Pork Lechon Belly

“I will be regularly infusing this blog with new entries on a regular basis.” That was in 2011. It’s now 2015. Cringe. Moving on…

Look at that gloriously crispy skin! Any self-respecting Filipino cook should know how to make this.

Look at that gloriously crispy skin! Any self-respecting Filipino cook should know how to make this.

Ok! Let’s make some Lechon Belly! You see, I was plagued with different methods of cooking lechon belly. Do I marinate it with Sprite/ 7Up and Milk (to achieve that reddish color)? Do I brine it? What the hell, I told myself, I’ll spare you guys the trouble and make them both and find out which is better! And so I did, and learned that brining it is best. The skin turned out crispier and evenly cooked, and the meat was very succulent. Let’s head on straight to the ingredients and procedure. I’ll do some of the chitchat later.

You will need:

  • Pork belly. 1.5 or 2 kg can feed a family of 4-6. Ask the butcher for young pig, and have it cut into a square.
  • Butcher’s twine. You can ask the butcher for this for free. 2 meters should do it.

Brine Solution

  • A gallon of water
  • 1/2 cup salt
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • cracked pepper
  • a couple of bayleaves
  • lemon grass (or tanglad in Filipino). Make sure you pound the stalks to release the flavor.
  • crushed garlic
  • sliced onions
  • rosemary and thyme (optional)
  • 1 cup really cold water

Stuffing/Rub

  • crushed garlic
  • sliced onions
  • a few bayleaves
  • lemon grass (Make sure to pound this)
  • rosemary and thyme (optional)
  • onion leeks
  • oil

Now do this:

  1. Simmer the sugar and salt in water until it dissolves. Take it off the heat source and add the other ingredients to release their flavors. Add the cup of iced water to cool the brine solution. Make sure it’s not warm! Submerge the meat in. Use a glass/ceramic tray or bowl. Don’t use plastic. Cover it with cling wrap and keep it in the ref overnight. I brined mine for just 10 hours so as not to make it too salty.
  2. Take out the meat from the brine solution and rinse the meat thoroughly under running water. (You may discard the brine solution.) Pat dry with kitchen towels. Put it back in the ref. This is to make the skin really dry. At this point you may prepare the garnish and fire up the oven (set it to 180ºC).
  3. Bring out the belly and lay it skin down. Spread out the stuffing. Roll up the belly into a roulade, keeping all the stuffing in the center.
  4. Now we tie the butcher twine around the roulade. Start on one end, about two inches from the edge. Make a knot to secure it, then go around and around the roulade with the spiraling string about two inches apart. Make sure it’s tight and won’t fall apart.
  5. Set the belly on a metal grill with a tray underneath to catch the drippings (there’ll be a lot so make sure it’s deep!) Pat dry again for good measure and brush the skin with oil.
  6. Get some aluminum foil and wrap the meat. You might want to make sure that the foil doesn’t touch the meat so it won’t stick.
  7. Set your timer and start cooking! Roast it for 2 hours to cook the meat thoroughly with the foil on to keep the skin from burning. After 2 hours take the meat out and remove the foil. You can also use an instant meat thermometer to check the doneness (make sure thermometer is calibrated!) Put the meat back in. This time you are ready to make the skin crispy. Increase the temperature to 200ºC and roast for another 45 mins to an hour. At this point you might want to check on it once in a while so it doesn’t get burnt as cooking times may vary.
  8. Take it out of the oven and let it rest for a few minutes before carving. Get rid of the string and serve with lechon sauce. Oh yeah!

There you have it! It’s pretty easy and uses minimal ingredients. It just takes too darn long. Here are a few tips:

  • You can achieve that chicharon skin (bubbly crispy skin) by stabbing the skin lightly with a fork or anything sharp. Just don’t go too deep and pierce through. Personally, I’d skip this for my lechon. I’d do it for the lechong kawali though.
  • I have yet to try using a Turbo Broiler but I’m sure you can. I would do all the things mentioned here save for the final hour of cooking where you might have to keep close watch and turn the belly around (maybe flip it after 20-30 minutes) so the top part won’t burn.
  • Regarding the stuffing, I was in a hurry when I made this so I pretty much spread them out before rolling it into a roulade. I realized that it would be best to chop them up coarsely and pound them a bit to release the flavors, then spread it out on the belly. That way all parts of the meat get some action! Enjoy!
This is a 2.5kg pork belly which I cut into two so I can experiment with the marinade.

This is a 2.5kg pork belly which I cut into two so I can experiment with the marinade.

Load up on spices! Used leeks and shallots. Either is fine. Make sure to pound the lemon grass to release the flavor. Disregard the fish sauce (patis), I used that on the other non-brined belly.

Load up on spices! Used leeks and shallots. Either is fine. Make sure to pound the lemon grass to release the flavor. Disregard the fish sauce (patis), I used that on the other non-brined belly.

This is what my brine solution looks like. Make sure it's cold before you immerse the pork belly in it.

This is what my brine solution looks like. Make sure it’s cold before you immerse the pork belly in it.

Side by side. Left was brined. Notice how the one on the right was burned. The sucrose from the marinade did that. Some parts of the skin weren't as crispy too.

Left was brined for 10 hours. Notice how lighter the skin has become. Right was marinated in Sprite/ 7Up and fresh milk. Note to self: Keep the stuffing inside the roulade. Cut them and stuff back in. Better yet, chop them up and spread ’em out.

Side by side. Left was brined. Notice how the one on the right was burned. The sucrose from the marinade did that. Some parts of the skin weren't as crispy too.

Side by side. Left was brined. Notice how the one on the right was burned. The sucrose from the marinade did that. Some parts of the skin weren’t as crispy too.

This one was marinated in clear soda and milk. It still tasted good though, but the brined one was still better, especially when it comes to the skin.

This one was marinated in clear soda and milk. It still tasted good though, but the brined one was still better, especially when it comes to the skin.

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