This is an update of my recipe for Roast Pork, a.k.a. sio bak.
Over time, with experience (which is a nice way of saying finding many ways how this will NOT work), I have found 2 ways to do this.
This is a simpler way, but I think the crackling is a little harder. And also I have only tried this once, so… might have been a fluke.
I call this the BCB method.
It means, “Brine-Confit-Broil”.
You will need pork belly with the skin on.
First, brine the pork belly. Put a slab of pork belly in a ziplock bag, add sugar and salt, top up with enough water to just cover the meat, remove air from the bag, zip it up and refrigerate. At least 4 hours. Overnight would be good. A day or two ahead of time… might be stretching it.
If you don’t have a ziplock bag, or if you want to use a pot, sure. Dissolve the salt and sugar in a pot of water, then leave the pork in the brine solution.
How much salt and sugar? About 2 tablespoons of salt and 4 of sugar, but whatever you are comfortable with. PL likes it salty.
Second, “confit” the pork belly.
Dry off the meat (as best you can, maybe drain it in a colander or a rack for about 30 mins, then run a paper towel over the meat to sop up any wetness/moisture), then add a dry rub of your choice to the meat side (not on the skin side). I like a mix of black and white pepper, salt, sugar, Chinese 5 spice powder, and a little bit of szechuan pepper. For the purist, just salt, so the full porky flavour comes through. To taste.
Preheat the oven to 100 C/220 F.
Next wrap the meat in aluminium foil. Twice. Place the meat on a large sheet of foil (with sufficient overlap at all sides. Keep track of which side the skin is on, but never mind if you lose track. You may want the first wrap to be skin side down. Wrap it once, leaving as little space between meat and foil as possible.
Then wrap it in a second foil – turn the package over (now the skin is up) and wrap with the second foil.
Low and slow. Put the package in the oven at 100C/220F for 4 to 5 hours.
Then let it cool. You can refrigerate it so the collagen will gel and you can more easily collect it (to make soup for ramen for example), or just plough on.
This youtube video shows how to make pork confit (up to about the 3:00 mark).
Third, broil the pork confit, but first you need to score. And season (optional).
Preheat the oven to 150 C/320 F while you wipe off the pork and do a final optional seasoning.
A simple seasoning of salt and black pepper over all meat side (any side with not covered by skin) will do, but this is optional.
Then score the skin. By this time the skin should be softened and you should be able to run a sharp knife to score the skin – cutting about 3 mm (or about an eighth of an inch) or less. You just want to break the skin, but not cut through to the meat. You can just score in one direction, or criss-cross. The cuts should be close together – 3mm or less (also an eighth of an inch).
Some recipes call for rubbing vinegar or rice wine on the skin after the scoring. I think that’s just cruel, but it might add some flavour.
Place the meat skin side up on a rack over a roasting pan with hot water (preferably just off the boil). The water should not come in contact with the meat, so under the rack.
If the meat feels very tender and ready to eat, all you really want to do now is crackle the skin. If so, turn the heat up to max and pop the pork skin side up into the oven, for 10 minutes, but watch it, it may burn. If after 10 minutes, it’s not crackling yet, go for another 10 minutes or until it crackles.
If the meat seems rather pale (which it should after the confit process), then roast for about an hour at 150. This should further cook and brown the meat and may crisp and crackle the skin. If so, you’re done. If not, crackle the skin (after an hour at 150 C), by raising the oven to the max temperature for 10 minutes, or until the skin is crackling.
It should look something like this:
When the skin has crisped, remove from oven and leave it to cool for at least half an hour before attempting to slice up the meat. If you try to do that too soon, the crispy skin will separate from the meat.
This is not a disaster, but in my experience, the kids take the crispy skin and leave the meat. (The adults do too, but I don’t want to embarrass them).
So if you’re cutting up the meat and the skin separates, stop and let it rest for another 20 minutes.
So other tips.
Get a big oven. A 45-litre oven is the minimum, although I have managed to work with a 30-litre oven. Larger would be better cos the oven heating is more even. There are no hot spots.
With smaller ovens, a small difference in height could mean one side is burnt while another side is uncrisp. In the picture above, you can see that the left edge of the skin is not quite crisp (it’s darker and smoother) although the rest of the skin is crackling.
If I had continued until the left is crispy, the other sides may be burnt.
If you have a small oven and face this problem, use a piece of foil to cover the crisp part to prevent it from burning while exposing the undone part to the top broiler.