How to cook pork belly
Follow our guide for how to make slow-cooked pork belly. Learn how to achieve perfectly crisp crackling and soft, tender meat for the best-ever Sunday lunch.
It's the ultimate combination of crispy skin and juicy meat that puts this dish at the top of the roasting tree. Pork belly is a treat few turn down, so why not try making this meaty masterpiece at home? This dish will captivate carnivores everywhere and make your Sunday roast an extra special affair.
Read our guide on how to cook pork belly in the oven, then check out more pork belly recipes. For more information on other cuts, see our guides for how to cook pork shoulder and how to cook pork chops.
What to look for when buying pork belly
Pork belly is available to buy from both supermarkets and butchers or grocery stores. It can be bought in the form of a whole slab or already sliced in bacon and pancetta form. The most important thing to check for when buying pork belly is that the meat is fresh and not showing any signs of being off. You can use the following indicators:
Colour: If in good condition, the fat should be a pale creamy white colour. Any discolouration (yellow or grey shading) indicates that it has aged beyond best.
Smell: There should be no distinct 'off' smells which indicate decay.
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Texture: The flesh should be firm to touch and pink, with no sliminess.
Ratio of fat:flesh: Around 50:50 distribution here is perfect, with an even spread of rendered fat.
How to prepare pork belly
It's easiest to ask a butcher for help and advice with boning, trimming, slicing, scoring, rolling and tying. If the recipe calls for the skin to be scored, pork belly has particularly tough skin, so you'll need a sharp knife to get the right cut. If you're unsure, your butcher will be happy to score the meat for you and save you the hassle. This is also a relatively cheap cut of meat so it's perfect for budget-friendly Sunday roasts. If you are paying for the bones and the butchers bone the belly for you, it's worth asking to take the pork ribs home, as they are great for stock.
How to roast pork belly
- Score the pork belly using a very sharp knife.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
Is it better to cook pork belly fast or slow?
Pork belly has a high fat content, and is packed with flavour. This cut lends itself well to slow-cooking methods as this will allow the fat to gradually render into the meat and transfer its flavour and moisture in the process and resulting in a tender texture. If you are roasting the meat, then this will also create a beautifully crispy finish on the skin simultaneously whilst the fat renders. Meanwhile, slow-braising and stewing pork belly also suits this meat, resulting in a soft texture, with a little more bite compared to roasting
How long do you cook pork belly for?
Wondering what temperature pork belly should be cooked at and for how long? 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. Some recipes suggest cooking at a higher temperature first, while others recommend doing so at the end as we have here; either way will produce good results.
How to check that pork is cooked
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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