How to cook pork belly

BBC Good Food shows you how to achieve crisp crackling and soft, tender meat when you're making slow-cooked pork belly for the best-ever Sunday lunch.

Learn to roast pork belly – top tips:

  1. Score the pork belly using a very sharp knife.
  2. Lay the pork, skin-side up, on a rack in a roasting tin. Rub with oil and season with salt. This process helps the fat run out and skin to crisp.
  3. Transfer to a preheated oven. Check your recipe for times and temperatures. Pork belly needs a combination of slow, gentle heat to tenderise the meat, plus a shorter blast at a higher heat to crisp up the skin.
  4. Cook at 180C/160C fan/gas 4 for 2 hrs 15 mins, then turn up the oven to 200C/180C fan/gas 6 for a further 35 minutes to crisp the crackling.
  5. Once cooked (the pork should be tender; this can be easily tested by piercing the flesh with a knife), remove the pork from the oven, then leave to rest for 10-15 minutes before carving.

How to season pork belly

A classic salt rub is traditional, but you could also make your own spice paste.

For a salt rub: rub the skin with olive oil and season generously with sea salt. This will help the fat run out and the skin to gain its famous crispy texture.

For a spice paste: try the fennel, peppercorn, garlic and thyme combo from our slow-roast rolled belly pork. Or, if you're feeling particularly adventurous, try our bourbon-glazed pork belly chunks for a grown-up, sweet whiskey marinade.

Some recipes also recommend leaving the meat uncovered in the fridge for a few hours in order to dry out the skin and let the meat take on the flavours of your chosen seasoning. If you have more time, marinating the meat for a few hours or even overnight (if you're making ahead of time), will always give a greater depth of flavour.

How long do you cook pork belly for? 

The secret to cooking pork belly is the combination of a gentle heat to tenderise the meat and short, high temperature blasts to crisp up the skin on the outside. Typically, recipes call for around 2 hrs at 180C/160C fan/gas 4, then a further 30 mins or so at 200C/180C fan/gas 6.

The pork will be ready when the juices run clear and the flesh is tender when pierced with a knife. If the skin hasn't crisped up, try putting the joint under a hot grill for a few minutes – but remember to keep an eye on it to avoid burning.

Our top pork belly recipes

1. Three-hour pork belly 

Pork belly on board with carving knife
This cheap cut of pork is perfect for a sensational Sunday roast. Our luxurious three-hour pork belly creates beautifully soft flesh and crisp crackling. Serve with red cabbage and new potatoes for an ultra-satisfying family meal. It takes a grand total of just 10 minutes to prepare this golden-brown beauty for cooking.

2. Slow cooker pork belly

Slow cooker pork with gravy, cabbage and mashed potato
Show your favourite piece of kitchen kit some love with our simple slow cooker pork belly. Achieve tender, melt-in-the-mouth meat in just two easy steps. For traditionalists, serve with creamy mash, steamed veggies and gravy. For something a little different, try serving in a ramen noodle broth, bao buns or burgers. 

3. Pork belly slices

Pork belly with slaw in bun on plate
Sticky pork belly slices are our favourite summer indulgence. Try serving these tender strips of meat with crunchy coleslaw in a pillowy-soft bread bun with plenty of homemade fries. Roasting with our easy barbecue sauce locks in flavour and creates a charred, caramelised crust we can't resist. 

4. Pomegranate-braised pork belly

Pomegranate pork belly in bowl
Combine classic Chistmassy spices to create the perfect balance of sweet and tart flavours with our pomegranate-braised pork belly. This hearty winter warmer makes a stunning dinner-party main course for the colder months. 

5. Rolled pork belly with herby apricot & honey stuffing

Rolled pork belly on board with slices cut
Fans of crisp crackling will be overjoyed with our rolled pork belly with herby apricot & honey stuffing. The sweet, fruity filling pairs perfectly with succulent, savoury pork. Drying out the skin before roasting will give you the perfect crackling you're craving.

Discover more of our essential advice on how to make the perfect pork belly.

Enjoyed these recipes? Check out our other cookery guides...

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How to make perfect pulled pork
Our ultimate pork belly recipe collection

What's your favourite way to serve pork belly? Leave a comment below...