Next to beef short ribs, pork belly is a meat that is often mentioned on eGullet as a favorite for sous-vide. I usually don’t eat pork belly, but I thought I’d give it a try and was not disappointed! Modernist Cuisine gives 60C/140F and 65C/149F, both for 72 hours, as ‘best bets’ for pork belly sous-vide. I tried both, and liked 60C/140F much better because it is as tender as 65C/149F, but much more juicy (the 65C/149F was really dry). Please note that at this temperature the fat doesn’t render, so you end up with layers of tender meat and layers of tender fat that taste great together. 72 hours may sound like a lot, but if you put the pork belly in your water oven on a Sunday evening like I did, it will be ready when you get home from work on Wednesday and you don’t have to do anything in between. Pork goes well with fennel and sage, that’s why I put those in my Italian style dry rub. Please feel free to use your own dry rub.
For 3 servings
600 grams (1.3 lbs) pork belly in one piece
For the dry rub
1 tsp salt
1 tsp ground fennel seeds (or even better: whole fennel seeds, toast and then grind yourself)
2 tsp dried sage
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp red pepper flakes
Put all the ingredients for the rub in a small bowl and stir to mix. Since the pork belly will be cooked for 72 hours in a vacuum pouch, you will need less of the dry rub than for a conventional preparation.
Rub the pork belly with the mixture on all sides.
Roll up the pork belly and tie it up with butcher’s twine. I bet you’ll do a prettier job than I did! The twine is not needed for the sous-vide cooking, but it will be for the searing.
Vacuum seal in a pouch.
Cook for approximately 72 hours at exactly 60C/140F. You can use the juices from the bag to make a bit of jus if you like.
Let the pork belly cool briefly to prevent overcooking. Sear the outside in a dry very hot frying pan (fattiest side first). No added fat is needed, as enough will render from the pork belly.
Remove the twine and serve in thick slices. Some people may prefer the crispy outer slice…
…or an even more tender inner slice. Of course you could also briefly sear the inner slice on both sides before serving.