Crispy roast pork is an extremely popular dish in Vietnam, complementing steamed rice, rice noodles (with sweet and sour dipping sauce), or simply tasting delightful on its own. Preparing this dish at home is not overly challenging, but achieving the perfect crackling on the skin has often been a concern for many home-cooks. I have experimented with various recipes in the past, encountering undercooked or burnt pork with tough skin lacking the desired crackling.
However, my quest for the ideal crispy roast pork recipe finally ended when I came across the method that I’m excited to share with you in this post. This particular recipe, which garnered immense praise on social networks in Vietnam, proved to be a game-changer. Surprisingly, it requires no scoring of the pork skin or complicated fat removal, yet the result is truly exceptional – golden-brown, crunchy crackling and tender, juicy meat. An ingenious element of this method involves introducing steam into the oven, retaining all the moisture and succulence within the meat.
While this roasting technique offers a high chance of success and simplicity, there are a few important points to bear in mind before you don your apron:
- The essential secret to achieving perfectly crisp crackling lies in thoroughly rubbing salt into the pork skin before roasting. However, that alone is not enough. To ensure the skin crackles flawlessly, the oven temperature must be sufficiently high. I usually roast at 220 ~ 230°C (428 ~ 446°F), the commonly recommended cooking temperature range for pork. Yet, I make sure to position the pork at a high rack so that the skin remains close to the top heat element. Depending on your oven, you may need to adjust the temperature slightly, so keep a close eye on the pork as it roasts. If the temperature is too low, the skin may fail to crack properly, resulting in a rubbery texture even with salt applied.
- It is highly advisable to use freshly boiled water when roasting the pork, as previously mentioned. However, take care not to submerge the pork too much in water, as the submerged portion may taste more like boiled or stewed pork rather than the desired roasted texture. In my case, I only use enough water to submerge the pork to a depth of 1 – 2cm.
- 0.5 kg (1 lb.) pork belly – select a well-shaped rectangular piece with a flat skin surface
- ½ tsp 5 spice powder
- ¼ tsp garlic powder (or 10 grams finely chopped garlic)
- ½ tsp onion powder (or 15 grams finely chopped shallots)
- ½ tsp salt
- Table salt for rubbing on the skin – about 30 ~ 50 grams (2 – 3 tbsp)
You can find the video tutorial on Savoury Days’ YouTube channel. If you are unable to watch the video on this blog for any reason, you can access it directly by clicking on this YouTube link. Remember to turn on HD settings for the best quality.
- Begin by washing the pork thoroughly and then pat it dry with a paper towel. In a mixing bowl, combine 5 spice powder, garlic powder, onion powder, and salt. Rub this seasoning mixture evenly all over the pork, ensuring the skin is well coated. Cover the pork and refrigerate it for at least 2 hours, or ideally, overnight to allow the flavors to penetrate and enhance the pork’s taste.
While the seasoning is optional, it significantly enhances the flavor of the pork. I highly recommend using at least onion powder to help eliminate the somewhat unpleasant smell often associated with pork.
- Prepare a roasting tray (a large baking pan will suffice). Line the tray with aluminum foil or parchment paper to keep it as clean as possible, minimizing the need for washing after roasting.
- Place the seasoned pork in the tray with the skin side facing up. Sprinkle table salt gently over the skin, ensuring it is completely covered with a layer of salt. Preheat the oven to 230°C/ 446°F. Roast the pork for approximately 30 minutes in the middle of the oven. Note: If you used fresh garlic or shallots for seasoning, make sure to wipe them off before roasting to prevent burning and sticking to the pork.
Boil a kettle of water.
- After 25 ~ 30 minutes, the salt will harden and turn golden brown. Remove the pork from the oven and wipe off this layer of salt from the skin. Discard the lining foil or parchment paper. Place the pork back into the tray.
- Raise the roasting rack to a higher position, bringing the skin closer to the top heating element. Return the tray to the oven and pour some freshly boiled water into the tray, ensuring the water level is about 1 – 2cm deep. Do not use more than this unless you prefer a looser texture like pork stew (as explained above). Continue roasting for 25 ~ 30 minutes at 220 ~ 230°C/ 428 ~ 446°F. The salt and high temperature will beautifully crack the skin during this second roasting step. Moreover, the steam from the boiled water will prevent the pork from burning too quickly while preserving its juiciness.
The cooking time may vary depending on your oven’s size, temperature stability, and the thickness of the pork. If you have a small oven, you may need to lower the temperature and extend the cooking time. Thicker cuts of pork require longer cooking.
- Once the pork is fully cooked, and the skin has cracked beautifully, remove it from the oven. Allow it to cool for at least 15 minutes before slicing it into smaller servings. Avoid cutting into it too soon, as the meat juice will escape, resulting in a drier texture.
Serve the roast pork warm. It is best enjoyed on the day of roasting, as leaving it overnight, especially in the fridge, will cause the skin to lose its crispiness.