Explainers

How to make the perfect roast pork

Mike McEnearney, of Kitchen by Mike, on how to get proper pork crackling.

By Mike McEnearney
  • 20 mins preparation minutes
  • 8 hrs 30 mins cooking minutes (plus brining, cooling, pressing)
  • Serves 4
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There are many things that contribute to a great pork roast, winning crackling especially so. The most important thing with any cooking, however, is to source the best ingredients you can, then focus on the technique afterwards. If you source meat from animals that have that have been respected and cared for by the farmer through each step of the process, you're already halfway to the perfect roast
Step 1: Make brine, and pour it over pork. Photo: Alicia Taylor
Step 2: Roast pork slowly for 8 hours Photo: Alicia Taylor
Step 4 & 5: Score pork fat, rub in salt and roast in a hot oven for a crispy crackling Photo: Alicia Taylor

Ingredients

  • 160 gm fine sea salt
  • 5 fresh bay leaves
  • 2 kg pork belly on the bone
  • 25 ml white wine
  • 1/4 bunch thyme
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 1.5 litres (6 cups) olive oil (or enough to cover)
  • Apple chutney, to serve

Method

  • 1
    Make a brine by dissolving salt in 2 litres cold water. Place pork in a large, non-reactive container that will hold it snugly. Pour brine over, add 3 bay leaves, and refrigerate overnight, weighing down pork with a plate to keep it submerged. Brining helps to keep the moisture in the meat and will season it right through.
  • 2
    Preheat oven to 80°C or its lowest setting. Line a deep roasting pan with baking paper. Remove pork from brine, pat dry, and place, skin-side down, in the roasting pan. Add wine, thyme, garlic, remaining bay leaves, and enough olive oil to submerge pork, then cover with a layer of baking paper, then foil, or with a lid. Roast, checking occasionally to make sure oil isn't bubbling and meat isn't exposed, until bones feel like they'll slide easily from the flesh (8 hours or overnight). This slow-cooking process flavours the meat, but also helps to render the fat, which will give it a crisp finish. Carefully lift pork belly out of the oil and place it, skin-side down, in a roasting pan lined with baking paper. Discard the oil.
  • 3
    Remove bones and trim any sinew and cartilage. Cover meat with another sheet of baking paper and place a smaller pan on top, then weigh down with food cans. Refrigerate overnight to compress the meat. This helps to compress the layers of flesh and fat, giving the pork a more intense flavour and a richer finish. At this stage, the meat will keep in the fridge for a week.
  • 4
    If there is less than 2cm of fat under the skin, there's usually no need to score the skin, but if it's thicker, score the skin in a cross-hatch pattern with a sharp knife, avoiding cutting into the meat. Scoring helps the fat render and the skin become crisp.
  • 5
    Preheat oven to 210°C and line a roasting pan with foil, then baking paper. Place pork belly, skin-side up, in pan and rub rind with a couple of pinches of salt flakes. Gather up sides of baking paper and foil to form a wall around (not over) the pork and pour in enough water to come halfway up the sides (this keeps juices in, while still allowing the rind to crisp). Roast until the skin is turning golden (20-30 minutes), then increase oven to 250°C and roast until skin is deep golden and crackled (15-20 minutes). Rest for 10 minutes, then serve with apple chutney.

Notes

Start this recipe two days ahead. When removing the bones after slow-cooking the pork, pick any meat from the bones and save it for a pork roll, or leave a little meat on the ribs and turn them into sticky ribs, which make a great snack. The brining process is optional, but adds extra flavour and moisture.

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