The Meatwave: Barbecue & Grilling Recipes, Reviews, Tips, and Tricks

Tue Jun 11, 2013

Lechon Liempo

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Lechon Liempo

I may talk a barbecue game, but when it comes to cooking swine, Filipinos are at the top of their game. For all the Carolina whole hogs, smoked pork shoulders, and braised bellies I've had, nothing quite matches the simplicity and utter mastery of Filipino lechon—whole roast pig. I'd love nothing more than to learn this fine art of rotisserie swine cooking, but I'm short on a giant rotisserie, hogs, and a mentor. So when wanting to do some Filipino style pork, I took things to a smaller scale and looked to lechon liempo—Filipino roast pork belly.

Lechon Liempo

I'm not sure if lechon is made with anything more than a pig and fire, but I thought it would be apt to inject a little extra flavor into this pork belly. So I started the recipe out with the ubiquitous Filipino flavors of garlic and vinegar, working the two into a paste with some salt and oil as well.

Lechon Liempo

I then laid open the glorious seven pound hunk of belly I picked up at my butcher. To ensure the flavor of the garlic paste was spread throughout the belly, I scored the meat, creating valleys for the paste to seep into as it was spread across the entire surface.

Lechon Liempo

The belly was then rolled up and I had a chance to practice my meat tying skills. I did a decent job, secure the roll about every inch, forming it into a pretty even cylinder ready to be thread onto the spit.

Lechon Liempo

I started the belly over high heat—right after the coals were lit. This had the skin browning and starting to blister rather quickly. I actually thought if I left it on the entire time it would need to cook—between two and three hours—I would end up burning the skin by the end. Luckily the temperature dropped and held steady in the 300-325 degree range, which was the right temp to finish the skin to a perfect crackle at the same time the meat was cooked through.

Lechon Liempo

What came off the spit was a sight for sore eyes. There was a little unevenness in the skin towards one end of the belly, but that's of little importance, as it did nothing to hold back the sheer awesomeness of the juicy, flavorful belly meat and the salty, crunchy rind. The garlic paste gave a nice addition to the roll, but it was the fatty, luscious belly meat and fat that dominated.

The Meat is Back in Town

Let's not forget the best of the best, the skin! Man, this rind that was self basted to its crackling finale is something to live life for. It's best when some of that melty pork fat is still attached, adding flavor and juiciness to the skin. After we were sufficiently stuffed from gorging on this pork roll, our protruding stomaches still cried out for more of the good stuff, so the skin was divorced from its meat and passed around to cap off on fantastic piece of lechon liempo.

Lechon Liempo

Luscious pork belly meat and fat paired with a crackling and salt skin make this Filipino rotisserie pork a reason to live life for.
  • Prep Time:
  • 30 Minutes
  • Cook Time:
  • 3 Hours
  • Total Time:
  • 3 Hours 30 Minutes
  • Yield:
  • 10-12 servings

Ingredients

  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons minced garlic
  • 2 tablespoons Kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon white vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
  •  
  • 1 (5-lb) piece of pork belly, skin on
  • 1 disposable foil pan

Procedure

  1. In a small bowl, whisk together oil, garlic, salt, vinegar, and black pepper.
  2. Lay pork belly on a cutting board skin-side down. Score flesh diagonally about every 2-inches. Repeat in opposite direction, creating a diamond pattern. Spread garlic mixture evenly all over flesh
  3. Roll pork into a cylinder and tie tightly with butcher twine about every inch.
  4. Light one chimney full of charcoal. When all the charcoal is lit and covered with gray ash, pour out and arrange the coals on either side of the charcoal grate and place a foil pan between the two piles of coals. Cover grill and allow to preheat for 5 minutes. Run spit of the rotisserie through middle of pork and secure ends with rotisserie forks. Place on the rotisserie, cover, and cook at medium heat until skin has darkened and crisped and pork registers 160 degrees when an instant read thermometer is inserted into the thickest part of the meat, about 3 hours, replenishing coals to maintain temperature as needed. Remove from grill and let rest for 10 minutes. Remove spit, slice, and serve.

Comments

  • 01
  • bkhuna says
    If ever there was food porn....
    Posted Tue, Jun 11 2013 10:59am
  • 02
  • Phil in France says
    Did you debone the belly? Pork belly here comes with a few rib bones intact...
    Posted Wed, Jun 12 2013 8:38am
  • 03
  • Josh says
    @Phil I did not de-bone this, but making it a second time, I would. The bones made it hard to slice and caused the bit of unevenness you can see in the photo of the tied belly, where one side is a little thicker than the other.
    Posted Wed, Jun 12 2013 8:58am
  • 04
  • Chris says
    I have arrived at the church of bacon!
    Posted Sun, Jun 16 2013 8:36pm
  • 05
  • bkhuna says
    I made this for fathers day. It came out better than I had hoped.
    Posted Tue, Jun 18 2013 3:31pm
  • 06
  • Alex says
    I'm going to try this today (with a tenderloin in the middle) - what do you think about puncturing the skin a bunch to let some of the fat seep out?
    Posted Sun, Jul 14 2013 1:04pm
  • 07
  • bkhuna says
    Alex, if you're using commercial pork, there is less fat under the skin than you think. If I was going to cook a piece of tenderloin (an inherently lean cut), I would think the fat would help the tenderloin moist.

    I'd be careful about the cooking time also. To get the tenderloin done to your liking will require the addition of extra time which may cause over cooking the skin. The skin really is a treat.

    I'd like to see how yours comes out!
    Posted Sun, Jul 14 2013 1:56pm
  • 08
  • Alex says
    It turned out amazing! Posted some photos of the process and final product.
    https://twitter.com/acce/status/356564381699563520/photo/1
    https://twitter.com/acce/status/356564746046148608/photo/1

    Posted Sun, Jul 14 2013 8:10pm
  • 09
  • bkhuna says
    Alex - Did you puncture? How did you cook it? It looks wonderful.
    Posted Mon, Jul 15 2013 12:22pm
  • 10
  • candice says
    I cook my pork belly with 375 for an 1 I/2 for a 5lbs meat then blast the oven to 400-450 for another 30 minutes. the skin is to die for. I brine it with sugar, salt an tamarind for few hours
    Posted Mon, Aug 25 2014 11:38pm

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