2 ways with air fryer pork belly

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Ed O'Riley

There are few things as delicious as succulent pork belly with crispy crackling – a winning combination that can be served in many ways. Pork belly can be cooked in an air fryer in under one hour – we show you how.

Serves 4

Preparation: 10 minutes, plus overnight drying time

Cooking time: 55 minutes

  • 800g pork belly, deboned with skin on
  • 5ml Chinese 5-spice
  • about 5ml salt

Before you start

Choose a piece of pork belly no thicker than 2cm with a good ratio of meat to fat, deboned but with the skin on. Make sure the meat is an even layer – if it’s thicker on one side, it won’t cook evenly. The day before you plan to serve it.

1. Rub the meat side of the pork well with the Chinese 5-spice without getting it on the skin side.

2. Turn the meat over and make holes in the skin all over – use a wooden or metal skewer. If you can find a meat tenderiser gadget with metal spikes that makes holes in the meat in a jiffy, even better.

3. Next, use a sharp utility knife to score through the skin and fat layer; the incisions must be about 5ml apart. This makes it easier to carve the meat once it is cooked and the crackling is crispy.

4. Rub the salt all over the skin, making sure it gets into all the grooves. Place the meat in a non-reactive glass, ceramic or enamel pan, uncovered, in the fridge with the skin facing upwards for at least 12 hours or overnight so that the skin can dry out. This step is optional but is one of the easiest ways to effortlessly ensure crispy crackling; all it takes is a bit of planning ahead of time.

Time to cook

1. Remove the meat from the fridge, pat dry and allow to reach room temperature.

2. Preheat the air fryer to 180°C. Use a double layer of foil with the dull side facing outwards to create a snug ‘bowl’ for the meat. The purpose of the foil is to catch the fat that renders from the meat.

3. Place the meat in the foil bowl, then carefully in the basket of the air fryer (before you preheat the air fryer, make sure the foil bowl fits snugly) and bake for 40 minutes.

4. Carefully remove the foil with the meat and rendered fat from the air fryer basket. Remove the meat from the foil and place it back in the air fryer (the fat and foil have served their purpose and can now be discarded). Increase the temperature to 220°C and bake the meat again for another 10-15 minutes or until the crackling is crispy and golden-brown. Allow the meat to rest properly and cut into portions.

#1 Serve with flatbread and fresh salad

  • 1 piece of cooked air fryer pork belly with crispy crackling (recipe above) 
  • soy sauce, seasoned with chopped chilli and ginger
  • 6 flatbreads or Asian spring onion pancakes
  • rainbow coleslaw mix, with beetroot and coriander
  • spring onions, chopped
  • white bean sprouts 
  • cucumber and carrot, julienned 
  • red onion, thinly sliced 
  • sweet chilli sauce or plum sauce

1. Cut the cooked pork with its crispy crackling into thin slices and arrange on a serving platter. Drizzle a little of the flavoured soy sauce and chopped chilli over, if desired.

2. Arrange all the fresh ingredients on a second platter and get your choice of sauces and flatbreads ready.

3. To serve, allow each guest to build their own plate of food. Place a portion of fresh salad on each flatbread, followed by a few strips of fragrant pork. Fold over and serve with sweet chilli sauce, plum sauce and extra soy sauce.

#2 Serve with cauliflower purée and stir-fried vegetables

  • 1 piece of cooked air fryer pork belly with crispy crackling (recipe above)

Cauliflower purée 

  • a large knob of butter 
  • 5ml olive oil
  • 1 small garlic clove, chopped 
  • 2cm fresh ginger, peeled and grated 
  • 1 cauliflower (600g), steamed and finely chopped 
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • nutmeg to taste 
  • 30ml milk

Stir-fry

  • 15ml oil
  • 200g mushrooms, thinly sliced
  • 4 large baby marrows, thinly sliced
  • 12 baby corn, chopped
  • a sprinkle of fresh chilli, basil and white bean sprouts, to garnish

1. Melt the butter and oil together and sauté the garlic and ginger for a minute until fragrant. Stir in the cooked cauliflower and fry until it starts to caramelise. Season to taste with salt, pepper and nutmeg. Remove from the heat and pulse with a stick blender. Add the milk as needed to adjust the texture. You can also use an ordinary potato press if you want a coarser texture for the purée.

2. Heat the oil and fry the vegetables over high heat until cooked. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

3. Cut the pork belly into squares and serve with the purée and vegetables. Garnish with the chilli, basil and bean sprouts. The meat is so rich and delicious with the creamy purée that this banting friendly feast doesn’t need any sauce or gravy, but feel free to make some if desired.

TIP: Just as ovens differ, different brands of air fryers may give different results. When cooking this recipe for the first time, it’s advisable to test how the meat cooks first so that you can adjust the cooking time as needed.

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