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What is Braised Pork Belly and How to Cook It in Any Style

pork belly cut into about 1 inches thick and braised in a stainless steel wok

Table of Contents

What is Braised Pork Belly 

Hello guys, have you eaten and wondered how to cook braised pork belly?  Well. Pork belly isn’t always about super crispy pork belly crackling skin. Braising pork belly is one of the best ways to cook ever. The good thing is it is easy to cook.


Braised pork belly is a dish where we cook them in liquid until it becomes soft and super tender juicy. The braised pork belly sauce will be sweet and savory. This braised meat served well with side dishes ranging from bread and rice to veggies. 


I will show you the formula for making braised meat in an easy, straightforward cooking plan. It is easy, much easier than making a crispy pork belly. So, once you know the fundamentals. The rest is depended on your creativity. 


You will need some pork belly, broth, wine, soy sauce, spices, etc. Put everything in a pot and let it simmer for one to couple hours. Then you get this amazing dish that will blow your mind.



Pork Belly Popularity

Braised pork belly used to be famous among the Asian dish. Now, it is gaining popularity everywhere in recent years. According to USDA, the frozen pork belly stock has been increasing yearly. This means the demand for consuming pork belly is increasing each year in the US.


Pork belly has always been famous in my country, Malaysia. I was actually pretty surprised at the time when I stayed in the USA. I have never really eaten much pork besides sweet and sour pork. During my few years as a cook in a buffet restaurant in Nevada, I had never cooked pork besides bacon. Anyway, my guess is many restaurants in the USA are offering pork belly dishes now. 


Pork belly and bacon are equally good. Don’t doubt it. If you have yet to try; Today you gonna learn how to cook the braised pork belly in your way.



Principles of Good Braising with Pork Belly

pork belly some with skin on, some without the skin.
Image showing pork belly with skin on and skin off.

Choose the proper cut of pork belly

Choosing the proper cut of pork belly is super easy. You want the right balance between lean meat and the fat.  Braising can be done either with skin on or skin off. Feel free to cook the pork belly in a big slab or as small as the minced pork. Yes, braising ground pork is also possible. It is fun and quick. 


Check out my article on preparing pork belly for other tips like wrapping and storing pork belly.  


Nicely seared golden brown pork belly.

Brown the pork belly first

Before braising the pork belly, sear it in a hot pan with oil evenly on all sides. It also can be done using an air fryer. This creates a flavorful crust on the meat’s outside and helps seal in the juices inside.


Blanch the pork belly? Yes and No

Chinese people like to do the blanching part. Western people do not like this part. Lazy people like me also do not like to blanch. But, why blanch? If you did not brown the meat first or for whatever reason you do not want to sear the meat, you must blanch the meat. 


Blanching helps remove impurities and reduce some of the intense flavors and odors that may be present in the meat. Of course, you are welcome to blanch the pork belly, even if you are planning to sear the pork belly.


 onion and garlic on cutting board

Create flavor with aromatics

Aromatics such as onions, garlic, ginger, and star anise add depth and complexity to braised pork belly. 

They can be cooked alongside the meat or added later in the cooking process.


Right Liquid for Braised Pork Belly

This part plays a significant role in braised pork belly flavor. You don’t have to follow anyone’s recipe. As long as it is liquid, it works. Tomato liquid yields tomato flavor, and wine will produce wine flavor. Nothing fancy here; it is just about creativity. The formula is the same.


Cook low and slow

When braising pork belly, it’s essential to use a slow cooking method, which often involves simmering. Simmering is characterized by gentle bubbles on the liquid, unlike boiling bubbles. 


This technique ensures that the meat is thoroughly cooked and the connective tissue is broken down, which can take considerable time. Check the step-by-step below, I have a video showing what is simmering.


How to further enhance the flavor

Braised pork belly is often kept in the refrigerator for a few days before eating to develop the flavors and achieve a better texture.

When you refrigerate braised pork belly, the meat absorbs the flavorful cooking liquid, and the fat and connective tissue in the meat continues to break down, resulting in a more tender and delicious dish.



Step-by-step Techniques How to Cook Braised Pork Belly

Follow these guaranteed steps, and you will cook a delicious braised pork belly in no time. The good part of this is you can prepare braised pork belly well ahead of your dinner or lunch.


I like to cook it a few days ahead for a house party. I want the maximize the flavor for my guests so my friend would love me till death for making them a good braised pork belly. Enough. Let’s get started, shall we?


Searing pork belly on skillet on high heat
Image showing browned meat on the right and unseared pork belly on the left.

Step 1: Sear the pork belly

Step one, use stainless steel pan to sear the pork belly on all sides in a hot pan with oil. This creates a flavorful golden brown crust and helps seal the juices. Please don’t use a nonstick wok; it can not sustain high heat in searing. 


stir frying garlic and onion

Step 2: Add aromatics

  • Once the pork belly is browned, add aromatics such as onions, garlic, ginger, etc to the pan.
  • Cook the ingredients for a few minutes until they become soft and their flavors are released.
 Deglazing with broth

Step 3: Deglaze the pan

  • For deglazing, you remove the meat after it has become golden brown. The pan will have browned bits of food stuck to the bottom.  
  • These browned bits, also known as fond, are created when meat, vegetables, or other ingredients are sautéed or seared in a pan.
  • Now, add the liquids, whether water, broth, soy sauce, or wine. This is a famous French cooking technique. The brown bits (fond) will come off and be incorporated with the liquids to form a unique flavor.
  • The fond is 100% edible. Don’t wash the pan. This is very flavorful bits.

put the seared pork belly back into the cooking pan

Step 4: Add the pork belly back to the pan

  • Once the pan is deglazed, add the pork belly to the pan. Throw the red juice in as well. 
  • The red juice left on the pans is not blood, it is called Myoglobin. I call it the protein juice just for fun.
  • Add enough liquid to partially cover the meat. It must at least cover the pork belly in two-thirds of the liquid.


Step 5: Simmer the dish

  • Cover the pan and simmer the dish on low heat for 1 to 2 hours, depending on your desired texture and the size of the meat.
  • Simmering means you have very few bubbles breaking the surfaces. Not violent-bubble. Check out the 3 seconds video I made for you.
  • Check the pan periodically to make sure there is enough liquid. Otherwise, add some water.
  • Also, you need to turn the pork belly halfway if necessary.

Step 6: Remove the pork belly and thicken the sauce (optional)

  • In the end, the sauce will be reduced. If you want to further reduce the sauce, follow the steps.
  • Once the pork belly has been cooked until tender and fully done, take it out of the pan and set it aside.
  • Now, depending on how thick you want your sauce to be. Start reducing the sauce. Reducing means you simmer the liquid until it thickens to your desired thickness. However, there is a lazy way that I like to do it. Overall, this is home cooking, right? I like reducing it by boiling it. Much quicker.
  • Garnish. You are done.

 Step 7: Refrigerate and scoop out the fat (optional)

  • If you are not eating the meal right away, leave it in the fridge for 3 days before consuming it for the benefits I list in the principles of good braising section.
  • After you refrigerate, the pork belly’s fat will surface at the top the next day. Scoop out the fat. 

Example of Braised Pork Belly Recipe That I Made in Detailed Steps

  • Braised Ground pork, Lu Rou Fan – A Chinese-inspired braised minced pork that I made earlier. It might seem different at first glance. But all the principles here apply no matter what style or what size of pork belly you are cooking.


Tips for Perfectly Tender Braised Pork Belly

  • If your braised pork belly is very tough to bite. Head over to this article I wrote earlier, why your braised pork belly is tough.
  • The key to making braised pork belly is to use the right cut and the right size of pork belly meat and to cook it slowly over low heat.

With a little patience, you can create a dish that will rival any restaurant. I hope you find this tutorial very inspiring for your next meal. Bye for now.



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