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The Best Way to Cook Pork Belly: Western and Chinese methods

The best way to cook this raw pork belly

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I’ve got to tell you about this amazing Easy Cook Plan for cooking pork belly. Pork belly is like the holy grail of pork cuts – super versatile and oh-so-tender. And guess what? I’ve discovered the best, easiest, and quickest way to cook it while keeping that incredible flavor we all know and love.


I’ll share Western and Chinese techniques for making delicious pork belly. Plus, I’ll touch on a few other cooking methods too. Buckle up, because you’re about to learn a ton! Let’s dive right in.


The Best Way to Cook Pork Belly

Air fryer is one of the best way to cook pork belly.

Air Fry Skin-on Pork Belly

So, the absolute best and simplest way to cook pork belly (though not the fastest) is using an air fryer to get that perfect crispy skin.


Seriously, don’t skip this method. Most people struggle with getting that crispy pork skin just right, but that won’t be you! I will show you my crispy pork belly skin method that you can’t find anywhere else.


Before we start, it’s important to know that there are both Western and Chinese styles of crispy skin. I’ve tweaked both to create a Chinese-style dish even better than most store-bought Chinese “Siu Yok.”


The best part? It’s way easier and dramatically reduces the time to make this savory dish. Say goodbye to overpriced crispy pork belly. Let’s do this. You and me, together. 


Side notes: Just so you know, “Siu Yok” means “burn meat” in Cantonese, and it’s the go-to pork belly dish for Cantonese folks. 


Crispy pork belly comes in two styles: Western and Chinese. Each one has its special way of achieving that perfect texture we all crave:


  • The Western method of preparing pork belly is the easiest. There is little to do before cooking time. On the other hand, the Chinese method requires more complex steps such as scoring, marinating, and dehydrating the pork belly skin to achieve a crispy texture.
  • Western crispy pork belly has a thicker and crunchier skin texture. The Chinese one has thinner and more delicate skin.
  • Another difference is the ingredients they use. Western pork belly usually goes with salt and pepper. The Chinese version gets complicated with five-spice powder, garlic, and sugar.

What do we know so far? The Western method is the easiest, hassle-free, and perfect for home cooks who want to cook a crispy pork belly. But the Chinese technique gives you a more flavorful and delicate pork belly. 


The only downside to the Chinese method is that it takes longer and more work, like letting the pork belly dry in the fridge overnight. So, how do we choose? Everyone wants the easy way, foolproof. Most importantly, the most flavorful one.


Congratulation. This method indeed exists. I found a way to combine the best of both worlds using an air fryer! I wrote a very details recipe not long ago  with details step-by-step photos. Check it out here “The Best Crackling on Pork Belly Skin, Super Crispy, One Ingredient only!” 



Braised pork belly in tomato

The second best cooking method for pork belly is braising. Check out the link if you want to learn more. I have a detailed plan on how to cook braised pork belly in any style you desire.


Braising pork belly is a cooking technique that requires slow-cooking the meat in a flavorful liquid until it becomes tender and infused with flavor.


Choose a wok or pot that can hold the pork belly. Anything works. A flying pan that is too shallow will not work in this case. Follow this simple formula. You gonna get an easy and delicious meal in no time:


  1. Cut the pork into 1 inch thick.


  2. Cover half or one-third of the pork belly with water or broth. Refrain from covering the pork belly. Otherwise, it will turn into a stew dish.


  3. Salting the water will do the trick, but consider incorporating aromatic elements like garlic, ginger, chili peppers, and spices such as five-spice powder, cinnamon sticks, or chili paste.


  4. Bring the water or the broth to a boil. Then, reduce the heat to shimmering. Cover the pot.


  5. One hour is all you need. Refrain from braising too long. Braise pork belly should be tender but not too tender that a fork can easily poke through.


  6. The last step involves sauce thickening. I am teaching you the easiest way. Take out the pork belly. Simmer the liquid until it gets thickened.


  7. Finally, serve the braised pork belly with the thickened sauce.


  8. Finally, enjoy the meal.

Besides, the braised pork belly can be served in many ways. You may serve it over rice, with vegetables, or use the meat as a filling for sandwiches or tacos. The sky is the limit here. Add it to soups or stews for additional texture. That works too. Well. I will leave these recipes for the next time.


Skin of pork belly air fried, and put on a white plate.

Air Fryer Pork Belly Skinless method

Many people like pork belly due to its rich blend of meat and fat. However, the fat layer of skin might not appeal to some people.


If this is you, you are lucky, and you do not need to bear the pain of eating the fat skin. 


Cooking pork belly in an air fryer without the skin is equally delicious. Cooking in an air fryer can help eliminate some fat and produce delicious, crispy, and evenly browned meat that is not excessively greasy. 


This cooking method is the quickest of all. Pop it into the oven or air fryer, and check your Youtube or Instagram for short entertainment. Ding Ding, the meat is done in no time.


Any size is fine. Of course, the bigger the meat cut, the longer it takes. Since we are doing no skin, we do not want to roast big pork. The smaller cut definitely tastes much better due to the Maillard reaction (golden brown). So, we will cut it into smaller pieces about 1 inch thick. The following is a simple recipe for an air fryer:


Option 1: Set the air fryer to 400°F or 200°C. That is the standard temperature that you will find in most recipes.


Option 2: Set the highest temperature. It is an unusual method I like to use—the easiest way to achieve golden brown. 


  1. Cut your skinless pork belly into one inch thick. Season your pork belly with your preferred seasoning. You can put anything you spice you like. Let’s keep it simple, just salt and black pepper.


  2. Put the pork belly in an air fryer basket or tray. Don’t overcrowd the basket; this will prevent the pork belly from cooking evenly.


  3. Cook the pork belly in the air fryer for 15-20 minutes, flipping halfway through the cooking time. Don’t overcook it; stop when it’s golden-brown.

Hot pot is one of the best way to cook pork belly.
Hot Pot way

A pork belly also works great in a hot pot. It is one of my favorites. Hot pot is a popular dish for the Chinese.


You cook raw ingredients in a pot of boiling broth or salted water. The pot is heated by a small stove in the middle of the dining table. You use chopsticks to pick up the raw food and dip it into the broth to cook. It usually takes a short while. Then, you pick it up from the hot pot and enjoy your delicious meal in no time.


Here’s how you do it:


  • For this easy version recipe, you need skinny pork belly slices. It would be best to buy this in-store or from the butcher unless you have special tools for this job. The benefits of thin slices are that they will have more surface area to absorb the flavorful broth and cook faster too.
  • Add the sliced pork belly to a simmering hot pot broth, whether you use a traditional Chinese broth flavored with aromatics like garlic, ginger, and scallions or plain western style of salt water.
  • Let the pork belly gently simmer in the broth until the meat becomes tender and opaque, usually taking about 10 seconds. Do not overcook this.
  • The pork belly will absorb the flavor of the broth as it cooks. At the same time, the soup will also absorb the flavor of the pork belly. Ultimately, you will have a very aromatic injected buttery pork belly and a flavorful sweet pork soup.
  • Use chopsticks to lift the pork belly slices out of the broth and enjoy.
  • Cook the pork belly in a hot pot with vegetables like bok choy, shiitake or enoki mushrooms, and Chinese cabbage. Carrots and celery do the trick if you prefer the Western style.
  • The vegetables provide balance and freshness to the rich pork belly and broth. Add udon, ramen, rice noodles, or instant noodles for extra. If you are gluten-free, skip this and find another substitution.
  • Serve the hot pot with a flavorful dipping sauce made of sesame oil, chili oil, soy sauce, rice wine or sherry vinegar, and sliced scallions. Any sauce works fine. Serve together with raw garlic too if you are brave enough.

The hot pot is a social dining experience meant for sharing. Simmer the pork belly and vegetables in the broth at your table, and dip them into the sauces. Add new ingredients to the pot as you eat, varying the vegetables, seafood like shrimp or crab, and meats like chicken, duck, or beef for a customizable hot pot.


Stir Fry is one of the best way to cook pork belly.
Stir Fry Method

Finally, it is time for some stir-fry action. Cut the pork belly into small pieces, dump in oil and seasoning in a hot pan, and stir the pork in the wok. It is really that simple. Over many years, I have developed a few styles in the stir-frying journey. 


Stir-frying in very high heat creates a beautiful golden brown exterior meat surface. In the meantime, it keeps moisture and juiciness inside. Stir-frying with veggies is the best way to cook pork belly, and I’m excited to teach you a delicious recipe.


If you have any leftover pork belly from using the crispy pork belly method I mentioned earlier, stir-frying it with veggies is a great way to use it.


The step is super easy. Only two steps:


  1. First, stir-fry the leftover pork. Make sure you render out the pork fat, and the exterior becomes golden brown and crispy.
  2. Then, add the veggies of your choice to the pan. Stir for a little while.

I have two versions of the leftover pork belly stir fry. I have one confession to make here. For the first version, I stole this recipe from my beloved mom, the master chef in our family. But, for version two, I modified it for the low-carb, gluten-free fellow.


I went into real details on how to make this stir fry super delicious. Stir-frying is easy. With some practice, you will be pro in no time stir-frying this pork belly.


Other Cooking Techniques for Pork Belly

There are many other ways to cook a pork belly. I will briefly mention other inspiring methods so you can try them out in the future.   


Oven Baking

Roasting or baking pork belly is pretty straightforward. Here’s how to amp up your oven game:    


The best way I found is a low and slow method. Turn the heat knob to 250°F or 120°C. Cook it for about 3 hours long. That tenderizes the meat and dehydrates the skin at the same time. In the last 20 minutes, crank the heat to max. The skin should get crispier. I don’t prefer this way for a few reasons:   


  • The pork will become fork-tender (way more tender than the air fryer version).


  •  It takes an extremely long time to cook. Crispiness is not guaranteed. You might risk getting a hard-on-your-teeth pork belly skin in the end.


  • The oven’s max heat is not comparable with the air fryer.

Sous Vide  

The Sous Vide method involves putting the pork belly in a sealed bag, which is later submerged in a temperature-controlled water bath. 


Sous vide is a relatively new cooking method that has recently become famous thanks to the internet. Nowadays, cooking pork belly in Sous Vide style is widely used in fine dining restaurants. These commercial kitchens heat and control the temperature using a Sous Vide machine. 


If you are an improviser, there are things you can do at home, cooking a quick salmon for 30 minutes under a temperature-controlled bathtub. Just kidding. You can use a pot instead of the bathtub. Of course, you have to keep monitoring the temperature and adding hot water. 


However, the pork belly needs at least seven to twenty-four hours, depending on your desired texture. So, investing in the Sous Vide machine is the only choice here. 


This method is perfect for cooking pork belly, allowing for precise temperature control and even cooking. The good news is the process is pretty simple too:   


  • Cook for 12 hours at 170°F or 77°C.


  • Remove it from the bag, and pat the piece of belly dry with paper towels.


  • Sear the pork for around 2 minutes on each side in a hot skillet to achieve a crispy exterior.


Sous Vide creates the juiciest pork belly among those cooking methods. The only downside is the initial high investment and the time-consuming process.  




Grilling pork belly has a smoky flavor that will make you feel guilty not eating it. Once again, you need to invest in a grill. That’s a downside.


I love grilling. I used to grill a lot of meat while working as a cook at the restaurant too. It was an excellent experience, cooking a bunch of beef and chicken. Anyway, how long to cook depends on the size. Here are some quick and easy tips for a yummy, smoky effect:    


Indirect heat: Arrange your grill by putting the coals on one end and the pork belly on the opposite side. It will allow the pork belly to cook slowly and evenly without burning.


Soaking: Get your wood chips ready by soaking them in water for at least 30 minutes, depending on the size of your wood. A larger wood needs more time to be soaked. It aims to produce a smoky aroma that infuses the pork belly as it grills.  



Pan sear and Oven cook Combo

This method is better than just using the oven because it achieves two things. First, the purpose of the oven is used for cooking and tenderizing the pork. Second, an extremely hot pan sears the pork skin to achieve crispiness.


Use only stainless pans or cast iron pans only. Non-stick pans aren’t going to do the cut. Although this method is time-consuming, it is my second favorite way to cook crispy pork belly. Using just the pan to achieve all of these is quite impossible.


Conclusion: The Best Way of Cooking Pork Belly

The best methods are air frying, braising, stir-frying, and hot pot. Pork belly is the most versatile meat. Nothing beats it. All cooking methods that you could think of work on pork belly.


Now, it is your turn to experience and find out the best ways of cooking pork belly. Let me know what your best method is. 





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