I was cleaning out my iMovies and came across this quick clip my son James filmed a while ago. I’d just been to Bar Symon to break down a hog American style. Matt Harlan was the chef there (he’s now back at Lolita, front of the house) and the kitchen was huge; he had a hog ready and a big table to break it down on. I’d done it and written about it but needed to be able to teach someone else to do it.  And I needed to be sure my verbal descriptions were accurate.

After we’d finished both sides, and Donna and I were packing to go, Matt, aka Chatty Matty, gave me a piece of their prepared pork skins.  His boss, Michael Symon, had picked up the technique from Paul Kahan, who serves them at Publican in Chicago. Often, cracklins, pork rinds, chicharrónes, are thick, fatty and crunchy-chewy. It all depends on how much fat you take off.  To cook any pig skin, you cook it low and slow in moist environment (water, stock, or sous vide). Then you cook it in oil and it becomes delectably crisp.  The skin itself is connective tissue—protein, not fat.  But as any one who has deep fried ears or skin-on pork belly knows, the skin is still filled with water and pops and spits when you put it in the oil

The trick here is to get all the water out before you cook it. Braise the skin in water or stock with aromats and 1% to 2% salt (these guys really need salt for flavor). When the skin is tender enough to poke finger and thumb through, let it cool in the liquid (the liquid can be strained and added to any stock for great body; it’s got much of the skin’s protein in it), then scrape off all the fat, dehydrate till it’s paper thin and completely brittle, then fry it in 350 degree oil.  Season with salt and some hot smoked paprika.  So good. (See for yourself. And thank you James for shooting and editing the video!) If you don’t have a ready supply of pig skin, and can’t bear to go a whole day without this incredible food, head to Kahan’s Publican. No better afternoon snack!


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© 2011 Michael Ruhlman. Photo © 2011 Donna Turner-Ruhlman. All rights reserved



18 Wonderful responses to “Pig Skin/Chicharrones”

  • Jason Sandeman

    That is totally awesome! It puffs up like rice noodles in a fryer after a while. I can see a whole bunch of uses for something like that – as a garnish for example. Perhaps just a boatload of house seasoning salt and beers as well. Makes for a good 5 – 7 item!

  • melissa

    really fresh chicharrones are so amazing. We had some delicious ones at the Publican in Chicago (highly recommended if you are a lover of fine pork). They practically dissolve in your mouth, they’re so light, but with the most delightful Pop Rocks-like crackle.

  • Schlake

    Somewhat related, I tried making chitterlings recently. It was an unmitigated disaster. The smell. Oh the smell. It was horrible. And I started making them three hours after the pig was no longer with us, so they weren’t even the least bit clean. Dishes I washed in the dishwasher smelled like them for three wash cycles. And I had no idea how long to boil, so I didn’t do it long enough. If I had seen this is might have saved me a lot of culinary misery.

  • Genevieve

    The chicharrones at Publican (along with the marrow at Lola) are on my list of best appetizers ever…and now I need to set up a road trip… Thanks for sharing!

  • Dan

    Fantastic video!

    (BTW, “chicharrones” doesn’t have an accent mark but the singular form “chicharrón” does. Sorry, I’m a Spanish teacher / PhD candidate and I can’t help myself, even during the summer.)

    Thank you for providing me with hours and hours of great reading and many great techniques over the years.

  • The Yummy Mummy

    Just watched this with Lucy, my 6 year old. She is very jazzed to make these this weekend. She likes food that moves, pops & cracks.

    And James did a pretty rockin’ job with the filming 🙂


  • former butcher

    It is so interesting how different cultures deal with the skin of the pig. I would have to award first place to the home of chicharrones (cue the Mexican national anthem). And while I am a huge fan of them out of a plastic bag, home-made chicharrones are even better! Sadly, I have yet to sample pork skin at a pig roast, even when cooked in one of those amazing “Cuban Box” grills, that lived up to the hype.

  • Amanda

    I love this so much! Coming from a Filipino background, our chicharon is slightly different (doesn’t puff up so much), but I adore this. Thanks so much for sharing!

  • Randy

    My wife, from Mexico, makes them. They do not puff up so much, and has a more denser flavor, which I like. The paprika…I prefer a good garlic salt, but to each his own. You forgot….what kind of beer do you drink with them? I like a good pale, like Corona. And believe it or not, I have dipped these in butter and ate them….but my wife told the doc and he ripped me a new one. Excellent video and it is great that you get the kid thinking about how to cook a great and easy snack instead of the junk today.

  • Wilma de Soto

    Gotta have chicharrón in Bayamon, PR! Next, will you show us chicharrón de pollo, (chicken chicharrón) or using pork chicharrón in mofongo?

  • Food_Obsessed

    ummm… pig skin?! there’s no way! reminds me though – did you see that promo for ‘Extreme Chef’ or whatever on the food network?? forget pig skin lol they like, skin a bear and cook rattlesnake for breakfast! for real though – too much or just crazy cool??

    • foodlover

      OMG YES! I just saw a preview for this show! It airs on Sunday night at 10:30pm/9:30c! I cannot wait!

  • shotgunner

    I love that your kitchen is not surgery suite clean. You have a real kitchen, that is lived in! Thanks for the vid!

  • EB

    I love the fact that I live in the Mission district in San Francisco and can buy sheets of the stuff fresh from the corner store. Mmmm piggy deliciousness….

  • allen

    Thanks for sharing, James is a future Stanley Kubrick, love that applause soundtrack, too funny!


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