Some traditionalists claim that you have use two cuts, the belly, and the loin, to make a true porchetta but I wholly disagree. Today’s pork loins are so lean that they are comparable to chicken breasts, or as the government denotes, “extra lean”. In the olden days pork was a much fattier animal, and thus the loins were more marbled and much smaller. If we were to use a loin, which is considered cooked at 145° F (63°C), it would be dry and inedible by the time the belly (which is full of connective tissue and collagen) reaches its target temp of 170°F (77°C). No crispy skin, rubbery meat, and a dry inedible center, no thank you.
There is a myth that fat keeps other meats moist or helps lock in juices, this is not only wrong but bad food science as well. As meat is cooked the muscle fibers tense and tighten, squeezing the water in the meat out. Fat is not water, it’s an oil and therefor it cannot cross the same barrier that water did and make its way into the meat. The fat can coat the outside of the meat tricking your mouth into thinking for a moment that you are eating a juicy cut of meat, only to be disappointed as you start to chew. Fat wrapping has its place, adding flavor and some protection, but keeping things juicy is not one of them.
For this recipe we are going to make a Porchetta using the belly, one of the most forgiving and delicious cuts of pork. While this dish is simple, it will require patience to make perfect.