Chefs have completely fallen madly in love with pork belly in recent years. Discover why after just one bite of this flavorful Pork Belly Banh Mi recipe.
Bacon has always had a place in American dining. Over the decades, it has been more or less popular (depending on current views of pork fat), but it has always been there as an ingredient in a myriad of dishes or alongside eggs at breakfast. What is new, however, is America’s fascination with pork belly.
Pork belly is exactly that—the belly of the pig which is composed of layers of abdominal meat sandwiched in opulent layers of pork fat. Bacon starts with the same cut, but is cured and smoked before it is sold. Pork belly is simply raw, with or without the skin attached to it.
Chefs have completely fallen madly in love with pork belly. It makes sense. I always used to tell my students that fat is their friend. Fat is full of flavor, makes meat really moist, and has great mouthfeel. And pork belly is full of it. As the belly cooks, it is literally basted with a sea of melting fat. At the same time, pork belly is a lesser expensive part of the pig, which may change if its popularity continues and even increases.
There are two basic ways of cooking pork belly. It can be cut into large chunks, several inches across, seared on high heat, and then cooked very slowly over a few hours to allow time for the fat to render out and the meat to become tender. While this can be done on the grill, I personally find it messy. The other way is to cut half inch slices, marinate them, and grill over a moderately hot grill so as to render out the fat. Once the fat has melted substantially and the meat is cooked, you can increase the heat to brown the exterior. This is the technique in the Pork Belly Banh Mi recipe below.
A SABER Grill is perfect for expertly grilling pork belly as its ability to adjust the heat quickly and accurately is critical. And another great feature is that flare ups are prevented which is very important given the amount of fat that the pork belly will shed.
One quick comment on the skin: For me, I do not leave the skin on the pork belly when cooking it in slices. I find that the skin does not have time to adequately get crisp. When I am cooking the larger chunks for much longer periods of time, I like to leave the skin on as it has a chance to soften and can be seared at the end of the cooking to develop a crunchy texture.
Grilled Pork Belly Banh Mi