Sous vide pork belly might be something you think can only be mastered in a commercial kitchen. But you are wrong. You can create delicious sous vide pork belly in the comfort of your own home. Let’s take a look at cooking sous vide pork belly that will have your guests begging for more.
Sous vide, French for ‘under vacuum’ is the process of cooking vacuum-sealed produce in a temperature-controlled water bath. The sous vide technique is very popular in the kitchens of top professional chefs, producing soft, tender, delicious results for all manner of meats, fish, vegetables, desserts and cocktails!! But with the advent of fairly inexpensive sous vide immersion circulators, you can cook sous vide in the comfort of your own kitchen.
If you want to learn more about sous vide cooking visit our FAQ. For those of you wanting to get straight into sous vide pork belly cooking, read on.
You can create your sous vide water bath using an all in one sous vide machine or using what is commonly known as a sous vide immersion circulator or precision cooker. If you choose the latter, you simply pop the immersion circulator into whatever you are using for your water bath and warm it as per your sous vide recipe of choice. You can create your water bath with either a saucepan or, for larger cooks, a much larger BPA free plastic container.
Sous Vide Pork Belly here we come
Sure. Sous vide pork belly should not be on the menu in your house every night of the week. As many of you will know, this specific pork cut is covered in a very large layer of fat. And this is what makes the dish so scrumptious. So if you see cooking sous vide pork belly as somewhat of a treat, and not an every night meal, you can absolutely let yourself enjoy the cooking (and eating) of pork belly using the sous vide technique.
Sous Vide Pork Belly cooking time
Your cooking time will very much depend on the thickness of the pork belly piece that you buy.
Assuming you are working with a 20cm square slab of pork belly, with say a 3 to 4 cm thickness, you would vacuum seal and cook it in your sous vide machine or water bath at 82 degrees celsius for 12 hours or so. There are MANY variations so it is best to check out some recipes offered by your sous vide machine of choice and follow their directions.
Once your sous vide cook is complete, remove the pork belly from the water bath and place it in the refrigerator to cool.
Flavoring your sous vide pork belly
If we took a poll of all the sous vide pork belly enthusiasts out there, we bet we would hear about a ridiculously large variety of marinades for it. Many like using five spice powder, soy sauce, brown sugar. The list goes on.
Whatever you choose, sous viders generally rub the marinade into the meat. Just remember that your pork belly is going to be very salty – so don’t add too many salty ingredients to your marinade.
The other comment we would make about the marinade is that you need to be mindful of the amount of liquid you are adding to your food pouch. If you add too much liquid, you will find it difficult to close your zip loc or vacuum sealed bag.
Here’s examples of a couple of sous vide prok belly marinades for inspiration:
Marinade ingredients for 1 uncured pork belly (approximately 3lbs):
- 1/4 rice wine vinegar
- 2 tbsp. mirin
- 1 tbsp. honey
- 1/4 soy sauce
- juice of 1 lime
- 1/2 tsp. ginger powder
- 1/2 tsp. garlic powder
- 1/2 tsp. sugar
Here’s some more sous vide pork belly marinade inspiration from Sous Vide Supreme (a reputable sous vide machine retailer)
Marinade ingredients for 2-1/2 pounds (1 kg) pork belly, ribs removed by your butcher and water bath ready:
- 1 scant teaspoon (4 g) sea salt
- 1 stalk fresh lemongrass, bruised and halved lengthwise
- 2 pinches (2 g) ground white pepper
- 3 pinches (3 g) five spice powder
- 1 tablespoon (15 g) new season garlic, crushed
- 2 teaspoons (10 g) fresh ginger, peeled, chopped
- 1 red chilli, deseeded and finely chopped
And our final sous vide pork belly flavor sensation comes from Great British Chefs. They suggest including whole spices such as cumin, coriander, cinnamon and star anise which all work really well together. Combining spices gives the most flavour.
Preparing your sous vide pork belly
There isn’t too much work required to pre-prepare your pork belly before your sous vide cook. Most sous viders like to cut off any visible sinew on the skin. They also score the pork belly itself. But apart from that, your pork belly is ready to roll.
Vacuum sealing your sous vide pork belly in your food bag
Given there are no bones to contend with when cooking sous vide pork belly, you shouldn’t experience many problems putting your pork belly and marinade into your food pouch of choice (bones can sometimes pierce your vacuum sealed or Ziploc bag if you are not careful putting it into its food pouch).
Once you have sealed your bag, you can sit it into your water bath and let the sous vide technique take care of the cook for you. If you have just one piece of pork belly you should be able to fit that into one of your existing kitchen pots. If you have bought a particularly large piece of pork belly, go ahead and cut it up into portions so that it will fit in your pot.
Alternatively use a larger BPA free container as your water bath. You will be able to fit more pork belly pieces into a larger container.
Now go and do something fun whilst your sous vide pork belly cooks
As most sous viders know, the sous vide cooking process pretty much takes care of itself until you are ready to serve your meal. So pour yourself a wine, head out for a jog (sorry if we’ve made the wine drinkers feel a little down on themselves with talk of fitness) or pop on the TV to binge on your favorite series whilst your pork belly is cooking.
Not going to eat your sous vide pork belly straight away?
If you are preparing for an upcoming meal and not ready to eat the pork belly right away (high fives for you for your pre-planning), you can simply put the sous vide pork belly in your freezer ready to take the final steps before serving when you are ready to eat it.
And as a side note here for those of you who are going to freeze your pork belly – make sure you take the time to thaw your sous vide pork belly out and for the skin to dry out a little before you re-heat and finish of your sous vide pork belly meal.
Hints and tips for the next stage of sous vide pork belly preparation
Put your cooked sous vide pork belly on a flat plate or ovenproof dish. Weigh it down with something heavy. This squeezes out a lot of the fat into the bottom of the dish which has the effect of maintaining the moisture and tenderness in the pork belly when you put in into the oven to crisp up the skin.
Many sous viders will leave the pork belly (which is weighed down with something heavy) and leave it in the fridge uncovered to dry the skin out.
Take the sous vide pork belly out of the fridge an hour or so before you plan to cook it so the pork reaches room temperature.
Pre-heat the oven to 210 degrees celsius and put the dish in. Check every 10 minutes until the skin has become crisp – although it will probably take at least half an hour.
See our next section for some other pork belly skin crispy hints and tips if skin crispy goodness eludes you on your first cook.
Some more crispy skin sous vide pork belly goodness
There is a bit of an art to crisping up your sous vide pork belly skin without burning it. What you are aiming for is hard skin when you tap it. Here are some techniques that sous viders use in their quest for the ultimate sous vide pork belly crispy skin.
Want super crispy pork belly skin?
The crispy skin on sous vide pork belly can be a little elusive. We’ve scoured the web for some sous viders tips (Reddit and Quora are great forums for sous vide cooking). Here’s some tips for crispy sous vide pork belly skin goodness.
Idea 1. Dry the skin with paper towels immediately when taking it out of your sous vide food bag, salting the skin, then compressing it between two baking trays in the fridge. When cool, cut it into portions, and throw into a hot oven, skin side down, on an anodised aluminium baking tray. Angle the tray slightly as this lets the fat drain away from the skin and it crisps better.
As a side note – score the skin when you cut the portions (if that is how you are planning to eat it). This reduces the amount of moisture you have sticking around, and when cooled it sets the meat making a fine score possible. Indicatively, score it about 3mm / 1/6″ diamonds.
Idea 2. Rather than score your sous vide pork belly, poke holes in it. Then pan fry.
Idea 3. Refrigerate the pork belly after its sous vide cook – this helps to dry up the skin before using a broiler. Take the sous vide pork belly out of your food bag and dry it really well. Press the sous vide pork belly between 2 half sheet trays in the fridge under weight overnight – the idea is to get the belly flat since it tends to bubble up in weird ways.
You will now have a beautifully flat and easy to handle belly. Score through skin and cut into manageable squares (like 3 inches square). Put skin side down in a hot pan. A word of warning – it will spit A LOT. Keep pressing with a spatula for even crispiness. perfect every time.
Idea 4. A flat surface seems to be what you are trying to achieve so compressing your pork belly after your sous vide cook is definitely the way to go. Shallow fry it in a cast iron pan (about 1/4 in oil in the pan). The frying really gets the skin shatteringly crisp, then pour off the oil and sear the sides.
Idea 5. If you want to speed up the process a tad, you don’t need to weigh the pork belly down overnight (it will just be a little fattier to eat). You can dry out the skin faster if you put it into a 50-70 degree celsius fan-forced oven and leave the door open.
Keep a watching brief for when the skin feels dry – once you’re satisfied with that, ramp up the oven temperature and crisp the skin. The result is a mouth-watering soft pork belly with a lovely crunchy top.
Idea 6. Quite a few people recommend salting the skin after the sous vide cook – with the belly itself, rub in some salt and shallow fry it in oil skin down for 5-10 minutes until crispy. Then place in the oven for another 10-15 minutes at 180 to warm it up.
Idea 7. (a derivative of Idea 6). After removing the pork belly from the water, de-bag, place on plate and pat dry. Generously salt the exterior surfaces (consider flake salt since it has nice high surface area to volume ratio increase). Leave the belly to itself for around 10 minutes. If you’re going to brown using something that needs preheating, now is the time to do it.
At the end of 10 minutes the salt will have diffused some into the outer layers of the belly, and in doing so displaced some water. The belly may look a bit sweaty. Dry it off with paper towels, removing salt to your taste. Crisp the resulting belly using your preferred source of high heat: deep fryer, butane torch, broiler, or hot stove top fat.
How about a little smoked pork belly?
If you are up for a bit more of a challenge, why not experiment with smoking your sous vide pork belly too.
Many sous viders choose to cold smoke their pork belly before putting it into the sous vide machine or water bath. How long you cold smoke it for will depend on the size of meat you are cooking.
Smoking can be done in a number of different ways, but most use a small amount of charcoal and some word chips which gives a great smoky flavor.
Before you smoke your pork belly (and before you put it in your sous vide water bath), use a sharp pairing knife to make a series of vertical and horizontal cuts 1-inch apart in the pork belly’s top layer of fat (be careful not to cut into the meat) to create a crisscross pattern.
Place the pork belly on the side opposite the smoker tube, cover the grill, and cold smoke the pork belly for 2-3 hours until it has taken on a nice smoky color and smell.
Remove the pork belly from the smoker and seal it in an airtight bag along with the marinade using either a home vacuum sealer or a large ziplock bag removing as much air as possible while sealing.
What about sous vide grilled pork belly?
If grilling is more your style, consider the following approach:
- Cook your pork belly in your sous vide machine or sous vide water bath according to the instructions above.
- Prepare a grill for medium-high heat cooking, at approximately 400 degrees. Remove the pork belly from the bag and pat dry. Grill the pork belly for approximately 5 minutes per side while moving it periodically to ensure even browning.
- Remove the pork belly from the grill, allow it to cool for 10 minutes, then slice and serve.
Pork Nilaga is a type of Filipino pork soup in clear broth. It is common to use pork belly in this dish along along with other ingredients such as potato, saba banana, and pechay (or baby bok choy). It is often served hot with a small bowl or saucer of fish sauce (with chili pepper if you prefer it a bit spicy) on the side.
Many people like to use sous vide pork belly in this traditional pork nilaga dish. Pork belly is inexpensive in most countries and is delicious when slow cooked at a low temperature, which of course is how sous vide pork belly is prepared.
Pork Butcher Cuts
Whilst it has been reported that pork belly has increased in price in recent years, it is still a very economical pork cut to cook sous vide. Of course there are always variation depending on the country you live in, freight, delivery costs and food taxes. But with the leading grocery chains keen for your business, you should be able to regularly find pork belly on special.
This diagram by Modern Farmer shows you where pork belly comes from in a pig:
Pork belly is not, as you may think, the stomach. Rather, it is the flesh that runs on the underside (the belly) of the pig and surrounds the stomach.
It is one long cut of meat with plenty of fat worked into the meat, which is why it is prized for curing and turning into bacon or pancetta. It can also be cooked fresh and is often seen on menus as “braised pork belly.” Follow suit at home and sous vide it!
Jamie Oliver refers to pork belly as “a fatty, but incredibly tender cut of meat…pork belly is very high in fat, which makes it a delicious and versatile cut.” He goes on to say that pork belly “can be cooked slowly at a low temperature for soft meat that melts in the mouth but make sure you skim away some of the fat. As a robust cut, it works well paired with aromatic flavours and Asian spices.”
Where else can I buy pork belly for my sous vide cooking?
Apart from butchers, you will find pork belly in most supermarkets, farmers markets and independent grocery stores. In many instances you can buy pork belly in vacuum sealed bags but we would not encourage you to use those in your sous vide machine or water bath.
Whilst you cannot see it, some vacuum sealed bags may well have small piercings in them (sustained whilst the meat is transported). Tiny holes will be enough to ruin your sous vide cook – and waste your time and money.
Organic and free range pork belly
If you are looking to source organic pork belly, google organic local butchers nearby. Many organic and free range pork belly stockists exist. Organic meat is that which has come from a farm where pigs are raised in a stress free environment. It usually also means that the pork adheres to specific free range standards, including ensuring water food and environmental welfare are maintained.
Low stress and animal husbandry produces a superior pork belly product which is all natural.
Reasons to choose organic pork belly
You will find pork belly of all qualities when you are sourcing your meat. Of course if you have a little more money in your pocket you may like to consider buying organic pork belly. Here are some of the benefits:
Organic pork belly is more sustainable
Organic meat isn’t just more delicious – it is also better for the environment! By choosing organic pork belly, you are helping to minimise unnecessary pollution caused by fertilisers and chemical pesticides in the fields where the pigs are bred.
Organic farmers use methods and materials which minimise any negative impact on the environment, maintaining biodiversity of the ecosystem and fostering healthy soil conditions.
Keeping your family healthy
Reducing the use of chemicals is good for the environment – and it is also good for you. A new study by the British Journal of Nutrition also shows that organic food contains higher levels of antioxidants than non-organic food, so your family will get greater protection from the free radicals and harmful elements in the environment.
If it’s not certified, it’s not organic
Before a farmer can start selling food labelled as ‘certified organic’, the farm must be inspected by a certifying body to ensure organic practices are being followed. Soil is tested and the farm is monitored regularly to make sure it is following regulations. Organic certification is the only guarantee to you that the pork belly is really organic.
Giving farmers a fair price
When you buy organic, you can also be guaranteed the farmers who farm pigs are getting a fair price for their hard work too.
Sous Vide Pork Belly recipe inspiration
Time for some sous vide pork belly recipe ideas. Here are just a handful of sous vide pork belly recipes that might inspire you to give pork belly a go:
Stupidly Simple Sous Vide Pork Belly from Chefsteps (maker of the Joule sous vide immersion circulator)
Sous Vide Pork Belly Buns from Serious Eats
Sous Vide Chinese Crispy Skinned Pork Belly by The Kitchen Alchemist
Head to our curated sous vide recipe library for more sous vide recipes
Sous vide pork belly time and temperature guides
As we mentioned earlier in this article, time and temperate guides for cooking sous vide pork belly do vary. It depends on the thickness of your pork belly, the size of the pork belly piece and the sous vide machine or immersion circulator you use.
We have seen all sorts of temperatures and times quoted from a range of reputable sous vide recipe sources. So that makes it really difficult to provide any definitive instructions on this front.
Here are some links to reputable sous vide time and temperature guides to help you find a time and temperature that is just right for the thickness and weight of the pork belly you are going to sous vide.
Sous Vide Supreme https://sousvidesupreme.com/pages/cooking-guides
How to Cook Sous Vide Pork Belly Guide from Sous Vide Tools
Sous vide pork belly on socials
As you all know, we LOVE to give you as many additional sous vide resources as we can, to help you on your sous vide cooking journey.
Sous vide pork belly is super popular in a range of dishes including sous vide pork belly buns, sous vide pork belly ramen, sous vide pork belly bites and the list goes on.
You will find sous vide pork belly recipes in all of the usual websites including:
Chefsteps website (maker of the Joule)
Sous Vide Everything (sensational You Tuber every sous vide lover should know about)
Anova Culinary website (make of the Anova precision cooker)
Our tips for the best sous vide pork belly social media hashtags
Instagram Sous Vide Pork Belly brilliance
Instagram never disappoints when it comes to dazzling you with delicious sous vide inspiration. Here are the key hashtags to use to unlock some new ideas for your sous vide pork belly cooking on Insta:
Don’t forget to follow us on Instagram for more sous vide goodness.
Facebook Sous Vide Pork Belly inspo
Facebook is another great place to find some sous vide inspiration. Again, here are the two best hashtags when it comes to finding hints and tips for sous vide pork belly cooking:
You can follow us on Facebook too!
Pinterest Sous Vide Pork Belly scrumptiousness
If you haven’t discovered Pinterest for sous vide cooking yet, get on board. You will see some great round ups of sous vide recipes from sous vide enthusiasts around the globe.
Your best bet for finding delicious sous vide pork belly recipes and photos on Pinterest is to use the hash tag #sousvidepork
So there you have it. The round up on cooking sous vide pork belly. Don’t forget to leave messages in the Comments section below if you have any more hints and tips for creating succulent sous vide pork belly dishes. We would love to hear them.
Related Posts and Further Reading
The Ultimate Guide to Pork Cuts by Jamie Oliver