Secret to good crackling
The best way to always achieve good crackling with your pork is to do what I do. This may sound arrogant to some, but as I own a hog roasting business and have cooked enough pork over the years in various outdoor conditions, I do feel as though I have some experience worthy of writing this article.
Also, with various ovens I have cooked in, I feel as though there isn’t many conditions I could be finding myself in where I fail to get good crackling.
I’ve broken it down into stages.
Take the meat out of the fridge
This is how it begins. All meat, not just pork, should be cooked at room temperature. I can’t stress this enough. Cooking happens on the outside of the meat first, and the heat conducts through to the centre. If you meat is refrigerated, it is likely to be a 3 or 4 degrees in temperature. This is pretty cold and very cold as a starting point to begin cooking. At room temperature, we are looking at around 18-20 degrees. Quite a bit warmer. If you put meat into a hot oven when it is as cold as 3 or 4 degrees, two things are going to happen. Firstly the oven temperature is going to drop significantly which is the opposite of that we want to achieve, we need the temperature to be high and remain high when trying to get good crackling, and the second thing likely to happen with cold meat being placed into an oven, is that we are likely to dry out or even burn the outside of the meat before we get the inside cooked.
Always take your meat out the oven a couple of hours before cooking to allow it to get up to room temperature.
Score and salt the meat
Using a sharp knife, score the meat. Try not to cross the lines when scoring. It’s a very good idea to score the meat in the same direction as you intend to carve the meat when cooked. If you are really forward thinking, score the meat in the same places you are likely to carve the meat. This will aid carving the crispy crackling as it will already be scored, so carving will be easy without having to break up the crackling.
Salt the meat. Rub good quality sea salt or rock salt into the skin of the meat a couple of hours before cooking. I sometimes do this the night before and leave the meat in the fridge. Salting allows the moisture to be drawn out of the skin as well as seasoning the skin. This helps to start crackling the skin as it will already be drier than it was. Also, when you place the meat into the oven, the high temperature will cause the salt to appear to pop which is the start of the crackling process.
Oil the joint
Rub good quality nut based oil or vegetable oil into the skin and meat 30 minutes before you are going to put the meat into the oven. You can use Olive Oil, it won’t burn.
Start the oven
Get the oven hot. You need a good temperature of about 220 degrees C to begin with. Make sure the oven is up to temperature for a good 20 minutes before putting in the meat. I always cook at this temperature for around 30 minutes. You will see the skin popping and getting a good colour. This is called the crackling phase.
Reduce the heat
Lower the temperature of the oven to around 170 degrees C and cook for 30 minutes per lb in weight on top of the initial 30 minute crackling phase.
Rest the meat
After cooking, take it out the oven and allow it to rest at room temperature for 20 minutes before carving and serving. Do not under any circumstances carve the meat until it has rested. Patience is a virtue, pour yourself a glass of wine, go for a walk, go to the pub, mow the lawn but to not carve the meat until it has had a good 20 minutes of resting time.