Thursday, 12 January 2012

022 - Roasted Pork Belly

For number 22 in the list of 100 things to BBQ, I chose a joint of meat favoured by cheffy types, but one which I'd never actually cooked myself... the delicious sounding pork belly! It's thick layer of fat keeps the meat really moist as it cooks, and if done correctly produces a lovely layer of crackling... mmm!
After looking around online to research methods, the one that caught my eye the most was this by Planet Barbecue: Pork Belly Joints
The joint I found at my local supermarket was roughly 800g. This gave us enough meat for 2 as a main meal, with plenty left over for sandwiches the next day :-)



They key to getting the crackling right seems to be hitting it hard with some high temperatures right at the beginning of the cooking process, so that the fat starts to render and bubble straight away. So I set up the barbecue with a full chimney of lit coals (arranged to allow for indirect and direct cooking), left the air vents fully open, and closed the lid to let it get up to temperature while I prepped the meat.
It's best to cut through the skin before cooking, because otherwise carving through the crispy layer of crackling will be too difficult. My joint had already been scored, and I'm sure most butchers would also complete this step for you. To give the skin a helping hand in turning into crackling, I poured 2 full kettles of boiling water directly over skin - this helps to soften the skin and starts the process of rendering the fat. I then patted it dry with paper towel and rubbed a generous portion of salt into the skin, making sure to spread it into each score line.

After placing on the cooking grill and closing the lid, I closed the top air vents halfway to start to bring the temperature down. Although I wanted the temperature very high at the start to get the fat crisping up - the cooking process was going to take approx. 3 hours, so I reduced the temperature and slowed it down. I actually ended up closing the top air vent to roughly 1/4 open after about an hour, so control the temps further.

Towards the end of the cooking process, I flipped the joint over and placed it directly over the coals to really hit the skin and fat with a final thump of heat. To finish, I moved the joint back over to indirect heat and brushed some honey over the crackling and left it to cook for a further 30 minutes.

Finally, one critical point about the resting method. Following all the instructions above, I'd put a lot of care and attention into making sure the layer of crackling was crisp and tasty. I didn't want to waste all of that effort it by wrapping the whole thing in foil - letting the meat juices steam onto it, and end up spoiling the crackling by making it soft and chewy. So instead, I placed the joint on a square piece of foil and wrapped it up the sides of the joint, taking care not to wrap the foil over the crackling.

The end result was fantastic! I served it with crispy roast potatoes, stuffing and some steamed veg. The meat was mouth-wateringly moist and had a great flavour from being cooked over coals. But the star of the show was the crackling. Describing it as crispy doesn't quite do it justice - it would certainly have tested Granny's dentures! The caramelised honey along with the rubbed in salt gave it a slightly sweet/sour taste that I really enjoyed. If you're a fan of roast pork but are looking for something new, I'd definitely recommend giving this a try :-)

4 comments:

  1. looks and sounds delicious, you made a great job of it too!

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  2. Replies
    1. ha ha Thanks for your comment Nate :-)
      Will you be trying it yourself?

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