NYT’s Crisp and Unctuous Pork Belly Grilled on Gas Grill

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from The New York Times, May 20, 2009

Another title for this recipe might be “Adventures in Grilling.” Is this the third or fourth pork belly recipe that I’ve posted? I no longer remember. It certainly is memorable. The image of Sherry practically engulfed in flames emanating from the gas grill will stick with me. There is a flaw in this recipe that is worth fixing. Perhaps more than one flaw. Crisp and unctuous as advertised, this pork belly version requires some thought and planning.

But apart from the design flaws inherent in the recipe, the question of pig skin preceeds all considerations. I haven’t been able to find pork belly with the skin still attached, even though nearly every roast pork belly recipe I’ve found assumes the piece I have to cook still has skin attached. As I learned from the friends who raised and sold me the pork belly, leaving the skin on certain cuts of pork is labor-intensive and, as a result, more costly. Pig skin requires boiling and scraping. Slaughtering a pig and preparing the carcass for the butcher’s takes far less time and effort is the skin is removed. The lack of skin on the piece of pork belly I had to roast is the start of the problem in this recipe — but it’s not the only problem.

My interlineated comments will reveal the why and wherefor:

Adapted from “Serious Barbecue,” by Adam Perry Lang (Hyperion, 2009).

Time: 6 1/2 hours, plus at least 12 hours’ marinating and 2 hours’ resting

For the Marinade:

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

1/4 cup fresh lemon juice

1/4 cup cider vinegar

10 cloves garlic, peeled and halved

2 tablespoons fresh rosemary

2 tablespoons fresh thyme

2 tablespoons sliced serrano pepper

2 tablespoons kosher salt

1 tablespoon coarsely ground black pepper

For the pork:

1 4-pound piece of pork belly, skin-on

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

1/4 cup bourbon

1/4 cup packed brown sugar

2 tablespoons flat-leaf parsley, roughly chopped

1 tablespoon cider vinegar

1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon lemon juice

2 tablespoons chives, chopped

Salt and freshly ground pepper.

1. In a blender, pulse marinade ingredients until roughly chopped. Transfer to a 1-gallon freezer bag and add pork belly and 1 cup water. Squeeze to remove air, then seal and refrigerate at least 12 hours.

Shadowcook: First of all, I worked with a 3 pound piece of pork belly and had to cut it in half in order to fit it in the plastic bag.

2. When ready to cook, heat oven to 275 degrees. Place pork in a 13-by-9-inch baking dish with marinade, butter and water to cover. Cover with heavy-duty foil, crimping edges tightly. Braise in oven 5 1/2 hours; let rest in pan, covered, 2 hours.

3. Meanwhile, simmer bourbon in a small pan over medium heat until alcohol aroma fades. Stir in sugar, parsley, vinegar and pepper flakes. Cover and set aside.

4. Heat a grill. Carefully remove pork from pan and place in a grilling basket. Grill skin-side down over medium-low heat for 15 to 20 minutes, until skin is crisp and golden. Remove from heat and brush skin side with 1/4 of the bourbon glaze, then return to heat, skin-side up, for another 5 minutes. Remove pork from heat once more and brush meat side with 1/4 of the glaze, then return to heat, meat-side up, for another 5 minutes. Repeat with remaining glaze on both sides.

Shadowcook: I followed the above instructions exactly and nearly set my deck on fire. I used my gas grill this time. Without the skin, the fat on the pork belly dripped down onto the fire. Even when I turned off the middle burner, flames shot out. The instructions do not mention whether the lid should remain up or closed. I didn’t have a choice. Fat-fuelled flames shot out of the lid. I had to stand there and manipulate the grill basket, removing it and replacing it on the grill when the flames diminished. Had the skin been left on the pork belly, would as much fat have ignited a fire as this piece? Probably not, but I find it hard to believe that there would have been no flames and no fire. As it turned out, I barely had time to brush the sauce over the surface of the pork before another fire broke out. I’m tempted to say, “Do not attempt this at home” but instead will only issue a caution.

5. Dress a cutting board with half the olive oil, lemon juice and chives, and salt and pepper. Place pork skin side up on cutting board and let rest for 10 minutes. Sprinkle with remaining olive oil, lemon juice and chives, and salt and pepper. Cut into 1-by-4-inch pieces and serve.

Yield: 8 servings.

Shadowcook: Indisputably delicious, but worth it? The meat was beyond fork-tender. In fact, it was almost too moist, if that’s possible. The marinade and sauce delivered a complex package of flavors, but the flavors might have been heightened with the addition of a bit more salt.

9 thoughts on “NYT’s Crisp and Unctuous Pork Belly Grilled on Gas Grill

    1. shadowcook Post author

      That’s interesting and scary, Steve. But in my case the pork belly was the culprit. I’ve decided t’s not a suitable cut for grilling. Too much fat. If you live in a hot region, wait until the fall and try roasting pork belly. I’ve got a few other good recipes on this blog. I love it. And if you can find pork belly with the skin on, let me know.

      Reply
      1. Grilling

        I have never actually tried it so I will have to try one of you recipes! Always up for something new. Duck is kind of like that as well, the flare-ups are kind of scary because it’s so fatty.

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  2. Adam

    I had a crack at this about a month ago. By far one of the best dishes I have ever made! The pork was incredibly tender and moist, and the flavours were fantastic. It was thoroughly enjoyed by everyone.

    I am from the UK, and had no problem whatsoever in finding pork belly with the skin on. I also didn’t have any issues with it flaming when placed on to my gas barbeque.

    I highly recommend giving this a go. I will definitely make it again. Five stars!

    Reply
    1. Shadowcook Post author

      I so envy you and your compatriots. Pork with skin on is so rare. Every time I’m in London, I request a pork roast. Glad you enjoyed it. Try Nigel Slater’s pork belly with 5-spice rub. Delicious. I can’t remember whether I posted that or not. If not, I will in a couple of weeks. Thanks!

      Reply
  3. duroeulx

    I find pork belly with the skin on in Asian markets — absolutely love it. I normally roast it in the oven until the skin is crispy but this recipe intrigued me. I tried it for the 4th of July — likewise, almost set my deck on fire! I love the glaze but I will probably use my oven instead of the grill the next time.

    Reply
  4. Lang Fan

    Glad to see someone else following my bbq hero APL, just reading through the recipe in the book did notice a couple of things that might help with the flare ups.
    His recipe calls for skin on so the only reason you are going to direct heat is to crisp the skin with no skin you dont need to do that.
    You could when having no skin place the belly on a wire tray and in a drip pan that way avoiding any fat going onto naked flames you can still glaze doing this and should have no flare ups.
    Just one point as well he does say remove from the grill to glaze then put it back on not glaze while its on there mind you if its over a drip tray then it should make no difference. And lid down when the glaze has been applied.
    To be fair when I do this on the charcoal Weber I still go Indirect with a tray below and only flash it direct at the end to crispen and tighten the skin if you get a slight flare you just move back to the cooler zone.
    I even use a small kitchen blow torch sometimes to get the crackling really crispy.
    Hope some of that helps

    Reply

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