Close up of sliced Chinese Crispy Pork Belly with the best crackling in the world
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4.92 from 78 votes

Chinese Crispy Pork Belly

Recipe video above. This is Chinese pork belly, just like you get from the Chinese BBQ meat shops! The best crackling in the world, with the signature bubbles, super crispy and golden. If pricking the skin is too daunting for you, use the Foolproof Easy Method (Note 1)
Prep Time20 mins
Cook Time1 hr 30 mins
Total Time1 hr 50 mins
Course: Appetiser, Dinner
Cuisine: Chinese
Keyword: best crackling, Chinese pork belly, Crispy pork belly, pork belly
Servings: 8 - 8
Calories: 339kcal
Author: Nagi | RecipeTin Eats

Ingredients

  • 1 pork belly, skin on (800 - 1.2kg / 1.6 - 2.4 lb) (Note 1)
  • 1 1/2 tbsp Chinese cooking wine (Shaoxing wine) (Note 2)
  • 1 tsp Chinese five spice powder (Note 3)
  • 1 tsp white pepper (sub black pepper)
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp white vinegar (helps conduct heat evenly)
  • 200 g / 7 oz rock salt (Note 4)

Instructions

Prepare Pork Belly

  • Use an ice pick, sharp metal skewer or another tool to prick tons and tons of holes in the skin. Avoid piercing int o the fat as best you can, and really ensure you do not pierce the flesh (Note 5)
  • Turn the pork belly upside down. Rub the flesh (not skin) with Chinese cooking wine, dribbling it on gradually. Sprinkle over five spice powder, salt and pepper. Rub all over flesh, including sides (not on skin).
  • Turn skin side up and place in a container. Dab skin dry with paper towels. Refrigerate uncovered for 12 hours (max 24 hrs, min 3 hrs).

Cook:

  • Preheat oven to 180C/350F (all oven types).
  • Remove pork from fridge. Place onto a large sheet of foil. Fold up sides of foil around the pork to enclose it snugly (see photos in post or video) with a 1.5cm / 2/5" rim above the pork skin (to hold salt in).
  • Transfer pork to baking tray. Dab skin with paper towels.
  • Brush skin with vinegar.
  • Spread rock salt on the skin (the foil edges will stop it from falling down the sides).
  • Roast for 60 minutes.
  • Remove pork from oven and transfer onto work surface.
  • Switch to grill/broiler on medium high. Move shelf so it is at least 25cm/10" from the heat source.
  • Fold down foil and scrape all the salt off the top and sides. Return pork only (i.e. discard foil) to baking tray. 
  • Place under grill/broiler for 20 - 25 minutes, rotating tray once, until skin is golden, crispy and puffed. (Note 6)

To Serve

  • Remove pork onto cutting board. Slice into 1 - 1.5cm / 2/5 - 3/5" thick slices, then into smaller slices like pictured in post.
  • Serve with ordinary yellow mustard - or Hot English Mustard if you like spicy like me! Not Dijon, just ordinary American or other yellow mustard (yes really!). Sometimes it is served with white sugar on the side too. Add some fresh raw vegetables (I use cucumber and radish).

Notes

1. Pork belly - try to get one with even thickness, it will make the best evenly cooked crackling. Look for pork belly with lovely ribbons of fat streaking through it.
2. Chinese cooking wine (Shaoxing wine) - sub for dry sherry (near perfect) or Mirin (very good sub). If you can't consume alcohol, just skip it and add an extra 1/4 tsp salt. Read here for more info.
3. Chinese Five Spice Powder -
a spice mix used in Chinese cooking with 5 spices that's widely available at everyday supermarkets.
4. Rock Salt is called for because it's easy to remove and also the salt doesn't slip down into the holes which would make the pork too salty.
5. Skin piercing  - If you pierce the fat too much (a bit is ok) or flesh, then after you remove the salt crust and place it under the grill/broiler, juices will bubble up onto the skin and prevent the skin from getting crispy. It's not the end of the world if you have a handful of pricks that went too deep, you will just get tiny splotches or little strips of crackling that's not 100% crispy.
6. Broiling - Ensure the pork isn't too close to the heat source. That's the key to an even golden crackling, rather than burnt splotches here and there. The further away it is, the better!
7. Foolproof Easy Method - Use this if pricking is all too hard. Makes super crispy crackling and the same juicy flesh, but without the bubbly crackling. It's really really good and super easy. Read in post for more information.
  • Follow recipe up to and including brushing with vinegar but do not prick skin.
  • Cover skin with rock salt per recipe, OR use 1 cup kosher/cooking/table salt (enough to cover skin about 3 - 5 mm / 1/8 - 1/5" thick). If you use fine grain salt, make sure the foil is VERY snug around the edges - if salt falls down the sides, it will make the flesh salty.
  • Roast per recipe and scrape off salt.
  • Instead of flicking to grill/broiler, turn the oven up to 240C/465F. For this method, oven works better to make skin crispy.
  • Place pork on a rack and return to baking tray, roast for a further 30 minutes or until crackling is golden and crispy.
7. Servings - Pork belly is very rich so a 1 kg / 2 lb raw piece (shrinks to about 700g/1.4lb) serves 6 - 8 people as part of a multi course meal or as a starter. I don't serve pork belly as a main because I find it too rich. In the photo pictured in the post with the slices, that is the sort of starter I would do. It's plenty!
8. STORING / MAKE AHEAD: Cook per recipe, including crispy skin. Once cool enough to handle, separate crispy skin from meat. Cool, THEN cover and refrigerate separately - crackling stays crispy! Reheat meat in microwave and reheat crispy skin just until warmed in oven at 180C/350F (~ 5 minutes). Because crackling stays crispy even after refrigeration, reheating for the skin is JUST to reheat, not to crisp. Don't take the skin too far in the oven, it starts to lose crispiness, believe it or not!
9. Recipe created / adapted from numerous sources over the years, including but not limited to: Woks of Life, Chinese Crispy Roasted Pork by Garden Time (this is my main reference point for the traditional method), and a Gordon Ramsay cooking show (can't remember which one!).
8. Nutrition estimate, taking into account 1/3 cup of fat that is discarded from the foil. 

Nutrition

Serving: 88g | Calories: 339kcal | Protein: 21.9g | Fat: 32.8g | Saturated Fat: 10.9g | Cholesterol: 88mg | Sodium: 383mg | Vitamin A: 15IU | Vitamin C: 0.6mg | Calcium: 12mg | Iron: 1.1mg