We’ve all seen the bags of pork rinds capping the aisles in just about every 7-Eleven or gas station across the country. Pork rinds are one of those foods that people are fiercely passionate about—you are either passionately in love with them or passionately disgusted. There’s just no in-between. For us, we’ve always been somewhat disturbed by the thought of them. A $0.99 bag of dried, crispy meat never sat well with us, so much so that Amir has always steered clear of tasting them for himself, and Chrystal swore them off for good. It wasn’t until last year’s First Annual Foodbuzz Blogger Festival in San Francisco that we broke through those prejudices for the first time. 4505 Meats served up a platter of fresh chicharrones, or fried pork rinds, at the conference. And, surprisingly, these were good—bomb actually! Each bite was soft but still had a light crisp. They melted on your tongue and popped in your mouth. They were, do we dare say, perfect! Have we been wrong about pork rinds this whole time? We had to recreate them for ourselves just to be sure.
This past February we decided to fry them up for the Stir-It 28 benefit. (Yes, we know it’s September. Somehow this post got lost in the shuffle of things. Better late than never, right?) We found a wonderful chicharrones post from Inuyaki that was modeled after the rinds from 4505 Meats, and there was even a short tutorial video. After checking it out, we celebrated at how easy these are to make, as it’s just a few simple steps: boil ’em, dry ’em, fry ’em, season ’em. Easy! Well not quite.
The bad memories flooded in at the idea of wiggly pork skin–not the most appealing thought as you can imagine (you don’t even want to see the picture of that). Putting these apprehensions aside, we were ready to dig in and go for it! First mission, get the pig skin. This task proved easier said than done. The butchers at every major grocery store laughed when asked if they sold pork skin. You may have better luck at your local butcher, but we learned quickly that a trip to a smaller market would be the way to go. Some of our neighborhood Latin markets had various parts of the pig wrapped up for sale—nothing went to waste! Countless Latin butcheries, or carnicerías, sprinkled all over the city had just what we needed.
Friends, disregard any comment prior to February 2010 in reference to our disdain for pork rinds. It has been confirmed that these crunchy, crispy, flavorful pig pieces are indeed spectacular. But only when they are fresh. No more stale bags of over processed pork bites. Fry them yourself, and you will quickly know and understand the difference. We also learned that, though the basic cooking steps are simple, the most important ingredient in making these is time. Unfortunately, that part of the recipe has no substitution, so plan accordingly in your own chicharrones adventures. When you’re in the “dry ’em” stage, make sure you lose as much of the moisture as possible. The skin should look like little shards of glass or hard plastic (see the top photo). After a trip to the deep fryer, seemingly inedible rectangles of meat magically morph into puffy, savory rinds that crackle in your month. Although messing around with large sheets of animal skin is not the most appetizing experience to have in the kitchen, you can get past it. When you do, you’ll be happy you left the dollar pork rinds at the convenience store. These will be gone in a flash!
Chicharrones (Fried Pork Rinds) – Serves about 12 (Adapted from Inuyaki)
1 pound fresh pork skin, cut into large square sheets
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon shichimi togarashi (Japanese 7-spice powder)
1 tablespoon kosher salt
Vegetable or canola oil
1. Place the squares of pork skin into a large pot of water. Bring to a boil, cover, reduce heat, and let simmer for 90 minutes. Let cool to touch.
2. Drain liquid and lay skin on flat baking sheets. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours to overnight.
3. Remove from fridge and carefully remove any remaining fat. Dry in a food dehydrator according to the machine’s instructions for 12 hours. (If you don’t have a dehydrator, place the skin on parchment paper lined or lightly oiled baking sheets in a pre-heated oven at 150 degrees. Carefully prop oven door open and dry for 12 hours, rotating sheets a few times throughout the process to ensure even drying. When done, meat will be completely leathery and hard.)
4. Heat several cups of oil in a large pot over medium high heat. Meanwhile, break the dry meat sheets into 1-2″ pieces. Mix the sugar, 7-spice powder, and salt in a small bowl. When oil reaches approximately 400 degrees, fry one piece at a time for 10-12 seconds. Remove from oil and let cool on paper towels. Immediately sprinkle with the sugar and spice mixture, and serve hot or at room temperature. Keep in large freezer bags or in an air-tight container for up to 3 days.
There are different ways you can make this new favorite snack. Our friend Courtney at Coco Cooks posted her pork scratchings, which are salted and baked. The options are endless!
Click HERE for the printable recipe.