Crackling the code
It has been a while since I wrote about my favourite animal. As Christmas draws near, we are looking for the perfect roast, also known as a ‘centrepiece’ in some households. Whether you are a pork, beef, turkey or chicken person, a roast is always a must for Christmas dinner. Pork would be my choice and I thought this would be a good time to talk about the porcine Holy Grail – the crackling.
This week’s blog, in addition to outing myself as a fat-lover, is dedicated to finding the right method to get that golden, blistered and crunchy crackling that will have your family and friends waging war over the dinner table.
Former vegetarian turned meat expert, Adrian Richardson, says heat is the key. 20 minutes at 220C does the trick. Scoring the rind obviously helps. This allows the heat to penetrate the fat. Some recipes involve more advanced preparation like soaking the meat in hot water and allowing it to simmer for 30-40 minutes. This method of soaking them in hot water is a popular Asian cooking method designed to shrink the rind from the skin. In addition, soaking the meat in simmering water also results in a juicier piece of meat. The meat is then left overnight in the refrigerator, uncovered to dry the rind.
Oil and salt are crucial. Let’s face it, if you are truly health conscious then you wouldn’t even read this blog let alone contemplate making the perfect roast pork. Rub sufficient oil all over the rind and then spread the salt flakes generously. Salt will further dry the rind in the cooking process.
And then there is cut of meat. There needs to be a good layer of fat under the rind. My local butcher says, ‘the fattier the better’. Some experts may want at least four layers of fat. Personally, I think pork belly seems to be the best cut for roasting. Loins come a close second.
When it comes to the actual roasting, sit the meat on a rack rather than a bed of vegetables. This aids in the air circulation around the pork to avoid moist bits at the bottom. No one likes wet bits on a perfect piece of meat.
There is nothing worse than a chewy piece of fat. But fear not fellow pork lovers, salvation are at hand. The grill comes in handy for some last minute crisping. If you find that the crackling is not up to scratch, then put it under a hot grill for 10-15 minutes and watch as those glorious blisters of fat start to pop. And for a truly cheat’s way of saving your crackling and culinary reputation, the humble microwave does the trick. You won’t get the deeper shade of tan as you would under a grill but believe me, aside from the occasional squirts of popping fat and the hypnotic piece of meat going round and round, you will get a semi decent crackling.
What is your secret for a cracker crackling? Is it the choice of meat? Is the cooking temperature and time? If you do have some recipes for good crackling, allow me to volunteer as a taste tester.
Alvin Quah for Citysearch, November 2011
Photo credit: Flickr/SimonDoggett