I think I am in love with pork belly, but my family and I almost went hungry waiting on it to finish! I misread the directions that I modified and thought it would be done in 2 1/2 hours, but realized there was another two hours that I missed! I didn't realize that pork belly was a tough cut like a Boston butt and required the collagen to be break down into gelatin. And my yeast rolls were not too happy about being refrigerated before baking and you could tell it after they came out of the oven.
I based it off that Seriouseats.com all belly porchetta recipe. I made a rub out of garlic, rosemary, basil, red pepper flakes, salt, and cracked black pepper and scored the inside in a cross hatch and rubbed it in deep. I poked about 1000 holes in the skin with my knife as well! Rolled it, brushed on a bit of olive oil to make the salt stick to the outside, salted the skin, and let it sit for about two hours at room temp. The direction on Serious Eats says to roaste at 300 degrees for two hours till it hits 160 internal, but I wanted some smokey flavor so I did that part with my Mini WSM and just a LITTLE, not much at all, applewood smoke. Then tented it with foil but not wrapped tight and put it in my oven for two more hours at 300 (part I almost missed) till it hit 180 exactly. I used the oven for the second half because I was having a hard time regulating the Mini for some reason and also I didn't want to get too much smoke at all. I just wanted a hint of it, and maybe using the oven was sacrilege, but I don't think I would've ever gotten the golden brown and crispy skin like I did from the oven. Next pork belly I get though I am going to smoke.
Anywho, then I cranked the oven up to 500 and removed the foil and let the skin crisp up. I let it go for just a minute too long at 500 while I was putting ice in our glasses and the edges got a bit browner than what I wanted but it was still so good, not burnt tasting at all. It is crazy how it can go from golden brown to dark brown and I'm sure black on no time. I then tented it in foil and let it rest for 20 minutes while the homemade rolls baked in the oven. The door had to remain open to cool the oven a good bit no doubt so the rolls didn't burn! The rendered fat was poured over the skin as soon as it came out of the oven as well. Sizzled so good!
I have never cooked anything with the pork skin still on and I sure didn't expect to get that good of results from my first go around. It was as crispy and as salty as a good chicharrón. I was expecting something either hard and chewy or soft and flaccid. I was pretty proud and my family loved it!
BTW, a lot of recipes I looked at before deciding on the Serious Eats one said a parboil would help the cooking go along and also render a lot of the fat out. I really can't see that being true unless the pork belly has a TON of fat. This one was on the leaner side I think, but then again I've never worked with a pork belly so I might be talking nonsense.
Either way, it was beautiful when sliced and none of us were able to eat the half slice because it was so, so rich. Almost too rich!(NOT!) Crunchy, very lightly smoky, tender and moist, and gave a lot of different textures and flavors I've never had in pork, or any meat dish for that matter. I think I like this prep for pork belly more than bacon, and that's really saying something considering how much I love a good crisp piece of bacon!
Here's the pictures though. It didn't get dark on the outside from the smoker which I was really glad of since I wanted that skin to be bubbly and golden brown all over. Probably stayed light colored because the smoke was so light and was only hitting it for such a short time.
Wanted to show these off too, my momma got them for me from somewhere and framed them for my kitchen. She knows me too well. Best mom in the world if ya ask me!