When you buy pork belly at Costco, will the skin still be attached? The answer is important whether you prefer the skin on pork belly or not. Let’s find out what you can expect when shopping at this particular big-box store.
Does Costco Pork Belly Have Skin On It?
In most cases, no. Most of the meat products that are sold at big-box stores like Costco will have these less desirable components removed in advance. If you would prefer to keep the skin in place when smoking or grilling pork belly, look for a product that’s advertised as “skin on.”
About Pork Belly
As the name suggests, pork belly comes from the soft underbelly of the hog. It’s a rich and fatty cut that can be tricky to master, but once you do, you’re bound to appreciate its fine qualities.
Pork belly is typically sold in large slabs. It’s sometimes advertised as “fresh side” or “side pork.” Though it’s intimidating to many home chefs, it’s a staple on restaurant menus, particularly those specializing in Asian cuisine.
You can slow-roast pork belly, which gives the fat time to render and crisp up. Deep-frying is another option. We prefer to use the grill, which gives the fat and the meat just the right texture.
Be aware that it’s easy to overcook pork belly, and if you do, the meat will be rubbery and tough. Fortunately, the meat is affordable enough to allow for frequent experimentation.
How To Tell If Pork Belly Has Skin
If you’re not sure whether the pork belly has the skin attached or not, inspect the slab closely. The fat will be a creamy white color, with a soft texture that leaves a film behind on your flesh when you press a finger against it.
Skin, on the other hand, will be beige to yellow in color. It also has a harder texture than the fat—or the meat itself, for that matter.
While you’re inspecting the pork belly, make sure there are no gray or yellow patches on the fat. This type of discoloration means that the pork is no longer as fresh as it could be. Any pork that smells “off” or feels slimy or sticky should also be discarded.
Does Costco Pork Belly Have Skin On?
We’ve found that the pork belly from Costco no longer has the skin attached when we remove it from the package. If you were planning on removing it anyway, that should be a huge plus.
The meat products from big-box stores like Costco and Kroger will often have certain parts removed before they’re packaged for sale. For example, the membrane that’s attached to the bone side of pork ribs is usually absent.
That said, we have seen advertisements for Costco pork belly that specifically mention that the skin is still in place. For recipes that rely on crispy skin, this option is worth seeking out.
Are Pork Belly and Bacon The Same Thing?
Not exactly. Most bacon is made from pork belly, but not all pork belly counts as bacon.
Pork belly is a raw product, whereas bacon has been brined or cured before it’s packaged for sale. The meat is usually smoked and treated with nitrates as well.
Bacon may also be cut from other sections of the pig, like the shoulder or cheek. There are even non-pork alternatives such as turkey bacon. In these cases, the word “bacon” usually refers to the curing process, not the meat itself.
Do You Have To Remove The Skin?
Some recipes advocate leaving the skin in place. If you feel comfortable with this, then there’s no need to take this extra step.
When leaving the skin in place, try scoring it every 1/4 inch or so with crosswise slashes (in an X shape). This will ensure that the seasonings penetrate and flavor the skin. The heat from the grill will penetrate better, too, making the skin crisper.
Once you have enough experience with smoking pork belly, you might find that you prefer it when the skin is left on. Beginners, on the other hand, would probably be better off removing the skin until they gain more confidence.
How To Remove Skin From Pork Belly
1. Chill the pork belly thoroughly before you begin. Otherwise, the fat will soften as you work, making your tools and work station slippery. In addition to hindering the process, this will make the task more hazardous.
2. Select a very sharp knife with a narrow blade. Set up a work station with a cutting board that’s large enough to hold the meat, with plenty of space on all sides.
3. Make sure you have at least 30 minutes to perform the task. Depending on how much pork belly you have to work with, it might take even more time. Also, be aware that removing the skin will take a significant amount of energy.
4. When you’re ready to begin, start at one corner of the pork belly. Slide the knife beneath the skin, keeping the blade parallel to your work surface.
5. Peel the skin back slowly with your opposite hand as you move the blade toward the center of the meat. The blade should always be moving away from your body, not toward it.
6. Keep cutting until the skin detaches completely from the rest of the pork belly. Repeat with any other pieces of meat that need to be skinned.
Does Costco’s pork belly have skin on it or not? Most of the time, the answer is no. Unless you buy the type that’s advertised as “skin on,” you shouldn’t have to worry about removing the skin yourself.
That said, the only way to be sure is to inspect the product yourself before you start cooking. Fortunately, the skin has a distinctive appearance that makes it easy to recognize.