Rotisserie Pork Belly


Pork belly is the current "It" ingredient at restaurants. (Replacing short ribs, I think.) Why? When cooked long and slow, it is a wicked combination of pork meat and melting pork fat. Never heard of it? Sure you have. Cured pork belly is commonly referred to as bacon. Who doesn't like bacon? Chefs know that; they love bacon as much as everyone else. A good chef uses pork belly as a canvas for all his technique, and the diner gets the deliciousness of high-end bacon. It's a win-win situation.

Pork belly, in spite of its popularity in restaurants, is hard to find in grocery stores. I wanted to try it on my rotisserie, but I could not find it in my local stores. (And I wasn't organized enough to special order it.) Then, I got lucky. I found pork belly in the meat case of my local Asian market. I bought it immediately. And? Pork belly cooked on the rotisserie has crackling skin, covering layers of luscious fat and tender meat.
*Pork belly needs long, slow cooking. For good results, most of the fat has to melt out. Again, think of bacon. Undercooked bacon is all chewy fat. Perfectly cooked bacon has a balance of fat, tender meat, and crunch. That's what we're looking for with pork belly.

How did pork belly go over with the kids? I was a little worried; pork belly seemed like a name that would turn them off. But, when I brought the spit in from the grill, I was surrounded. "What's that, Dad?" (I think they were drawn in by the heavenly smell.) I gave everyone a sample. Natalie kept coming back, asking for more. No, I told her, not until dinner. "Pork belly, Pork belly, Pork belly" she started chanting, dancing in circles around the room. I couldn't help myself - she got her second taste.

Recipe: Rotisserie Pork Belly


Cook time: 3 hours

Equipment:
  • Grill with Rotisserie attachment (I used a Weber Summit with an infrared rotisserie burner. Here is the current version of my grill. )
  • Aluminum foil drip pan (9"x12", or whatever fits your grill)
  • Butcher's twine


Ingredients:
  • 1.5 pound pork belly (1 1/2" thick - thicker is better)
  • 2 quarts water
  • 1/2 cup table salt (1 cup kosher salt)
  • 2 tbsp brown sugar

Directions:
1. Brine the pork belly: Score the skin side of the pork belly in a crosshatch pattern, spaced 1 inch apart, cutting through the skin and into the fat, but not into the meat. Dissolve the salt and brown sugar in the water, then add the pork belly and refrigerate for 4 to 8 hours.

2. Prepare the grill: Set the grill up for rotisserie cooking at high heat. For my Weber Summit, this means removing the grates, turning the two outer burners (burners 1 and 6) to high, and turning the infrared burner to high. Then I put my drip pan in the middle, over the unlit burners, and let the grill preheat for ten to fifteen minutes. (See here for more rotisserie setup details.)

3. Skewer the pork belly: While the grill is pre-heating, skewer the pork belly on the rotisserie spit. Aim for center mass, skewer the belly lengthwise, and secure it with the spit forks.
Scored and skewered
(see the variations for the herb rub on the right hand piece of belly)

4. Cook the pork belly: Put the spit on the rotisserie, and cook with the lid closed. Cook on high (500*F or higher) for a half an hour to 45 minutes, until the pork belly is starting to brown. Turn the heat down to medium-low (325*F).
*On my Weber Summit, I do this by turning off the infrared rotisserie burner; charcoal burns down naturally, and I add about 12 coals per hour to maintain the medium-low temperature.
Cook on medium-low for about 2 1/2 hours, or until the pork belly reaches 160*F internal temperature. (Pork belly is hard to overcook, so don't worry too much about specific timing or temperature.)

After 30 minutes - good browning, turn down the heat
3 hours total - ready to eat!

5. Serve: Take the pork belly off the spit immediately, then rest for at least 15 minutes. Carve into 1/4" thick slices and serve.
Resting...

Variations:
*Herb rubbed: After brining, rub the pork belly with the zest of a half a lemon and 2 tbsp of minced fresh herbs. Use your favorites of thyme, rosemary, oregano, and marjoram.

Notes:
*I wanted to test my assumptions about pork and brining. I am a fan of dry brines, but with pork, wet brines have worked better. I had two pieces of pork belly from the store, so I tested a dry versus wet brine.  One piece was dry brined with a herb rub; the other used the wet brine version I share in the recipe. Both versions were good, but the wet brined belly was everyone's favorite. The dry brined pork turned out, well, a little dry - the wet brine improved the moistness of the pork. (Moistness is a word, right?)
*I've read that herbs don't really work in a brine. That was something else I should have tested. Darn!

What do you think? Questions? Other ideas? Leave them in the comments section below.

Related Posts:
Rotisserie Pork Shoulder
Rotisserie Pork Loin, Brined and Maple Sugar Glazed
Click here for my other rotisserie recipes.


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Everything you could ask about the rotisserie,
plus 50 (mostly) new recipes to get you cooking.

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8 comments:

Ty'sMommy said...

Pork belly is something that has been on my "must try" list for quite awhile, but, like you, I have not been able to find it anywhere. Now I am going to have to ramp up the search! Too bad i don't have a decent asian market anywhere in the vicinity.

Mike said...

What a great idea, pork belly on the rotisserie! I'm with you in believing about anything can be spun for dinner. Well done!

MikeV @ DadCooksDinner said...

@Ty'sMommy:
The other good source could be your local Farmers Market - if you have someone who sells pork, ask them if you can special order it.

@Mike:
Thank you! I absolutely adored your Sounds of Winter Grilling video. The rotisserie, popping and hissing in the cold? I felt right at home.

Feast on the Cheap said...

Oh wow. Now that's how to cook pork.

MikeV @ DadCooksDinner said...

@Feast on the cheap:

Thank you!

Michael Singerman said...

Wow, Mike, I can't believe how delicious that looks! I want some so bad! I've baked whole pork belly, and it as good, but this looks like an amazing way to prepare pork belly. Kudos to you.

John K. said...

Mike, my hero! That is an amazing treatment of pork belly! I must do this!! I buy my pork belly at the west side market n Cleveland. A little it of a drive, but I always love the trip. Several shops there sell pork belly. And other wonderful cuts too. Last time there I asked the butcher I was at if they sell pork jowls. Not really he told me, but they do sell the whole head. About $7 I think. I warned my wife, one day I'm coming home with one!

I wonder if the Asian Market in the valley carried pork belly?

Great post Mike!!

MikeV @ DadCooksDinner said...

@Michael Singerman:
Thank you! I have a couple more bellys in my freezer, and I'm going to try baking one of them. Any suggestions for a recipe?

@John K:
Doh! The West Side Market...of course! I should have known someone up there has it.

I found it at CAM Asia Market, on the southeast side of Cleveland. I'm not sure if the Asian markets in the valley carry it.

About the pig head - I was making Pozole the other day, following Rick Bayless's recipe, and he says that's how you make REAL pozole - with a pig head and hominy. Hmmm...I just don't know if I can take it staring at me while I cook.

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