Lechon kawali with no deep frying

Lechon kawali with no deep frying | casaveneracion.com

Last month, I shared with you how to make lechon kawali without frying. Sliced pork belly went straight into the turbo broiler and, roasting at 475F, the rinds turned into cracklings — browned, puffed and crisp. But is that possible if cooking with a whole uncut slab of pork belly? Before I answer that, let’s ged rid of the obvious questions first.

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.

That said, let me answer the question as to whether it 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! I’ve done this so many times before, the first time back in 2005 (see lechon sa hurno), and the formula never fails. Consider this entry as a more detailed version of that 2005 experiment.

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.


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.


After 20 to 25 minutes, look what happens!


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 (see a photo on my other blog). 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.


  1. says

    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

  2. Mike says

    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.

      • Mike says

        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 :)

        • Connie says

          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.

  3. says

    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!

  4. says

    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!

  5. says

    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.