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Crispy Fried Pigskins

Jan. 15, 2015

Adapted from Doug Keiles, Pit Master for Ribs Within Competition BBQ Team in Hillsborough, NJ.

New Jersey-based competition pit-master Doug Keiles let us in on his secret to making fried pork skins: He cooks the piece of pork the skin is attached to first. That provides you not just the meat to eat and the skins to fry, but the pork fat to sizzle them in.

Says Doug: “I learned how to make these cracklings from my Cuban friend, chef Renaldo Linares, Martino’s Restaurant, Somerville, NJ. The key to making the skin perfect for frying is getting rid of the entire fat layer first. The best way to accomplish this is by cooking the meat first. You can use skin-on pork belly or a skin-on pork butt. I like the skin of the pork shoulder the best. You can also use any cut of pork with skin. Just season it and let it cook until the fat can separate from the meat.”

CrispyPigskinWhile Doug slow cooks his pork outside on a grill or pit with apple wood chunks — and cooks his Ribs with salts and rub — we cheated by roasting our shoulder in an oven. When you get ready to fry the skin, note that the end result you’re looking for is for the skin to crisp and puff. When that happens, quickly remove the silvers of pork skin from the frying pan so they don’t burn.

Ingredients

1 7-10 pound pork shoulder or Boston butt, with fat and skin
1/2 cup seasoning salt
1/2 cup BBQ rub
1 cup BBQ sauce

Method

Preheat the oven to 275°F.

Place the shoulder or butt in a roasting pan or large cast iron skillet and dust all sides with the seasoning salt. Let sit for 20 minutes, then cover surface evenly with the rub.

Roast pork until the skin begins to pull back and the internal temperature of the meat is between 165 to 180°F, or about 4 hours.

Remove the pan from the oven, wrap the meat well with heavy duty aluminum foil, and continue to roast until the internal temperature reaches 190 to 195°F. This can take between 1 to 3 hours, depending on the size of your roast.

Remove the meat from the oven and carefully vent the foil, leaving the pork in the roasting pan. After 20 minutes, remove the foil. Separate the skin from the butt or shoulder and set aside on a cutting board or clean surface.

Carefully scrape the fat from the skin — it will look like leather — using a large kitchen knife, scraping away from you as you do. The skin should look like a piece of leather when you’re done. Set aside the removed fat for frying your pork skins, and use kitchen shears to cut the skin into small slivers about the width of linguine.

Cover a sheet pan with paper towels. In a medium-to-large cast iron skillet or heavy-bottomed pan, heat 2 inches of the pork fat or vegetable oil over high heat, to 375°F. (If the oil is not hot enough, the skin will get greasy. If the oil is too hot, the skin will blacken and burn.) Add a handful of slivers to the oil, being careful not to overcrowd the pan or splash any oil on yourself, and fry for 2 to 3 minutes or until they puff and crisp. Remove immediately to the sheet pan and salt lightly or sprinkle with a seasoned BBQ salt.

Once all the slivers of skin are fried and seasoned, shred the meat from the shoulder and mix with the juices that have collected at the bottom of the pan. Add a little of your favorite BBQ sauce if you desire — start with 1/2 cup and work from there — and top each serving with shreds of the crispy pork skin.

Excerpt From: Jimmy Carbone. “I Like Pig: Recipes and Inspiration from New York CIty’s Pig Island.” Buy it on iBooks.

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