Belly pork - a query

A pork belly roast is a fairly common event in this house. Sometimes, we buy it with the ribs still in place, sometimes deribbed. We always score the skin before roasting - we get great crackling and lovely moist fatty meat.

However, the last piece was a complete oddity. I have never seen belly pork cut from the part where there are nipples . The skin was all but impossible to score. We cooked it for our usual time - it was obviously nowhere near ready. Cooked for much longer. Skin had failed to crisp and it was tough as old boots - so tough it was, literally, inedible.

I will obviously take this up with the supplier (it comes direct from the farm) but my query is - have you ever come across this type of belly pork (with nipples) and, if so, what was I doing wrong with it? Or is this actually a par tof the pig which shouldnt really be sold as belly pork (which is my guess)


I think we may have some “translation errors” in this thread. Where are you posting from (I think England but I have no idea why I think that).

Pork belly in the US is often used for bacon, slow braise, typically very fatty and not typically found with ribs. I have bought cuts with nipples before. I have never roasted it and don’t know people who do.

Edit - looked at your profile, yes England. I must know that from other threads.

I think what I call bacon, England calls streaky bacon.

I tried to find an image to help the discussion. This is generally what we call things here In the US. I think here we would call what you are roasting some type of rib or rib roast.


Pig has a lot of nipple ( 12-14) unlike human beings .
Pigs’ nipples are located on their belly—also called the navel area—and toward the pig’s backside, not the ribside. , “You’re going to find nipples at the base of every pork belly.

Lechon is a favorite Filipino dish with suckling pig roasted over coal for hours.
I have had a few party with a whole suckling pig but most of the time, that is not possible, esp for just my family, with a few guest.

Lifetsytle change, so I hardly prepare it for the past 6 years. There are many recipes available for lechon ( not lechon kawaii which is fried ) To be 100% sure you can obtain a super crunch skin, moist succulent meat, a layer of easily removed fat below the skin which I discard, I would bring the belly to a boil with peppercorn, bay leaf, garlic, onion and sometimes lemongrass . Simmer for 30 minutes ( young suckling pig) or longer if you suspect it to be an old pig, leave it to cool in the simmered water, pat it dry keep t in the fridge overnight.

Then roast it in an oven ( or in my case, I use a turbo broiler) at 350 degrees til it becomes crunchy when hit with a fork. If I do not boil and simmer initially, it takes 4-6 hours in my8 convection oven. The combination of boiling cuts dow the time to crips it substantially , perhaps 2-3 hours or even shorter period.

In the UK (not just the England part of the country), the pieces of belly pork for roasting are taken from the area on Thimes’ diagram labelled “spare ribs”. It is, of course, where we would also get spare ribs. Many butchers will bone out the piece giving them spare ribs and a roasting joint. I have never in the many years of cooking this piece of meat come across one with nipples.

I suspect ccj nails the matter when s/he notes the nipples are “towards the pig’s backside not the ribside”. That being so, I think the farm has sneaked in a piece of meat that other suppliers would not usually regard as belly for roasting, etc. Dependin on what response they come back with, they may have lost future orders for it (although their chops and fillets have been great).

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Yes, sorry the UK - the nipples really run the whole length of the actual belly (or what we call belly here - between the legs).

So in the UK a “belly roast” is from the ribs, do they typically sell “belly” (streaky bacon part) as well? Is that part called something else? Cuts of meat are always so difficult, even here in the US different parts of the country have different names for the same cuts.


I am a she

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Thimes - this link should explain pig bits as seen in the UK,

Thanks for the link John, but none of the cuts listed are a belly roasts, so not sure it helps clear up the confusion …

3. Belly pork
Belly joints
Belly slices
Streaky bacon
Belly wheels
King ribs

In London Chinatown, most of the Cantonese roastie places had slabs of hanging pork bellies in the window. The size and color did not vary much from place to place, which led me to speculate the restaurants were not roasting themselves, but all sourcing from the same central toaster.

Never seen roast pork with nipples before, in Asia or USA. Maybe the pigs are harvested at an younger age before the nipples get prominent?

Pics from the web. Just like the pork we saw.

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Generally speaking, a joint of something is what we’d roast (or pot roast).

I have read this thread with interest and appreciated the pork diagrams and photos.

The one photo showing prominent nipples on a living pig is striking. So I’m uncertain, but I know that otherwise, I would think that belly proper (say, from a pig’s equivalent to a sternum and back toward rear) wouldn’t be what Americans would call a "roast, as there’d have to be little there but skin and fat. However, Chinese cuisines do favor such textures more than most American people do. (I’m American.) Chinese would “roast” that, the word being understood to refer to method rather than what UK people call a “joint,” i.e., a thing rather than a method.

I’ve never seen pig parts with nipples, in any case, in our markets. But I assume things can get more rustic and variable in farm settings. Mainstream American markets are getting broader all the time, I’m glad to think, but I’m sure we still see many bits as throwaway parts.

This happened to me once! My usual source for pork belly is in Chinese markets, where it’s not uncommon to find it with a few ribs still attached. Every once in a while when I can find a super nice cut of pork belly from one of those fancy pigs (berkshire, etc.) I’ll splurge and get a 2-3 lb chunk as well – those are almost always more square (Chinese markets are usually more rectangular cuts or sometimes pre-cut into 2 inch or so strips in my area).

This was one of the squares I got from a more high end butcher. I wasn’t sure it was a nipple at the time, or if it was just some odd deformity in the skin, but given the spacing I suspected it was the nipple. It did skeev me out a bit at first, but I went ahead with my usual preparation, and it turned out fine. I got the skin to crisp and once it’s all bubbly, you don’t even notice it.

I’m pretty sure that the piece that would usually be called belly pork in the UK is also used, cured, to make bacon - American style bacon or, as we call it “streaky bacon”.

One of my favourite subjects.

I rent my working-week bedsit in London from a retired (wholesle, Smithfield market) butcher who tells me that the sow’s belly (nipples sometimes, of course) is a sweeter piece of meat than the boar’s belly. I personally find the nipples rather off putting, though.

I’ll try to buy some tomorrow for a simple roast, and post pre and post roasting pictures to show our US friends how it comes out.

It’s always interesting how cuts vary from place to place. I’ve only been able to find pics of the “inside” of cuts, and since we don’t have these cuts in the US (it does appear that it is the bottom of the ribs with the belly still attached - not a common cut here in the US).

But it makes me wonder if this cut in the UK typically has the skin on or not. Once skinned, the nipples are really unnoticeable and the skin can get very tough if not fully rendered and allowed to crisp. Do you usually roast with some/all skin removed? If skin was rolled into your roast (assuming you roast it rolled) this could have messed things up.

Or maybe you got a bad piece of meat from a bad pig …

Belly joint pic from a UK site

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Roast pork belly in the UK is generally cooked with all the skin on, with the aim to make it into crispy crackling. In practice some people might remove the skin to turn it into crackling separately, one of many methods of varying complexity that people proport to create the best crackling (pre blanching, drying out with a hair dryer, etc etc).

It’s a good point though, I’ve never thought where all the nipples end up. I’ve definitely had the odd one but it’s not a regular occurrence, nor are there signs that they’ve been cut off.

This cut is very popular among the Asian Supermarket thruout DC Metro area
Typically, they do not have the ribs, but I have purchased some with the ribs
They are usually rectangular, around 10-1 inch by 3 -5 inch.
I prefer the wider ones, used to order from wholesaler whereby I buy the whole side, then they cut it to my specification.
In Amsterdam, butcher shop carries them with skin on.
I like the ones with the ribs on but some of the filipino recipe for so called lechon pork belly are rolled In this instance, so you do not want to have the ribs
I typically prefer not to roll it so that the whole skin is exposed to the heating element from the turbo broiler . That way, I avoid having to turn the meat over. I also do not use salt as some suggest.
Here is a picture of one rolled and one not rolled .
I let men come to. boil in herbs suggested below, then simmer it for about 45 minutes or so depending on size. let it cool to absorb the flavors from the broth, dry and refrigerate overnight.
I never had to add any salt or anything ( I feel salt makes it more like chitcharon with blistering of the skin. ) I prefer a golden brown crispy skin as in the last pictures below . The soy sauce vinegar, hot pepper garlic dip is enough for flavor for my taste.

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Sorry, reread your OP. So you do it skin on and scored. Since you do it regularly I’d have to say you got a bad piece of pork. I’ve never had a belly turn out that way, so no real suggestions except for technique. But if you do this cut regularly without issues, had to be the pork. Maybe it came from an old sow? But the nipples in and of themselves aren’t really anything to be concerned about.

The belly slabs I buy, which are the cut that is generally turned into American or “streaky” bacon, usually have nipples. Occasionally I’ll get one without, but typically it’s a smaller piece that I assume was cut from between the nipples, or that some butcher trimmed them to make the piece look more palatable to customers. The skin is quite thick and tough when raw.

This is not a cut most Americans would buy to roast. It requires very low, slow, moist heat to tenderize the skin and meat - I either braise it in a low oven overnight, or cook it sous vide for 8-12 hours at around 180 degrees. Once it is fully tenderized, I usually cut it into smaller pieces and fry or broil to get it crispy. If you see nipples again, try one of these methods and I’m sure you will love the results.