Porchetta (Pronounced POR-ketta) is an Italian dish, traditionally using a whole suckling pig that is deboned, stuffed and rolled, and cooked over wood or charcoal.
More modern porchetta utilizes a whole loin wrapped in a whole belly, but unless you’re cooking for an Italian sized family, will probably be too much.
My take on it here is a little more modest, but will still feed 4-6 easily. Any leftovers are amazing in a soft bread roll too!
This stuffed pork belly done over traditional charcoal on a rotisserie produces wonderful, soft silky pork belly with an amazing crackle on the outside. I pair it with buttery mashed potatoes and homemade gravy here for a wonderful cozy comfort food.
What you’ll need
- A BBQ with rotisserie function – Charcoal is best for that wood-smoked flavor
- Charcoal to start, and small pieces of hardwood during the cook. (You can use all charcoal if you like)
- A digital thermometer (I used a MEATER wireless thermometer, but a Thermapen or similar instant read thermometer is great too).
- A mortar and pestle
- Butchers string or twine
- A VERY sharp knife
Preparing your pork belly
I used a 4.5 lb piece of pork belly here. Look for a piece that has plenty of creamy white fat, with around a 50/50 ratio of fat to meat.
If you can’t find good quality pork belly locally, we recommend the pork belly from Crowd Cow.
The best way to prepare your pork belly to ensure the best crackle on the skin is to start preparing it the night before.
With an incredibly sharp knife (you can use a craft knife for good results), score the skin in a 1″ crosshatch pattern, being careful to only cut through the skin and not the meat (you can get your butcher to do this for you if you like) and do the same on the meaty belly side.
Don’t score too deep on the meaty side, you’re just wanting to get some surface area for the aromatics to penetrate into a bit.
Once you’ve scored the fat, place the belly (fat side up) on a clean cooling rack or something similar, and place into a clean sink, and slowly pour around 4 cups of boiling water all over the top of the skin.
Don’t worry if the skin contracts a little, this is normal. Next, pat the skin dry with paper towel or a clean tea towel, and place skin side down on a clean chopping board to start to stuff the belly.
Making the herb stuffing
For the stuffing, you’ll need the following:
- 1 1/2 tsp of fennel seeds
- 1/2 cup of finely chopped sage
- 1/2 cup of finely chopped parsley
- 1 tsp dried chilli flakes (optional)
- zest of 1 lemon
- 1 tbsp of olive oil
- 1 tsp coarsely ground black pepper
- pinch of salt
Using a mortar and pestle (or the end of a rolling pin in a large sturdy bowl if you don’t have one), lightly crack the fennel seeds, then mix together with all other ingredients in a large bowl.
Use a drizzle of olive oil over the scored meat as a binder, then rub your herby stuffing all over the meat and into the cracks and score marks.
Roll and tie your belly
Now the tricky bit. If you’ve never used butchers string or twine before to tie up meat, this can be a bit daunting, and can be a bit fiddly too, but once you get the hang of it, it’s fairly easy.
Practice makes perfect.
You need to roll your pork belly up and tie it fairly tightly – you don’t want the twine too loose as the rolled belly may shrink slightly during cooking and will fall apart.
I’m not going to try to describe how to tie the twine, so I’ve included a link to the video below on how to tie a butchers knot:
Once you’ve tightly rolled and tied your pork belly, you need to leave it in the fridge uncovered as long as possible, preferably overnight. This will help to completely dry out the skin, resulting in a better crackle.
Remove your porchetta from the fridge before lighting your charcoal for the cook, drizzle with olive oil, and rub a couple of tablespoons of flaked sea salt into the skin, ensuring to get into all the score marks.
Lighting your rotisserie
The best results come from cooking the pork belly rotisserie style, so you’ll need some charcoal or charcoal briquettes and also a couple of chunks of a light smoking wood such as apple to really accent the flavors in the stuffing.
You can use just charcoal too if you don’t have any smoking wood on hand.
Light a full chimney of charcoal for this, and make sure that you have enough to last a full 4 hours or so for your cook.
For rotisserie charcoal cooking, no matter what you’re cooking, you don’t want the coals directly underneath your meat, but rather off to each side.
Pour your charcoal chimney in 2 long horizontal piles, parallel to the rotisserie, and add some more to light on top, approximately another half chimney on each side. If you like, you can put a foil pan in between your piles, directly underneath the meat.
Carefully secure your tied Porchetta to your rotisserie rod, and secure with the attachments that were provided with it, and once all charcoal is ashed over, you’re ready to go. If you’ve got an adjustable height rotisserie, set it up around 10-12″ over your coals to begin with.
Then it’s time to start spinning your meat – and that’s not a euphemism for anything! Now would be the time to add a couple of chunks of smoking wood too if you want to use it – but it’s not essential. You can add another piece or two throughout the cook too if desired.
Once the meat has started to color, you’ll need to keep stopping the rotisserie periodically to check the internal temp of your pork belly (unless you’ve got a wireless thermometer such as a MEATER, which I recently reviewed), but you’ll be aiming for around a 3.5-4 hour cook for a 4.5 lb piece of belly.
When you’re checking the temp, make sure to check in a thicker piece of meat towards the center of the rolled piece. You’re aiming for an internal temp of around 180°F.
You’ll probably need to add some more charcoal over the time of the cook, so keep your eye on it, and add some lump charcoal periodically. I add a few decent (half fist) size chunks every half an hour or so.
Once you’ve hit internal temperature, you can start to crackle the skin.
Remove the foil pan, reserving any dripped juices and fat for a gravy, and spread the charcoal evenly under the pork belly.
Stop your rotisserie skin side down, and lower closer to the coals if needed, although you need to keep a close eye on it and make sure it doesn’t burn. I got impatient and it slightly burnt in places on this cook! D’oh!
You will see the skin blister and pop almost like popcorn before your eyes! You will need to stop and move the rotisserie to a different part of the skin to ensure an even crackle over the belly.
Resting and slicing
Using heat proof gloves, remove your rotisserie rod and then remove the porchetta roast and place into a pan for resting for around 30 minutes.
Use this time to whip up some delicious buttery mashed potatoes and your favorite gravy recipe using the resting juices and the leftover juices from your foil tray from the cook.
Once rested, slice into thick slices using a sharp knife, and serve with that buttery mash and gravy, alongside a nice Chardonnay. Cheers, mate.
If you are looking for more delicious rotisserie recipes check out our post on Greek style chicken and lamb gyros.
Porchetta style pork belly
- 4.5 lb pork belly skin on
- olive oil for rubbing skin
- flaked sea salt
For the stuffing:
- 1 ½ tsp fennel seeds
- ½ cup sage finely chopped
- ½ cup parsley finely chopped
- 1 tsp dried chili flakes optional
- 1 lemon zest only
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1 tsp black pepper coarsely ground
- pinch of salt
- Pat dry your pork belly and score skin side, taking care not to cut the meat, and also the belly side, but not too deep.
- On a cooling rack in the sink, pour boiling water over the skin side of your pork.
- Combine all the stuffing ingredients in a large bowl.
- Rub stuffing into and onto the meat side of your pork belly.
- Roll and tie your porchetta.
- Place into the fridge overnight.
- Remove from the fridge and rub olive oil and flaked sea salt over the skin and into score marks.
- Light charcoal using a chimney.
- Set porchetta onto rotisserie.
- Cook porchetta over charcoal for 3.5-4 hrs until internal temp of 180F.
- Crackle skin over charcoal by stopping rotisserie skin side down.
- Rest for 30-45 mins.
- Slice with a sharp knife.
- Serve with buttery mashed potatoes and gravy.