Cooking Pork Bellies

by Natalie Smith

    Pork belly, as the name indicates, is the portion of the pig that is near the stomach. No doubt your family is familiar with bacon, which is pork belly meat that has been smoked and sliced. Experiment with other ways to create a meal with pork belly, such as braising, grilling and sauteing. If your family likes pork belly, serve the fatty cut just once in a while, and include healthy side dishes for a balanced meal.

    The area of the pork belly near the leg is used to make bacon. If you can find salt-cured pork belly, the smoking process is simple if you have an outdoor smoker. Choose a hard wood, such as hickory or apple, and place 1 cup of the soaked chips on top of the lit charcoal in the firebox. Smoke the bacon at a low temperature, such as 250 degrees Fahrenheit, for two hours. The bacon will have a rich smoky flavor -- but it won't be cooked. Slice it and pan fry it just as you would store-bought bacon.

    When you have some time to devote to dinner preparation, braise pork belly in a small amount of liquid for a flavorful dish. Place the pork belly in a Dutch oven with vegetable or chicken stock and include herbs and spices you prefer. Coriander, orange zest or red pepper flakes pair well with the rich flavor of pork belly. Place the Dutch oven in the oven and cook it at 275 degrees Fahrenheit for at least four hours, for a small pork belly weighing 1 to 2 pounds. The pork is done when it registers 160 degrees Fahrenheit.

    Pork belly is juicy and flavorful sliced and grilled. To grill pork belly, turn the grill on high. Rub the pork belly with seasonings or rubs, such as a barbecue rub or salad dressing mix. Brush the grill grates with olive oil and grill the pork belly slices for two to four minutes per side, or until an instant-read thermometer registers 160 degrees Fahrenheit. Allow the pork belly to rest for 10 minutes before you slice it, which will allow it to cool and reabsorb the hot juices.

    Saute pork belly in olive oil and seasonings, such as garlic or red pepper flakes. Saute the entire pork belly on high to sear the outside, then reduce the heat and continue cooking it on medium until the center reaches 160 degrees Fahrenheit. Allow the pork belly to rest for 10 minutes, then slice it into serving-sized pieces. Enjoy pork belly as you would bacon. It will still have a satisfying crispiness, but it will have a fresher, less smoky flavor.

    About the Author

    Natalie Smith is a technical writing professor specializing in medical writing localization and food writing. Her work has been published in technical journals, on several prominent cooking and nutrition websites, as well as books and conference proceedings. Smith has won two international research awards for her scholarship in intercultural medical writing, and holds a PhD in technical communication and rhetoric.

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