Pork belly is the flesh from the belly area of the pig. When sliced and cured, it becomes bacon. Left whole or cut into smaller chunks, pork belly responds well to moist heat cooking, turning it fork-tender.
What is Pork Belly
Pork belly is an inexpensive, fatty cut of meat from the underside of the pig near the loin. Spareribs also come from this area. Whole, the belly is one long piece with the skin on, weighing about 12 pounds. When the skin is removed, it's salted, cured and smoked to make bacon. (If it's salted and cured but not smoked, it's Italian pancetta.) Pork bellies are more traditionally seen in the cuisines of northern Europe and Asia.
How to Cook Pork Belly
To break down the connective tissue in the meat, pork belly is best slow-cooked for a tender chew and to render the fat silky-soft. The belly can also be cut into smaller pieces and prepared in the same manner. To crisp the skin, score it and then sear or broil at the end. In either scenario, rub the skin with just salt or try a spice blend to enhance flavor. If time allows, let it sit uncovered in the refrigerator for several hours or overnight to intensify the seasoning and dry out the skin which will help it crisp better. Once cooked, make sure the juices run clear and the meat can easily be pierced with the tip of a knife. The amount of fat varies from pig to pig, so be sure to give the belly enough time to properly cook for a meltingly tender result.
What Does Pork Belly Taste Like?
The meat of the pork belly has a mild taste, much like the loin. The rich, unctuous flavor comes from the layer of fat that breaks down and enrobes the meat. Because of this, bright fresh ingredients like citrus, fresh herbs, scallions, lettuce, and cucumber often accompany pork belly dishes to offset the richness.
Pork Belly Recipes
Pork belly is used in dishes that apply slow heat and/or moist heat to get soft and tender meat. If the skin is kept on, it can be crisped at the end under the broiler or seared in a pan.
Where to Buy Pork Belly
Once only found in larger butcher shops or Asian markets, the popularity of pork belly has created demand for it in some better-stocked grocery stores, supermarket chains, and box stores. It can come whole with a thick layer of skin or cut into thin strips ready for making bacon.
How to Store Pork Belly
Sealed, well-wrapped, raw pork belly will keep in the fridge (40℉ or below) for 3 to 5 days or in the freezer (0℉ or below), for up to 6 months. Refrigerate any leftovers in a tightly sealed container for 2 or 3 days.