Many folks are intimidated by the thought of cooking something like pork belly. Of course, it is thought of most often as the source of bacon, but the uncured fresh cut of pork belly is one of the most delici0usly-simple treats you’ve ever tasted. Speak to your local butcher about finding a great cut of pork belly or side meat. Side meat is similar to pork belly but, like the name implies, has a little more meat to it than pork belly.
To prepare, score the skin of the pork belly in a cross-hatch pattern, making sure to pierce the tough skin but not cut deeply into the meat below. This will allow much of the fat of the belly to render out during the baking process. If your piece of belly does not have the skin attached, simply score the top layer of fat.
While your oven is preheating to 425 degrees, liberally season the meat on all sides with the sea salt and black pepper, taking time to rub it into the slits on the skin. A simple seasoning of sea salt and fresh-ground black pepper is recommended, as other spices and seasonings may have a tendency to burn due the long roasting time in a hot oven. If you desire extra seasonings, you can sprinkle those on the meat prior to serving.
Place the piece of pork belly on an elevated rack in an oven-safe baking dish. By elevating the meat, it will allow the fat to render more easily from the pork belly. If you do not have a rack to fit your pan, try crumpled pieces of aluminum foil to raise your meat from the pan. Place the pan with the seasoned pork belly into the preheated oven and roast for 2.5-3 hours, depending on the thickness of your meat. Halfway through the process you may want to remove the pork belly and transfer it to a new pan, as the rendered fat will begin to smoke if gets too hot.
Once prepared, allow the pork belly to rest for at least 10 minutes. This might be the most difficult part of the process! The skin of the belly will have bubbled up and be crispy like cracklin’s, while the meat itself will be tender, moist and delicious. When reheating leftover pork belly, try searing slices in a cast iron skillet. This will further render additional fat and give you a crispy, delicious bite of belly!
Try your pork belly on its own or sliced and served in sandwiches – it truly is the best way to dine on the swine divine!