Is your crackling a bit hit-and-miss? Not getting perfect crackling every time?
1. not enough surface area
The more opportunity you give the salt and heat to penetrate the pork rind, the better the result. You can do this two ways
- score the rind. Often your butcher will do this for you. If he hasn't a stanley knife is the best weapon for scoring the pork rind. Make long widthways cuts about 1 cm apart. The cuts should be deep, but not deep enough to reach the meat layer.
- scald the rind. After the rind has been scored (by you or the butcher), pour boiling water directly onto the rind. The heat from the boiling water will curl the rind and open the cracks for better heat penetration. Avoid pouring boiling water on the exposed meat, concentrate on the scored rind.
2. not dry enough
Sounds counterintuitive that I just told you to pour water on the roast right? Now that you'd made it wet, it's important to dry it carefully. Using paper towel, gently and thoroughly dry the pork.
3. not enough salt
Once the roast is dried, rub oil and salt into the rind. Be generous with both. Pay particular attention to getting the oil and salt into the score marks. The salt reacting with the fat is what causes crackling to puff up and become crisp. Leave the oil and salt ten minutes before roasting. I like to whiz fennel seeds in the food processor and add them to the salt and oil. Fennel gives the crackling a lovely aniseed flavour.
4. not hot enough
Heat is the key. Start with a searing hot oven - 220ºC for twenty minutes. Don't be tempted to open the oven door to have a peek or add the veggies. That first scorching is the secret to perfect crackling. After twenty minutes, drop the temperature to 180ºC and cook your pork for 45 minutes per kilo. The pork is cooked then the juices run clear. If you have a meat thermometer, the internal temperature should be 7oºC. Allow the roast to rest before serving.
If all else fails
If you're arriving a bit late and your crackling is more old boots than fine swine follow these quick steps to save your crackling.
- Reheat the oven to 220ºC.
- Cut the crackling from the roast. Cover the roast in foil and set it aside.
- Lay the crackling on a piece of foil and bung it in the very hot oven. Watch it carefully.
- Your crackling should puff and crisp up.
- Serve it to the accolades of your adoring friends and family.
Finally, did your crackling start out crunchy and finish soft? There's a chance the steam from your roast veggies ruined your crackling. Be wary of overloading your oven with vegetables with high water content (like pumpkin and fennel).