broth.