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Culinary Class: TLP’s Pork Cracklins

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Snap, Cracklin, Pop

Written by Emily Storrow | Photography by Jonathan Boncek

 

Making the Cajun Classic

From the land of boudin, backbone stew, and crawfish comes cracklins, crispy-fried bits of pork belly akin to carnivorous popcorn. Known to Cajuns as gratons, they’re sold from gas stations and corner stores in brown paper bags spotted with grease and eaten on the road, in the stands of a Friday-night football game, for breakfast—you name it.

Unlike pork rinds, which are fried skin with no fat, cracklins are cubes of pork belly with distinctive layers of skin, fat, and meat. A by-product of the boucherie, they’re traditionally made outdoors in large pots using a long-handled wooden paddle. But the home cook can also craft a stovetop batch when the cracklin cravings hit. Keep in mind that you’ll need a deep-fat thermometer. Place the pork belly in the freezer for fifteen minutes prior to slicing for a firmer texture. Cracklins owe their decadence to two stages of frying. In the first, the pork belly is rendered for upward of an hour. But it’s during the second cook that the cracklins really fry up (use a mesh splatter guard and wear long sleeves to avoid any oil burns) and develop their rich brown hue. Adjust your spice blend for higher heat, grab a cold beer, and dig in.

Ingredients

•2 pounds pork belly, skin on

•2 tablespoons salt

•1 tablespoon smoked paprika

•2 teaspoons cayenne pepper

•2 teaspoons garlic powder

•2 teaspoons onion powder

•2 teaspoons white pepper

•2 teaspoons ground thyme

•1 teaspoon black pepper

•2 cups pork lard or neutral oil for frying

Makes about 2 cups