Let’s look on the bright side.
Two guests for your Cup Day BBQ means a more intimate afternoon and an opportunity to get creative, instead of cooking for the usual large group.
The hero of your Cup Day will be an Apple Cider-Injected Crispy Pork Belly. For the sides, you will enjoy grilled Moreton Bay bugs with a herbed butter served alongside a Vietnamese noodle slaw.
Apple Cider Injected Crispy Pork Belly.
Here is the classic Pork & Apple dish with a slight twist!
If I’ve learnt anything over the years it’s that the fastest things to disappear after barbecuing a delicious piece of pork is the crackling! One of my favourite cuts would have to be Pork Belly due to its perfectly balanced mix of crispy crackling, juicy meat & rendered fat.
Choosing the perfect cut is very important, I would suggest heading into your local butcher of choice & be sure to select a cut that has a healthy pink colour. Also buying a fresh cut that hasn’t been cryovacted is also key. If you can only source a cryovacted cut then make sure to take it out of the packaging, pat the skin dry & leave uncovered in the fridge overnight.
My favourite two BBQ’s to cook this meal in would have to be my Weber Genesis gas BBQ or my trusty Weber charcoal Kettle.
To prepare the pork make sure to take it out the fridge 1 hour before cooking, scoring the pork correctly is very important. A lot of people make the mistake of scoring too far apart. My rule is every 1 – 1.5cm. You also don’t want to score too deep; about 3mm – just enough to get through the layer of skin and not all the way through the layer of fat. Either ask your butcher to score for you or make sure you have a very shark Stanley knife or box cutter at home, I’ve found this to be the handiest tool to get the perfect score.
Lightly rub the skin with olive oil (don’t drown it) and massage a generous amount of sea salt into the skin. A lot of the time I’ll also mix in a little cajun salt to give the crackling a slight kick without being too overpowering.
Now the fun part comes by grabbing a can of apple cider at room temperature & pouring into a glass. The next step does require a meat injector which you can generally purchase from most good BBQ stores for around $15.
Insert the injector into the glass & fill the injector with the apple cider. Now insert the injector into the thickest centre part of the pork & as you squeeze the apple cider into the middle start pulling the injector out as you go. This will spread the cider throughout the cut allowing for maximum penetration. Repeat this step throughout the cut a couple of time. You will notice the pork will expand slightly as you repeat the process.
Now it’s time to preheat the BBQ for indirect cooking (make sure your BBQ is brushed down and free of debris, and you have a clean drip tray). You want to get the BBQ to around 250 degrees Celsius. I like to get extra fancy by also adding apple smoking chips for that extra flavour boost!
Once pre-heated, place your pork belly into the indirect zone of your BBQ. If your BBQ requires you to use a tray underneath the pork please don’t use one with high sides as this really affects the circulating heat around the pork & can affect the crackle.
Keep the lid closed for around 20-30 minutes without lifting, as this is where the magic will happen. The initial burst of high heat is what is needed to get the perfect crackle. Once the crackle has formed, you can then decrease the heat to around 180 degrees Celsius until cooked through.
To approximate cooking time, measure the thickest part of the pork and allow 1 minute of cooking time per millimetre. Remember to keep the lid closed as much as possible through the cook. I choose to use a trusty meat thermometer, which is the most reliable way to ensure your meat is cooked to perfection.
You want to bring the internal temperature in the thickest part to 63 degrees for medium & 68 degrees for medium well. The pork will continue to rise in temperature when resting so I generally remove from the BBQ 2-3 degrees before it hits its desired temperature.
Now, the sides.
My chosen two sides to enjoy with this dish would have to be fresh Moreton Bay Bugs (split in half length ways) & a tangy Vietnamese noodle slaw.
Lightly oil the flesh bugs with olive oil, salt & pepper.
After I’ve removed the pork for resting, I drop my bugs shell side down onto the grill in the direct heat zone with a medium heat & close the lid and cook for around 3 minutes. Turnover and grill flesh side down for a further 1 minute. Be sure not to go much longer than these times as the bugs cook very fast & are best enjoyed still tender.
Once removed from the grill, brush the flesh with a herbed butter which consists of:
- 100g softened unsalted butter
- 1 tbs finely chopped flat-leaf parsley leaves
- 1 tsp chopped thyme leaves
- 1 tbs finely chopped oregano leaves
- 1 garlic clove, crushed
Now, cut the pork belly into evenly sized pieces using a sharp knife and serve with a bug or two & a pile of tangy Vietnamese noodle slaw.
I promise you the perfect crackling mixed with that tender juicy meat of the pork, which has been taken to the next level from the injected apple cider, will have you and your guests salivating for more. If you are lucky enough to have incorporated some apple wood smoke, even better!