I made my weekly trip to Costco last Thursday. It was the lead up to a big holiday weekend so I was fully expecting to snarf up some lobsters to grill over the weekend. But alas, the seafood stand was nowhere to be found. Time to execute Plan B.
I walked back and forth, surveying the fresh meat section. I was drawn to a cut of pork I had never prepared before...fresh pork belly. Pork belly is what they use to make bacon. To accomplish that, it is cured with salt and sugar and then smoked. Voila...bacon!
Costco sells full pork bellies. The one I bought weighed 11 pounds. But they are dirt cheap at $1.99 per pound. So I divided the pork belly into three pieces. I vacuum-packed and froze two of them for future use. I took the remaining piece and divided that up into 3 separate cuts for ease of prep and cooking.
I'm here to tell you that this recipe is spectacular. The fat cap melts away to make the underlying meat incredibly moist and rich (make that really, really rich). I cooked it low and slow in a 250º oven for 3+ hours and then fried the fat cap for 10 minutes in a cast iron pan. You end up with a crispy top...essentially a rich cut of pork with crunchy pork rind on top. I served it with a spicy mustard sauce. This Cook's Illustrated recipe serves 8.
1 (3-pound) skin-on center-cut fresh pork belly, about 1 1/2 inches thick
2 tablespoons packed dark brown sugar
- Using sharp chef’s knife, slice pork belly lengthwise into 3 strips about 2 inches wide, then make 1/4-inch-deep crosswise cuts through skin and into fat spaced 1/2 inch apart. Combine 2 tablespoons salt and brown sugar in small bowl. Rub salt mixture into bottom and sides of pork belly (do not rub into skin). Season skin of each strip evenly with 1/2 teaspoon salt. Place pork belly, skin side up, in 13 by 9-inch baking dish and refrigerate, uncovered, for at least 12 hours or up to 24 hours.
- Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 250 degrees. Transfer pork belly, skin side up, to lightly greased wire rack set in rimmed baking sheet. Roast pork belly for 3 1/2 hours, rotating sheet halfway through roasting.
- Transfer pork belly, skin side up, to large plate. (Pork belly can be held at room temperature for up to 1 hour.) Pour fat from sheet into 1-cup liquid measuring cup. Add vegetable oil as needed to equal 1 cup and transfer to 12-inch skillet. Arrange pork belly, skin side down, in skillet (strips can be sliced in half crosswise if skillet won’t fit strips whole) and place over medium heat until bubbles form around pork belly. Continue to fry, tilting skillet occasionally to even out hot spots, until skin puffs, crisps, and turns golden, 6 to 10 minutes. Transfer pork belly, skin side up, to carving board and let rest for 5 minutes. Flip pork belly on its side and slice 1/2 inch thick (being sure to slice through original score marks). Reinvert slices and serve.
Spicy Mustard Sauce
2/3 cup Dijon mustard
1/3 cup cider vinegar
1/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
1 tablespoon hot sauce
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
- Whisk all ingredients together in bowl.
Wine pairing: Pinot Noir