If there’s anything I love more than hot buttered toast and a cuppa, it’s good pork crackling. I usually get a variable result depending on the quality of the meat (my fault for not sourcing top flight all the time), how long I have to prep, and crucially whether the skin is attached to the meat or not.
A while back I did a pork butchery class with the excellent (and genius knife skilled) Romeo Baudouin at Victor Churchill, Woollahra. Completely as an aside, he turned out an incredible, fluffy yet crispy crackling – using skin off the meat, not attached, and weighted between 2 trays at high temperature. I’ve been trying various methods to reproduce this ever since, and recently managed the best yet – and here’s how.
1) Cut the excess fat from the underside of the skin, whic has been removed from the meat – the more you cut off, the easier it is to crisp, but cut too much and the resulting crackling can be saliva sucking dry. It’s a personal preference thing, this, you’ll have fun experimenting!
2) Score – with a craft knife kept specially for this, unless your kitchen knives are ultra sharp. I like a 2cm width crisscross. Cut through the skin but obviously not so far as to cut it to bits.
3) Dry your skin. Any way you can. Salt, which draws the water from the skin, and air drying in the fridge are best. Using larger grained salt crystals allow you to rub off the excess just before cooking. Rub the salt into the skin, place on a plate and pop in the fridge for as long as practical – half a day or overnight if you can. Dab periodically with a paper towel to remove the moisture sucked out by the salt.
4) Pre heat your oven to as hot as it will go, 220 – 250C, fan forced if you have it. Ideally, do this just as you’re taking the actual roast out of the oven for its resting phase. Dust off as much salt from the skin as you can, and place it on a tray – you’ll need one with a rim because there’s going to be lots of fat running off. Place another tray over the top, slightly smaller than the first. Stick in oven for 15 minutes at this temperature. You may as well stick on your extractor fan at this point too, cos it’s gonna be smoky! After 15 minutes, turn down to about 150C to finish – you can remove the top tray at this point – carefully as there will be fat running free. The skin should have puffed up nicely, but still be flat. Continue cooking until puffy all over and slightly browned.
5) Serve! Betcha it doesn’t last until the roast is rested….
I found that the centre didn’t puff up so much initially – because of the trays – so I could have left this in longer. I’d actually got to the stage shown above in advance, and I basically trimmed the edges (ok, we ate them like piggies in the kitchen, burning our fingers in the process!) and stuck it back in for 10 minutes after the leg roast came out of the oven. Result – evenly puffed all over.