Last Christmas ( I gave you my heart 😀 ) I made Roast Beef Belly for Noche Buena.
I had a difficult time finding any sort of guide on how to do it, since most of the recipes online were for making brisket and most were US-based, so I thought I would share my experience making this in Manila.
At first, I thought that brisket and beef belly were very different cuts, and after some googling, I confirmed that they are different cuts, but they are right beside each other on the cow chart and they do look similar. Hopefully, they cook similarly, as well. Some restaurants have come out with roast beef belly dishes and I feel that it is starting to become popular in Manila, so of course, I had to make it for Noche Buena 😀
This is the first time I am making any sort of beef roast like this, so I am not an expert.
BUYING THE BEEF BELLY
I did not even try to source the beef belly at the supermarket. I don’t think I have ever seen a whole beef belly in the supermarket. Most of the meats I see are already pre-cut into “caldereta” cuts or sliced into “steaks”. To feed 6 people, I wanted a generous 2kg beef belly.
I know that I need to buy the meat at an actual meat shop where the butcher knows what he’s doing, but I just didn’t feel like hunting for one, especially in Christmas traffic. So I turned to Honestbee and was very happy to see that there is a meat shop available there called Meat Depot, and they had Imported Beef Short Plate available for P250 per 500g. We call it beef belly, but apparently in butcher-speak, it’s called beef short plate. 🙂
I don’t know if this is a good price or if it is expensive – I just didn’t have time to do any research, and I wanted quality meat for the special feast. I ordered 2kg (P1,000), and I requested for a whole piece because I was going to roast it. Just to be doubly sure, I also called Meat Depot on the phone to check if they can provide the beef belly in one whole piece. The nice thing about all this was that delivery was free and there was no concierge fee from Honestbee!
The meat arrived in plastic and it looked lovely! I didn’t trim it anymore since it already looked trimmed. Sulit na din because I was able to use the whole chunk of meat and didn’t have to throw anything away.
COOKING THE BEEF BELLY
The recipe I chose to use was this Texas Oven-Roasted Beef Brisket from the Food Network, with a few changes based on the ingredients I had on hand and from the comments of people who have tried the recipe.
- 2 tablespoons chili powder – I used the McCormick one that is not very hot; don’t use the really spicy Korean or Indian style chili powders!
- 2 tablespoons salt – based on comments, this was too salty; instead, I used kosher salt (less salty than iodized) and I only used 1 1/2 tablespoons
- 1 tablespoon garlic powder
- 1 tablespoon onion powder
- 1 tablespoon ground black pepper
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 2 teaspoons dry mustard – I didn’t have dry mustard so I just used regular wet yellow mustard
- 1 bay leaf, crushed – I just took one bay leaf and manually crushed it in my palm as small as I could get them
2 kg of beef short plate
1 1/2 cups beef stock
Instead of beef stock, I used beer! What kind of beer? Well, Christmas beer, of course! We still had a small amount left, and I thought that any Christmas-sy spices from the beer would give some Christmas flavor to the roast beef belly 😀 Personally, I did not notice any of those flavors, but everyone said that the roast beef belly was really delicious. You can use any kind of liquid you want.
I mixed all the spice rub ingredients in a bowl. Since I used wet mustard, the entire mixture ended up a thick paste and it was easier to stick it on the meat.
I apologize for not having complete pics. I had not intended to blog it, but since it turned out very well, I thought I’d share it 🙂
Anyway, so I rubbed the entire piece of meat with all of the spice rub. I wasn’t sure about having the beef belly swimming in broth/beer while cooking; I wanted a “smoked brisket” kind of result. So I put the meat on top of a rack so that it is elevated from the roasting pan so that it will not be swimming in the beer. The meat should be put fat side up so that the fat will melt and drip down and prevent the leaner bottom part from drying out during baking.
I put the beef belly in the pre-heated oven (400 F, as suggested by a commenter), with the oven rack positioned so that the meat is in the center of the oven. I baked it like this (400F) for one hour. Near the one hour mark, the kitchen was starting to look a bit smoky, but I trusted the process.
When it reached one hour, I took the meat out and it looked like the spices were slightly burned, but I didn’t panic. I continued to follow the recipe. I added the beer to the roasting pan. I covered the entire thing with foil and sealed it so that the meat will be steamed by the beer. I lowered the heat to the minimum my oven can go (200 F) and continued baking for 6 more hours.
After a total of 7 hours of baking, I took the meat out and took a look. I was worried that it was burned and dry, but when I jiggled it a little, it was bouncy, so that gave me some confidence to think that it turned out alright 🙂 I also looked at other smoked brisket pics on Google and some of their “bark” looks more black than this.
The recipe says to let the meat rest for one hour. So I left the meat alone, loosely covered with the foil, for one hour.
After one hour, I sliced it and it was so juicy and perfectly cooked inside!
Here’s what it looks like without flash, I don’t know why it looks drier without flash:
With flash, it looks juicier:
Everybody raved about the roast beef belly! It was so tender, I honestly did not expect it to turn out this good. As for the taste of the roast beef belly, for me, it was delicious because juicy roast beef is always delicious. Flavor-wise, some of the flavors did penetrate into the meat but not a lot, the amount of salt was fine, most of the salt dripped into the pan juices. Because we had a lot of food on the table, we had a small amount of leftovers, but by lunch the next day, all the roast beef belly was wiped out 🙂
I served this with some horseradish sauce (also bought via Honestbee). I also used the pan drippings to make a gravy, but I think the horseradish sauce is a better pairing to the roast beef belly.
What is horseradish? It’s very similar to wasabi in taste, but it looks white and is not as strong as wasabi.
Some things I would do differently next time:
- Next time, I think I would rub the spices in, cover with cling wrap, and then leave it in the refrigerator overnight so that the spice flavors have time to be absorbed by the meat.
- Instead of the initial baking at 400F, I will try 350F instead to get less “burnt ends”. Hopefully, this doesn’t affect any smoky flavor.
- I might try to do this with a bigger piece of meat, like 4kgs, and just double the recipe. I still have to figure out if the cooking times need to change. If you know, please leave a comment below! 🙂 The reason I want to do a bigger piece is because the ends of the roast beef belly were slightly drier, and the middle part of the roast beef belly was perfectly juicy. With a bigger piece, I hope to have more juicy middle parts and less drier end (dulo) parts.
- Someone also suggested that I try to sous vide the beef belly. I don’t have a sous vide machine. Sure, I see it on sale at S&R but I didn’t think it was a practical buy for me who just cooks at home. I will keep this in mind though because it’s interesting 🙂
Anyway, if you have been thinking about making roast beef belly at home, I hope this has helped you feel confident about doing this in the Philippine setting. 🙂
I hope you enjoyed this blog post. Please feel free to leave a comment below, I love hearing from you!