Marinated pork belly is skewered and grilled to perfection in this Asian-inspired recipe. The marinade tenderizes the pork and draws out some of the fat so that the pork can be grilled quickly on a high heat while keeping the meat moist and delicious.
GRILLED PORK BELLY SKEWERS
One of the most popular dishes at Lord Byron’s Kitchen is my Easy Baked Pork Belly. As much as I love that recipe and would never grow tired of it, I wanted to show you that grilling pork belly can be just as easy and just as delicious. Grilled Pork Belly Skewers relies on the marinade and high heat to get the most out of this wonderful piece of meat.
The Asian-inspired ingredients such as both light and dark soy sauce, mirin, rice vinegar, sesame oil, and sesame seeds, ensure that the pork is both flavourful and tender. The saltiness of the soy sauce and the acidity of the vinegar not only impart flavour, but also help to draw out some of the fat. Not all of it! Pork belly will have lots of fat left after being cooked, which is exactly the way it should be!
The mirin is a great addition to the marinade. It is a type of rice wine and a common ingredient in Japanese cooking. It is similar to sake, but with a lower alcohol content and higher sugar content. The sugar forms naturally during the fermentation process, so no sugar is added during the making of it. Mirin adds a slight sweet taste and helps with caramelization.
Just in case you’re unfamiliar with pork belly, it does have a lot of fat content. Steak has what we call marbling, which is in its most basic form, fine lines of fat running through the meat that melt during cooking and keep the steak tender and moist. Well, if steak has marbling, then pork belly, in comparison, has layers of fat. But, it’s delicious!
WHAT IS PORK BELLY?
Pork belly is an inexpensive, fatty cut of meat from the underside of the pig near the loin. Spareribs also come from this area. When kept whole, the cut looks like a brick of meat with a thick layer of flat running along the top and smaller layers of fat marbled throughout. A whole side of pork belly can weigh close to 12 pounds.
Pork belly can be cooked so many ways, but the most common and most recognizable functionality of pork belly is bacon. The side of pork belly is stripped of its fatty outer layer and then smoked, cured, and sliced thinly. With a good recipe, a smoker, and some patience, you can make your own bacon at home. It seems to be everyone’s go-to breakfast meat.
Pork bellies are more traditionally seen in the cuisines of northern Europe and Asia. It’s traditionally used in cuisines where it plays both a starring role, like in a pork belly bao, and a salty add-on to other dishes, like pancetta.
WHAT PORK BELLY SHOULD I USE?
I’ve seen pork belly in two different formats. The first, is a solid piece that resembles a package of thick cut bacon. It is usually about an inch or an inch and a half thick. It may or may not have the skin still attached and running along the top side of the pork.
The second format looks like extra thick cut bacon that has been laid flat. It’s usually found layered on a Styrofoam meat tray. Most packages have four or five slices that are layered in a slightly overlapping fashion. For this particular dish, I bought a solid piece of pork belly – about 2 pounds in total. The skin was left on the pork belly, but I removed it. I find that the skin in this type of recipe is just too chewy and almost inedible.
HERE’S WHAT YOU WILL NEED:
- Pork Belly – A thick slab of pork belly, skin removed, weight about two pounds. Cut the pork belly into 3/4 inch cubes.
- Olive Oil – Olive oil will pull the flavour out of the other ingredients and infuse them into the pork. Use a light olive oil, rather than a full-bodied olive oil.
- Sesame Oil – This has a strong flavour, which is why you only need a little bit. It’s very commonly found in Asian cooking. It’s nutty and delicous.
- Soy Sauce – As a rule, we use low-sodium soy sauce. You can use regular soy sauce too, but if you do, cut back the salt to just a 1/4 teaspoon.
- Dark Soy Sauce – Used for flavour as well, but really deepens the colour without having to over-grill the meat for a long period of time. Dark Soy Sauce is also sweeter than regular soy sauce and thicker too.
- Mirin – This is a Japanese cooking condiment. It has natural sugars and helps with flavour and caramelization.
- Rice Vinegar – This stuff is like a miracle worker when it comes to imparting flavour. It adds tang while also helping to break down fatty tissue in meat, making the meat more tender.
- Garlic – Freshly minced garlic is best. You will get more flavour.
- Ginger – Like the garlic, use fresh. Remove the skin and finely grate it with a box grater.
- Ground Black Pepper – Lots of it! Pork dishes love to be generously seasoned with this warming spice.
- Salt – Remember to cut back on the amount of salt by half if you’re using regular versus low-sodium soy sauce.
- Green Onions – You will need some in the marinade and some for garnish.
- Sesame Seeds – Used both for garnish and for flavour.
HOW TO MAKE GRILLED PORK BELLY SKEWERS
This is super easy. Measure all of the marinade ingredients into a bowl or measuring cup. Use a whisk to combine it and set aside. Next, transfer the prepared pork to a bowl with a tight fitting lid. Pour the marinade over the pork and toss the pork well to combine with the marinade. Cover and refrigerate for at least two hours, but no more than 24 hours.
Once the pork has marinated, it’s time to assemble the kebabs. The most important thing to remember is that you should not pack the pork tightly on the kebab. My rule of thumb when preparing Grilled Pork Belly Skewers is to skewer one piece at a time, making sure that each piece just touches the next. I do not push the pork pieces together, because this will prevent the pork from caramelizing properly.
Just like when you preheat your oven when you bake a cake, preheating a grill is vitally important for several reasons, but there are two I’ll discuss now. First, preheating a grill will prevent the pork from sticking. When the grill is hot, and the pork is placed on it, it will instantly begin to sear the meat. This sear not only adds flavour and looks pretty, it also prevents the pork from sticking.
Secondly, preheating the grill will pretty much eliminate the need to overcook! If you place the pork on a cold grill and turn on the heat, before the grill is hot, the pork has already started to cook from the heat building on the grill. This will overcook the pork and make it dry and not very appealing.
Grilled Pork Belly Skewers
- 2 pounds pork belly, skin removed, cut into 3/4 inch cubes
- 1 teaspoon sesame seeds, for garnish
- green onions, for garnish
For the Marinade:
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 tablespoon sesame oil
- 2 tablespoons low sodium soy sauce
- 1 teaspoon dark soy sauce
- 2 tablespoons mirin
- 2 tablespoons rice vinegar
- 1 tablespoon garlic, finely minced
- 1 tablespoon ginger, finely grated
- 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 cup green onions, sliced
- Measure all of the marinade ingredients into a bowl or measuring cup. Use a whisk to combine it and set aside.
- Next, transfer the prepared pork to a bowl with a tight fitting lid. Pour the marinade over the pork and toss the pork well to combine with the marinade.
- Cover and refrigerate for at least two hours, but no more than 24 hours.
- Once the pork has marinated, assemble the kebabs. Skewer one piece at a time, making sure that each piece just touches the next. Do not push the pork pieces together, because this will prevent the pork from caramelizing properly.
- Preheat grill to 400°F
- Place skewers onto hot grill and cook for 3 minutes per side. Do not leave grill unattended. Pork belly has a lot of fat, which can cause flare ups if too much drips and reaches the flame.
- Once done, remove from grill, plate, and garnish with sesame seeds and more green onions.