Crunchy crackling is something we all strive to achieve on a pork roast – but there are plenty of things that can go wrong. Learn the tips and produce crunchy crackling every time.
Read the recipe notes below before buying the meat to ensure it is prepared correctly by the butcher.
1.5kg (about 3½ pounds) pork rack, chined (bones cut through) an skin scored
600-700g (about 1¼ pounds) piece of pork belly, skin scored
Salt and flaky sea salt
2 Tbsp plain flour
2 cups chicken or veal stock
1 Bring pork rack and belly to room temperature and pat dry with paper towels.
Preheat oven to 220°C (425°F). If your oven has a fanbake option, use that.
2 Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large shallow roasting tin over medium heat. When oil is nice and hot, lightly oil skin on pork rack and belly and sprinkle with flaky sea salt. Immediately the pork is salted, put rack and belly in tin skin side up. Transfer to oven and roast for 1 hour, or until juices are the palest rosy colour to almost clear, lowering temperature to 200°C (400°F) after about 35–40 minutes once skin has crackled; do not baste. Transfer to a board; do not cover.
3 Tilt roasting tin and scoop off fat, leaving about 1½ tablespoons of fat in tin. Stir in flour. Set pan over medium heat and let roux colour a little, stirring often. Add half the stock, stirring it with a fish slice or slotted spatula (the easiest way to squash any lumps!), then stir in remaining stock and bring to a boil. Cook gently for 2 minutes. Add salt to taste, then transfer gravy to a small saucepan (for reheating), scraping it all in, and cover pan with a lid. Reheat once the pork is sliced.
4 Slice pork thinly (some pieces will have bones, some will not) and arrange on a heated platter. Cut pork belly into chunks and serve separately. Reheat gravy and serve in a heated gravy jug.
Main photography Aaron McLean http://www.aaronmclean.com
No doubt you won’t want to have to scrub roasting tins on Christmas day. Line tins with tin foil (buy a roll of extra large tin foil) but as meat often sticks to tin foil, or your spoon pierces it when basting meats, line it with baking paper then put on your meat. No sticking, no mess, easy clean-up!
Follow these golden rules for the crunchiest crackling
Ask your butcher to score the skin carefully. If the cuts penetrate through the cap of fat into the meat, juices will escape and form steam and prevent the skin from crackling.
Remove pork joint from packaging once you get home. Pat it dry with paper towels then place it on a plate. Cover the pork meat with plastic wrap but leave the cap of skin and fat uncovered; this will help dry it out and produce crisper crackling. Refrigerate. You can store fresh pork joints like this for up to 3 days.
Bring pork joint to room temperature before cooking.
Wipe meat dry again with paper towels (wet or moist joints of meat will not crackle).
Heat a tablespoon or so of oil in a shallow-sided roasting dish over a medium heat (a high-sided dish may trap in some steam and also prevent the heat from reaching the crackling evenly).
Once the oil is hot, and not before, rub the pork skin and fat with oil and sprinkle with plenty of sea salt. Immediately add pork joint to roasting dish, skin and fat uppermost. Let the meat heat for 2-3 minutes, then transfer it to a preheated hot oven. Make the choice either to cook the pork on a high temperature for a shorter period (suitable for pork racks and small joints) or on a lower temperature for a longer time (suitable for large legs of pork). Do not baste!
Once the joint is removed from the oven, let it rest for 7-15 minutes, depending on the size of the joint. Do not cover the crackling. Smaller joints will cool down more quickly than large ones, so remove the crackling in one piece and set it aside uncovered and keep the joint draped with foil to keep it warm. If you prefer, the excess fat can be scraped from the back of the crackling and discarded. The crackling can be broken apart into rough chunks, or cut into strips with scissors. Large joints will keep their heat if kept in a warmish place such as the oven top (don’t put them in the warmer drawer of an oven as the cracking will soften and the pork may continue cooking). If the crackling hasn’t crackled, remove it and grill it briefly, but watch for flare-ups.
Slice the meat reasonably thinly with a long sharp thin-bladed knife.