Perfect slow-roast belly pork with crispy crackling

Belly pork is a great choice for a slow-cooked roast as the meat remains succulent, and the fennel and coriander rub provides a beautiful aromatic flavour.

Cooking a pork joint with the guarantee of great crackling doesn’t have to be an impossible dream. I’ve found through a few trial and error experiments in the kitchen which techniques work better than others. The idea of this post is to share the successful tips which should help guarantee succulent pork and nicely crisp crackling.

My cut of choice is belly pork, I know it isn’t the healthiest but it is the fat content that helps this joint remain moist and tender on roasting. There’s s no denying that fat = flavour – and so it’s worth the indulgence. I bought my belly pork from Roney’s on Sharrow Vale Road.

Roney's butchers

What you choose to serve as your sides is as important as the meat – and vegetables can be exciting. At this time of year I love beetroot roasted with some herbs and a drizzle of honey, classic roast potatoes and braised red cabbage with orange.

I hope that these simple steps help you to cook your perfect roast dinner.

1. Prepare the meat

The key to great crackling is to score the skin with a sharp knife (or get your butcher to do this).

Then place your joint in a clean sink (skin side up) and pour boiling water over the top. This causes the skin to puff up and helps the crackling process.

2. Seasoning

Dry the skin with kitchen roll and choose whether to just season with just salt or add a rub/marinade. My favourite seasoning at the moment is one from Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s ‘Every Day’ cookbook, which is made from a blend of coriander seeds, salt and fennel seeds. Here’s the recipe.

It is minimal effort as you bash up the spices in a mortar and pestle and then massage ¾ of the mix into the skin, making sure that it gets well into the scored cuts. The remaining mix is scattered underneath the joint. Hugh’s recipe says this can be done 30 minutes before, I like to do it on the morning of the day I am cooking the meat. Then it just sits in the fridge and absorbs the flavour.

3. Start hot

To give the crackling the start it needs to be crispy you want to cook the joint initially at a high temperature. Whack the oven up to max (220°C).

Once it is heated up, put the pork into a roasting tray and pop in the oven. Cook for 30 minutes.

4. Slow it down

When the pork has had it’s hot start the skin will have started to crackle, turn the oven down to about 150°C. Leave to cook for 2 – 2 ½ hours until the meat feels tender and the juices run clear.

5. Rest

Once cooked, remove from the oven and leave the meat to rest for 20 minutes, this allows the juices to absorb into the joint and gives the best flavour.

If the crackling for whatever reason is not crispy, you can remove it and finish it under a hot grill.

Serve with vegetables of your choice. I made my own apple sauce. I am a big fan of Niamh Shields spiced apple sauce with chilli, cinnamon and nutmeg. It’s easy to make and is a spicy twist on any conventional apple sauce you may be used to.

Apple sauce

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