How To Tenderize Pork Belly (Before Cooking + Cooking Methods)

Nobody should put up with a chewy pork belly.

When cooked properly, this cut of pork should have a crisp, crunchy skin with a tender inside that melts in your mouth. 

Choosing the Right Pork Belly 

When looking for pork belly at the supermarket or butcher, it’s important to make sure it’s fresh.

First, ensure the pork fat has a creamy white color.

A grey or yellow color in the pork fat is generally a sign of age. 

Also, make sure there is an even distribution of fat and flesh.

This means when you’re cooking a piece of pork, there will be fat and meat evenly spread throughout. 

How to Cook Pork Belly 

Pork aficionados know there are many cooking methods you can use to make tender pork.

Here are three of those methods.

Under Pressure 

Pressure cookers are excellent tools to speed up the cooking process while still ensuring you end up with tender pork.

These pressure cookers have an elevated pressure that increases the boiling point of the cooking water. 

Depending on the pressure level, the temperature of the boiling water can reach up to 250°F.

As a result, your food can cook up to four times as fast.

Slow Cook

Pork meat contains higher contents of fat and collagen, which make them extremely succulent and delicious.

As a result, a piece of pork belly is better cooked slowly on a gentle heat.

Using slow cookers helps soften the connective tissue and tenderize the tough piece of meat.

As a result, increasing the cooking time helps retain the moisture and allows for flavorful meat. 


Smoking your pork belly is a great way to cook it low and slow.

This allows all the connective tissue to break down.

I usually remove the skin and put it in the oven to crisp up, you can follow my smoked pork belly recipe, just make sure you also remove the skin.

Need a Pork Belly Substitute?

Sometimes it can be hard to find pork belly at the supermarket.

Or it can be outrageously expensive.

At that point you need an alternative. Here are 6 substitutes for pork belly will be will just as delicious.

How to Make an Ultra-Crispy Instant Pot Pork Belly  

Using crock pots or instant pots to prepare your pork belly is one of the easiest ways to make tender pork. 

Recommended tools: 

  • Pressure cooker or air fryer 
  • Kitchen tongs 
  • Meat tenderizer 
  • Basting brush 
  • Kitchen tongs 

Crucial Ingredients for the sauce: 

  • 1/2 teaspoon of white pepper 
  • 2 teaspoons of kosher salt 
  • 1 tablespoon of light soy sauce or dark soy sauce 
  • 2 teaspoons of five-spice powder
  • 2 tablespoons of Chinese cooking wine 
  • 6 crushed garlic cloves 

It’s important to note that the five-spice powder is used in many types of Chinese cuisine.

However, if you don’t like the smell or taste of the five-spice powder, you can choose black pepper instead. Also, white pepper is used to dry out the skin, which helps to create a crispy and crunchy texture. 

Steps to Make Crispy Pork Belly

Follow the steps below for super crispy pork belly or if you want to see the steps with pictures see the recipe for smoked pork belly here.

1 Use a sharp knife to cut lines diagonally across the pork skin. You can use freeze pork belly before you cook it just make sure you give yourself enough time for it too defrost the pork belly.

Scoring lines on the cuts of pork allows the sauce to penetrate the pork belly. You may also utilize a meat tenderizer to mash the pork and poke holes in the heat. 

2. Mix the ingredients and add 1 cup of cold water into the instant pot. 

3. Add the pork belly into the pot and ensure the pork skin is facing up.

Then lightly season with salt over the pork belly skin. Next, close the lid. 

4. Cook on high pressure for 19 minutes and another 15 minutes of natural release for pork slices 1 inch thick.

For 1.25 inch slices of pork belly, cook at high pressure for 22 minutes along with 15 minutes of natural release. 

5. Remove the tender meat and place it onto a serving plate. Before serving, use a paper towel to remove the excess grease from the pork belly skin. 

 6. Mix a 1/2 teaspoon of baking powder and 1/2 teaspoon of coarse salt.

Then sprinkle this baking powder mixture over the pork belly skin. Next, add layers of vegetable oil onto the crispy skin. 

8. Complete your crispy pork belly dish by broiling in a dutch oven or air fryer. Have the pork rest on the oven tray with the pork skin side up. Press the broil button and set the temperature between 400°F to 425°F.

The crispy skin should have a nice crunchy, golden brown, and bubbly texture. Depending on the type of dutch oven, the cooking time usually takes between 18 to 25 minutes. 

9. If you’re using an air fryer, you can also press the broil button. Then set the cooking time to 20 minutes and the temperature to 400°F. The total broiling time for the air fryer should be between 30 to 32 minutes. 

10. Place the finished roasted pork on a cutting board and let it cool down. Then slice and serve it to your guests! They are best served with green vegetables, hoisin sauce or Lao chou sauce, and a bowl of rice. 

Whether it’s for special occasions or a home-cooked meal, the ultra-crispy instant pot pork belly is a popular dish that everyone will love.

The recipe to make a delicious restaurant-quality tender pork belly is now in your hands.

Smoke On!


Author: Charlie Reeves
Hi, I’m Charlie, I am head taste tester at Simply Meat Smoking! I love it grilling, smoking, and getting out in the yard with the kids! The family also love to test all my recipes (especially my EXTRA CRISPY pulled pork, smoky pork loin, and ANY SEAFOOD I grill)

You will usually find me playing with the kids, perfecting my brisket bark, or sipping beers with boys around the fire. Can’t wait to share all my delicious smoking and grilling adventures with you!

You can read more on our About Us page.

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