Sous Vide Pork Belly & Crackling

I’d be hard pressed to say what cut of meat responds best to sous-vide treatment, but my top two are definitely pork belly and duck legs, I’ll do the recipe for the duck legs at a later date.

You will need a sous vide machine for this, along with the right bags and a vacuum sealer. I realise that this is a bit of a specialist recipe, but it’s how I do it and it gives a completely different result from slow roasting.

Those lovely people at Sous Vide Tools can hook you up with the equipment you need, if you take a look here

Then give them a call to discuss your needs. I’ve had mine for over a year now and use it at least twice a week, not just for supper clubs and events but for day to day cooking for the two of us.

Right, onto the recipe. You need to start this at least two days before you want to have it. I know that seems like a long time but you’re doing practically nothing for 99% of that time, just letting the SV machine do its job. The fact you can leave the house/go to bed when this is going is a massive benefit of using a SV, I doubt many of you would leave the oven going while you sleep or go to work.

You want a piece of skin on & boneless pork belly, size is up to you – I try to get one as large as my machine will take.

Using the sharpest knife you have score the skin along its entire length parallel to the layers of fat and meat. Try to go just deep enough to cut the skin, but don’t worry if you go into the fat & meat on a couple of occasions. Season the entire piece of meat with good quality salt, making sure you get it in the score lines you’ve just made.

Vacuum seal the belly ensuring a good seal with no air pockets. Set your SV machine to 63.5 C, and once up to temperature add the sealed package. Leave, submerged, for 24-36 hours.

Remove the package and allow to cool to room temperature, then place in the fridge for at least 4 hours, this is an important step so don’t skip it. After this time the meat will have firmed up and be surrounded by “jelly”. The reason for doing this is that if you tried to remove the skin when still warm it would disintegrate on you.

Scrape all the jelly off into a sauce pan, place on a high heat with a good dollop of honey, keep an eye on this but it should be ok. While that’s reducing, remove the skin from the pork, leaving as much fat behind as possible.

Preheat your oven to 180 C, place the skin on a wire rack on top of a metal tray and roast, skin side up. It’ll make some popping sounds but don’t worry about that. Keep an eye on it until it looks golden and brown and sounds hollow when you tap it. The edges may burn, but you can always trim them off, better to lose 10% and get the other 90% spot on than have soggy crackling.

While that’s going on cut the belly into portion size pieces, I’ll let you be the judge of that. Place into an ovenproof tray that will fit them relatively snugly and pour over the reduced jelly & honey mixture.

Once the skin is done, take it out and leave to cool on the wire. Reduce the oven temperature to 130 C and place the tray of pieces in, on the lowest shelf. What you’re doing now is basically reheating the belly and basting it, you can do this for anywhere between 45 mins and 3 hours. I’d baste at least once every 20 minutes.

10 minutes before you want to serve, raise the oven temperature to 180 C, and baste the meat every couple of minutes. Put the crackling in to warm through.

The belly is now ready to serve and you just need to cut the crackling into portions and place on top. The picture shows this with a chunk of roast celeriac with a celery and saffron sauce, I add the crackling at the very last minute to keep it as crispy as possible.

Picture courtesy of Starlings Photography

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