Wondering if you should leave the skin on or remove it from the pork belly?
If you’re a fan of pork belly, you’ve likely encountered this dilemma before. Some prefer the crispy texture and unique flavor that comes with leaving the skin on, while others find it too tough or fatty and prefer to remove it.
We’ll explore both sides by looking at the pros and cons of leaving the skin on versus removing it.
We’ll also look at some popular recipes that utilize both methods and provide tips for achieving the perfect crispy texture or tender meat.
Whether you’re a seasoned chef or a foodie, join me on this journey to discover whether you should take the pork belly skin off or leave it on.
Table of contents
A Note On Pork Belly Cuts Before Removing The Skin
We are covering a larger piece or whole pork belly.
The skin would have been removed on popular cuts of pork belly like cured bacon or strips.
Should You Remove The Skin When Smoking Pork Belly?
You should remove the skin from the pork belly before smoking. I think that allows the fat to absorb more smoke.
Tip: Try to source local and good-quality pork from your butcher.
Save yourself the hassle and ask for a skinless pork belly.
Why do We Need To Remove The Skin On Pork Belly Before Smoking?
There are 2 main factors for removing the skin from pork belly before smoking.
I have tried and tested both and believe me, trying to chew raw fat isn’t great!
Skin & Fat Requires High Heat To Render Properly
Smoking pork belly is slow with indirect heat.
The fat in and under the skin requires direct and high temperatures to properly render.
This means that smoking with the skin on will not cook or render properly.
Leaving you with dry meat (if you want to render the fat) or chewable and inedible skin.
A Thick Layer Of Skin & Fat Causes Uneven Heat Distribution
Think of the skin as a shield that deflects some of the heat energy.
All of the low and indirect heat is needed for smoking a pork belly in a timely fashion.
It makes it unlikely that the meat will cook evenly as well risking the possibility of an underdone center which can cause food poisoning.
Should You Remove The Skin When Roasting The Pork Belly?
You don’t need to remove the pork belly skin before roasting or grilling.
Looking for Some Pork Belly Recipes?
Here are some of my favorite pork belly recipes
Smoked Pork Belly Strips – https://www.simplymeatsmoking.com/recipes/smoked-pork-belly-strips/
Crispy Smoked Pork Belly – https://www.simplymeatsmoking.com/recipes/smoked-pork-belly/
Why Don’t You Remove The Skin On Pork Belly Before Roasting?
Nothing is better than the salty crisp crackling on tender pork cuts.
Roasted pork belly is the ultimate way to enjoy this delicious treat.
Below is why you should never cut off the skin on a pork belly if planning to roast or grill.
High & Direct Heat Will Render Down The Fat & Skin
Unlike smoking, roasting or grilling pork belly is done with direct heat and a higher temp.
This heat is enough to properly render the fat to create crunchy skin with amazing flavor.
Natural Juices From The Fat Will Base The Belly Meat
When the skin and fat render down a little thing called gravity is here to help.
The tasty juices and natural flavors from the fat will base the meat.
Re-hydrating and adding even more savouring goodness into the proteins.
Step-By-Step Guide To Removing Pork Belly Skin
The best option for removing skin from meat is to have the butcher do it!
As I mentioned in the tip note – let the professionals do it!
If you forgot or brought a supermarket pork bell then don’t worry. Below is a quick and easy guide for removing the skin so it’s ready for the smoking chamber.
- Sharp knife
- Chopping board
- Kitchen gloves
Step 1 – Prepare The Pork Belly
- Remove the packaging from the pork belly and disregard.
- Pat down with a paper towel to reduce surface moisture.
- Place the belly horizontally on your chopping board.
- Have a look if the skin and fat layer is at a consistent depth with the meat through the top later.
- If the fat distribution isn’t even then make a score mark on the top at each point as a reminder.
- Put on kitchen gloves.
Step 2 – Removing The Skin From The Pork Belly
Note: There will be a layer of fat under the skin. Aim to leave 1/2 an inch remaining on your pork belly.
Why? 1/2 an inch of fat can render at the temperature you are smoking and contains lots of porky flavors.
- Grip the pork belly at the opposite end you are cutting.
- Test to see if your knife is sharp enough to cut through the layer of fat and sharpen if required.
- Once you have removed a few inches, change your grip on the pork belly to the removed part.
- Cut away from you carefully making sure you are consistent and parallel with the incision.
- Completely remove the fat and refrigerate airtight until required.
Tip: Remove the skin you plan on cooking.
This ensures the meat doesn’t start degrading prematurely due to removing the packaging.
Safety Tips For Removing The Skin Off Pork Belly
- Do not leave the pork belly at room temp for longer than 60 minutes.
- A blunt knife is at more risk of cutting you than a sharp one.
- Cut away from you to lower the risk of a medical bill.
- Be aware of cross-contamination from raw pork juices.
- Use gloves when handling raw meat to further reduce surface contamination.
- Stabilize your chopping board with a kitchen towel underneath.
How To Smoke The Perfect Pork Belly
Below is a quick guide on how to get the best out of smoking pork belly.
Prepare The Pork Belly For Smoking
- Remove the pork belly skin as per the instructions above.
- Brush down with oil and cover with your desired spice rub, including plenty of kosher salt. This will help to tenderize the pork belly and add flavor.
Prepare Your Smoker
- Load your preferred wood pellets or flavored wood chips on hot coals.
- Wait until temperature.
Note: The best type of smoker is an electric pellet grill.
Tip: Use your favorite wood flavor but we think applewood infuses an amazing taste
Smoking The Skinless Pork Belly
- Place your prepared and skinless pork belly away from the heat source.
- Insert a meat probe into the thickest part.
- Smoke until you reach the below internal temp.
- Cover in foil if the outside starts burning or the meat drys out.
How To Roast Perfect Crispy Pork Belly
See below for my quick guide on how to roast pork belly with a crispy skin.
Prepare The Pork Belly For Roasting
- Make even cuts into the pork belly skin without penetrating the meat.
- Heavily salt the skin and place uncovered in the fridge to draw out moisture.
- Pat down the salt residual moisture and salt.
- Brush with oil and add your desired spice rub.
Heat Your Oven
- Heat your oven to 350°F and wait until it comes to temperature.
Roasting The Skinless Pork Belly
- Wrap the meat in tin foil but leave the skin exposed.
- Insert a meat probe into the thickest part.
- Roast until you reach the below internal temp and have crunchy pork crackling.
What Internal Temperature Does Pork Belly Need To Be?
The internal temperature for pork before consumption is 165°F.
What Is The Cooking Time For Pork Belly?
At 225°F a smoked pork belly will take 2 hours per pound.
At 350°F a roasted pork belly will take 70 mins per pound.
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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