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Pork belly...fail?

I just attempted to braise pork belly for the first time. While it smells delicious, the final result looks less than appetizing. The end result was a very tender piece of meat but it literally fell apart as I carefully lifted it out the braising liquid to chill over night. I know pork belly is a fatty cut but it seemed that most of it was just huge globules of fat which fell back into the pan. I think perhaps I didn't choose a good cut (i.e. good balance of fat and lean to keep the fat in place as it softens) or did I cook it too long or perhaps something else?

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  1. I've found pork belly to have too much belly/fat to pork ratio so will be interested in this thread.

    1 Reply
    1. re: c oliver

      I tried Trader Joe's precooked last week and thought it had a good ratio and didn't seem so flabby but this stuff literally looks like a pile of lard.

    2. As with bacon (made from the same part), the ratio of fat to lean varies with part of the belly.

      2 Replies
      1. re: paulj

        That was my initial thought, that as a newbie to pork belly I didn't realize this and just grabbed the cut in front not realizing it was mostly fat.

        1. re: fldhkybnva

          If you used that Epicurious method I posted, it definitely gets VERY tender - I usually allow it to cool completely in the liquid before trying to lift it out, and then fridge it under a weight (as I mentioned) before slicing. It's possible that you overcooked it a bit too, if your oven runs hot at all, but that won't ruin it, it will just be harder to cut.

          However, you definitely need to be careful when choosing a piece - some bellies are WAY fatty, and some have the fat parts all in one layer rather than nice striations of fat and meat. You want one with plenty of meat and good layers, so the fat bits aren't too chunky.

      2. I no savy on braisey, so can't comment on your procedure.
        However, when I want to wow with pork belly, I turn to Derek Dammann's recipe here
        http://www.montrealgazette.com/life/C...

        1. If it fell apart then you way overcooked it.

          5 Replies
          1. re: Zalbar

            It's still intact, aside from obvious chunks of fat at the end which plopped into the pan, just quite delicate

            1. re: fldhkybnva

              i'd cut up what you have and crisp it under the broiler. careful it doesn't catch fire too badly, lol.

              1. re: hotoynoodle

                That's the plan. I planned to eat it tomorrow so I thought I'd crisp it up then and hope for the best. I had a lovely pork belly and collard greens meal in mind...

                1. re: fldhkybnva

                  You can also pan fry it (in a non-stick skillet - I'm not sure why, but pork belly tends to stick like crazy to stainless steel, at least for me) or deep fry it, if you're worried about it catching fire under the broiler (which it definitely can if you're not careful). Whatever you do, don't try grilling it over an open flame. I almost burned down a friend's house doing that once (the pork belly was still edible, if a little charred)!

                  1. re: biondanonima

                    I attempted to sear the TJs precooked in a cast iron pan and it stuck too then I read in this latest adventure that pork skin is notorious for sticking so a nonstick is recommended as you suggested.

          2. it's something i cook often but never braise it. you can't firm the fat that way.

            have used both ad hoc and ruhlman methods which make dinner guests swoon.

            my easy-peasy is to slice some onions into thick rings and layer those in the bottom of a dish. place pork belly on top. cover onion with boiling water. roast at 400 for 20-30 minutes then lower heat to 275 til meat is tender.

            10 Replies
            1. re: hotoynoodle

              I basically used your easy-peasy method, perhaps I just cooked it too long.

              1. re: fldhkybnva

                was the meat submerged in the liquid? my method does not do that and so is not a braise.

                1. re: hotoynoodle

                  The meat was 3/4 above the liquid, just 1 cup.

                  1. re: hotoynoodle

                    One way to distinguish between a stew and braise, is in the amount of liquid. Enough to float the meat is a stew, part ial exposure is a braise. In a roast the meat is above the liquid (if there is any).

                    1. re: paulj

                      Hence it was a braise, as described :)

                      1. re: paulj

                        i think the op and i both know the difference between a stew and a braise.

                    2. re: fldhkybnva

                      The easy-peasy method sounds very much like the recipe I linked above.
                      Howsomever, the onions are halved, liquid only up to 1/2 height of onions, belly sits atop onions and doesn't really sit in juice. easy-peasy-no-braisey

                      1. re: ChrisOfStumptown

                        it's on his blog, not sure about the book.