Thursday, March 11, 2010


The first time I ate a "pork rind" I was about 16. So, I'll be the first to say I am not an expert on fried pork skin, at least in the authentic-traditional sense. However, I have started to make a lot of one version of Chicharrónes that I enjoy. This post is my most recent recipe, and so far has been producing the best results. The reason I want to clarify this is because there is some confusion around how fried pork skin should be named. There are a lot of different way ways to fry skin(with a lot of different steps in-between), and they all produce very different results. Sometimes it isn't even fried, it can be baked or roasted. I found a lot of confilcting information during my research for this adventure in fried pork skin. I've heard many different interpretations, but here is my version. Some people are religious about pork skin(especially when it is fried) and I do not want to offend anyone.
Lets' do this.

You can use skin from anywhere on the pig. I have not tested different parts side by side, but in this post there is skin from the hind leg and back. Both seem to perform identically, but if I can get a cross-sample of the whole animal together it will share the results. Maybe there is a prime area for the best fried skin?  Whatever part of the animal you choose, you are going to want to remove most of the fat and meat before cooking.
Again this may not be true in all preparations, but just bear with me here. The skin pictured here is from the back, and there is a decent (this was a small pig) section of "fat-back". There is also a small amount of muscle. These are both precious and have potential in other applications (lard, sausagesauce), so trim and save. Start by laying the slab, skin side down. Place your knife just above the skin(you are going to cut into fat) and fillet the pork back like you would a fish. Check the pictures above for the general idea. Once you separate the skin from everything else(you can leave a little of the fat on) place it into a pot and cover with water. Boil for 2 hours, covering is a good idea, but not necessary. Take the skin out of the water and lay it out on a tray. Let it cool at room temperature and then set the gelatin by putting it into the fridge. Once chilled, take out the skin and scrape the fat away from the skin. Be meticulous. I use a knife after getting 98% off with a spoon. A bench scraper, or dough knife also work well. Once you have isolated the skin, lay it onto a non-stick tray and put it into your oven on the lowest setting possible, I think 140F should be the lower end, but you can try lower if you can go lower. A dehydrator would also work, but I just do it at 170F(thats as low as I can go) for at least 8 hours. You want the skin to look inedible, like this.
At this stage you can store the skin a room temperature for a few weeks, months if you are brave/stupid(I do). To turn into delicious puffed skin, after all that, all you have to do is fry it. Break the skin into the size you want, they puff a lot so just be ready; huge ones are fun to eat too.I've tried frying at 350F and they come out great. I've also put them in at 250F in a small pot of oil and then cranked the heat to high. These rising temperature chicharrones have a more uneven inflation and are also good. I cannot decide which I prefer, but the 350F ones are much easier and more consistent to make; try those first. Once fried, at least season with salt, you are going to need a fine salt, any coarse salt just doesn't stick evenly, even if you add it immediately out the the oil(it turns out alright, but finer salt can make a perfectly even seasoned rind). The addition of some powdered acid is a great idea, and some dried chili. You could make your own, but Tajin is ready to go and tastes great. I bet is was designed for applications like this.
Plate it up!

Maybe seeking out pork skin specifically to make Chicharrónes is a little much(probably not though), but I hope I have at least communicated that if you ever are in possession of a piece of pork, never throw away the skin!
I am interested in making fried skin/meat/fat versions. The incredible puff of this version is due to the purity of the skin, however, in some instances sacrificing the puff for a more crunchy/crisp texture sounds great to me.

Finally, I have decided that blogger just isn't convenient enough to post all of the pictures I take during production, with all of the formatting details that I want. So, I will be linking to my Picasa page for some posts.  I will create entry specific albums if the topic warrants it.
This one warrants it, check it out here.

This one is for you,



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