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What Are Cracklins?

Lard is a key part of making cracklins.
Cracklins are made from pig fat and skin.
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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 26 March 2014
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Cracklins, or cracklings, are pieces of pork fat and skin that have been deep fried so that they turn crispy and golden. There are numerous preparation techniques for this food, with slightly different end results, ranging from very heavy, greasy chunks to light, fluffy pork skins. Typically, communities that continue to raise and slaughter their own pigs will also produce cracklins, which are sometimes treated as regional delicacies. It is also sometimes possible to find them at a market or butcher's, depending on where a person lives.

Food historians believe that cracklins probably emerged around the 1800s, in the British West Midlands, although they may well be older. They likely originated in attempts to render fat, because one traditional method for preparing cracklins also produces a large amount of lard, as the fat renders off while they cook. Typically, the end result will keep well at room temperature for a surprising amount of time, and most people eat cracklins as snack foods, although they may also be baked into breads, especially cornbread in the American south.

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To make cracklins, fatty cuts of pork are first sliced into very small pieces. They usually include part of the skin, a thick layer of fat, and a small amount of meat, although meat is excluded in some regions of the world. Before the cracklins are cut, the skin is usually seared to remove any leftover hair. Once the pork has been cut up, it is lowered into a large vat that has a small layer of fat in the bottom and then cooked at a high temperature.

As the cracklins cook, the fat renders out, slowly filling the pot with lard. The lard in turn deep fries the remaining skin and meat, turning it into crispy curls of golden pork. Once the cracklins turn a rich gold color, they are removed from the vat and allowed to drain. The remaining rendered lard can be allowed to cool and then packaged for future use.

As you might imagine, cracklins are not very good for you. They are quite high in fat, because although the fat renders out during the cooking process, they are deep fried, after all. Well made ones manage to be relatively dry, without an unpleasant greasy texture, but they are still high in fat and often high in sodium as well, as they are typically salted after frying. Cracklins may also be seasoned with things like hot pepper flakes or herbs, depending on regional taste; these additions do not generally impact the nutritional value.

Cracklins are also called pork rinds or pork skins. In some regions of the world, these terms refer to slightly different pork products, which can get confusing, especially for travelers.

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Discuss this Article

anon314110
Post 4

To correct the previous poster, cracklins do indeed include the skin. Look at any cajun recipe book. I just made some and shared with my dog as a treat after deboning a pork shoulder. If you just render the fat all you get is fat, with no 'cracklin'.

A quick pan fried method is to just trim some pork cuts that has the skin on it, trim the fat at the same time so you have a slab of skin and fat with little bits of meat. Then fry the whole thing over fairly high heat in a covered pan until the skin is nice and crispy and the fat side has rendered down mostly. Doesn't take more than 10 minutes on each side if that. Remove and cut into strips or chunks or however you want. Toss in a bag with your idea of seasonings or eat them as is. It ain't health food but is like bacon of the gods and fine for an occasional treat for those of us that like to avoid waste.

A simple serving suggestion is a 1/3 cup of cracklins over a cup of rice and drizzled with Sriracha sauce. Makes a very tasty meal. Don't forget the greens.

anon165527
Post 3

Down south, cracklins are made of only the pork fat rendered down to remove the fat, which is lard, used for cooking.

A true southern cook would not use pork skins to make cracklin bread! If you put pork skins in cornbread, you end up with something that seems like you are chomping on gravel! I wish people would get it right, cracklins are rendered fat, not skin.

CarrotIsland
Post 2

I love to use pork cracklin to make cracklin cornbread. I remember being little and my grandmother making a big pan of cracklin cornbread and it would be gone in a matter of minutes!

anon76475
Post 1

In the West Midlands, and in most of England, fried pork rinds are called "Scratchings". They are often available in pubs as a beer snack.

The crispy rind on roast pork is called "Crackling".

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