2

Most belly pork recipes recommend cooking the meat at a high temperature at the beginning. And then lowering it for a number of hours.

However, I have found that when I do that, the skin rarely forms decent crackling. Presumably because the skin is still a bit wet and it takes time for it to get hot enough to crackle.

I have only had success when I turn the heat up at the end of cooking.

Why do all these recipes recommend the opposite of what is working for me?

  • At least for steaks, much of it is the "sealing in the juices" myth which is quite prevalent. But I have heard of many people agreeing that low heat ended with high is much better than high ended with low. Both are better than low all the time, and high then ending with low is also easier to achieve, especially if working with fire as opposed to a modern stove. – rumtscho Nov 30 '14 at 19:07
  • It's not just pork belly. Most slow cooked roast calls for an initial high temperature cooking into a long low cooking. Presumably the logic behind this is the same whatever the answer is. – Jay Mar 18 '16 at 13:57
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As far as I've always believed there is 3 reasons for it.

  1. I. Theory the high temperature shocks the skin helping the skin crisp up if you've ever put a chip in cold oil you'll notice it takes far longer to crisp up than one dropped into the same oil but once hot. Or a better description is probably ... Have you ever put a poppadum into cold oil? Notice how it never puffs up, just goes brown.

  2. The high heat helps seal the meat I'm theory helping keep the moisture in, even though most of the 'moisture' in belly pork is actually the fat self basting itself.

  3. The high temperature helps raise the interior temperature to above the 'danger zone' quicker.

Now I do agree with you, the initial blast does not make the skin crackle, especially since I cover my meat with foil after the first blast which essentially means the skin then steams for 5 hours. I did however try low from the start once and the end result was a thin crispy but a little chewy almost crackling layer even after half an hour at 230c at the end. So I do think high initial heat plays a crucial role to getting good crackling in the long run even if it doesn't seem like it to begin with.

I would suggest not fixating on any time frame for the initial blast. Keep your oven on full wack until the skin bubbles up, if I can be bothered (it's a bit messy and risks major burns every time) I pour 300c oil over the top of my pork half way into my first blast which really helps the skin blister and results in perfect light crispy skin at the end.

  • 1
    Theory 2 was already debunked many decades ago, but still floats around as an urban myth. There is no "sealing" going on. Theory 1 is wrong, it compares two absolutely different processes - the chips are made of starch and behave very differently in oil than meat does. The puffing up has to do with steam, which is not a factor in meat. But your actual observations are quite interesting. – rumtscho Nov 30 '14 at 19:05
  • Like I said, theory :-), I don't believe any of them are technically true all I know is these are the things chef's/I are taught in the early days of working in kitchens. And theory or not, the process of high heat to start definitely works. – Doug Nov 30 '14 at 19:16
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All of the above AND because high temperature will kill any tapeworm eggs present on the skin.

  • 1
    Wouldn't the rest of the cooking kill them too? Surely if there's anything that survives low cooking temperatures but is killed by higher ones, it's bacterial spores, not eggs. – Cascabel Dec 5 '14 at 21:52

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