How To Make Pork Belly Taste Like Bacon? A Simple Guide

Are you a bacon lover looking for a healthier alternative? Look no further than pork belly!

With the right techniques and ingredients, you can transform this cut of meat into a delicious bacon substitute. Not only is it a healthier option, but it can also save you money in the long run.

In this article, we will explore different methods for making pork belly taste like bacon, from curing to seasoning and cooking. Whether you’re a seasoned chef or a beginner in the kitchen, these tips will help you create the perfect bacon-like flavor from pork belly.

So let’s get started!

How To Make Pork Belly Taste Like Bacon?

There are several ways to make pork belly taste like bacon, and each method has its own unique flavor profile. Here are some of the most popular techniques:

Understanding Pork Belly

Pork belly is a cut of meat that comes from the belly of a pig. It is a fatty and boneless cut that is often sold as a large, thick slab. The meat features rich lines of fat and is ideal for cooking methods that retain moisture, such as slow roasting. The skin on the outside of the cut is also quite tough, which is why slow cooking methods are often used with pork belly.

Unlike bacon, which is typically cured and smoked, pork belly is uncured, un-smoked, and un-sliced. However, once brined or cured and smoked, it can become bacon. Chefs consider pork belly to be far superior to bacon because of its juicy fat layers wrapped around the meat. Although there isn’t much meat, once cooked, it becomes tender, similar in texture to a pork loin. And that fat is melt-in-your-mouth delicious.

Pork belly responds well to moist heat cooking, which turns it fork-tender. Braising is a long and slow cooking process that is best for pork belly because the meat becomes ultra-tender and the fat melts. Once it’s cooked and cooled, you can crisp up the skin in a skillet. If you roast it, the skin should cook up crisp.

Curing Pork Belly

Curing pork belly is a crucial step in making it taste like bacon. The curing process involves applying a mixture of salt, sugar, and other seasonings to the pork belly and letting it sit for a period of time. This process draws out moisture from the meat, which helps to preserve it and gives it a distinct flavor.

To cure pork belly, start by trimming the edges of the belly to create a uniform rectangle. You can either remove the skin now or remove it before eating. Weigh the belly and calculate the quantities of ingredients you’ll need using the appropriate percentages.

Next, mix the seasonings and pack them around the belly. If you plan to roll the belly, be sure to add curing salt or celery powder. Place the belly into a plastic bag and put it in the fridge. Let it cure for at least a week, flipping the bag occasionally to ensure even distribution of the cure.

After at least a week, remove the belly from the bag, rinse, and dry. After salting but before drying, you can either roll the belly up into a spiral shape or leave it flat. If you’re rolling, cut off the skin and compress the belly into the tightest roll possible. Tie butcher’s twine around the roll to hold its shape.

If you’re leaving the belly flat, poke two holes in each corner and string butcher’s twine through them. Tie each of these into a loop that you can hang the belly from. Hang the belly to dry. You can start cooking with it immediately, but giving it a couple of weeks to dry will concentrate the flavors.

The drying conditions should be cool and dry with airflow. The temperature should be around 50°F to 55°F (10°C to 13°C). You can cure the pork belly in a cold, dry basement (run the dehumidifier) or other cold room, in the refrigerator (just make sure the pork belly is sitting on a rack so there’s airflow around it), or even outside when it’s cold and dry.

Seasoning Pork Belly

One of the simplest and most effective ways to make pork belly taste like bacon is through seasoning. While there are many different seasoning options available, a basic blend of salt and pepper is often enough to bring out the natural flavors of the meat. However, if you want to take your seasoning game up a notch, you can try adding a spice rub made with smoked paprika, garlic and onion powder, ground fennel seed, oregano, and salt.

To season your pork belly with a spice rub, start by scoring the skin with crosshatch marks using a sharp knife. Then, mix the spices together in a small bowl and rub the mixture all over the pork belly, making sure to press it into the meat so that it adheres well. Wrap the seasoned pork belly in plastic wrap and refrigerate it for at least 30 minutes (or overnight if possible) to allow the flavors to meld.

When you’re ready to cook your pork belly, preheat your oven to 350°F and place the pork belly on a baking tray lined with parchment paper. Roast the meat uncovered for 60 minutes with the skin side up. Then, make a glaze by combining honey and dry sherry in a small bowl and baste the meat with it. Lower the temperature of your oven to 250°F and roast for 20 more minutes. Baste the meat once more and cook for an additional 10 minutes.

Once your crispy pork belly is done cooking, allow it to cool slightly before slicing it into desired serving sizes. This seasoning method will give your pork belly a rich and smoky flavor that’s reminiscent of bacon.

Cooking Pork Belly

Cooking pork belly is the first step in making it taste like bacon. There are several methods to cook pork belly, and each one has its own benefits. One popular technique is slow-roasting in the oven. To do this, preheat the oven to 350 F/180 C and place a rack on a rimmed baking sheet. Make several parallel cuts across the skin of the pork belly, 1/4 to 1/2-inch apart, without cutting into the meat. Sprinkle kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper all over the pork belly and drizzle it with olive oil, rubbing it all over the pork.

Place the pork on the rack, skin-side up, and roast for 2 to 2 1/2 hours until the meat is very tender and falling apart. Then increase the heat to 425 F and roast for 20 to 25 minutes longer to crisp the skin even more. Let the pork rest for 10 minutes before slicing it thinly using the cuts in the skin as guides.

Another method is to score the fat on top of the belly with a sharp knife, being sure not to cut into the meat. Lay the pork, skin-side up, on a rack in a roasting tin. Rub with oil and season with salt. This process helps the fat run out and skin to crisp. Transfer it to a preheated oven at 180C/160C fan/gas 4 for 2 hrs 15 mins, then turn up the oven to 200C/180C fan/gas 6 for a further 35 minutes to crisp the crackling.

For a more flavorful approach, you can try smoking or grilling your pork belly. To prepare burnt ends style pork belly, trim all silver skin and hard fat off the top of the pork belly. Trim the skin off the bottom of the pork belly and cut it into 1.5′′ strips, then cut again into 1.5′′x1.5′′ cubes. Liberally season with your favorite pork seasoning and preheat your smoker or grill to 225 degrees. Place pork belly cubes into the smoker and smoke for 3 hours.

Remove pork belly from smoker, place them into a foil pan and add in barbecue sauce, more seasoning, butter, and hot honey (if desired). Return to smoker for 1.5-2 hours.

Whichever method you choose, cooking your pork belly is an essential step in making it taste like bacon.

Serving Pork Belly

When it comes to serving pork belly, there are many options to choose from. One of the most popular ways to enjoy this delicious cut of meat is by serving it in bite-size pieces as an appetizer. Marinated in a savory sauce or dipped in BBQ, these juicy bites of mouthwatering meat are sure to be a hit with your guests.

For the main entree, pork belly can be roasted, braised, or fried to perfection. It’s like the candy of meat with all the goodness of bacon but on an entirely new level. Put it in tacos, on top of salads, or in between two buns for one succulent sandwich. However, what really transforms pork belly from a delicious dish into a magnificent feast are the side dishes that accompany it.

When choosing side dishes to serve with pork belly, it’s important to consider contrasting textures that balance each other out. If you’re serving a super moist and juicy pork belly, then go for a side dish with a crunch. If the pork belly is on the dry and crisp side, then choose a side that’s soft and tender.

Some classic side dishes that go well with roasted pork belly include crispy salt and vinegar roasted potatoes, German red cabbage, broccoli slaw, apple and fennel salad, homemade ramen, butternut squash risotto, and celeriac puree. For some fun and unique side dishes, try bao buns or fruit kabobs.

It’s also important to consider nutritional balance when planning your meal. Don’t neglect the vegetable and fruit options such as Chinese broccoli stir fry, stir fried Asian mushrooms, and Kung Pao Brussel sprouts. These sides are high in fiber and vitamins and will complement your pork belly dish perfectly.

Conclusion: Pork Belly As A Bacon Substitute

Pork belly can be a great substitute for bacon in many recipes. Although they are both from the same region, there are some differences between them. Pork belly is uncured and unsmoked, while bacon is cured and smoked, and contains added ingredients such as salt, flavorings, and preservatives. Despite these differences, pork belly can still provide a rich and savory flavor that is similar to bacon. However, it may not have the same smoky and salty taste that bacon has due to its lack of curing. Additionally, pork belly has a higher fat content than bacon, which can affect cooking times. If you’re looking to make pork belly taste like bacon, you can try adding smoky flavors by using liquid smoke or smoked paprika, or by grilling or smoking the pork belly. You can also add salt and other seasonings to mimic the taste of bacon. With a little experimentation, you can find the perfect way to make pork belly taste like bacon in your favorite recipes.