Hacking the Italian Porchetta

Are you familiar with the classic Italian porchetta roast? The porchetta roast (when cooked correctly) is a beautiful thing. Each bite is rich, flavorful, fatty, juicy, succulent, crispy, and extremely delicious.

The porchetta is a pork roast that is seasoned, rolled, tied, and roasted for several hours. This seems pretty straight forward and easy to do, but trust me when I tell you that it’s a little more challenging than you might think

This roast basically consists of 2 parts (the loin and the belly) and both of these pieces cook at different temperatures, so it’s very easy to undercook the belly and have the loin come out perfectly or overcook the loin to have the belly come out perfectly. Here in lies the dilemma.

You could omit the loin all together and just cook the belly, but I personally enjoy the texture difference between the loin and the belly. So we will be replacing the loin with a different muscle all together, the neck muscle.

The neck muscle comes from the pork shoulder (aka. Boston Butt). The Italians call this muscle the capocollo or coppa for short, and it’s loaded with lots of great connective tissue and intermuscular fat. The coppa muscle will give us a great mouth feel against a fatty pork belly, and the best part is that they can cook at the same temperature for the same amount of time. Once finished, both pieces will be succulent, juicy, and extremely tender. It’s a win-win!

Preparing the Meats

To acquire the coppa muscle you can go to your butcher and ask him to sell you one. If he doesn’t know what it is or refuses to sell that cut you have nothing to fear. You can butcher it yourself as it’s very easy to find and remove.

Head over to your local grocery store and buy a whole boneless pork shoulder (AKA Boston butt). Flip the pork shoulder over so that you are looking at the underside (the meatier part not the fatty top side). Once you’ve done that locate the “money muscle”. It’s going to be on one of the corners of your pork shoulder. This muscle is easily identified by it’s unique pattern. It’s a horizontal muscle that’s 5 to 6 inches wide with horizontal lines broken up by vertical lines. You can’t miss it. Once you find that muscle you are in the right place.

That muscle is part of a larger neck muscle that runs across the pork shoulder. So after you locate the “Money Muscle” just measure off about 5 inches (roughly) and make a cut the width of the pork shoulder. You have now officially separated the Coppa or Capocollo from the Boston butt. Remove the fat layer from the other side and voila!!

Now that you have your coppa muscle we need to get our pork belly ready. Traditionally this roast was made with a small pig but any pork belly you can get your hands on will work, just make sure it has the skin on it. This is a crucial part in this recipe.

The first thing we want to do is line up the belly with the coppa muscle. Begin by rolling the coppa in the belly and trimming off any excess belly. Now that your belly is cut to size we need to score the meaty side of the belly. I start with vertical cuts, then I rotate the belly 45 degrees and repeat the process with a sharp knife.

Lets talk spices for a minute

There is one particular spices that I always seem to include in my porchetta, fennel pollen. This is not the same as fennel seed or fennel powder. Fennel pollen is a much more delicate spice that captures the sweetness and earthiness of fennel. It’s almost like the difference between mace and nutmeg, if that makes any sense. Fennel pollen is stronger and much more aromatic than the seeds or powder. It is literally the pollen from the fennel flower. I can’t even begin to imagine how it’s collected, but I’m sure that it’s possibly the reason why it’s so expensive. If you do get some, store what’s not being used in a vac sealed bag in your freezer. It will stay fresh for longer in there.

Now It’s time to spice up your porchetta. Apply half of the spices to the belly, rubbing them all over and in the score marks. Then place the coppa in the middle of the belly and apply the other half of the spices to the coppa. Tie up the belly to form a tight roll. What I generally do is tie a regular knot in the center of the belly to hold everything in place then i use the butcher’s knot (slip knot) to finish the job.

How to get an extra crispy pork skin

One of the most identifiable characteristics of la porchetta is the crispy skin. It adds texture, flavor, and of course comes with its own audible soundtrack. In order to achieve said crispiness, we will be using salt and baking powder. Salt will help draw the moisture out of the skin while the baking powder will soften the skin and increase the alkalinity (you could use baking soda, but I find that baking soda tends to leave a funny metallic taste behind).

So with damp hands, rub the skin of your pork belly. You want the skin to be a little damp so that the salt and baking powder stick to it. Generously apply the salt/baking powder mixture to your belly and rub it in very good. Once you have the skin completely covered, place the belly on a wire rack and set it in your refrigerator uncovered overnight.

It’s time to start cooking

The next day, it’s time to get your porchetta ready to cook. Be sure to give yourself plenty of time as this roast can take anywhere from 4-8 hours depending on the size.

Start by removing the strings from your roast and removing the seasoned coppa muscle (set it to the side). Place the belly skin side up and with a paper towel wipe the belly clean. Remove any moisture, salt, or baking powder. Once clean, score the belly in the same direction as the string marks. This will give us really easy places to slice our porchetta once it’s finished cooking.

I like to use a box cutter and a ruler to make 1 cm score lines. If you find an easier way, by all means let me know as this process can be a little tedious. See the video to watch how I did this.

After your belly is scored, flip it over and place the coppa muscle back in the center and tie it back up. A good butchers knot makes this an easy task, as you can really get that roast to come together nicely.

Preheat your oven to 250f (121c) and cook your porchetta till the internal temp reaches 180f (82c). As soon as you hit that temp, remove the roast and tent it with foil. Increase the temp of your oven to 500f (260c) or broil.

Once your oven gets to the right temp, place the roast back in the oven for an additional 20-30 minutes (depends on your oven). Make sure that the bottom of the roast is facing up About halfway through this final cooking stage flip your roast over, so that it’s right side up again. This will ensure that all sides get crispy. As soon as it’s finished, take it out of the oven and let it rest for 20 minutes. Enjoy.

Here are a few things you might find useful when making this porchetta

Enjoy the video and the recipe. If you have any questions feel free to ask away. If you make this at home I’d love to hear about how it came out!!

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5 from 2 votes

Italian Porchetta

A slight twist on this classic roast
Prep Time1 d
Cook Time6 hrs
How much do you want to make? 1000 grams

Ingredients

Optional Ingredients

For the skin

  • 1 tbsp baking powder
  • 1 tbsp salt

Instructions

  • Start by buying a boneless pork shoulder (Boston Butt) and cutting off the top third of the muscle (see video) This is known as the coppa muscle.
  • Weigh the pork belly and the shoulder (coppa) muscle. Input that weight in the box above that reads "How much do you want to make"
  • Roll the coppa muscle in the pork belly and trim any excess belly
  • Now score the meat side of the belly, gently. Don't make the cuts too deep. After scoring in vertical lines across the belly rotate the belly 45 degrees and repeat the same scoring technique creating diamond patterns
  • Generously sprinkle 50% of the spice mix on the belly and rub the spices into the meat. Place the coppa muscle in the center of the belly and sprinkle the rest of your spices all over the coppa muscle as well.
  • Tie off the belly to form a tight roll.
  • Slightly dampen the skin side of your pork belly. Apply the salt and baking powder mixture and rub the mixture into the skin.
  • Once finished place in the refrigerator on a rack uncovered to dry out overnight.
  • The next day remove the strings and open the roast. Place the coppa muscle to the side and flip the belly over. Skin side up.
  • With a paper towel remove any moisture, salt, and baking powder that has accumulated on the surface of the skin.
  • Once cleaned, score the skin side of the pork belly with a box cutter. Be sure to score it in the opposite direction of your coppa muscle. If you tied the roast up last night then you will score with the direction of the string marks. Be sure to not cut too deep, only slice through the skin. I generally make my score marks 1cm apart but you can go wider or more narrow if you want.
  • Place the seasoned coppa muscle on the seasoned side of the pork belly and retie the roast.
  • Bake in a preheated oven on a wire rack or roasting tray at 250f (121c) till the internal temperature reaches 180f (82c).
  • As soon as you get to 180f (82c) remove the roast and tent it with aluminum foil.
  • Increase the oven temp to 500F (260c). As soon as your oven preheats place the roast back in the oven for an additional 20-30 minutes
  • Halfway through this final roasting period be sure to flip your porchetta over once to get the skin crispy on all sides. After it's finished cooking remove from the heat and let rest for 20 minutes.
  • Enjoy.

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2 thoughts on “Hacking the Italian Porchetta

  1. Oupa
    Oupa

    There is no download of the recipe after I’ve subscribed. 24hrs

    1. Eric
      Eric

      I’m not sure what you mean. If you scroll down towards the bottom of this post you should see a recipe with a print option. All you have ot do is enter the weight of your belly and pork shoulder into the space that reads “how much do you want to make” and the recipe will calculate the rest. Let me know if you have any issues..

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