Let’s Get Crackling!

Perfect crackling on pork sometimes seems elusive, and is a worthy challenge for many chefs and home cooks. Get it right and everyone will be begging for the last bite, get it wrong and, well let’s just say it’s not pretty. I can tell you this first hand, I have undercooked crackling, cooked it too much and I have even managed to over salt it once. Crackling, in case you don’t know, is the crisp outside on a cut of meat that remains after rendering fat from meat or frying or roasting the skin.

Crackling, in theory, sounds simple enough, score the fat on top of the meat, rub salt and oil into it and place it into a hot oven. But I can assure you that it is not quite so simple. Just look at the internet and you will see an array of different methods used to create the “best” crackling. Some of these tips include keeping the roast upside down in salt over night, using a blow dryer, and an array of cooking temperatures and times.

No matter how you do it, the end product should come out of the oven golden brown, blistered and crunchy- not chard or chewy.  I have come to realize that the only way to make the perfect crackling is to follow the time tested and true saying that practise makes perfect. At first you will be scared of burning the crackling so you will take it out early. Next time you will be so determined not to undercook the crackling that you may in fact over cook it. The truth is there are many different methods of making the perfect crackling, but it does take some practise to recognize when it is done to perfection.

Tips, Tricks & Hints for good crackling:

 (1) Get your butcher to score the rind quite finely.
(2) Ensure the rind is free of moisture.
(3) Don’t cover or baste the pork rind at any time while it is cooking in the oven.
(4) You will get excellent result if you follow the cooking temperatures – it is important that your oven is at the right temperature so you may want to consider using an oven thermometer.

I had the best results with a recipe I found online at allrecipes.com and have decided to stick with it, although this recipe can be a tad tricky to master it is sure to impress your family and friends for years to come!

Succulent Slow- Roasted Pork Belly with Crispy Crackling

Ingredients

  • 1kg pork belly
  • 3 medium onions, peeled
  • apples
  • 3 teaspoons salt flakes
  • 5 tablespoons oil
  • For the special roast pork belly sauce
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup red wine vinegar
  • 3 star anise
  • 1/2 cinnamon stick
  • the pan juices
  • juice from 1 orange
  • 3 slices of the orange peel
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • salt and peppper to taste

Preparation method

Prep: 10 minutes | Cook: 4 hours | Extra time: 45 minutes, Other

  1. Take two long sheets of aluminum foil and put in baking dish.
  2. Cut peeled onions or peeled apples in half and place on foil. Cut them length-wise so that the pork is resting on flat discs of onions or apples, and so that your guests get half of an onion or apple each.
  3. Remove all moisture from pork rind by dabbing with high-grade paper towel. This will ensure the pork rind crackles perfectly. Mix salt flakes and oil and rub all over pork belly, including the rind. Work into the crevices all over the pork. Place pork, rind side up, on top of apples or onions.
  4. Gather up aluminum foil so that is surrounds the pork but leaves the top skin rind exposed. The aluminum foil should make a close nest around the pork to prevent it from drying out and gather the juices while it’s cooking, but at the same time allow the pork rind to crackle.
  5. Place in oven pre-heated to 150C and cook for 3 hours. Turn oven temp down to 140C and cook for another hour. Remove from oven and pour out juices and set aside for the sauce. Do not baste the pork at any time while cooking.
  6. Finally, before serving, place the pork back into oven and cook at 220C for another 20 minutes. This will bring the crackling up to perfection.
  7. To make the special roast pork belly sauce; in a saucepan mix 1/2 cup brown sugar, 1/2 cup red wine vinegar, 3 star anise, 1/2 cinnamon stick, pan juices. Bring to boil and simmer until syrupy – approx 5mins. Add juice from 1 orange, 3 slices of orange peel and 1 cup chicken stock. Bring back to boil, simmer until reduces. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Remove orange rind, star anise and cinnamon stick before serving.
  8. You can also use the pan juices to make a traditional savoury gravy by mixing the juices with hot water in a saucepan and use cornflower to thicken.

Serving Suggestions: Serve the pork in strips with the onion or apple, trickled with the sauce, and your choice of vegetables.

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