Perfect crackling is a lot easier than a lot of people think it is. The techniques below are just as valid for your Sunday Roast, but these ‘cracklin’ strips and tasty snacks I usually make with the skin left over on sausage making days or trimmed off a pulled pork. Tried and tested they come out perfect every time. I also recommend you consider skinning joints of pork and cooking the skin separately like this if the joint is on the small side (less than 1kg or so).
The key to success (with strips or a joint) is understanding the golden rule – moisture in the skin is the enemy of crunchy crackling.
The single easiest way to great crackling is to leave the skin – attached or otherwise – exposed in the fridge for 24 hours before you want to use it. Score it or whatever first, but if you leave it in a modern frost fee fridge over night you don’t need to faff around wth lemon, vinegar, salt, oil, scalding etc or any of the other myriad techniques you’ll read about elsewhere.
Score it, dry it out, cook it. Simple as that.
Actually, 24 hrs is probably excessive unless we’re dealing with one of those vac packed joints from the supermarket that’s wetter that the proverbial otter’s pocket when you open it up. A fresh joint from the butchers should only need a couple of hours, if that.
Now let’s consider Plan B – for when you don’t have 24 hours, only really required for joints of pork, not skin strips. I’ve experimented with half a dozen techniques, the most consistent appears to be to score, then scald the skin with a kettle full of boiling water. You’ll have to thoroughly pat dry after you do it, then give it as much time as possible to dry out, but with a little oil and salt on the dry skin you should still have a good end result.
Perfect with homemade apple sauce and English mustard!
Pro tip 1: I wondered how the Draft House in Hammersmith managed to get their cracklings so straight – turns out that they place a weight, such as another baking tray (separated by some baking paper), on the skin for the first 10 minutes.
- Cut the skin from the joint with an extremely sharp knife, its ok to leave some fat on the skin, but not too much
- Preheat the oven to 180 C, works particularly well on a Neff oven set to circo-roast (mixture of oven and top heat)
- Cut the skin into strips and lay out on a baking tray, if you want nice straight strips, cover with baking paper and rest another tray on top
- Place in the oven and bake for 45 minutes to an hour or until crunchy. If using the tray-weight you can remove it and the paper after 10-15 mins and expose the strips to the heat
- 5-10 mins before the end paint a little maple syrup onto the underside of each strip and sprinkle on some salt and some finely ground black pepper onto the tops – the sweetness of the syrup is great with the salty/peppery seasoning.
- Remove from the oven and leave to cool for a few minutes (this also hardens them up a bit)
Pro tip 2: A lot of pork crackling recipes suggest starting at a high heat then turning it down – this is the wrong way round if you ask me. You can always give it a blast on high toward the end if you need to, but you can’t unburn skin that was either dry enough to not need the heat, or was totally forgotten about whilst on high!
Watch Out...Still working on ‘the sweet spot’ in terms of the cook. If the temperature is too high, or you leave them in too long they tend to go puffy and a bit… dusty? I prefer them with a hint of chew and so I’m yet to confirm which element to adjust – temp or duration.