Roasted Pork Belly

roasted pork belly

The first time I made Momofuku roasted pork belly I was pretty happy with the results, aside from the fact that it got a little too crispy (ok, burnt) on top. I chalked it up to lack of air flow in the toaster oven compared to the oven-oven. The burntness aside, my other complaint was that the piece of meat that I started with was too thin to get a decent slice of belly featuring the gorgeous layering of meat and fat.

attempt 1: burnt pork belly

The problem with the too thin cut of meat was easily solved: I bought a thicker slice of meat and set out with high hopes. This time I would roast it the right way, in the oven, and my belly would be golden meltingly tender meat.

attempt 3: caramlized golden brown pork belly

There are two philosophies of meat roasting: 1. high heat to sear, then low and slow, or 2. low and slow, then high heat to finish. Chang’s belly follows the first philosophy, sear the meat so the outside is toasty and and then cook it low and slow so the meat is tender. The initial high heat renders out a bunch of fat so that when you get to the low and slow, you’re basically confiting the belly in it’s own pork fat bath.

roasted low and slow

In theory, this cooking method works. I’m sure Momofuku’s pork bellies come out great every time. Mine, on the other hand burn and shrink. Too much fat is rendered out and I’m left with tiny burnt remnants of what used to be luscious belly. Even using the oven to improve air circulation didn’t help. I started out with a piece of belly the size of, oh, let’s say a paper back novel and ended up with a charred piece of meat the size of a chocolate bar. Needless to say, I was sad.

thick, multi-layered pork belly

I was determined to roast a perfect piece of belly for my pork buns so I did what any obsessive-compulsive person would do: I bought another piece of belly to try again. This time I deliberated at the meat counter until I saw the thickest, meatiest piece of belly they had.

bird's eye view of pork belly

After two failed trials of meat roasting philosophy 1, I knew it was time to move on to meat roasting philosophy 2: low and slow with high heat to finish. To ensure my success, I also decided to cover the belly with parchment paper so there wouldn’t be excessive browning on top. I put the belly in a 250˚F toaster oven for over 3 hours and near the end removed the parchment paper, basted, and cranked the temperature up to 400˚F.

success!

Success, delicious success: golden brown, pillowy-soft, visible layers of meat and fat. It was the most beautiful pork belly I ever did see!

roasted pork belly with visible layers of meat and fat

golden brown and pillowy soft pork belly

sliced roasted pork belly

48 Comments add yours

  1. As Samuel L. Jackson once said in a very popular movie, “I just don’t dig on swine”. This is usually my sentiment, but you are really making want to eat some pork!

    Hi Cam,
    Remember, pork is the other white meat! White meat is healthy!

    Pork is actually red meat. The other white meat idea came from a popular marketing campaign in the nineties, and is technically fallacious.

    Chris on September 19th, 2011 at 10:16 am
    steph on January 25th, 2010 at 7:57 pm
  2. Recently met David and purchased his book at a book-signing, started my way through the recipes and then found your blog. Followed (more or less) your method for cooking pork belly and very glad I did – close to perfect on the first try!!!

    John,
    I’m glad the cooking method worked out for you! Send some pictures my way, if you managed to take any!

    steph on February 18th, 2010 at 1:50 pm
  3. My first attempt I ended up with the very same results, I had 3 pieces similar to what you photographed above. I think the initial cooktime is simply too hot and too long. While the end product was edible, there were some burnt bits and a texture similar to the “bark” on a piece of good bbq – only not in a good way. I’ll definitely be trying this recipe again with reduced high roast period and keeping a closer eye. Just found the blog, great stuff.

    Cods,
    You’re right, the initial cook time is too hot and long. In the Ko chapter of the book, he cooks pork belly at a lower heat then finishes it on the grill. I found that if you cook the belly at low heat and then switch to high while keeping an eye on it, you’ll end up with a much better end product. Let me know how it goes for you!

    steph on March 2nd, 2010 at 1:11 pm
  4. I cooked in 225 degree oven with foil over the pan. I left it in the oven overnight.
    suecc

  5. David uses a convectin/steam oven forhis pork, which helps hid cooking process. Drop ghe initial high heat time by 15 min or drop the temp 25 degrees. Then you can do it high heat first. But your way works well too. I have completed about 80% of the recipes in Momofuku, David Chang is amazing, love the blog. Happy Cooking

    I have yet to try cooking in a steam oven, which I would love to do.

    steph on June 1st, 2010 at 10:56 am
  6. If he uses combi oven, do you know if he uses steam? What % humidity? The book text talks about 500 degrees but then the recipe says 450.

    inductioncook on June 1, 2010 at 8:21 am
  7. Perhaps the pork had burned too much because you didn’t rinse off the salt and sugar brine? The sugar will definitely burn quickly. Also did you use 3 pounds of Pork? Your pictures look like you cooked less then that.

    I did cook less than 3 pounds of pork because there are only two of us. The beauty of cooking is that you can scale.

    I do rinse off the salt sugar rub now, but the first time I made the pork I followed the recipe which did not call for the salt and sugar to be rinsed off.

    steph on June 5th, 2010 at 9:03 am

    I wonder if the reason the pork burned at the high heat is because you used much less then 3 pounds. It’s interesting that for the Ko recipe, he cooks the belly at low heat first. But notice he only uses ONE pound of pork belly. Perhaps he knows with one pound of pork belly, the belly will burn at the high heat?

    It seems there must be some advantage of cooking high heat first. Otherwise he wouldn’t write a whole page about his accident.

    andy on June 5th, 2010 at 6:07 pm
  8. I found a recipe for this that involved brining the pork with salt, sugar, and water in a large bag instead of the rub. It instructed to discard the brine, slow roast with a little low sodium chicken broth and water on low at 300°F covered with foil for 2.5 hrs, and then roast on high at 450°F uncovered for 20 minutes. (source: http://abcnews.go.com/Nightline/story?id=4057636&page=1)

    The results were excellent but I’m going to try this method tonight and see how it turns out.

    Hope the pork worked out for you!

    steph on June 16th, 2010 at 12:07 pm
  9. Hi Steph,

    The different ways of cooking pork belly is confusing. When you started the low heat for 3 hours and then turned it up to 450, how long did you roast for 450? 5 min, 10 min. 20 min.?

    Did you wait until the oven reached 450 and THEN put belly back into the oven, or did you never take the belly out of the oven and just crank it up to 450?

    I’m worried about overcooking the belly at 450 and making the belly tough.

    I roast all my pork belly in my toaster oven, so I don’t bother taking the belly out of the oven before turning up the heat. Generally, I keep an eye on the belly so that it doesn’t burn, I’d say I roast it at 450˚ for about 10-15 minutes. Roasting it at 450˚ is just to add an extra bit of char at the end.

    steph on June 16th, 2010 at 12:28 pm
  10. daaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaang, that looks good! i wonder, did you roast the first belly when it was warm or cold from the fridge? lol, i don’t even know if that even matters but omg both of your pork bellies look good. lol, i love saying pork belly.
    omg, i looooooooove me some pork belly! too bad pork belly isn’t good for my belly :(

  11. This is disgusting. I can’t believe that humans eat this garbage

    Wow, you are an asshole.

    Meat is murder! – Tasty, tasty, murder.

    Erik on November 15th, 2011 at 4:45 pm
    Anne on January 17th, 2011 at 8:40 pm
  12. great blog! I read this page about a dozen times before making them for the first time last night. I found the buns to be the hardest part. Finding the sweet spot of when they are steamed perfectly was a little challenging. When they are perfectly done though the pull apart so easily and so good. I made 3 slabs of belly. Seared it first then roasted it at 300 for a while. Served them with the quick pickles and arugula. We did shitake mushrooms for the vegetarians. Went through 50 easily, we all just sat around the steamer. thanks for the blog!

  13. You can also score then boil the belly pork.
    Dry it off and place it fat side down in a hot frying pan containing melted honey and butter.
    Then after a few seconds transfer to an oven tray fat side up with all the contents of the pan poured over.
    roast for 30-40mins at 180c.
    This method gives the perfect juicy inside crispy outside result.Seasoning and extra flavouring to your own taste.

  14. We tried your method tonight, and it worked out really well! Thanks for sharing!

  15. I worked at Momofuku for a year. They confit the pork bellies in pork fat. Totally submerged. That’s why they’re so juicy. I saw it done every day. Not sure why David doesnt share this info. Maybe he thinks it’ll gross people out?

    Hi Rarrgarr,

    Why does David use the low heat method first in the Ko chapter? Does the high heat method work only in a 5 pound pork belly? and does he sous vide the pork belly now?

    Any other “secrets” David left out in the book?

    Porkbellylover on February 8th, 2011 at 8:46 am

    Many chefs, um, omit a step in a book’s recipe so as not to get it nearly as perfect as in their restaurants. ;)

    tarina on April 12th, 2012 at 10:40 pm
  16. The first time i had exactley the same problem as described here: after twenty minutes it started turning black.
    This time round I tried the above described method. Now look at it! Just look at it!
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/boudewijn2010/5520034984/
    Thanks :-).

  17. I’ve lived in Japan for about 18 years. Most of the Japanese I know usually boil the pork belly first then either roast or BBQ it. I and the Japanese usually get a pot of water boiling first. Then once you have a strong boil going place your pork belly in for about 10 – 15 minutes (You don’t want it to lose its shape). Then you can roast or BBQ it to your hearts content. Also once boiled the pork belly is much easier to slice thin. This is great if you have a tendency to like BBQ Pork Belly Sandwiches!

  18. This looks so incredible!! How awesome is pork belly with buns. *salivates*

  19. Would you consider brining as subsitute for boiling? I bought 8 lbs of pork belly and would want to cook it in a Green Egg.

    clem anderson on June 29, 2011 at 9:46 am
  20. I used a 3+ lbs pork belly slab and cooked just like stated in the book, high heat at 450F for an hour, basting in between, then low heat for 1 hour 15 minutes. Perfect!

    However, I did leave the skin on since I wouldn’t be able to separate the skin. I just slide the skin part off after roasting… just the skin, not the fat. :)

    Hi All,

    This is actually the first time I’m ever posting an online comment…thanks to everyone’s comments and suggestions I had a great experience with the beloved pork belly! I love to cook, but never thought I’d made a pork belly until my boyfriend gave me one for Christmas :). I did a salt and sugar rub over night in which I then rinsed off. I scored the skin about 1″ apart against the grain then roasted at 450F for an hour (while basting) and only had to cover it with a bit of aluminum foil for last 20 minutes as it was starting to char a little. Then turned down to 250 for another 2 hours and let it basically confit in its own fat (it could’ve come out a bit sooner-it was just under 2.5 lbs) I let it rest for about 15 minutes outside of its fat renderings-slicing it was super easy thanks to scoring it before hand. Made some pickled onions and pineapple salsa and served as pork belly tacos-the best part was chopping up the crackling (skin) and sprinkling on top-AMAZING!!!!

    Jackie on January 4th, 2012 at 3:28 pm
  21. Thank you for this. First blog I’ve ever commented on EVER. Just bought my first pork belly and was going to cook it on hight heat for half an hour then slow and steady but you have made me realise I’d defo burn it if I did it my way. Fingers crossed it comes out ok.

  22. Great blog, so happy I read this before I started. I cooked a 3-1/2 lb pork belly with skin and ribs, down to 2-3/4 lb or so dressed, this weekend. Low and slow at 250 for 3 hours and cranked up to 450 until the coloring was where I liked it. Came out P-E-R-F-E-C-T. Let’s just say I have finally satisfied my desire for pork buns.

  23. I made the original recipe from the Momofuku cookbook; the pork belly was inedible. Extremely salty and tough. I just made one last night using this method: rub all over with brown sugar and kosher salt. Let sit 24 hours refrigerated. Roast tightly covered in a 200 degree oven for nine hours. I did it overnight. It came out of the oven this morning just perfecty. I am going to sear it to finish it off.

    mary martin on March 16, 2012 at 6:26 am
  24. i am sure your piece dried out because of the size. David’s recipe is meant for much larger pieces. you can’t just cut the required size of something in a recipe and expect it to work without adjustments.

  25. Hi,

    Sorry need to ask when you roast which oven
    Heat are you using upper and lower or
    Only lower heat? Thanks

  26. love your blog. i’m ready to make this using your suggestions. also love your pig cutting board!

  27. I think the confit part is key. I had success with the recipe–high heat first, confit after–with a 2.5 lb slab of pork belly. To keep the slab bathed in fat, I made a little tub out of aluminum foil for the rendered fat. Otherwise the fat would just spread out in the roasting tray. The result was perfect with the temp and time given in the book. I can see how a smaller bit of pork belly would be burned by 450F/1hr; should probably reduced considerably and checked by eye. Then even the slow roasting could dry things out further if not bathed in fat.

    I’ve also had good success doing the confit part using sous vide. I put the slab in a freezer bag, poured in the rendered fat and a bit of extra pork fat I had, and cooked it at 160F for 24 hrs. (I use a rice cooker and a temperature controller; squeeze out air by submerging the bag while sealing.) Came out perfect, possibly even juicier than the book’s method. But it did loose a bit of the sear, which is easily remedied with a hot pan before serving.

  28. Hey there, You have done an incredible job. I will definitely digg it and personally suggest to my friends.
    I am confident they’ll be benefited from this web site.

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