Tuesday, October 23, 2012

36-hour Sous Vide Pork Belly Porchetta

Porchetta is a savoury, fatty, and moist boneless pork roast of Italian culinary tradition. Traditionally, porchetta is made by deboning a little milk-fed piglet . It is then salted and rubbed with a garlic, herb, and spice mixture that features plenty of garlic, rosemary, fennel seeds and other herbs. It is then rolled up and slowly roasted whole over a wood fire. The end result is a cylindrical roast with crispy skin on the outside and the fatty belly surrounds the lean moist loin meat inside.

I stumbled upon this Pork Belly Porchetta recipe by Kenji from the "Serious Eats" website and was awed by what I saw. This is his exact description of the Porchetta:

"I recently cooked what is undoubtedly the mind-blowingest of all the mind-blowing meat dishes that have come out of kitchen..."

How could I resist trying out his recipe with such "mind-blowing" description? Excited, I went to the butcher the next day and requested for a good piece of pork belly. 

The end-to-end preparation and cooking time will take about 3 days (or more, depending on how long you marinate the belly) and out of which, 36 hours goes to the sous-viding. 

I started the preparation last week and kept the sous-vided prochetta in the freezer until this Sunday when I served this for our dinner. The taste and texture was amazing and exactly what Kenji had described. 

However, in my humble opinion, this end result does not really justify the long cooking time of 3 days. The roast pork belly recipe that I use frequently can produce similar result using a shorter time and I end up with a less greasy kitchen. But it was good cooking and snapping fun and experience for me and the sliced belly can certainly impress your guests on special occasions.

Here is the original recipe (I made some changes depending on what was available in the kitchen, modification in BLUE)


1 whole boneless, rind-on pork belly, about 12 to 15 pounds 2.5 kg
2 1 tablespoons whole black peppercorns
3 1.5 tablespoons whole fennel seed ground coriander seed
1 tablespoon crushed red pepper
3 1.5 tablespoons finely chopped rosemary, sage, or thyme leaves
12 6 cloves garlic, grated on a microplane grater
Kosher salt
2 1 teaspoons baking powder
2 quarts 5 cups peanut oil, lard, or a mixture (canola or vegetable oil will do fine)
2 1 tablespoons unsalted butter


Place pork belly skin-side down on a large cutting board. Using a sharp chef's knife, score flesh at an angle using strokes about 1-inch apart. Rotate knife 90 degrees and repeat to create a diamond pattern in the flesh.

Toast peppercorns and fennel seed in a small skillet over medium-high heat until lightly browned and aromatic, about 2 minutes. Transfer to a mortar and pestle or spice grinder and grind until roughly crushed.

Season pork liberally with salt then sprinkle with crushed pepper and fennel coriander, red pepper, chopped herbs, and microplaned garlic. Use your hands to rub the mixture deeply into the cracks and crevices in the meat.

Roll belly into a tight log and push to top of cutting board, seam-side down. Cut 12 to 18 lengths of kitchen twine long enough to tie around the pork and lay them down in regular intervals along your cutting board, about 1-inch apart each. Lay rolled pork seam-side down on top of strings. Working from the outermost strings towards the center, tie up roast tightly. Combine 2 tablespoons kosher salt with 1 teaspoon baking powder. Rub mixture over entire surface of porchetta.

If roast is too large and unwieldy, carefully slice in half with a sharp chef's knife. Seal in individual vacuum-sealed pouches and refrigerate at least overnight and up to three days. If desired, porchetta can also be frozen at this point for future use.

Preheat sous-vide water cooker to 155°F (68.3°C). Add pork and cook for 36 hours. Transfer pork to a sink filled with ice water and chill for 15 minutes. Remove from bag then carefully peel off congealed exuded cooking liquid and place in a medium saucepan.

Rince porchetta under hot running water until all excess fat and congealed juices are cleared from surface, then carefully dry with paper towels.

Heat oil over high heat in a large wok or Dutch oven to 400°F. Carefully slide pork into oil using spatulas and tongs. (It will not be fully submerged). Immediately cover and cook, shaking the pan occasionally until sputtering dies a bit, about 2 minutes. Adjust flame to maintain consistent 350°F temperature. Using a large metal ladle, spoon hot oil over the exposed portions of the roast continuously until the bottom half is cooked and crisp, about 5 minutes. Carefully flip and cook on second side, basting the whole time.

Remove porchetta to a large paper towel-lined plate and blot all over. Season with salt. Let rest 5 minutes. Meanwhile, heat bag juices over medium-high heat until simmering. Add the butter and swirl until smooth. If center of pork is still hot, carve and serve immediately. Otherwise, transfer to a 250°F oven until warmed through, then serve.

I paired the Pork Belly Porchetta with Thompson Estate Andrea Reserve Cabernet Merlot blend from Margaret River. The fruity and about full-bodied blend counters and balances the slippery sensation that goes with fatty belly.

We had a good Sunday dinner.


  1. Do you think I can achieve the standard of what you have cooked for this pork belly? Looking absolutely delicious. Looks like our chinese crispy pork belly!

  2. Three days prep? Whoo hah! But seriously, that is one good looking pork belly. My God, that golden crispy skin, I'll gear up to cook this one day. Anything to do with pork belly, I'm game!

    1. PH, so you have finally bought a sous vide water oven?

  3. It's me again.. I read again the method to prepare this pork belly thinking I can try to make this one day but unfortunately until I get myself the sous vide cooker else I just have to drool myself looking at the photos here only.

    1. I suggest you first try the roast pork belly recipe that I mentioned in this post or this URL:


      That will only need 3 hours compared to the 3 days to make this Pork Porchetta and you do not need the sous vide machine. Trust me, you will love this.

  4. wow, a lot of love and effort (and electricity bill) going into that pork belly eh? But the results look like they're definitely worth it, stunning!

    1. Ya... Love is one of the main ingredients for all good food.

  5. I'm sure buying that sous vide water oven was really worth it by the look of that scrumptious and beautifully-cooked porchetta ! Years ago , I was watching this cooking show where they wrap a slab of pork in a plastic and simmer it until it turned soft , maybe at that time they don't have the water oven yet ! lol For sure , this is one drool-worthy dish !

    1. You might be right. Sous Vide has been used in world's top restaurants for decades but the technology only became more affordable in recents years for home cook and smaller restaurants. I for one am a firm believer and supporter of the sous vide technique.

  6. Wow, that is the best I have ever seen, just judging from the consistency of the gold brown skin is enough to tell this is the best technique so far I have ever encounter.

    I have to find a sous vide machine first before I attempt to do it

    BTW, I am living in China and I wanted to try this on other meats, like Chicken. one wholesome chicken.

    Can you let me know the temperature for cooking ONE whole chicken



    1. Hi Clem! I assume when you say whole chicken, you are not cutting up the chicken at all? If so, the sous vide method might not be suitable as any air trapped in the cavity of the chicken will cause the bag to float. It's best to sous vide individual parts like chicken thighs or breasts.

      You can try 65C/1.5hr for the thighs and 58C/2.5hrs for breasts.

  7. This looks incredible. The cracklings look crunchy and the meat so moist and succulent....I'm so tempted to buy a sous vide machine ....

    1. Hi Jason! Go ahead and get one! I have been telling people the SV machine is my best investment in the kitchen!


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