Starting Sous Vide with Pork Belly
Asked by Adam on Friday, July 23
I have just got my sous vide setup (similar to sous vide magic with a slow cooker) and I plan to trial it for the first time. I want to do pork belly, I have done lots of reading on the net and have decided that I should probably try 18 hours at 71C. Lots of recipes are for a lower temperature and longer cooking times but my main concern with those is the fat texture, I want the fat to be 'melt in your mouth'. Anyone have experience with pork belly at this temperature? Thanks
2 Answers to This Question
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For me, pork belly means crispy bacon, which isn't exactly a sous vide technique. But I'd expect many hours at 71C would essentially melt away most of the fat leaving a leaner meat behind. But I don't have any question that you know exactly what you're trying for.
<br />I can understand wanting to get the texture of the fat just right in a recipe for pork belly. Sous vide indeed has a place in making this happen, because it allows for a level of precision and control that cannot be achieved with traditional techniques. So I assume you're looking for a temperature that won't drain away all the fat into a puddle in the bottom of the bag. There are some issues, as I see it.
<br />The first is that pork belly sous vide will not crisp like when fried and will not have a smoky flavor as when smoked or barbecued. So I hope you are aiming for some other texture/flavor. Another is that garlic, onions, herbs and other spices will need some fine tuning. A sous vide bag keeps the juices inside the bag, so salt is desolved and permeates the meat, and aromatics in the rub can tend to become more powerful than expected. Uncooked garlic, for example, should not be in the bag; if you use garlic then sauté it first. Other fresh herbs have similar issues. So unless you find someone with the experience of preparing something like you want, then you may have some experimentation to do before you get it right. I believe that pork belly is one of the things discussed by Thomas Keller in his sous vide book, but I haven't spent that money yet.
<br />I can tell you about my experience cooking pork tenderloin/pork loin. This comes in supermarkets here packed in plastic tubes. I tend to trim away all the fat from it that I am able, leaving a much more lean cut than you have in mind. A piece between 3 and 5 lbs is usually left, and I prefer to cook this at 138 F for 20-22 hours then raise the temperature to 141 F for 2 more hours. The big chunk of time tenderizes it, leaving it just a little more pink than many are comfortable looking at. This more tender meat contracts less and loses slightly less moisture than it would have if the temperature were 141 from the start, but following this schedule gives a more white color, or two tone. I say 'prefer' because on weekdays I don't get home from work early enough, so I'll crank the temperature up to 141 before I leave for work in the morning.
Answered by Leigh Jones on Monday, June 17
While I haven't tried a pork belly, I've done several quite fatty Boston butts as pork confit. In fact, I have one in the bath right now at that temperature!!
<br />My set-up is similar, except instead of a sous vide magic, I wired up an industrial PID and a solid state relay. As it turned out, the PID was configured for a thermistor type probe while I was using a thermocouple. The temperature reading was fine at room levels, but as the bath heated, it became inaccurate and I ended up heating my first pork confit to over 82C for 8 or so hours!! It was still delicious!
<br />In short, I think that will work fine.
Answered by Ken W on Monday, September 06
You can also find a lot of sous vide information, as well as over 100 recipes, in our book Beginning Sous Vide
which you can get at Amazon.com or as a pdf download