Way back in 2013 on one of our Spain vacations I was lucky enough to discover something on a menu mysteriously called “secreto.” With a mix of Spanish, English, and hand gestures our server told us it was a special pork cut hidden behind the belly. Hence its name. It is not a very common cut we see here in the US, making it even more mysterious. Even after all these years I think I’ve only seen it once on a menu here in Chicago, a city practically built out of pork. So what is it and where can you get it? I am glad you asked.
Internet research is not very helpful. This pork cut is so secret it appears no one can really agree on where it is located in a pig. I’ve read you can find the prized cut: behind the shoulder, next to the brisket, at the tail end of the belly, and in the region of the pig below the shoulder. None of which matched up with what our Spanish server described. A big problem I found in researching this was there were few diagrams of where to find it. Probably because no one agrees where it is.
Anyway, throughout last summer I would occasionally think about the secreto when cutting up pork bellies for use in sausage-making (I use belly for added fat). Knowing it is supposed to be a piece behind the belly I couldn’t help notice, depending on the belly I had purchased, there would occasionally be a layer which didn’t quite look like it belongs. Fat-meat-fat-meat-thin fat-thin layer, on a third of the belly. The thin layer is what I thought was the secreto.
Because I was too busy cutting up the belly for the sausages and on the clock at the kitchen I never fully investigated. No time for culinary exploration when building a sausage empire link by link! January is much quieter so with a fresh belly in hand this week I decided to figure it out.
Like I said, info on the internet is elusive, but I finally found this post about breaking down a pig. After watching the video attached to it I knew I was on the right track about the belly. Looking at the photo and video shows a small triangular piece of pork being stripped off of the belly. The belly I was working with had something resembling this so I peeled it off. It was pretty easy to follow the seam and didn’t take much cutting to slice through the thin membrane holding it on the belly. Kind of looks like skirt steak.
It is a tender piece of meat, has plenty of thin striations of fat in it and easy to prepare as well. I consulted Charcuteria to see if there was any special recipe. Nope, they basically said to salt it and place on a rack in the fridge overnight then grill. I wasn’t about to grill in sub-freezing weather so I seasoned with some salt, Spanish pimenton and simply pan seared. As you might imagine it cooks very quickly because it’s so thin. And yes, it’s absolutely delicious.
So there you go. You now know the secret of secreto. I am kind of glad restaurants don’t know (or don’t care) about this cut. Makes it special. Like I know something they don’t. And now you do too. If you have the ability to get your hands on a full sized 10-12lb pork belly (technically one half of the belly) be sure to trim off the secreto!