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Find out what temperature pork belly should be cooked at, how you stop it from drying out, and the best way to cook it too with our handy guide.
Learn how to roast pork belly with our easy step-by-step guide. As the name suggests, a pork belly comes from the belly of a pig. It doesn't contain any pig innards such as the stomach – it's just the flesh and skin of the underside of the animal.
Pork belly is a fatty cut that benefits from slow cooking or braising, and the thick layer of fat helps to keep the meat moist during cooking. It's a relatively cheap option that's also used to make streaky bacon.
While it's most famous in the UK for being the centerpiece of a Sunday roast, pork belly can be cooked in many other ways – it features heavily in Chinese cuisine where it's often sliced or cut into chunks then marinated and stir-fried, or stuffed into soft bao buns. It's also a great cut for barbecuing. The crispy crackling makes this meat especially popular.
How to prepare roast pork belly How to roast pork belly Cooking pork belly in a slow cooker How long do you cook pork belly? How to cook pork belly slices Top tips for cooking pork belly What temperature should pork belly be cooked at? Is it best to cook pork belly covered or uncovered? Stopping pork belly from drying out How do you get crispy crackling on pork belly? How do I make sure the meat is tender? Storing pork belly What to serve with pork belly
How to prepare roast pork belly
You can buy a pork belly joint from the supermarket, but if you prefer to source it from a butcher it may come bone-in to enhance the flavour. If you'd rather have it without, ask your butcher to de-bone it for you.
A pork belly joint doesn't need to be cured (if it's cured and sliced it's effectively bacon). You can cure pork belly at home, usually with a mixture of salt and sugar, but if you're simply roasting it rubbing salt into the scored fat is enough to draw moisture out of the fat, which will help turn it into crackling.
How to roast pork belly
Follow this easy step-by-step how-to roast pork belly recipe for the perfect roast every time. Triple-tested in the Woman’s Weekly kitchen, this delicious recipe is set to become the star of your Sunday roast.
While different cooks will use different methods, this is a great way to cook pork belly so you end up with moist and tasty meat with that all-important crunchy crackling.
If you're using a fan oven, the juices from the pan may evaporate, so top up with boiling water if it’s looking a little dry. Take care not to get water onto the skin of the pork or it won’t crisp up.
This pork belly recipe takes 2hrs 30 mins to cook and feeds 3-4 people. It's perfectly served with mashed potatoes, green beans and drizzled in its own gravy.
- Pork belly joint, about 500-750g
- 1 tbsp freshly chopped rosemary
- 1 tbsp fennel seeds, lightly toasted
- 2 cloves garlic, peeled
- 1 tbsp sea salt flakes
- 2 onions, peeled and sliced
- 300ml pork stock
How to roast pork belly: Step 1
Use a craft knife to make sure that the cuts in the pork skin go right through, and make additional cuts if the butcher hasn’t made very many.
Place the pork in the sink and pour a kettle full of boiling water over it, so that the skin contracts which will help it to become crispy during cooking.
Pat the meat dries with absorbent kitchen paper and leave it out in the open for about 30 mins so that the skin dries out a little.
How to roast pork belly: Step 2
Using a pestle and mortar, pound together the rosemary, fennel and garlic. Rub this mixture over the top of the skin, along with the salt.
How to roast pork belly: Step 3
Set the oven to 220°C/425°F/Gas Mark 7. Spread the onion out in the base of a roasting tin, sit the pork on top and pour the stock around it.
Place the pork in the oven for 30 minutes, then turn the temperature down to 150°C/300°F/Gas Mark 2 and cook for a further 1½-2 hrs, or until the meat is tender and the skin crisp.
How to roast pork belly: Step 4
Remove the meat from the oven and leave it in a warm place for 15 mins.
Slice the meat widthways and serve with the onion and mashed potato and green beans, spooning over some of the juices from the pan.
How to cook pork belly in a slow cooker
There are a few ways to cook pork belly in a slow cooker and recipes vary. One option is to pat dry and score and season the fat as you would if you were roasting it, add stock or marinade to the bottom of the cooker (enough to cover the meat but not the fat), rub the pork with olive oil then rest it in the liquid, skin-side up. Cook on low for 4-6 hours depending on its size, adding more stock or marinade if it runs dry. This should make the meat melt-in-the-mouth tender.
Once the meat is cooked to your liking, the fat won't be crispy unless you pat it dry again with paper towels and place it under a hot grill fat side up or in a hot oven to crisp up the fat. This shouldn't take long. Keep an eye on it because the fat can burn quickly.
How long do you cook pork belly?
How long it takes to cook a pork belly joint depends on its weight, the recipe you're following, whether you braise the meat, and how slowly you intend to cook it.
As a guide, it takes pork belly 30 minutes per 500g to cook at 180°C/160°C fan/355°F/Gas 4, plus a 30-minute blast in a hot oven at 220°C/200°C fan/425°F/Gas 7.
However, not everyone prefers to cook pork belly at this temperature. If you're cooking the roast in the recipe shown above, it takes a similar time to cook but uses a different temperature. It starts in the same hot oven at 220°C/200°C fan/425°F/Gas 7 for the first 30 minutes, then heat is lowered to 150°C/130°C fan /300°F/Gas 2 for a further 1½-2 hrs.
Some recipes call for a reversal, where you cook the pork on a lower heat then turn the heat up for 30 minutes in the end. Either way, allow approximately 30 minutes per 500g, plus that crucial extra 30 minutes on a hotter heat.
If you decide to use a slow cooker, the cooking time is between 4-6 hours, followed by a short time under a hot grill to crisp up the fat.
How to cook pork belly slices
This depends on the recipe, but because they're smaller cuts of meat pork belly slices will cook quicker than a joint.
Pork belly slices can be pan-fried as well as roasted. To roast, marinade, and season them as you would any meat, then cook on a low-to-moderate oven 160°C/140°C fan /320°F/Gas 3 for around 60-90 minutes.
Pan-frying pork belly slices are much quicker than roasting. This method of cooking lends itself well to Asian cuisine. Marinade your slices then fry on medium heat for around 5 minutes on each side. Some recipes tell you to blanch the meat in boiling water first before pan-frying; other recipes will say to brown the pork then simmer the meat in liquid on low heat.
Top tips for cooking pork belly
What temperature should pork belly be cooked at?
A typical recipe will use a hot oven 220C/200C fan/425F/Gas 7 for the first 30 minutes, then a lower heat of between 150°C/300°F/Gas Mark 2 and 180°C/160°C fan/355°F/Gas 4 for a further 1½-2 hrs.
If you're cooking a pork belly joint in a slow cooker, cook on low for 4-6 hours, depending on its size.
Is it best to cook pork belly covered or uncovered?
Don't cover pork that's cooking if you want crispy crackling. Covering the joint will start to steam the meat and result in soggy fat.
How do you stop pork belly from drying out?
If you don't want pork belly to dry out, use a recipe with a lower heat, and use the braising method so the meat (but not the fat) cooks in stock. After it's finished cooking let it rest covered in foil. Make sure the foil is sitting loosely on the meat or the pork will steam. Follow these three tips and your pork belly should be tender and the skin crispy.
How do you get crispy crackling on pork belly?
One tried and trusted way to get crispy crackling is to score the skin then gently remove it from the meat, place it in a bowl, and pour boiling water over it. This causes the skin to contract, which will help it become crispy during cooking. Seasoning the skin with salt will also encourage crispy fat because the salt absorbs excess moisture.
How do I make sure the meat is tender?
Slow cooking is more likely to result in tender meat, so don't rush the cooking process. Give the meat a hot blast for the first 20-30 minutes, then use a lower heat to tenderise the meat. Another important step is allowing the meat to rest for 15-30 minutes after cooking – this enables the meat fibers to relax.
How to store pork belly
Fresh raw pork should always be stored in the fridge, on the bottom shelf, away from cooked meat, and thoroughly wrapped in packaging or an airtight container. Use within 3-4 days and don't eat it past its sell-by date.
If the pork belly has been cooked it can be reheated. Remove the crackling and place in a moderately hot oven at 200°C/180°C fan/390°F/Gas 6. Cover in foil for around 15 minutes or until piping hot. The crackling may still be crisp but if it's started to soften place it under a hot grill for a few minutes to go crunchy.
Raw pork belly can be frozen before its sell-by date. Make sure it's sealed and eat within 3-6 months. Slowly defrost it overnight in the fridge.
If you'd like to freeze cooked pork, treat it as you would fresh pork. Seal it well but only freeze it for up to 3 months. Like raw pork, it should be slowly defrosted overnight in the fridge. You may want to slice it before freezing so you can portion it and so it defrosts more quickly.
What to serve with pork belly
Pork belly is just delicious paired with apple sauce, mint sauce, or mustard. It's the perfect cut of meat for a roast dinner. It tastes delicious with all the roast dinner classics like roast potatoes, heaps of vegetables, and a generous amount of gravy.
We've served our pork with green beans and mashed potato. Below we've included some recommended pairings and sides to serve with your roasted pork belly...
Tangy yet sweet, apple is a classic apple accompaniment to roast pork. The sweetness of the apple really brings out the richness of the meat.
Get the recipe: Apple sauce (opens in new tab)
Roasted leeks and carrots
Tangy leeks and soft carrots pair perfectly as a side dish for roast pork belly. Serve with gravy.
Get the recipe: Roasted leeks and carrots (opens in new tab)
Sage and onion stuffing
Serve this stuffing as a side or rub it over the pork belly before cooking to make a stuffing crust. It's our most popular stuffing recipe bringing sage and onion together perfectly.
Get the recipe: Sage and onion stuffing (opens in new tab)
This creamy, cauliflower cheese is topped with more cheese for a crisp, golden finish. The creaminess and richness of the cheese sauce works wonders with a slice or two of roasted pork belly.
Get the recipe: Cauliflower cheese (opens in new tab)
Easy roast potatoes
Follow our easy recipe to make classic golden potatoes every time. Crisp on the outside, fluffy on the inside, and just heavenly heaped next to a cut of pork belly.
Get the recipe: Easy roast potatoes (opens in new tab)
Debra Waters is an experienced online editor and lifestyle writer with a focus on health, wellbeing, beauty, food and parenting. She currently writes for Goodto and Woman&Home, and print publications Woman, Woman’s Own and Woman’s Weekly. Previously, Debra was digital food editor at delicious magazine and MSN. She’s written for M&S Food, Great British Chefs, loveFOOD, What to Expect, Everyday Health and Time Out, and has had articles published in The Telegraph and The Big Issue.