A lot of people will be having a BBQ this weekend and many people will be cooking pork. The nation seems to have a love affair with pork crackling, but an awful lot of them are disappointed with the results.
One quite famous chef once commented that the only way to guarantee good crackling is to cut it off and put into under a grill. Now, it’s always a dangerous thing to criticise a professional, so I’m not going to. However, I am going to suggest some alternative methods in addition to the fine chef’s recommendation (I think I got away with that quite nicely).
There are two issues: texture and taste. Crackling that doesn’t crackle, soggy crackling or rock hard crackling that sees you making an appointment with the dentist, are not options. And bland tasting crackling is hard to achieve, but still people manage to serve it up.
Let’s start with texture. No surprise here, but I always cook my pork on a rotisserie BBQ, but if you insist on using an oven, you need heat! The other problem with some ovens is that there’s nowhere for the water to steam away, so you’re in danger of steaming the crackling and it will be soft.
Here’s what to do on a rotisserie. Firstly, allow your coals to go grey before cooking and make sure that your fire tray is full and that you are generating a good amount of heat. Our rotisserie BBQ’s all have height adjustment, so we start the joint or even a whole pig at a low height. For a small joint, cook for 10 minutes, or longer for a whole pig, 20/30 minutes. What you’re looking for is some fat coming from inside the joint. When this appears gently spread it over the crackling (use a long handled basting brush for safety). Now what happens is the skin begins to blister. Let this process carry on until the whole skin is blistering nicely. The colour of the skin should be a light golden colour.
Note of caution: Keep your eye on the skin during this cooking phase as one thing you don’t want to do is burn the skin. If this looks likely, just raise the cooking height.
Now raise the height for the remainder of cooking. As a rule of thumb, to get the right cooking height, there should be a steady drip of fat. If nothing drips you are too high and if the fat pours and causes flames, you are too low. You should then lower it down again for the last 10 to 15 minutes of cooking. Voila! Crispy crackling.
Now let’s look at taste. Purists will say that all you have to do is add salt. And I would go along with that, but make sure that the skin on your pork is well scored (only cut the skin and don’t go too deep and cut the meat itself). Use good quality salt and rub plenty of it into the score marks. Leave the joint for about 30 minutes for the salt to start to melt through the scoring.
The more adventurous among you might like to consider a spray. I have used a mixture of olive oil, white wine vinegar and honey. Mix the ingredients in these proportions: 1 x Olive oil, 2 x White wine vinegar, 1 x Runny honey.
Put the ingredients into a saucepan and stir whilst gently heating. If the mixture starts to thicken, dilute with some water. Now pour the mixture into your spray bottle and spray it over the skin or the pork before cooking.
You can baste the skin from time to time during cooking and if your spray bottle gets gummed up, just re-heat the mixture.
Have a great weekend.