The Big Mistake You Might Be Making With Pork Belly

If you eat pork in chops regularly, we'd like to introduce you to a whole new way of looking at "the other white meat." Pork belly is, as its name suggests, a thick cut of pork that comes with layers of fat and meat. The cut is generally boneless — and to chefs like Chicago's Jared Wentworth, pork belly "is an awesome cut of meat and is incredibly versatile. No other meat can be used in as many ways as the belly of a pig," per Allrecipes

Allrecipes suggests that cooking a slab of pork belly might be challenging for home chefs because it's nothing like chops, tenderloin, or marbled cuts of beef. But don't let that put you off. Cesar Herrera, chief instructor at Auguste Escoffier School of Culinary Arts, says the cut "has a unique umami element to it, and if cooked correctly, almost melts in your mouth. It blends well with an array of other flavors or can hold its own as the star ingredient of a dish."

Patience is needed to make pork belly

Pork belly can be cooked in several different ways. It can be roasted in an oven or braised in rock sugar and soy sauce the way the Northern Chinese like it. But no matter how you choose to prepare your pork belly, you'll bring out the very best in your cut if you start with two basic ingredients — time and patience. Bon Appetit points out that pork belly blossoms when exposed to lower temperatures for extended periods of time, since "meats containing higher fat and collagen are supremely delicious and succulent but require more time to render the fat and melt the collagen."

Herrera agrees, telling Allrecipes, "you want to slowly cook the pork belly so it gets very tender and the fat has time to render to baste the meat as it cooks. This is a tough muscle, so it needs a longer cooking time at low heat to breakdown the tough tissue." So, to serve up good roast pork, budget for at least 3-4 hours in the kitchen. If done correctly, a piece of roast pork should be so tender you can pierce its flesh with a fork. Under no condition should the belly be rubbery in texture. BBC Good Food also suggests leaving the cut to rest for 10 to 15 minutes before serving. As long as you avoid the rush and the high heat, you should end up with a perfectly tender and tasty dish.