Slow cooked belly pork is a real joy! But is has become difficult to find good “fatty’ belly pork to allow the release of that beautiful ‘porky goodness’. Understandably there has been a trend to produce less fatty pork for health reasons – and the logic of that is clear especially for ‘quick cook’ recipes. By contrast, when it comes to true ‘low and slow’ recipes, they are designed to render that fat out of the pork (making it a more healthy option) whilst retaining those special taste properties that only fat layers can provide. I have bemoaned the lack of readily available ‘fatty pork’ over drinks with friends more than once! So to receive a gift of a lovely piece of fatty pork, from a Tamworth, was a real delight. The Tamworth was raised by Richard up in Allendale in the north Pennines (see here). This piece was very special as the inner layer of fat had also been left in place! (see the photo on the left)!
Getting good crackling is an important part of this dish. To get this you need good pork in the first place and some drying of the skin. The ideal way to do this is to take the pork out of its packing and leave it uncovered overnight in the fridge. This is especially important when cooking in the Big Green Egg as the EGGs ability to keep the meat moist in the cooking is exactly the opposite of what you need for crispy skin! The Skin needs to be scored with a really sharp cook’s knife or failing that a Stanley Craft knife works well. Score the skin at around 5mm intervals. We then rubbed the skin liberally with Maldon sea salt, pushing the salt well into the scored skin. The whole piece of pork was then rubbed with a good olive oil and a little more salt was added. We sometimes add black pepper too though I am tending to use this more after cooking now.
The Big Green Egg was set up for indirect cooking at 130C with the platesetter in the feet up position. (This would work very well with the new EGGspander System if cooking on the Large or Extra large as the first level above the platesetter could carry the drip tray and the top grill the belly pork – hopefully the subject of a future blog). Some crumpled aluminium foil was put on the platesetter to raise the drip pan off the platesetter. This stops the collected fat heating too much and smoking. The Grill was them placed over this and the pork put on top. I have been using Nic William’s technique for belly pork for some time now. For the first hour the meat is placed with the skin up and then the pork is turned over with the skin down for most of the rest of the slow cooking. After about an hour with the skin up, the pork looks like the picture on the left. It was time to put it skin layer down for the rest of the slow cooking. It will take 5-6 hours for the pork to reach an internal temperature of 90+C. We took the belly pork off at this stage.
If you are going to use the pork straight away then increase the EGG temperature to around 220C and put the pork back in for the skin to crisp which will take around 20 mins or so. If it doesn’t look as though it is going to crisp well then there are 2 other options. Firstly, slice off the skin and crisp it separately in the EGG. The other option is the one I tend to use especially as we often cut the pork into individual portions and use it on subsequent days when if anything it is even more sumptuous! To do this, portion the pork into the sizes you want to serve and place into a hot domestic fan oven at around 200C. Once the meat is back up to a suitable core temp (above 70C) add a top grill heat to your oven. This crisps the skin very quickly – so don’t let it burn (yes we have learnt the hard way!).
There are so many ways to serve this delicious piece of meat. On this occasion, with crispy chips and a green salad, but also try creamy mashed potatoes, root vegetables and a rich ‘jus’ – this is just a cut of meat that ‘keeps giving’!!
This piece of pork certainly gave up a lot of fat when cooked, indeed after cooking there was more than 450g of lard in the collecting dish. Some of this will be used for roasting potatoes and much will go to our local wild bird population in the form of homemade fat/seed cake! If we hadn’t raised the collecting pan on crumpled aluminium foil I am sure the direct heat from the platesetter would have resulted in lots of unpleasant smoke etc. This was a much better alternative, but I have little doubt that the new EGGspander system would be even better!! ………………Watch this space!
Crispy Succulent Belly Pork
Slow cooked belly pork with crispy crackling
- A good slab of belly pork - if the bones are still in, leave till after the cook
- Olive oil
- Step 1 Leave the pork uncovered in a fridge for 12 hours or overnight.
- Step 2 Score the skin well and rub in salt. Wipe the whole piece of meat with olive oil and if necessary add some more salt
- Step 3 Set up the Big Green Egg for indirect cooking at 130C with the platesetter in the feet up position. Add some crumpled aluminium on the platesetter and put a drip tray onto this to collect the released fat. Put the grill into position over the drip pan.
- Step 4 Place the pork skin side up for the first hour and then turn it skin side down for the rest of the cook. Once the core temperature reached 90+C remove from the EGG and turn up the EGG to around 220C if serving immediately.
- Step 5 Portion the pork (removing the bones which will simply slide out) and put back in the Egg to crisp the skin.
- Step 6 If it doesn’t look as though it is going to crisp either remove the skin and cook separately in the EGG or crisp the skin on the pork in a domestic oven under the grill. This crisps the skin very quickly – so don’t let it burn
- Step 7 Serve with your favourite accompaniment