How to cook: Lechon kawali with no deep frying

How to cook: Lechon kawali with no deep frying

What is lechon kawali? Filipinos know but for the benefit of non-Filipinos who may stumble upon this post, lechon kawali is deep-fried pork belly. A slab of pork belly, skin on, is simmered in salted water, drained and cooled then lowered into a pot of very, very hot oil. During frying, the surface of the pork is browned and the skin puffs and turns crisp. The slab of pork is then allowed to rest for a few minutes before it is chopped into serving-size pieces.

This post incorporates two earlier related posts that trace the history of my non-deep fried lechon kawali.

December 5, 2005: Lechon sa hurno (oven roasted pork)

We were planning on seeing Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire yesterday morning, and eat an early lunch our, but Big Sister wouldn’t get out of bed. By 12.00 noon we knew we wouldn’t be able to go out anymore. Little Sister was throwing a tantrum and I was problematic about lunch. I hadn’t taken anything out of the freezer because the plan was to eat lunch out.

Lechon kawali with no deep fryingI took out a whole slab of pork and threw it, very much frozen still, into the pressure cooker. I added a lot of salt and some water and cooked it for about 40 minutes from the time the valve started to turn.

Straight from the pressure cooker, I placed the boiled pork into an oven dish, skin side, up, and put in the oven. Minutes later, it turned into that mouthwatering thing you see in the photo. It’s really lechon kawali except that there’s no deep frying involved.

What’s so cool about cooking lechon kawali in the oven, anyway? Well, first, you save time. You can’t deep fry a newly-boiled slab of pork. You need to cool it and air dry it a bit. If you cook it in the oven, you can skip that part.

Then, of course, there’s the oil issue. People seem to be allergic to anything fried these days. Actually, I hate frying but not so much for health reasons but because I hate oil spatters. I don’t like being a kitchen slave. If I can do something with half the mess and half the cleaning, I’m all for it.

Note that I don’t think this can be done in a traditional oven, especially gas ovens. What you need is an oven that can grill. A convection oven or an electric oven with a “broil” setting (heat source on top) will do the trick. A turbo broiler will do as well. Like a convection oven, a turbo broiler has a fan that circulates the heat.

What I did was to set both the top and bottom heat, and the fan, on during the first 15 minutes or so of grlling. When the meat started to show signs of browning, I switched the bottom heat and the fan off. The heat directly above the pork skin (rind) did the job of turning it into a crackling.

September 25, 2010: Lechon kawali, the easy way

Food fads notwithstanding, my family is unapologetically carnivorous. We don’t shy away from traditional meat dishes that, by today’s standards, would make the health-conscious cringe in horror. In other words, we love our lechon kawali and crispy pata. But because of my aversion to frying (I hate the oil spatter and the clean-up it entails), for the past so many years, we have been cooking our lechon kawali and crispy pata in the convection oven. We get the same puffed and crunchy pork rind and meat that is nicely browned outside and moist and juicy inside.

The purists and food snobs can howl and criticize all they want — I don’t care. Neither should you if you want to cook smart.

Now, about the lechon kawali which wasn’t cooked in a kawali (frying pan) at all. Since I already have an oven-cooked lechon kawali in the archive (the one above), is this simply an updated version? Sort of, and more. In the archived entry, I used a slab of pork and I did the cooking in an electric convection oven. In this entry, I used sliced pork belly which I cooked in the turbo broiler. See, I wanted to find out if the pork slices won’t turn dry inside. Result of the experiment? A resounding success.

Lechon kawali with no deep frying
Lechon kawali with no deep frying

The pork belly slices, salted and kept in the fridge for a couple of hours, were about an inch and a half thick. I hope you can see the beautifully puffed rinds.

Now, here’s the trick to puff those rinds and brown the meat without drying it up. First, use good quality meat — the meat from a young hog. Why? Because the rinds are thinner. They’ll puff up and turn crisp instead of becoming chewy.

Second, use high heat. Very, very high heat. I set the turbo broiler at 475F and it took about 40 minutes to get the pork to cook to that stage of perfection.

Third, let the cooked pork rest for a few minutes before chopping into bite-sized pieces. That should give the juices sufficient time to settle down instead of dripping once the chopping begins.

October 29, 2010: Lechon kawali with no deep frying (with step-by-step photos)

Is possible to make the equivalent of lechon kawali without frying when using a whole slab of pork? The answer is yes but the pork has to be boiled first. There’s the proof in the photo. Looking at those pork pieces you’d think the pork was deep fried. But it wasn’t. It was cooked in a convection oven. Just look at the puffed rind!

Why boil the pork first? The size. If you place a large piece of pork in an oven at a very high temperature, the outside will be burnt before the inside gets thoroughly cooked.

So, boil the pork first. Submerged in very salty water. I like adding garlic cloves and peppercorns too. When the water boils, lower the heat, cover the pot and simmer the pork until tender. Depending on the quality of the meat and the size of the slab, that should take anywhere from an hour and a half to two hours and a half.

Lechon kawali

When the pork is done, scoop out carefully so that nothing breaks apart. The skin is very tender at this point so treat the pork lovingly. Place the pork on a roasting rack and place the rack in an oven-proof dish. The rack ensures that the heat touches every part of the pork’s surface so that it browns evenly. The dish underneath is for catching the melted fat. Unless you want a messy oven, place the rack inside a dish.

Preheat the oven to 475F — higher if your oven allows it. When the oven is hot enough, slip the pork in.

Lechon kawali

After 20 to 25 minutes, look what happens!

Lechon kawali

Here’s the other side. Nicely browned all over and the skin puffed and crisp.

Let the pork rest for about 10 minutes to allow the juices to settle. If you chop it at once, the wonderful juices will just drip onto your chopping board. So, let the pork rest.

Then, chop. Into slices first. Then, into cubes. Transfer to a plate and serve with rice.

As a final note, I did say I cooked the pork in a convection oven, right? A convection oven is a fan-assisted oven that makes the heat go ’round and ’round. I use an Ariston convection oven. A turbo broiler works too because it is actually a small convection oven. Can the same result be achieved using a traditional oven? I don’t think so. Of course, you can try — just keep the temperature at the highest setting. If it works, please let me know. I’m sure other readers would appreciate the information.

  • Lisa

    Hi Connie

    Am trying this recipe this week, we only have a traditional oven, which level should I put my oven rack? Middle or bottom.

    Also I believe the highest setting of this one is 550, should I maximize this?

    Thanks

    Lisa

    • Connie

      Middle rack. Yes, use the highest setting and don’t forget to pre-heat the oven. :)

      • Lisa

        HI Miss Connie

        Thanks for the info, with respect to your answer, if its 550, how long should it be in the oven, do I still have to use the broil setting? If so, how long.

        Lisa

        • Connie

          I don’t know exactly how long. I suggest you watch the meat closely after 10 minutes.

          When browning meat, it is always advisable to use the broil setting.

  • http://dashaman.com dashaman

    lol, yes some says so. but it worked for me tho.heheh

    if you also have tried the crispy hito at palaisdaan resto in tayabas quezon, it follows the same procedure, tho no boiling.

    =D

    so im going to try this method of yours tomorrow. im craving for it after seeing your photos.lol

    • Connie

      So long as it works, eh? Though I can just imagine the hot oil shooting all over.

      • http://dashaman.com dashaman

        lol yes i know what you mean. but i got myself skilled containing the wild cooking oil.

        kya nga im very surprised with your no frying lechon kawali. no more guerilla tactics.heheh

        • Connie

          Still, I hope you’re not the one who has to do the cleaning afterward hahaha

          • Lisa

            HI Connie

            I did the lechon kawali this week, after boiling the pork, I wiped the pork with a clean kitchen towel, to remove the excess moisture, because if I put it in the oven, I might end up steaming the lechon kawali instead.

            I put the pork in the oven and waited for the oven to reach again 550, then started only the cooking time as soon as the thermostat read 550.

            It was good, and the aroma was really heavenly good.

            We will try to do it again, because we were not able to use the broil setting.

          • celeste

            HI Ms connie! How are you? I have an electric oven toaster which i think is an electric oven toaster/convection oven. it has rotisserie (it was a gift so im not really sure plus i cant find the manual anymore). it has top heat (the broiler i guess) and bottom heat. if i put the pork slab there should i open the top and bottom heat or just the top part? i just finished boiling the pork and will cook it in the oven tomorrow. il wait for your reply :) thank you

          • Connie

            Does it have thermostat control?

          • celeste

            yes. highest is 250C

          • Connie

            Thermostatic control is not temperature control. Thermostat means does the heat turn off/on automatically once it reaches a certain stage. With most tabletop toasters, because they are designed for short use, the temperature just goes up and up.

  • celeste

    Oh thanks for the clarification. Uhuh it only has temperature control, selector for top heat and bottom heat or both, and timer up to 1hr I think. What do u think? Will it do? Or I moght have to experiment.

    • Connie

      Oh, I don’t know. High heat is essential but it has to be controlled heat. Otherwise, the meat might burn and fry up.

      • Celeste

        Il try it this tuesday. I’l update you. thanks!

        • Celeste

          hi ms connie! just want to update you. it worked! i had the lechon kawali for lunch today. i used the appliance i mentioned in my last message, the electric toaster/oven rotisserie (i dont know what its exactly called ‘coz cant find the manual) and the pork slab turned out juicy, crispy and puffy :) but had to cook it for 1 hour. basta it was more than 25mins. i had to watch it the whole time too since this was nmy first time to cook pork in that oven. i was ecstatic when the skin started puffing. LOL! simple things make me happy. home cooking rocks! thanks for the recipe. next in my list is your chicken picante :) have a good day!

          • Connie

            Yes! Two thumbs up for you! :D

  • Marj

    I just tried this and turned out great. I used a regular gas oven, cooked the lechon kawali at 450 for 40 minutes and the skin turned crispy. Thanks for the idea!

    • gina

      @ celeste: what happened to your cooking? we have the same oven setting that is why im interested about the result… tnx in advance for sharing…

      @ ms. connie: thank u so much for sharing your wisdom of cooking… you are really an angel to us who dont really know the ins and outs of cooking… god bless and more power!!!

      • celeste

        hi gina! the pork slab turned out crispy, juicy and puffy. just perfect for me :)put it in the highest setting, mine is at 250c and then you cook it for an hour. check it from time to time. since it was my first time i initially set it for 30 mins and then had to set it again for another 30. i open both the top and bottom heat and then had to adjust near the end to just the top heat.:)

        • Muriel

          Thank you for your daily recipes. We made this for our dinner today.

          • Connie

            Hop you liked it! :)

          • http://dashaman.com dashaman

            Hello connie, Here is my lechon kawali adventure http://www.dashaman.com/2010/11/lechon-kawali-and-pancit-habhab-delight.html thanks and kudos for the idea. =D

          • A

            Do I have to turn the meat over after the 20 minutes? Or will the meat be puffy and crispy already without turning?

          • Connie

            No. Just make sure you place it on a rack. :)

          • http://www.whatwouldwueat.com What Would Wu Eat

            This looks so delicious. I can taste the pork just looking at the picture. I recently became a vegetarian, but I remember the taste of lechon when I ate meat. I grew up around a lot of Filipinos and I now live near Little Manila in NYC, so the smells of Filipino food always fills the air. It’s hard to be a vegetarian around so much yummy Filipino food!

          • http://www.javafoto.com Charlotte

            Hi Connie,

            Did the pork / oven smoke too much? I don’t want to set off the smoke detector. I have a regular (big) convection oven but not outdoors like yours.

            Thanks!

          • Connie

            No, it didn’t.

          • Jamie

            oh no!!! I failed to read the “convection” oven part! I was too excited to try this one that I failed to read the *note!

            I’m doing it anyway…I just hope the result will be good, if not the same. I’ll let you know what the outcome is.

          • andie

            hi ms. connie! i just have to share that this is a spot-on recipe! tried this last week and it turned out delicious!! at first i thought the skin didn’t crisp up in my broiler bec it didn’t look like yours (not as brown and no ‘popped’ skin). pero when i chopped it, sobrang lutong! tried and tested talaga lahat ng recipe nyo and i want to thank you as always for sharing. i’ve been reading your blog since 2006, from the time i was single till now that i am married. and am really grateful for all that you have shared. more power to you!

        • gina

          tnx celeste for the information… i’l try this on my hubby’s birthday next week…

          kudos ms. connie!!!

          • Ed

            Thanks for the posting this.
            Ive been cooking lechon kawali using this method for a month now.

            But this is what i did

            1. Boiled the pork for 45 minutes or so until it becomes tender. Salt and bay leaves
            2. Left it outside the house (temp outside was -10 or so with windchill to -22
            3. Fry it till it becomes slightly brown. I think about 25% brown. Low heat
            4. Dried it using paper towel
            5. Left it outside to cool and again theres the windchill factor
            6. Convection oven 425 degrees for 15 minutes and then switch it to broil at 500 degrees for 2 minutes

            And its really crispy. And also really noisy because Of the fire alarm. Hahahahhaa.

            Also i tried cooking it without frying and made
            Lechon kawali sisig.

            Again thanks for posting this connie

          • http://casaveneracion.com/ Connie Veneracion

            “And also really noisy because Of the fire alarm”

            Oh my goodness! But never mind that, right, since you enjoyed the lechon kawali? LOL

          • Christine

            Connie,

            Thank you so much this post! I followed everything you said and my lechon kawali turned out absolutely perfect! I pressured-cooked the pork belly, then used a turbo broiler at the highest setting (mine goes up to 500). The skin was crunchy all over. My husband said that was the best lechon kawali he’s ever tasted, even better than Barrio Fiesta or any of the restaurants back home.

  • arlene

    hi connie, i tried this with my convection oven and it turned out perfect! thanks

    • mae

      Hi, Connie! Thanks for posting this. I’ve been cooking lechon kawali in oil and had no luck in making the skin crispy.

      I saw this posting 6 months ago and I finally got the chance to try it yesterday. I was very surprised on how well it turned out! It was very crispy and I think healthier than deep frying! :)

      I boiled the pork butt for over an hour the night before and froze it. Thawed it out in the fridge and placed it on a grill rack like you said. After 10 minutes in my oven (not using convection) on 475 degrees, the skin started to pop already and there’s no oil splatter at all! I did alter the cooking times based on what I saw. I noticed after 25 minutes the batch I was cooking was 50% crispy (skin-wise). So, I baked it for another 15 minutes and it was about 75% crispy. I decided to take it out and let it rest for 20 minutes. I put it back in again for another 15-20 minutes and it was 100% crispy.

      Besides adjusting the cooking time, I was very impressed with this technique. I didn’t know that you can cook lechon kawali without frying it in oil and that baking it in high heat can make the skin real crispy.

      Thank you for posting it!

  • Frances

    Thank you so much for this! :) Cooked this for friends who were over at lunch last weekend. They are raving and continue to rave! Too bad my husband wasn’t able to try this. Plan to cook this again some time this week. Will the same cooking method work with para to make cripsy pata?

  • bea

    forgive my ignorance…..ask ko lang po, ano po setting ng oven bake or broil? i want to try this on my husband’s birthday….thank you…

    • http://casaveneracion.com/ Connie Veneracion

      Bake or broil — or both, if your oven allows it — will work. :)

  • http://www.iskandals.com Iska

    I tried this about a couple of months ago when we moved to our new place but I was too afraid to bake it too long. Ganun ako kanerbyos sa smoke alarm dahil sa pinanggalingan naming apartment kaya hindi tuloy lumutong haha! Then slowly we become friends again (oven and I) and now able to cook the perfect crispy pork belly. Ay sarap! I boil the pork belly slab with salt etc. for about 45 mins, dry and rub with salt. Usually I leave in the fridge for a night, the shortest just 2 hours. Then fan-grill for about 30 mins. The best! I’m going to cook it again tomorrow yay!

  • Rene

    Tried this today. Great ! Thank you for the great info. My family loved it.

  • Jay

    This is a healthier way to do it. I hate the oil splattering horror as well. I remember my mom used to cook lechon kawali in our backyard or in the dirty kitcken, and has to be on a wood fire stove.

  • http://mommamusings.blogspot.com jaja

    This is the way we cook lechon kawali at home :D my mom said that it makes the dish a little less guilty to eat because of the less amount of fat :D

  • Connie

    Less mess too. Heck I hate it when oil spatters during frying.

  • Mike

    Just last weekend, I came up with a home cooked version of the Balamban style liempo. I was able to cook it in the oven of a gas range.

    Results? Same flavor but lacked the smokiness of charcoal.

    So to answer the lechon kawali in the oven question, yes it can be done. You just brine the meat first for about 1 and 1/2 hour for each pound of meat (so about 3 hours for every kilo). Then drain away the brine, pat dry the liempo and rub all over generously with salt and cracked pepper. Wrap it in aluminum foil with a bit of space for the steam to escape.

    After letting it cook in the oven for about 2 hours or so, remove the aluminum wrap and drain away the juices. Place the meat on a wire rack and put it back in the oven. The skin will start to crisp and the sides also turn golden brown. Let it rest for about 5-10 minutes before chopping up.

  • Connie

    Did you record the oven temp during the first two hours and after the foil was removed?

  • http://ascientistinthekitchen.net Gay

    Talaga naman handle the pork lovingly pa ha :) I’m somewhere in Thailand right now, Connie, and at lunch I had this lechon kawali stirfried with krapao, chilis, and kai lan. Ang sarap!

  • Mike

    hmmm…I didn’t have a thermometer that I could stick into the meat but the oven switch setting was around 360F when I first put it in. Retained the same temp setting after removing the foil.

    To crisp up the sides and skin on top, I switched on the grill top (the upper flame portion inside the oven). Took about 15 minutes or so.

    I’ll be making sure to take exact notes and measurements next time. The weekend liempo was just an experiment after I tasted it in Cebu :)

  • http://cebuanddavao.blogspot.com/ Nonoy

    Wow. This is amazing. I have to try this at home. Here in Cebu they cook the pork belly into a small amount of water until the water evaporates and produces oil. The pork will then be fried into its oil. We call Lechon Kawali, Adobo. I don’t know why it’s call Adobo. I think that’s the mystery behind the Cebu food.

    This post is very helpful,esp for me that I love to experiment different kinds of Filipino recipes. Great!

  • Connie

    Oh, double heat after the foil was removed. Are you using an Elba oven? I have an Elba gas range and it’s like that — with a top broiler and rotisserie. Haven’t used the broiler and rotisserie though.

  • Connie

    Lechon kawali season! Have fun, Gay!

  • http://joyjoycreativeoutlet.blogspot.com Joy

    I totally have to try this. My husband loves this dish but I hate the mess it makes on the stove. Thank you so much for sharing.

  • leann

    Hi connie, I’ve been following your site since i move here in michigan. I came from New York and it is indeed your site is easy to follow.
    I did try the lechon kawali and they love it, it taste like lechon.. :)
    No splatting of oil, and no consuming of oil.
    Your post are very helpful to everybody.

    Thank you so much. God Bless.

  • Natz SM

    Hello Ms. Connie,

    Back in the late 80s early 90s, I use to request my suki bakery to bake my lechon kawali in their regular but really large electric oven whenever it was part of my party menu and had to make about 10 kilos or more. I would bring in the slabs of liempo already pre-boiled in salt water and other spices, drained and cooled in the ref overnight. They charged me a minimal amount per kilo but it saved on cooking oil, time and most importantly, I was free to prepare other dishes. (Apparently, I was not the only one availing of this service especially during holidays)

    It always turned out perfect- well puffed and crispy rind yet tender and juicy inside.

    BTW, I love lechon kawali with sibuyas, kamatis and bagoong isda. Hilaw na mangga is optional!

  • Bessie

    Connie, GMA Pinoy TV’s Life Pinoy Style show of Chef Ron Bilaro. He used a regular oven – 400F. Pls. visit his website, lifepinoystyle.com for “Ron’s Lechon de Oven” recipe. Season 7, episode 1.
    I will make your Lechon Kawali very soon! Thanks for the recipe. ;-)

  • Connie

    It doesn’t say it’s a regular oven. In fact, it does not say what kind of oven at all. Nor if the heat should be underneath, on top or both. :sad:

  • Bessie

    Ooh, I’ve seen that episode and he used a regular / traditional oven, pork was placed in the middle rack. 400F. Naalala ko, hindi nagpuputok-putok ang skin just like your lechon kawali. :-)

  • Jo Santos

    Hi Connie, I did it last Saturday in the turbo at 392 degrees F, I turbo roasted the 1.5 k pork belly for 40 mins after it was boiled for 1 1/2 hr. The skin was nicely puffed and so crunchy. Thanks so much for sharing your recipe.

  • Connie

    “hindi nagpuputok-putok ang skin”

    Just as I thought. 400F just isn’t hot enough to puff the pork skin.

  • Bessie

    Yes, you are right. I like your lechon kawali with no deep frying – crispy. I’ll use my turbo. ;-)

  • Mike

    Sorry for the late reply, just got back from GenSan.

    I have a La Germania 5 burner oven.

    The temp setting is about 360F for the first 2 hours, wrapped in the aluminum foil. I guess the steam from the prok juices and spices cooked the liempo slab (about 1 kilo).

    After removing the foil and placing it on the middle rack, I let it crisp and dry up for another 30 mins with the same temp.

    After 30 mins, I shut down the lower flame and turned on the top burner (my oven doesn’t allow simultaneous top and bottom) and let the skin crisp up. Took about 15 minutes or so.

    I’m thinking of doing it again (aluminum foil and all) but using the rotisserie this time and tying the pork up so the stuffing won’t spill out.

    I’ll let you know what happens next time :)

  • Connie

    Oh good! Cause I have a rotisserie too but haven’t used it yet. If it works with liempo, I can cook a lot of slabs for a party using the two ovens simultaneously! Yey!

  • Connie

    Ah turbo works — even with crispy pata. :)

  • uberdoog

    I misa pork! Yaaahhhh!

  • http://dashaman.com dashaman

    hmmm…i haven’t tried doing lechon kawali without frying. i will give it a shot this weekend.

    i do fry it deep and hot oil, and rock-frozen meat slab after hours of boiling a day before. same for crispy pata.

    nowim hungry. =S

  • Connie

    That lechon kawali anf crispy pata has to be frozen before frying is really such an old wives’ tale. :)