Scraped Skin

Pig Skin


While the skins of beef and sheep are almost always made into leather, pig skins are a culinary prize prepared in numerous ways, particularly in Latin America, China and Southeast Asia. Of course their use to make American footballs is also well known. The photo shows the inside side of a skin recovered from a picnic shoulder roast and properly scraped to remove excess fat (which should be rendered into lard and tasty cracklings). This skin weighed 1/2 pound, but one from a leg would weigh about 3/4 pound.

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Fresh Pig Skins   -   Cuero de Puerco
Roll of Skin

Because the skins are commercially important, both for selling fresh and for processing into Pork Rinds, meat processors have special machines to remove the fat from the inside side. Buying commercially prepared pig skins avoids the difficult and tedious job of scraping the fat by hand. The roll shown is from a pork belly. Hide recovered from other parts of the pig may be thicker and will be folded rather than rolled.

Buying:   Your best chance of finding commercial pig skins is in a Carniceria (Mexican meat market) or meat section of a regular market that serves a heavily Mexican community.

Cooking:   For most recipes, such as Thai pig skin salads, pork belly skin should be simmered for about 45 minutes. Skin from other parts of the pig may take a bit longer. It is done when still slightly chewy, but not too much if it will be served cold because it will firm up quite a bit when cold. To make chicharrónes the skin is first thoroughly dried.

Pickled Pig Skins
Pickled Skins Jars of pickled pig skins are often found in markets serving a Mexican community. Unfortunately some brands are badly made, overcooked until mushy and packed with too much vinegar. A proper pickled pig skin should be firm, moderately chewy and pickled in a moderate vinegar brine. The photo specimens were by Faraon, a reliable specialty distributor in Los Angeles, and they were excellent.

Pork Rinds - Chicharrón Delgado - [Chicharrón de Cerdo]
Fried Skins

A popular snack in the United states, pork skins dried, then deep fried. Consumption peaked very high during the Atkins diet craze but has now dropped back to a minor item. The term "delgado" means thin, to differentiate from "gordito", thick. Caution: in Spanish speaking countries other than Mexico and the U.S. "Chicharrón" can mean something quite different and not always involving pig skins or even pig. Chicharrón describes a cooking method, not an ingredient.

The photo specimens were up to 15 inches long and weighed about 3-1/2 ounces per piece, costing US $4.99/pound, They were purchased from a large market serving Altadena, CA, a mixed white, Mexican and black community in the process of gentrification. Purchased this way they tend to be less salty than packaged products, salt being the main health complaint against this snack food (they have no carbs, high protein and less fat than potato chips). This form is not ideal for Chicharrónes en Salsa Verde as they become too chewy when exposed to the salsa, for that you want the lightest, fluffiest chicharrónes you can get. For the ultimate in light and fluffy make them yourself by our recipe for Chicharrónes.

Chicharrón Gordito - [Chicharrón de Puerco]
Thick Skins

The name meaning "thick", these pork rinds have the fat layer and some meat included. The place I bought them from keeps them quite hot, but they are still much better purchased from a street vendor right out of the pan when the meat part will still be very tender. They are not as fatty as you'd think because most of the fat is rendered out, but they are fattier than chicharrónes delgado.

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©Andrew Grygus - agryg@clovegaden.com - Photos on this page not otherwise credited are © cg1 - Linking to and non-commercial use of this page permitted