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Perfect Roast Pork Crackling

Crackling Pork 1

When I was a kid, both of my parents had the unerring ability to produce perfect crackling on a roast of pork. It was delightfully crunchy and crisp on the surface, with a terrifically toothsome chewiness beneath, and the soft, unctuous layer of fat underlying it all was incredibly sweet and salty at the same time.

Sadly, the ability does not appear to get passed down genetically for I have tried for years to produce the same results with only poor to middling success. I have, I must confess, only, been able, thus far, to achieve the right degree of crispiness in a small portion of the skin, while leaving the rest either burned, or else woefully flabby and underdone. The failure has been a sticking point with me since my earliest attempts in the kitchen.

The other day, I picked up a lovely roast complete with rind (something that only rarely appears in these parts) and I decided that it was time to solve this problem for good. After many hours of searching through dozens upon dozens of recipes on the subject (no two of which seemed to be alike) I managed to synthesize a procedure from all that information that finally seemed to work. I was so amazed, not to mention thrilled with the result that I had to share it with you here…

Crackling Pork 2

Here is the roast I purchased. It is a nice cut, although I would have preferred one that was a little wider and not quite so tall and narrow.

The Preparation

Crackling Pork 3

As per almost every recipe, and the way I have always done things myself, I used a sharp knife to score the skin in narrow strips, cutting into the fat but not the flesh beneath. The next step, being one I use with certain Chinese poultry dishes, was suggested in a few recipes I came across and consists of pouring boiling water over the skin to make it tighten. I used about two cups of water, mixed with a little sugar (as per one suggestion), and you can see how the cuts in the skin open up and the way that the meat gets a little blanched on the surface.

Crackling Pork 4

Afterwards, I rubbed the skin with coarse salt (about a tablespoon or so), making sure that some of the salt was worked into the fat between the cuts. I have always sprinkled pork skin with fat prior to roasting but never rubbed it in quite so vigorously, nor used as much.

Crackling Pork 5

The next step, and one I think is critical to the whole operation, was to dry the skin by leaving the joint uncovered in the fridge over night. Many recipes I read made a point of saying that the skin should be completely dry before cooking (one actually suggested using a hair dryer) but the overnight in the fridge really seemed to do the trick very nicely.

The next day I took the roast out a good hour before cooking to allow it to come to room temperature. Next, I rubbed the rind with vegetable oil, getting some into the crevices, and repeated the salt rub a second time. I seated the joint on a bed of apple slices (with some wedges along the sides to provide stability) and sprinkled the exposed flesh with a little garlic salt and pepper.

The Roasting

There are as many different procedures suggested for roasting as there are recipes but what worked for me was to pre-heat the oven to 475 degrees and the pop in the roast for 30 minutes. I initially planned to go for 20 minutes but, after checking, the skin didn’t seem to be cooking fast enough and I was afraid I was going to have another failure. Just another 10 minutes, however, and I could see some nice bubbling and crisping happening and I turned the heat down to 425 for the rest of the roasting. For this joint, which weighed about 3 pounds, another hour was enough to raise the internal temperature to 160 degrees and it was ready to serve.

The Verdict

Well…. You can see the beautiful color and texture of the crackling in the first picture and I have to say, in all modesty, that the result was terrific. It was a bit of a struggle not to eat all the crackling with supper that first night but I exercised restraint and saved a good bit of it still attached to the remaining meat for a little idea I have in mind for another dish…

24 Comments Post a comment
  1. I love that layer of fatty chewiness under the crisp shell. One of the reasons why “cheat crackling” or deep fried crackling doesn’t do anything for me. It’s too dry and more like a potato chip. It’s that chewy layer that coats your mouth with flavour.

    *drool*

    August 29, 2013
  2. That looks lovely. I will be posting a pork with apricot and onion. I managed to get a pretty good crackling going. i will post it in a few weeks (when the weather cools a bit here).
    Best,
    Conor

    August 29, 2013
    • Apricot with pork sounds good… I have seen prunes used too. Sounds less appealing 🙂

      August 29, 2013
  3. Fantastic job with the crackling! I struggle to get crackling right. Sometimes the skin ends up being too chewy, other times it’s completely hard… argh! I’ve tried several of these techniques but not all at once. I’ll have to give it a go next time I do a pork roast.

    August 29, 2013
    • That’s always been my problem … okay in a few places but too crispy or too chewy elsewhere!

      August 29, 2013
  4. Nicely done, John. I bet it was delicious.

    August 29, 2013
    • Thank you … it really was. I was proud of this result 🙂

      August 29, 2013
      • Betty McAlister #

        Thank you for your help ,I followed all things told to me and yet it’s not as crackly as i like and your’s seemed i could almost taste it .

        December 23, 2013
      • The drier you get the skin the better… almost hardened is perfect. Also, it really helps if fat isn’t allowed to settle on the surface anywhere. That prevents crispiness too…. I often get a couple of spots where this happens.

        JT

        December 23, 2013
  5. That looks just fabulous! There’s nothing quite like good crackling – I wish I could have been at dinner with you! 🙂

    August 29, 2013
    • I just hope it works out the same way next time 🙂

      August 29, 2013
  6. CONGRATULATIONS on your success. The crackling in the first photo looks perfect. Is the Shanghai bok choy from your wife’s deck garden?

    August 29, 2013
    • Actually no …. this dish was cooked weeks ago. Many of my posts are usually written several weeks ahead of posting (I already have posts written for October). I *do* have a recipe with my wife’s Bok Choy written yesterday and another being written in a few days… You *will* see them … just not immediately 🙂

      August 29, 2013
  7. I always enjoy your recipes! I use the boiling water method when I grill or roast duck and it works like a charm for getting the skin crispy. That’s a lovely cut of meat you were able to find – I’ve bookmarked this, in hopes I’ll attempt this one day! 🙂

    August 31, 2013
    • I am hoping to get as nice a cut again soon.

      August 31, 2013
  8. Looks great! Congratulations on mastering this 🙂

    August 31, 2013
    • It was a triumph of sorts 🙂 The proof will be a second success 🙂

      August 31, 2013
  9. Am drooling! Looks beautiful. In addition to being delicious, it must have been so satisfying to have finally “cracked the code” so to speak. Bravo!

    September 4, 2013
    • I wish we could buy that cut more often here.

      September 4, 2013

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