Once you go belly, you never go back.
I was intimidated by pork belly for yearrrrs. Research into the best way to make it leads to so many different processes and recommendations. I was sure I’d screw it up.
When I finally decided to brave it, I did scour quite a few recipes online but finally decided to go with my gut. Pork belly needs time; it’s a tough piece of meat. But the crockpot seemed like the wrong choice since I didn’t want it to fall apart entirely. Roasting in the oven for a shorter duration than would be needed in the crockpot (while still a low-ish heat) would keep it intact and allow for crisping up the skin on top.
I felt a brine was definitely needed and I’m glad I went that way. The meat pulled the flavor in so well and it definitely gave the pork belly a complex and rich taste that you wouldn’t get otherwise. And a simple broil at the end allows for the perfect cracklin’ pig skin that we all love.
The Spicy Citrus Sauce has a distinct Asian flare to it, which I felt really worked. But I’ve also just slathered some regular old BBQ sauce on it and it was still amazing that way. Or you can forgo sauce entirely and just eat it straight off the pan. (guilty of that too!)
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Slow Roasted Pork Belly
1 lb. pastured pork belly
4 c. filtered water
2 tbsp. honey
2 tbsp. blackstrap molasses
¼ c. sea salt
10 whole black peppercorns (or 2 tsp. ground black pepper)
4 garlic cloves, smashed
2 bay leaves
1 sprig of rosemary
For assembly: lettuce cups, cilantro, avocado slices, sliced/pickled veggies, etc etc
Rinse the pork belly and pat it dry with paper towels. Use a very sharp knife to cut hatch marks across the skin side, as shown above. You want to make sure to cut through the skin layer so the meat is exposed. Place the pork belly in a gallon ziplock and it back in the fridge until the brine is ready.
Prepare the brine: In a large saucepan, combine the filtered water, honey, molasses, sea salt, black peppercorns, garlic, bay leaves, and rosemary. Bring it to a simmer over medium heat and whisk until the sea salt is dissolved. Take the pan off the heat and allow it to come to room temperature (pouring it out of the hot pan into a bowl can help speed this up).
Pour the cooled brine into the ziplock with the pork belly. Seal it tight, place it in a deep baking dish (or something to catch any accidental leaks), and move it to the refrigerator. Allow the brine to sit for 12-24 hours.
Once brined, pull the pork out of the bag and pat it dry again. Coat it on all sides with avocado oil and place it on a baking sheet lined with tinfoil, skin side up. Bake at 250F for 3-3 ½ hours, or until the meat shreds easily (check by carefully pulling at one edge with a fork while keeping the belly intact).
Turn the broiler on high and move a rack in the medium-to-lower portion of the oven. Place the belly back under the broiler for about 6 minutes, or until the skin is deep brown and crisp. Don’t walk away while this is happening, set a timer for 2 minute increments and rotate the pan as needed for even browning.
Allow the pork belly to rest for 10 minutes or so. Then slice it, coat it with the Spicy Citrus Glaze, and serve with lettuce cups, pickled veggies (thinly slice, douse with lime juice, stir occasionally for 30 minutes and enjoy), cilantro, avocado slices, and any other topping you like!
Spicy Citrus Glaze
1 orange, juice and zest (about ½ c. juice)
1 lemon, juice and zest (about 2 tbsp. juice)
3 tbsp. avocado oil
3 tbsp. coconut aminos
3 tbsp. rice wine vinegar
1 tbsp. 100% tamarind paste
1-3 tsp. chili paste (adjust to taste)
2 tbsp. honey
1 clove of garlic, minced
1 tsp. fresh grated ginger
Combine all the ingredients in a medium saucepan over medium-low heat. Bring to a simmer, stirring occasionally, and cook until reduced by half (about 10 minutes).
It’s ready when it’s thickened and become slightly syrupy. If you accidentally overcook it and it gets too thick, add a couple of tablespoons of water to thin it to your desired consistency.