7 Foolproof Steps to Achieving Perfect Crackling Every Time

Achieve perfect crackling every time with these 7 steps: score the skin, preheat the oven, salt the pork rind, dry the skin, apply oil coating, cook at the right temperature, and let the pork rest for juicy, flavorful results.

Pork roast with crackling on a black plate  ready to eat

Biting into a piece of perfectly cooked pork crackling is incredibly satisfying, with its delightful crunch and savory flavor. Perfecting this crispy skin can be challenging for newcomers to pork roasts. This blog post provides seven foolproof tips to simplify the process, based on expert advice and seasoned cooks’ experiences, helping you achieve crispy crackling every time you roast. Let’s dive in!

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1. Score the Skin

"Pork belly with scored skin, uncooked on a wooden cutting board"

Scoring the skin of the pork is a common practice among chefs and home cooks alike. It refers to making shallow cuts across the skin’s surface using a sharp knife. But why is this step necessary? For starters, it allows for better absorption of flavors. When you score the skin, you create openings for the seasoning – be it salt, pepper, or your choice of herbs and spices – to penetrate deeper into the meat. This results in more flavorful meat once cooked.

Furthermore, scoring also aids in rendering the fat underneath the skin. As the fat bubbles up during cooking, it helps the skin become more crispy and delicious. However, it is essential not to cut too deep; otherwise, the juices might escape, leading to dry meat and patches of rubbery skin.

Here are the steps on How to Properly Score the Skin:

  • Place the pork roast on a clean cutting board, skin-side up
  • Use a sharp knife and a steady hand
  • Make shallow cuts about 1 cm apart on the skin, without reaching the meat underneath
  • Rotate the roast and score again at right angles to create a diamond pattern
  • Scoring enhances the crackling’s texture and gives it an appealing look

2. Preheat the Oven to High Temperature

Cropped view of person's hand setting time in oven in kitchen. Bakery concept. Place for cooking. Household equipment usage. Preparing dinner process

High heat plays a pivotal role in achieving that coveted crispy pork crackling. When you expose the scored and seasoned pork skin to high temperatures, the heat causes the water in the skin to rapidly evaporate, leaving behind a crisped-up skin. Moreover, high heat aids in rendering the fat more effectively, which further contributes to the crispiness of the crackling.

For perfect pork crackling:

  • Preheat oven to 220°C (200°C for fan-forced)
  • Place pork rind-side up on a rack over a baking dish
  • Roast for 40-50 minutes until bubbles form and the rind turns golden and crisp
  • Let it cool for 5 minutes before serving

3. Salt the Pork Rind

Salt is the crackling maker’s best friend. It works wonders in drying out the skin, which is essential for crispy crackling. Besides, salt also penetrates the skin and the meat, enhancing its flavors. But how does it work? Salt absorbs moisture from the skin’s surface, making it dry and thus, more susceptible to crisping up during roasting.

Steps on how to properly salt the pork rind:

  • Use sea salt or coarse salt for salting the pork rind
  • Pat the skin dry with a paper towel
  • Rub the salt thoroughly into the scored skin
  • Ensure the salt gets into the cuts for maximum flavor absorption
  • Leave the pork uncovered in the fridge overnight or for at least three hours before roasting
  • This step helps in evaporating additional moisture, leading to superior crackling.

4. Dry the Skin

African American hands in gloves rub down pot roast with dry rub seasoning.

Drying the skin is crucial in achieving crispy crackling. Any moisture left on the skin can hinder the crackling process as it prevents the skin from reaching the high temperature needed for it to crisp up. It’s similar to trying to sear wet scallops; you’ll end up steaming them instead of achieving a golden crust.

There are several ways to dry the skin before roasting. One traditional method is to pat the skin dry with paper towels and then leave the pork uncovered in the fridge overnight. This helps to evaporate any residual moisture. Alternatively, you can pour boiling water over the skin, which not only dries out the skin but also helps the skin to puff up during roasting. If you’re in a rush, a hairdryer set on a cool setting can be used to blow-dry the skin before seasoning and roasting.

5. Apply Oil Coating

Unrecognizable person glazing a pork belly before roasting. Selective focus.

Applying an oil coating to the skin is an essential step for achieving perfect crackling. The oil helps to conduct heat more effectively across the skin’s surface, ensuring it crisps up evenly. It also helps the salt stick to the skin, which aids in drying it out and enhancing the flavor.

Applying oil coating:

  • Drizzle a small amount of vegetable or olive oil over the salted pork skin
  • Use your hands or a pastry brush to spread the oil evenly
  • Ensure the oil gets into all the scored cuts
  • Aim for a uniformly crispy and delicious crackling

6. Cook the Pork at the Right Temperature and Time

Cooking crispy pork belly in air fryer. Fast and easy crispy food cooking with little or no fat by circulating hot air inside the basket

Cooking the pork at the right temperature and for the correct duration is critical for achieving perfect crackling. As mentioned earlier, high heat is needed to crisp up the skin. However, to ensure the meat is tender and juicy, slow cooking at a lower temperature is also required. So, how can we reconcile these two requirements?

The trick lies in adjusting the oven temperature during cooking. Start by roasting the pork at a lower temperature, around 160°C, for about 2.5 hours. This slow roast phase helps to break down the tough meat, making it beautifully juicy. Then, crank up the heat to 250°C or as high as your oven will go, and roast for another 30 minutes. This high-heat blast puffs up the skin, turning it into crispy, golden crackling. Remember to rotate the pan as needed for cooking.

7: Let the Pork Rest

Once the pork is out of the oven with its crackling perfectly crispy, it’s natural to want to dive right in. However, patience is key here. Allowing the pork to rest before slicing into it serves two crucial purposes. First, it lets the juices redistribute throughout the meat, ensuring every bite is juicy and flavorful. Second, it helps to maintain the crispiness of the crackling as it cools down and firms up during this resting period.

Here’s the guide to properly resting pork while preserving the crackling’s crispness:

  • Remove the pork from the oven
  • Let the pork sit on the kitchen counter, uncovered, for 10-15 minutes
  • Use this time to prepare gravy using the pan juices or side dishes
  • After the resting period, carve the pork and serve it with its perfect crackling

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