Fool-proof pork crackling
FOOL-PROOF PORK CRACKLING
Our twice-cooked masterstock pork belly is one of life's great joys. We cook it in a soy-sauce broth, scented with star anise, cinnamon, ginger, among other good things, until it is sweet, tender and melting. Then we press it overnight into neat rectangles and deliver it to your home, with a tub of reduced masterstock on the side, ready for a final sear in the oven to roast the meat and crisp up the crackling to shattering perfection.
Only... sometimes that essential crackle just doesn't happen. Crackling is a wilful, uncontrollable beast which can, triumphantly, rise to the occasion but also, shamefully, remain, um, flaccid. Dear readers, put aside your embarrassment; reliable crackling is everybody's birthright and it is within your grasp. We are using our masterstock pork belly here but it works just as well for any roast pork.
Rather than turning the oven up ever higher and risk blackening the skin and toughening the meat, remove your meat from the oven when it is done, regardless of the state of the crackling.
Heat a large frying pan over a medium-high heat and slick it with a little flavourless oil (peanut, rice bran, etc).
Place your pork skin side down in the frying pan, plonk something flat and heavy on top - a plate or another pan - and press down firmly. You should hear crackling and popping. Continue to cook for about five minutes. Lift a corner and check every so often to make sure it's turning golden brown and not blackening. If you're cooking a rolled loin or shoulder, you'll need to do the same on all sides, rolling it 45 degrees every few minutes.
When the skin is looking brown and burnished, carefully flip it out onto a carving board. Be aware that the skin still won't feel crisp - it has to firm up in contact with the air.
Leave for a few minutes and give it a tap. It should sound light and dry. Break off a corner that no one can see - it should come off with a snap. You may then eat that corner, which is one of the perks of being the cook.
You deserve it. You've just made awesome crackling and your talent will be written into your family's history.