Born out of necessity in the 1800s when hard times meant that no parts of an animal were wasted, cooked pork skins remain a menu item. Belly skin and leg skin are commonly used because of the thick layer of fat underneath the skin. To achieve the signature crispiness, choose pork skin with a minimum of 1/4 inch of fat attached. Scratchings, cracklings or chicharrones are examples of cooked pork skins, but the only difference in the three is the number of times the skin is cooked. The skin and fat becomes increasingly crunchier and puffier each time it is cooked.
Things You'll Need
- Paper towels
- Sharp knife
- Rectangular baking dish
- Plastic wrap
- Duck fat or pork lard
- Aluminum foil
- Assorted spices (optional)
Rinse the skin under cool water, removing any hair still attached, and pat it dry with paper towels. Trim the skin as needed to fit inside a rectangular baking dish. A long piece of pork skin can be folded multiple times to fit in the dish, but its width must fit comfortably in the pan.
Lay the skin on a flat work surface. Sprinkle a thin, even layer of salt -- regular table salt, kosher salt or curing salt -- over each side of the skin. Lay the skin in a rectangular baking dish, folding if necessary, and cover tightly with plastic wrap. Refrigerate the skin for about 5 days to cure, a process that draws out moisture to help achieve the signature crunch of scratchings and cracklings.
Soak the cured pork skin in cool water for a minimum of 6 hours or overnight to rinse off the excess salt. The skin should swell slightly from its shrunken, cured state. Remove the skin from the water bath and pat it dry with paper towels.
Cut the skin into smaller, thin strips, if desired, and put them in an oven-safe pan such as a cast-iron skillet. Cover the skin with your choice of duck fat or pork lard. Cover with a lid or aluminum foil.
Preheat the oven to 300 degrees Fahrenheit. Place the skin on the center rack and cook it for approximately 2 hours or until soft. Reduce the temperature, if needed, so the fat bubbles only slightly while cooking. Remove the pan from the oven. You can eat the skin at this stage as scratchings, cook them a second time immediately, or store it in the fat in the refrigerator until you're ready to continue cooking.
Preheat the oven to 350 F. Place the pork skin -- whole or in pieces -- in an oven-safe pan and bake for about 5 minutes or until golden brown. The skin puffs up while cooking, resulting in pork skin more similar to cracklings. You can eat the skins at this stage or cool them down and continue cooking a third time to make extra puffy chicharrones.
Preheat the oven to 400 F. Add the pork skin to the baking pan and cook for 2 to 3 minutes or until they puff up to your preference. Watch the skin carefully to ensure a rich brown color without burning.
Sprinkle the cooked pork skins generously with salt and your choice of additional spices, such as cayenne pepper or garlic powder.
- Photo Credit eyjafjallajokull/iStock/Getty Images
How to Make Pork Rinds
If you love the taste of commercial pork rinds, you can make them at home. They taste great with their crunchy skin...
How to Cook Crackling on a Spit
Cooking a pig on a spit is a great way to entertain a number of guests and make certain that everyone gets...
How to Cook Pork Rinds for Dogs
Many people feed their dogs the same food that they eat, but this can make dogs unhealthy and overweight. There are types...
How to Render Pork Fat Into Lard
You can turn pork fat into lard by simmering it slowly to melt it and free it from the tissues that restrain...
How to Make Cracklings
Cracklings are an old-time treat that is actually a by-product of rendering lard from pork fat. When a pig was slaughtered every...
How to Cook a Pig
Although it hardly is a beginner’s venture, cooking a pig requires surprisingly little culinary finesse, since minimal seasoning or maintenance is needed...
How to Cook Fatback Meat
Modern-day marketing often focuses on the leanest cuts of pork, but it's the fatty cuts that are cherished in traditional cookery. An...
How to Get Crunchy Crackling on Roast Pork
In countries and cultures where pork is the preferred meat, the lush richness of roasted pork is especially valued. Among the Chinese,...
How to Use Pork Rinds As Breading
Pork rinds are crunchy, flavored snacks that dieters love because they contain little to no carbohydrates. Pork rinds have a natural pork,...