I have been working on a tonkotsu ramen recipe for the restaurant I work in and this will likely be my first post of many on the subject.
Recently I have been trying to do the braised pork belly with a little difficulty. Nearly all of the recipes I have come across portion out the meat prior to cooking, presumably to achieve a softer texture all around. However I would like to go for the rolled style of meat that is quite common in Japan and pre-portioning just doesn't seem possible in this form. And I have run into problems in getting the uniform, melt-in-your-mouth texture of the meat itself (the fat has never really been too much of a problem).
In my attempts I have covered about half the meat with the liquid and cooked in a covered pot in the oven at 275° and then checked the texture over a period of 6-7 hours. I originally planned on cooking it for 2.5 - 3 hours but the fat didn't even feel soft at that point so I just let it keep going. At the end of that a good portion of the centers were quite tender and close to what I was going for. But closer to the outsides were still quite tough, closer to the texture of pulled pork. Was this too high a temp? Obviously it was a long time, but wouldn't it be even longer if I lowered the temp?
And so here is my question: what is the best technique of braising rolled (i.e. thick) pork belly for the characteristic melt-in-your-mouth texture? Should I cook slower and at a lower temp? I am thinking of trying it in a pressure cooker next to see if that will get me closer. Has anyone had success with this? Any tips for my first attempt?
Thanks in advance for any help!