Puffed and savory, cracklings are good for snacking or garnishing other dishes.
The first step is sourcing the pork skin. You can make pork cracklings out of any portion of the skin, but the belly skin produces the puffiest and best product. Check with your local butcher or local market. If you can't buy just the skin, try to buy a skin-on portion of pork belly. Then you get a double win: delicious pork belly and skin for cracklings.
Make Ahead: The pork belly skins need to be cooked in water for 45 minutes and cooled completely in that liquid. The skins take 12 hours to dry in a minimum-temperature oven. The cracklings are best eaten when fresh; they can be stored in an airtight container or frozen for a few months.
Yield: Makes 4 ounces
- 1 pound pork belly skins (see headnote)
- Peanut oil, for frying
- Kosher or seasoned salt (optional)
Trim as much fat as possible from the skins and discard.
Submerge the skins in a pot of barely bubbling water over medium heat. Cook for 45 minutes, then remove from the heat. Cool in the liquid. Remove the skins and place on a flat surface. Use a spoon to gently scrape off any remaining fat, taking care to not tear the skin. Cut the skin into about fifteen 1-by-3-inch pieces.
Preheat the oven to 200 degrees. Seat an ovenproof rack inside a large rimmed baking sheet.
Place the skin pieces, fat sides down, on the rack. Dry in the oven for 12 hours. The pieces are ready when quite brittle. Gently scrape away any remaining fat.
Line a baking sheet with several layers of paper towels, then place a wire rack over it.
Heat about 3 inches of oil in a large deep pot over medium-high heat, to a temperature of 375 degrees. Deep-fry in batches, about 4-5 at a time. The cracklings will expand to several times their original size and turn golden brown. The oil should bubble furiously around them. Use tongs to transfer to the rack to drain. Immediately season with salt to taste, if desired.
Serve warm, or cool completely before storing.
Adapted from Michael Bonk, executive chef of the Pig in Logan Circle.
Tested by Jim Webster.
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