Ask anyone who loves their pork roasts if it would be the same if there were no crackling to accompany it. The answer will be a resounding ‘No’. Crackling is the flavoursome hero of the dish, especially when it has that satisfyingly bold crunch.
The trick is to get it right, because (if you’ve tried this before and failed, then this will sound familiar) it is easy to overcook and burn the crackling or undercook it and lose out on the crackle.
Since there is just no point in having pork if there is no crackling, we thought we would share a few tips of how to make the perfect crackling the next time your in-laws are over and you need to make a good impression.
Key steps to sure fire pork crackling:
- Pick the right pork — shoulder, pork belly, rolled loin or rack are great picks.
- The first two are best with long slow cooking; the latter two have far less fat and so need quicker treatment.
- Get your butcher (or come visit Dutch East!) to slash the pork fat or use a craft blade like a Stanley knife. Only cut the fat and avoid cutting into the meat. Those parallel slashes need to be about 1cm apart.
- It is important to dry the pork skin and fat before roasting. This is ideally started the day before. First dry the skin of the pork with kitchen paper. Then rub salt into the skin and into the slits. Leave it in the fridge overnight.
- The next day, carefully brush all the damp salt off and dry the skin again with paper.
- Rub the skin with olive oil, and either vinegar or lemon juice, to help conduct the heat of the oven to the skin.
- Turn the oven to at least 230C and blast the joint with heat for about 30 minutes or until the skin starts to bubble and brown. Then with pork shoulder and belly continue cooking slow (about 120C) until done. For a shoulder, I like to cook it until the meat falls apart.
- So that’s between three to eight hours depending on the texture you want from your meat. With the rolled loin or chops use less time but a higher temperature, say 160C to 180C, as there is less fat both to render and to keep the meat moist.
Oh, and if all that doesn’t give you perfect crackle just peel it off after cooking and place it skin side up under the grill. Watch it doesn’t burn and remove when the skin has gone all puffy and golden.
The alternative is to turn up the heat and finish the pork off at 180C until the skin cracks, but again beware that the crackling doesn’t burn!