6 Tips for Crispier Pig Skin
~Chef Perry Perkins~
Crispy pig skin...is there anything better?
(The answer is no.)
Delicious, moist, tender pork is a wonderful thing. As a friend of mine often says, "If God created anything better, He kept it for Himself", but let's face it...most of us start pickin' at that puffy, crunchy, salty skin while it's still too hot to touch!
But first, some nomenclature...
Chicharrons VS. Cracklins
The Southern version of chicharrons, cracklins are crunchy chunks of fried pork skin, fat, and meat. Unlike chicharrons, which are typically just the skin and fat, cracklins include a thin layer of meat (typically belly meat), as well.
Known as Kaiings in South Africa, Pulutan in The Philippines, Torresmo in Brazil, and Scrunchions in Canada, anywhere in the world that you find people cooking whole hogs, you'll probably find delicious crispy skin, as well!
- Serve it Hot
Having cooked many, many pigs, the skin always toughens when cooling, because of all of the fat and collagen trapped in the layer between skin and meat.
- The "Chinese secret"
(If you'll pardon the term) is much the same as with Peking Duck, dry, dry, dry the skin. Plenty of salt on the skin (an hour or two before cooking) and often hanging the pig in front of fans to help dry. Pricking the skin with a metal skewer (a LOT) helps this fat escape, as well.
This is the same reason the Mexican chicharrons (real "pork rinds" not those nasty things in the chip bag) are so amazingly crunchy...the fat is rendered out over low heat for a LONG time (and is often boiled advance).
- Score the skin FIRST
Unlike the typical caja china cooking method, which scores the skin AFTER cooking and flipping, a great way to render out more of the fat (and get crispier skin), is to score the skin before cooking, allowing more the the fat to cook out during the roasting process.
Using a very sharp knife make slashes approx. a finger width apart across the skin, don't cut through to the meat, but about half way down the fat. You can always ask your butcher to do this for you.
Massage the oil into the skin making sure it goes down into the slashes. Sprinkle with sea salt, again make sure it is down into the slits.
If the pork needs to be stored before cooking, leave it unwrapped in the fridge on a lower shelf.
Pork cooks much better when the skin thoroughly dried and a must if you want crisp crackling, so uncovered is best.
Use your hand to massage the oil and the salt into the skin and make sure it runs into the cracks of the skin.
- Grill the skin after cooking.
After crisping the skin in the box, remove it from the pig (in sections) and scrape any excess fat from the underside. Lay the skin, crispy side up, on the top grills, and cook over direct coals, watching carefully, until glassy and crisp.
- The "Chicharrons" Method
Slice the skin into 1"x2" strips and deep fry it. Most of the skin will puff up, and will be very crunchy. Drain on paper towels, and serve immediately.
- Chef Perry's Method
The best way that I've found is, after crisping the skin in the traditional method, to flip the skin over (whole or in sections), lay it back over the pig, and return the coal pan over the box. This lets more of the fat render off of the skin (while basting the meat below), which helps it crisp up better.
I like to serve my cracklins with a dipping sauce of apple cider vinegar, red pepper flake, garlic, and black pepper.
As a third-generation chef, Perry P. Perkins focuses his love of cooking on barbeque, traditional southern fare, and fresh Northwest cuisine.
Perry runs the non-profit organization, MY KITCHEN Outreach Program, which teaches nutrition, shopping, and hands on cooking classes for at risk youth.
His cookbooks include La Caja China Cooking, La Caja China World, La Caja China Party, and the NEW “La Caja China Grill.”
You can follow the rest of Chef Perry’s cooking adventures at ChefPerryPerkins.com