Roast pork with crackling

Cripes. Make that “Roast pork with award-winning crackling”. A few years after I wrote the post below, the recipe ended up being tested on the Guardian’s Word of Mouth blog, where it beat the competition hollow. This would be unremarkable it that competition hadn’t been Hugh F-W, Delia, Prue Leith, Good Housekeeping and Simon Hopkinson. Get to it with that hairdryer.

These days, it can be hard to find meat that hasn’t been treated in processing with water and glucose to make it moister and heavier. Even when your joint of pork is free from these additives, it can be difficult to treat it in a way that results in roast pork with a popcorn-crisp, crackling skin. When you do manage it, puffed, salty crackling is a delectable thing of wonder. The technique has a lot to do with using varied cooking temperatures, and absolutely everything to do with making sure the skin is prepared properly before it even gets anywhere near the oven.

Modern joints are harder to raise a crackling skin from than the joints I remember from when I was a little girl. This has a lot to do with consumer demand for extra-lean, muscly meat, which just doesn’t have enough fat to make the magic happen. Look for a joint with plenty of fat under the skin. This is a 2kg rolled loin: enough to serve six people with plenty for sandwiches later. Although convenient, rolled joints are also hard to make crackle, especially where the skin meets the roasting tin. Don’t despair, though; you can still make it work with a bit of preparation.

The day before you eat, the skin of your pork must be dried thoroughly with paper kitchen towels, and scored well. Even if your butcher has already scored it, you will probably benefit from making sure the scoring is fine and regular, so you will want to add your own cuts to the skin. Use a craft knife on the cold skin of the meat (this is easiest when the skin and fat are cold and firm), scoring it in lines about half a centimetre apart. When the joint cooks, the fat will melt and bubble through those lines, crisping the skin it touches. Rub salt into the skin, as if the pork were somebody you are particularly fond of who is demanding a lovely exfoliating massage.

Now prepare to look slightly unbalanced in front of any visitors, and take a hairdryer to the skin of the meat until it’s absolutely bone dry. Wrap your joint in a teatowel and refrigerate it overnight. (The atmosphere in your fridge is extremely dry, and this will help any more moisture to evaporate.)

On the day you cook it, rub some more salt into the skin, making sure it gets through the cracks where you scored it and into the fat. Put a bed of onions at the bottom of a metal roasting dish and rest the pork on top of it. Heat up a large knob of good pork dripping or goose fat (use goose fat in preference to one of those white blocks of lard) over a high flame in a small saucepan and pour the searing hot fat over the skin, then put the roasting tin in the oven at a very hot 220°C. After quarter of an hour, lower the heat to 180°C and cook the joint for two hours, basting every 20 minutes. Finally, turn the heat back up again for a final quarter of an hour – this should cause your minutely prepared skin to puff up and crackle deliciously. (Keep an eye on it and leave it in for a few minutes longer if necessary.)

Every family has its own gravy method, just like Tolstoy said. (Mr Weasel tells me that this is not what Tolstoy said at all. Pshaw. It’s what he should have said.) While you rest the joint for ten minutes in a warm place, make gravy to your family recipe. Remove the carapace of crackling, carve the meat and divide the splintering crackling between the plates. Serve with Yorkshire pudding, roast potatoes, green vegetables and apple sauce. Hooray for the old days.

45 Replies to “Roast pork with crackling”

  1. While skimming “rolled joints are also hard to make crackle” caught my eye and I had to reread the paragraph a few times just to make sure you were still talking about pork 😮

    It looks delicious!

  2. I was reading this, salivating, and then began asking about the recipe for making chicharrones, since it too is the crackling of the pork body. I asked questions of my house expert, and she said: “First, we must shave the pig.” So then I was casting my memory back … I guess the subsurface hair burns off in the deep frying. See, there are so many things we don’t have to fuss with. I mean, when was the last time you had to shave a pig?

  3. I was never a real fan of pork but strangely I love crackling and bacon and ham … Ok, maybe I do so like pork …

    One day when I have space in my fridge and a bunch of hungry friend over, I will make this roast pork. Yummers.

  4. What a mission to find a recipe for plain Pork Roast with Crackling. Yours worked perfectly and was delicious. Bob – South Africa

  5. Thank you, thank you for this detailed write-up! I’ve been wanting to try this for myself for a few weeks now and the recipes I’ve found so far are a bit lacking.

    Now, I’m off to the shops…

  6. My Sister-in-Law followed this recipe and it is absolutely delicious! Ive searched long and hard for a good pork and crackling recipe and this is absolutely IT. Perfect. THANK YOU!!!

    Laura W

  7. This is a PERFECT recipe. I have NEVER made a pork that turned out as good as the one i made, following your instructions. Wanna divorce that weasle guy and marry me?


  8. I shall sadly have to decline, HG. But thanks for the offer – I’ll bear it in mind in case he dies unexpectedly or leaves me for a supermodel.

  9. I love crackling done this way. When I was a kid (many years ago :)that's how my mother did it all the time. Unfortunately, if I tried eating it now I am worried I might break a tooth.

  10. Using this recipe for our pork on Christmas day,as have a family of craking lovers and don't want to dissapoint.A very Happy Christmas to all.

  11. Thank you so much for restoring my faith in crackling!

    I was bit worried about trying this because I had tried making crackling (using a pork belly joint, bone in) 3 or 4 times before and it never worked out. However I seen a nice joint in the supermarket yesterday I thought I would give it one last go.

    I am delighted to say it was a roaring success. The crackling was a beautiful golden colour and it was crunchy and tasty. I couldn’t get enough! It was marvellous. I served it with mashed potato, creamed turnip, along with a trio of roasted vegetables; sweet potato, carrot and parsnip. I rounded it off with yorkshire puddings filled with onion gravy. It was quite a feast! The only small amendment I made was a quick 2 minute blast under the grill at the end to help bubble up the crackling.

    I will definitely be making this again. Thank you!


  12. It is in the oven now, and is smelling awesome already. I have a joint that came from a Gloucester Old Spot mated with a wild boar, the meat looks darker than normal for pork, but there is a good layer of fat, so I’m hoping for some wonderful crackling. My Deerhounds are waiting for the crackling too, as two of them have decided to nap right in front of the cooker as the pork roasts.

  13. I happened across this article yesterday in my search to deter yet another failed of rather dismal crackling attempt! I obviously didn’t have the time to leave the meat overnight but the result was fabulous, I have finally found a recipe that works, yippee and many many thanks, will try overnight next time!! 🙂

  14. Wow, this really, REALLY works! And I’m pretty sure that it’s the hairdryer and salt that does the trick, because I didn’t have time to leave it overnight in the fridge. Two other tips: first, you can have crispy crackling AND melt in the mouth meat if you slow-roast the joint (rolled shoulder or leg are both particularly good this way). Try roasting for 6-8 hours (yes) at about 110deg C. You still need to do the 30 mins at the beginning and the end at 240deg C for the crackling, but the flavour and texture of the meat is simply incredible. Second, try stuffing the joint with a chopped/ground mixture of fennel seeds, garlic, salt, sage (dried or fresh) and olive oil. The whole mixture should have the consistency of wet sand, and you make a hole lengthways all the way through the joint with the handle of a wooden spoon, or with a knife sharpening steel, then push the mixture all the way through the joint from both ends. I don’t think there is a beter way to cook pork.

  15. Found your recipe on the day I cooked the pork so had to skip the overnight bit, but it worked. Thank you very much.

  16. Quick question: any guess for how long I should bake the meat if it’s 3kg? I saw in the directions, you used a 2kg joint. Thanks!

  17. The Hongkong style pork belly recipe ask for the belly to be boiled first before going in the fridge to dry out the skin.
    Has anyone tried this ? and what is the difference in result as opposed to not boiling it ?

  18. Wow! Best pork ever!!! I actually used a 2.3kg pork leg and followed the recipe here. I have never cooked roast pork with crackling before so I was quite nervous as there are so many different methods to get a good crackling. Also could not find pork loin in my local supermarket but this recipe worked incredibly well! The crackling was delicious!!! And the meat was so tender it was falling apart as we were carving it. Will always make roast pork this way, even if I did get strange looks from my family as I got out the hair dryer to dry the pork!

  19. Found this method via guardian article as discussed. Used it for my first ever roast pork dinner. Crackling amazing! Am queen of crackling thanks to you!!

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