I have been so obsessed with roasting pork with crackling this year that I've made it 7 times the past 7 months. Including one occasion where my friends and I made a huge, huge batch of it when we were cooking for a charity lunch to feed close to 100 people while raising funds for some non-profit organisations in Melbourne.
Love crackling but so frustrated when you get crispy crackling but overcooked meat? Or moist meat but chewy crackling? Or good crackling on some parts only? I hear ya...
After so much experimentation, I feel like I've finally cracked it. Pun intended, hur hur... The thing is, I've tried so many methods that people swear by but for some reason, it just doesn't work for me. I then realised that no matter how much people say that they've got "the best roast pork with crackling recipe ever", it may not work for everyone. Everyone's got different ways of achieving the same result. Every method has its own logic and rationale. However, there's so many variables (from the oven, to the pork, to the person itself) that at the end of the day, it really is just about finding one that works best for you.
To date, I have officially made roast pork 12 times. I was ecstatic when my very first attempt 2 years ago turned out so successful. Then, for some reason, I just could not get it right the next 3 times for some damn reason so I stopped for a very long time. I have tried everything since from:
- leaving pork covered/uncovered in the fridge overnight
- taking pork out midway to stab the skin vigorously with fork
- brushing skin with vinegar
- salting the skin few hours before/overnight
- salting the skin just before roasting
- oil or no oil on the skin
- pouring hot water on the pork
- roasting it covered/uncovered in the oven
- scoring the skin/not scoring the skin
- high heat first, then low heat later
- low heat first, then high heat later
I've made so many mistakes and learned from every single one. And nothing annoyed me more than when people say to me, "maybe it's because you didn't leave it in the fridge uncovered overnight". PLEASE.
After reading this post by my good friend Sarah, I was inspired to try again. I think the biggest thing she's pointed out is that the pork really does need to spend enough time in the oven. This is where it gets tricky. You need to roast it long enough that it COMPLETELY crackles, but not so long that your meat dries out. Which is why I thought her method of roasting it covered first at a low temperature, before uncovering it at the end was so clever. It yielded a seriously moist meat while giving it the time it needed.
Most of those methods I've tried made very little difference and wasn't as helpful compared to roasting it longer in the oven. Sure, you could do the usual method of just cooking it at higher temperature, uncovered, shorter amount of time. But this method that Sarah suggested is way more fail proof and reliable for consistent results every time. There are people out there who don't struggle with having good results each time, but I did until I used this method.
And if you're wondering, the main difference between recipes like these and the Chinese Roasted Crispy Skin Pork (烧肉) is that the Chinese version is usually roasted with charcoal until skin is BLACK before scraping off all the burnt bits. This leaves extra smoky flavour in the meat but you get a much thinner but crispy skin as most of it has been removed. I prefer this normal roast pork version more because you get thick, crunchy crackling.
Made this Roast Pork with Crackling and also my easy and delicious Beef Ribs Pasta (recipe: here) for the charity lunch
Yes, that's right... Pork in milk
After much tweaking, I find this recipe to be simplest and highest chance of success. Also, I've adjusted the flavour profile to completely suit my liking. Don't be alarmed when you see milk in the recipe, it actually is quite common to cook pork in milk (brings out the sweetness) and sitting it on a bed of garlic just does magic to the flavours. Plus, I think that the super buttery mash and zesty, fresh orange and pomegranate rocket salad really is my favourite combo to go with the roast pork by far. You'll see that I make it together all the time. Also, I still prefer making this with pork belly instead of other cuts like leg or shoulder simply because of the meat to skin ratio.
I host dinners at my place fairly often and the reason why I LOVE making this so often because it's incredibly delicious and takes minimal effort to cook. Plus, crackling gets EVERYBODY excited, which is why it's such a treat to share with your guests.
Giving them the joy of seeing crackling on the table, before hearing the loud crunchy sounds it makes when they bite into it and followed by being pleasantly surprised that it's crunchier than they expected. Really is a gift worth sharing. This pork crackling recipe is just so easy that anyone can make it! Why? Because there honestly is close to no cooking involved. Just chuck the things together and whack it in the oven.
So, I hope you give this one a go. Not only because you will enjoy it, but you know that your friends and family will as well.
PERFECT for dinner parties!
Roast pork shoulder... But I still prefer belly
Don't need to score the skin but I just find that it makes it easier to carve
Easy Roast Pork in Milk with Crackling
(inspired by this recipe by Sarah Cooks)
1 slab of pork belly (1.5kg - 2.5kg)
1 bulb of garlic
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 tsp oil
Cracked sea salt
Fennel seeds (optional)
Note: You can just use 1 cup of milk and omit the wine, if you like
Note: You can just use 1 cup of milk and omit the wine, if you like
1. Leave the pork skin side up and uncovered in the fridge overnight. Remove from fridge just before cooking and score the meat with lines at 1cm apart.
2. Preheat the oven to 130°C. Place the garlic on its side and slice it directly in half. Place at the bottom of a baking tray. Place the pork belly (meat side down) on top of the garlic.
3. Pour the milk and white wine around the pork, making sure it doesn't touch the skin.
4. Rub the oil on the skin (helps salt stick). Crack lots and lots of sea salt on the skin until you see a visible layer on top. Sprinkle with some fennel seeds, if using.
5. Wrap the baking tray with aluminium foil, making sure the tray is airtight but doesn't touch the skin of the pork. Otherwise, salt won't dissolve and will form a salt crust instead of crackling.
6. Bake in oven for 2.5 hours. After that, remove the foil and increase the heat to 240°C. Bake for a further 30 minutes or until skin has completely crackled.
7. Remove meat from tray and leave to rest for 15 minutes before carving to serve.
Yes! Moist meat, perfect crackling throughout. Win.
Buttery Mash Potato
5 medium to large potatoes
Cracked salt and pepper
To garnish: Cayenne pepper or paprika
1. Cut potatoes into cubes and boil in water until extremely fork tender. You don't have to peel the potatoes if you don't want to, I rarely do. Am that lazy.
2. Drain the potatoes in a colander and return back to the pot. While hot, add in the butter and mash with potato masher or wooden spoon until butter melted. Never actually owned a potato masher.
3. Add milk until desired consistency is reached. If you like your mash thin, add more milk.
4. Add cracked salt and pepper to taste. Dish in bowl or individual plates. Garnish with paprika or cayenne pepper (for looks).
Orange and Pomegranate Rocket Salad
Extra virgin olive oil
Balsamic or wine vinegar
1. Rinse and drain rocket leaves. Remove the seeds from the pomegranate and cut the oranges into segments. Quantity is as you like.
2. Add in extra virgin olive oil and vinegar and mix until salad leaves are lightly coated. Crack a little bit of salt to taste.
3. Mix pomegranate seeds and sliced oranges.