Try our perfect roast pork recipe with the best crackling then check out more pork belly recipes such as our classic roast pork, roast pork for two and Chinese pork belly. Pair your pork belly with our classic Yorkshire puddings and apple sauce, then also discover more roast dinner recipes.

The perfect pork belly is all about the contrast between crunchy, snappable strips of crackling, and delicately soft meat underneath. But how to get the former without overcooking and drying out the meat, or the latter without ending up with tough, chewy, unappealing skin? Follow these simple rules and you’ll be serving up flawless pork belly to an eager crowd.

How to make the perfect roast pork belly

1. Cracking the crackling

To get the perfect crackling, the skin needs to be as dry as possible. Keeping the joint in a cold, dry fridge overnight will help the drying process, and keeping it uncovered will ensure no condensation forms. Scoring the skin increases the surface area exposed to the heat of the oven, so that more of it crisps up, and not scoring too deeply prevents any meat juices from bubbling up and making the skin soggy.

2. Worth its salt

Salting the meat well before cooking does two things: it draws moisture from the surface, allowing salt to enter the meat and season it, along with any flavourings; and the salt also affects the protein structure, which softens and tenderises the meat.

3. Matter of degrees

Bringing the meat to room temperature before roasting is important with a large piece of meat – it ensures even cooking throughout, preventing the outside from over-cooking and drying out before the inner meat is fully cooked.

4. High time

The blast of high heat at the start of roasting lifts the rind from the meat, moving it away from the moisture rich meat and keeping it dry for crackling to form.

5. Stick to the ribs

Roasting belly with the rib bones still intact protects some of the internal meat from the fierce heat of the oven. As the bones heat up they will gradually transmit heat to the meat inside. Along with the onions and celery on the bottom of the tray, the ribs also act as a trivet, propping up the meat and enabling heat to circulate underneath while also allowing the meat to braise in the cider and the crackling to roast.

6. Rest assured

Resting the pork belly will allow the juices to thicken and then redistribute within the meat, meaning they won’t all flood out when carved.

Higher-welfare pork will help ensure good crackling as it is likely to have been dry aged and have a lower water content.


  • 2.5kg rib-in pork belly
  • 1½ tbsp sea salt flakes
  • 10 sprigs thyme, leaves picked
  • black peppercorns crushed to make ¼ tsp
  • a drizzle vegetable oil
  • 2 onions, thickly sliced
  • 2 sticks celery, halved horizontally
  • 300ml chicken stock
  • 330ml bottle dry cider
  • 1 tbsp wholegrain mustard


  • STEP 1

    Put the pork belly in the fridge overnight, leaving the skin exposed to dry. The next day, use a sharp knife to score the skin in 1cm intervals, being careful not to go through to the meat. Mix together 1 tbsp of the sea salt, the thyme leaves and black pepper, and rub thoroughly onto the meat but not the skin. Chill, uncovered, for 1 hour, then remove from the fridge for another hour to come back to room temperature.

  • STEP 2

    Heat the oven to 230C/fan 210C/gas 8. Rub a drizzle of oil over the skin and season with the remaining sea salt, making sure to get it between the scored cuts.

  • STEP 3

    Put the onions and celery sticks into a large, deep baking tray, then sit the pork on top, skin-side up, and roast for 45 minutes, until starting to crisp.

  • STEP 4

    Turn down the heat to 160C/fan 140C/gas 3, pour the chicken stock and cider around the meat (being careful not to touch the skin), and roast for a further 3 hours. The meat should be very tender and the crackling crisp – if it’s not quite done, turn up the oven to 200C/fan 180C/gas 6 and roast for a further 15-20 minutes or until really crisp.

  • STEP 5

    Move the pork onto a serving or carving plate with the onions, and loosely cover with foil. Pour the juices into a jug and allow them to settle. Skim off the fat, then pour the cooking juices into a pan and top up with just-boiled water if it tastes a little strong. Whisk in the wholegrain mustard.

  • STEP 6

    Carve the meat and serve with the onions, celery and gravy.


Adam Bush Chef Portrait
Adam BushDeputy food editor

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