7 reasons pork belly is the new bacon

Asian and Latin cultures have long embraced pork belly. In America, we embrace pork belly in its beloved cured form: bacon.

The uncured delicacy, however, is becoming more widely available in the average grocery and big-box stores, and chefs are incorporating it on their menus from coast to coast.

Why is pork belly the new bacon? We investigate.

It’s inexpensive.

A relatively inexpensive protein, it is cut from the underside of the pig after the loin and spareribs have been removed.

It’s considered healthier (than bacon).

Due to its lack of additives and the salt found in bacon, some consider it a healthier option.

It can be enjoyed on its own.

With its high fat content, these golden morsels of sweet and succulent pork are delicious on their own or with a simple dipping sauce.

It’s versatile.

Pork belly’s tender texture lends itself to a range of cooking methods, and it benefits from low-and-slow cooking to render out some of its fat. This can be accomplished in the oven with slow-roasting, over indirect heat or smoked on a grill, or it can be braised or boiled. Thin slices can be grilled or sautéed directly over direct heat. Feel free to brine, marinate or rub the meat prior to preparation.

It’s a great substitute.

Pork belly can also be incorporated into infinite entrées, even those that call for pork butt or shoulder. 

It’s easy to prepare.

If a crispy skin is the goal, first pat the skin dry and score it with a sharp knife. Sprinkle the skin lightly with salt before allowing it to dry, uncovered, in the refrigerator 12 to 24 hours. Roast the pork belly on a rack in a 250-degree oven until the meat’s internal temperature reaches about 195 degrees. From there the skin can be fried in its drippings until crisp and golden.

It’s enjoyed all over the world.

For other ways to enjoy pork belly, perhaps take a cue from countries that have long incorporated this cut into their daily dinner routines. In Korea, one popular entrée folds grilled and caramelized pork belly into lettuce wraps topped with onions and a soy-sesame sauce. In other East Asian countries, pork belly is lacquered, glazed or barbequed; it classically tops ramen or it’s stuffed inside banh mi sandwiches. In Latin cooking, pork belly is often chosen to prepare carnitas or roasted pork. Deep-fried nuggets of pork belly are eaten as a snack in Colombia, and saucy chicharrón is a dish often used to fill tortillas, arepas and pupusas.