How to make the ultimate pork crackling

The beautiful crackling on a piece of pork has been the ultimate prize across generations and cultures. From the Mexican chicharron to the English pork scratchings, you can’t deny that there’s something viscerally satisfying about biting into a lighter-than-air, crispy piece of pork rind. Making it has always been a bit of a mystery, but don’t worry! We’ve got some handy tips to get you to pork crackling heaven. 

Dry the skin

Excess water can cause stewing, which prevents the temperature from getting high enough for a successful crackle! Thoroughly pat the skin dry before oiling and salting, or if you can, leave your piece of pork uncovered in the fridge for 2 hours to overnight. 

Crispy roasted pork belly

This is one of those "How to win friends and influence people" recipes, an essential for your roast repertoire. And the good news is, achieving succulent meat and crispy pork crackling is surprisingly straightforward.

Roast pork belly

A Vietnamese marinade and a tamarind dipping sauce adds extra dimension to this Australian favourite. 

Roast pork belly rolls with apple

I like to add pickled red cabbage to the rolls. I think pork, apple and cabbage are a trio made in heaven. 

Score the skin

Just like rind on bacon spits and bubbles in a hot pan, the rind on a piece of pork will naturally want to bubble up when it’s ready to become crackling. Big differences in texture is what causes some parts of your pork to burn before the rest crackles, so remember to score the rind well to help release some of that tension. There are even some gadgets that the Cantonese uses to pierce small holes in the skin, to help achieve what they call “lychee skin”. Bonus points: these cuts also help the rendered fat bubble up from beneath, basting the rind and helping the heat penetrate evenly. 

Render the fat

Large amounts of fat left under the skin can trap a lot of moisture, which can make for chewy crackling! Take your time to cook the meat low and slow, rendering out enough fat before you turn up the grill to get that crackling going!

Turn up the heat

A hot blast of heat is what you need to get a good crackle, and the grill setting in your oven is perfect for that. Set it at 220C, and keep a close eye on it to make sure that it doesn’t burn and ruin all your hard work! if parts of it do start to burn, use aluminium foil to protect the crackling while the rest of the rind catches up. For extra points, you can also use (with great caution!) a heat gun to target the areas that just refuse to crisp up. 

Flavour the meat!

A beautiful crispy topping of crackling isn’t quite as satisfying if there isn’t succulent, flavourful meat to go with it! In the process of drying out the skin, remember to not let the meat underneath dry out too. Use a deep roasting tray to brine just the meat while you leave the skin to dry out uncovered, and you can have the best of both worlds. No brine? It’s okay, store-bought stock, or even just rubbing the meat with salt can impart lots of flavour too. 

Texas beef brisket

The barbecue in Texas is all about the pure beef flavour with minimal extra seasonings. I have lightly brined my beef using pickle juice and mustard. The rub is essentially salt and pepper with a touch of sugar to help with the caramelisation of the beef. Like most meats in Texas, post oak is the wood of choice, followed by hickory if you cannot get oak.

Maple-brined and smoked fried chicken

I love the flavour combination that comes from smoke and maple, so I brine the chicken in a maple-salt brine before smoking. Not only does this infuse the chicken with a subtly sweet flavour, it also gives it extra juiciness. We serve ours on a buttermilk waffle garnished with freshly shaved maple sugar cube and orange slices. You know, because maple-brined smoked fried chicken isn’t rich enough as it is. I never said this was a diet blog.