Pork Belly Explained
Cooking,  Food Preparation,  Meat,  Pork

What Is Belly Pork? – 12 Delicious Cuts Explained!

Pork Belly AKA Belly Pork, is a wonderful cut of meat that offers a wide variety of menu options depending on how it is prepared. This article will explain to you some of the many different ways that belly pork can be prepared and cooked to allow you to really enjoy this flavorful cut of pork to its fullest.

So where does Pork Belly come from? Pork belly comes from a pig, and is the underside belly of the animal. The full belly has a sheet of ribs running through half of it, before tailing off to become boneless. The belly is a very fatty cut of meat, but is wonderfully flavorsome as a result. It can be sold with the bones intact or boneless, as well as with the skin on, or skinless.

Where The Pork Belly Comes From

This very versatile cut of meat is often sold in a variety of ways to offer the consumer many different meal options. Later in the article we will discuss 12 cuts that be taken from the belly to produce a wide variety of different meals.

Firstly let’s answer a few of the main questions that people ask when finding out more about this under rated cut of meat.

“I ate healthily, but there was no snacking, no drinking, no bread, no sugar, no smoking. Afterward, I had a pork belly roast.”

Benedict Cumberbatch

How Much Does A Whole Pork Belly Weight?

On average a full retail pork belly with the skin and bones intact, will weigh an average of 14 – 16lbs (6kg)

The weight of a full belly will vary dependent on the size of the pig at slaughter.

Pigs produced for bacon are usually killed at a higher weight than the pigs slaughtered for fresh pork sales.

Your butcher will be happy to cut the belly down to whatever size you would like to buy, and the type of cut you would like ie: roast, slices, ribs etc.

Pork Belly Roast With Scored Skin for Crackling

What Does The Pork Belly Taste Like?

When cooked right, the belly is without doubt the most delicious cut of meat on the pig!

Due to the generous layers of fat that permeate throughout the seams of lean meat, and the layer of skin that covers the exterior, the intensity and succulence of the pork flavor is on a whole new level.

Is Belly Pork Chewy and Fatty?

It’s true that the belly is probably the fattiest cut from the whole pig, but that is what gives it such a sweet and succulent flavor.

It is also true that when cooked incorrectly, the meat can be chewy and unpalatable.

For these reasons, many people are reluctant to attempt to prepare the belly, and prefer to stick to the safer options of pork loin steaks and chops.

However, if you are prepared to learn how to prepare the pork correctly, and it’s actually very easy, you will be rewarded with pork that is much more moist and flavorful, than its pork loin counterpart.

How Much Belly Pork Per Person?

For bone-in roasts, you want to allow 12 ounces per serving, and for boneless roasting joints approx. 8-10 ounces per adult serving.

If you are serving your pork in slices, then you would want to allow 2-3 slices/ribs per person depending on whether they were taken from the wider or narrow end of the belly.

If you would like leftovers, add another 4 ounces per serving to the cooking weight.

Is Belly Pork The Same As Bacon

No! While it is true that a vast majority of pork bellies throughout the USA are turned into bacon, they are not the same thing.

A natural fresh pork belly is the uncured cut of pork that will look and taste much the same as your pork loin chops, steaks and roasts. It can be sold skin on or skin off, and bone-in or boneless.

A pork belly that has been prepared as bacon will have had the skin and bones removed, and then cured using a salt or brine cure. The cured pork will then be smoked, before being sliced thinly to produce the streaky bacon you see the supermarkets.

Fresh Belly Pork With Diamond Scored Skin
Smoked And Cured Pork Belly Bacon

Is Belly Pork Expensive?

Traditionally, the belly has been one of the less desirable cuts of meat, and therefore sold cheaper than the more popular cuts.

However, over the last few years, the belly cut has started to appear on restaurant menus and this has increased the popularity of the cut and therefore, increased the selling price.

If you were to buy your pork belly from an independent meat market, and were willing to do a little basic meat prep yourself, you could certainly get a cheaper deal by buying the whole belly.

Cutting up a whole belly into different meal options does not have to be difficult and learning a few basic cuts can save you money and expand your menu options.

Some Simple Ways To Cut Up A Pork Belly

12 Different Cuts From The Pork Belly

Here are 12 of the most common cuts of pork that come from the pork belly:

  • Rolled Boneless Belly Pork Roast
  • Bone-In Belly Pork Roast
  • Boneless Belly Pork Slices
  • Bone-In Belly Pork Slices
  • Spare Rib Sheet Bones
  • Thick Cut Spare Ribs
  • St Louis Style Pork Ribs
  • Pork Belly Rib Ends / Riblets
  • Stuffed Belly Pork
  • Belly Pork Roulades
  • Belly Pork Chunks
  • Bacon

Now let’s look at each of these belly cuts a little further so that you can really understand just what a wonderful cut of meat this is, and the many ways you can enjoy it.

Pork Belly Roast

If you want to cook your belly pork as a roast, you will need to decide whether you want to have it bone-in or boneless, and skin on or skinless.

A bone-in roast is usually sold as a flat slab, and the rind/skin covering is scored to allow it to crackle and the fat juices to render out.

When boneless, it is often sold as a rolled roast which can also be stuffed with a bread stuffing or sausage meat.

A boned and rolled belly looks impressive and is easier to carve than its bone in counterpart.

Slow roasting in a covered dish with a little liquid is the way to ensure a moist and tender roast, however you want to uncover and increase the heat to high for the final 30 mins of cooking to allow the skin of the pork joint to crisp up and provide you with some pork crackling!!

Delicious Pork Belly Roast Cooking Demonstration

Belly Pork Slices

Once again, depending on your preference and recipe plan, the slices of belly pork can be purchased with the bone and skin intact, or without.

A thick cut bone in pork rib taken from the wide end of the belly is an impressive looking slice of meat that allows you to chew around the bone like a spare rib if you desire.

Boneless slices are easier to eat if you wish to use a knife and fork and would rather not deal with trying to navigate around the bones.

The secret to tender belly pork is to slow cook the meat without drying it out. Browning the meat uncovered in an oven or grill to start, and then covering on a low heat with a little beer or apple juice to help steam the meat will ensure you end up with delicious moist belly strips.

Pork Belly Slices

Spare Ribs & St Louis Style Ribs

When the ribs are cut out of the belly without much meat attached, they are known as belly ribs or sheet ribs. These are usually cooked as a sheet of ribs and then covered with BBQ sauce prior to being separated after cooking.

St Louis Style ribs are cut from the same section of ribs as the sheet ribs, but have a much more generous covering of meat over the bones. These can also be cooked as a slab of ribs in one piece, or cut into individual ribs. Again, a coating of BBQ sauce makes these a delicious pork belly option.

Both of these styles of ribs can be slow cooked in the oven or the backyard grill. Sometimes people with start them off by steaming them in a covered beer bath before opening them up to the heat and applying there favorite BBQ sauce.

SHeet Belly Pork Ribs
A Sheet of Belly Pork Ribs

Pork Rib Ends & Chunks

Some parts of the whole belly are less desirable and so mostly end up in sausages rather than being sold.

However, this does not do the pork cut a just service, as there are many many delicious dishes that can be made from these less popular parts of the belly.

Asian menu’s feature these cuts of meat in many of their dishes to provide some incredible results.

If you use a meat market, you could probably pick up these scrap ends of belly much cheaper than the prime cuts from the belly, and create some wonderfully tasty meals for a fraction of the money.

Pork Belly Bacon

There is nothing more satisfying than preparing your own BACON!!!!

If you are looking to expand your home meat and butchery skills, then having a go at making your own home cured bacon is a great place to start.

Watch the following video to see just how simple preparing your own bacon from a fresh pork belly can be, and you will never go back to buying store bought bacon again.

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