Pork rind is the culinary term for the skin of a pig. It can also be fried or roasted in pork fat (lard) as a snack. The frying renders much of the fat that is attached to the uncooked rind, causing the size of the cooked product to be reduced considerably. This product may be known by alternative names, such as chicharrón in Spanish, kaiings in South Africa, and pork greaves, pork scratchings or pork cracklings in the UK, although crackling may instead refer to the rind on a roasted pork joint.
Often a by-product of the rendering of lard, it is also a way of making even the tough skin of a pig edible. In many ancient cultures, animal fats were the only way of obtaining oil for cooking and it was common in many people's diet until the industrial revolution made vegetable oils more common and more affordable.
Microwaveable pork rinds are sold in bags that resemble microwaveable popcorn and can be eaten still warm. Pickled pork rinds, on the other hand, are often enjoyed refrigerated and cold. Unlike the crisp and fluffy texture of fried pork rinds, pickled pork rinds are very rich and buttery, much like foie gras.
For the large scale production of commercial pork rinds, frozen, dried pork skin pellets are used. They are first rehydrated in water with added flavoring, and then fried in pork fat at 200–210 °C (392–410 °F). Cooking makes the rinds expand and float on the oil surface. The rinds are then removed from the fat, flavored, and air dried. Antioxidants may be added to improve stability.
Like many snack foods, pork rinds are high in sodium and fat; however, they are low in carbohydrates and are sometimes considered an alternative snack food for those following the Atkins diet. According to Men's Health, a one-ounce (28 g) serving contains nine times the protein and less fat than is found in a serving of potato chips, which are much higher in carbohydrates. They add that 43 percent of pork rind's fat is unsaturated, and most of that is oleic acid, the same healthy fat found in olive oil. Another 13 percent of its fat content is stearic acid, a type of saturated fat that is considered harmless because it does not raise cholesterol levels. A 60 g serving of pork rind contains 29 g of fat, 375 kcal and 0.65g of sodium. However, pork rinds are considered an incomplete source of protein because they contain very low amounts of some essential amino acids, including methionine, tryptophan and histidine.
Chicharrones is the term for pork rinds in Colombia. Two kinds of chicharrón exist: chicharrón toteado (exploded pork crackling), which has no meat in it and is similar to the lighter, commercial version, and chicharrón cocho, which is usually made with part of the pork's meat attached to the skin. This makes for a crispy skin and a soft, juicy meat. It is traditionally served with beans, rice, fried eggs, avocado and plantain in a typical plate called "Bandeja Paisa".
Scrunchions is a Newfoundland term for small pieces of pork rind or pork fatback fried until rendered and crispy. They are often used as a flavoring over other foods, such as salt fish and potatoes, and mainly used as a condiment for fish and brewis.
Mexico is one of the world's largest producers and consumers of pork rinds, known as chicharrón or chicharra. It may still have fat attached, called in Spanish "chicharrón con gordo" in central México.
It is commonly served in homes across Mexico. It can be served in a soup sometimes called "chicharrón con chile" (pork rind with chili sauce) or "salsa de chicharrón" (pork rind sauce). It is often served as an appetizer, or even offered as snack in family reunions. However, chicharrones can be purchased on the street and are, usually, eaten with hot sauce and lime juice.
One popular breakfast is salsa de chicharron, (also chicharrón con chile or just chicharrón in some regions) cooked in green tomato or tomato salsa spiced with epazote. If liquid is drained the pork rind can be used in tacos, either as fast food products or kitchen made.
The dryness in pork rind pairs perfectly with humidity and softness in "pico de gallo" (diced tomato, avocado, onion, coriander and chili mix) and both fill perfectly a corn tortilla as taco.
While most pork rinds are fried and eaten crispy, not all the pork skin reaches the fryer, as some of the skin free of fat is pickled in a pork feet recipe.
A by-product in frying rinds is the decanted residues in fryer called "asiento" or "boronas" (grounds). The process requires uniformly cooking rinds and while the product dehydrates it cracks, losing small pieces, which are collected afterwards and become a thick, fatty salsa, that can be mixed as an ingredient in other salsa de chicharrón recipe or used for its flavor and fat in pan frying. A second by-product in frying rinds is lard.
Cueritos are the same as pork rinds but are soft, chewy and translucent, as they are not heavily cooked unlike the chicharrón, which is very crispy and often overcooked. They are easily available in Mexico as antojo and sold on the streets usually by butchers, oftentimes served fresh, but you can also find them marinated with vinegar and onion on "tienditas", popular convenience stores where the clerk is usually the owner. If marinated, they are served with lemon and salt, powdered chili and probably with "salsa Valentina".
Another vatiety are duritos, also called "chicharrones de harina". These are similar to traditional chicharrones, only made with fried flour leavened with baking soda, instead of fried pig skin. This variety also features a pinwheel shape. Like cueritos, this food is popular with street vendors. They are infrequently sold in Mexico, but tend to be a Mexican-American version of the popular chicharron. 
In the Yucatan cuisine, is often served along pork belly, known locally by the Maya word kastakán, blood sausage, and a spiced sausage made from pork entrails and habanero peppers known as buche.
Pork rinds, sometimes cracklings, is the American name for fried or roasted skins of pigs, geese or other animals, regardless of the status or amount of pork in the snack. Pieces of fried meat, skin, or membrane produced as a byproduct of rendering lard are also called cracklings. Cracklings consist of either roasted or fried pork rind that has had salt rubbed into it and scored with a sharp knife: "a crackling offers a square of skin that cracks when you bite into it, giving way to a little pocket of hot fat and a salty layer of pork meat."
Cajun cracklings (or "cracklins") from Cajun cuisine (called "gratons" in Louisiana French), are fried pieces of pork fat with a small amount of attached skin, flavored after frying with a mixture of peppery Cajun spices.
Pork rinds normally refers to a snack food commercially sold in plastic bags. They are made in a two-step process: pork skin is first rendered and dried, and then fried and puffed. These are also called by the Mexican name, chicharrón, in reference to the popular Mexican food.
Pork rinds sold in the United States are occasionally stained with a pink or purple spot. These edible marks are actually USDA stamps used on the skins to mark that they have been inspected, and graded. They are not harmful.
In 2003, sales of pork rinds experienced rapid growth, but they have dropped "by $31 million since 2004, when they reached $134 million, and now make up barely more than 1 percent of the salty snack market."
"脂渣" (zhizha) is made from pork. Extremely popular in and only popularized in Qingdao, Shandong. It is a bi-product of lard. Lard is usually sold more or less than a US Dollar but zhizha may be sold for about 30-40 US dollars and huazhi for around 10 USD. "精肉脂渣" (Zhizha): The skin is removed and sliced as thin as a gold coin. After the extraction of lard, the rest is hard and tastes like a salty cracker, seasoned with salt and MSG while it is hot. "花脂" (Huazhi): This is made from intestines, chopped and deep-fried twice, and used in stew or soup.
Chicharon (derived from the Spanish chicharrón; also spelled tsitsaron) is usually bought from balut vendors as pulutan (i.e. appetizer dishes usually eaten with alcoholic beverages). It is also available in grocery stores, supermarkets, outdoor markets, sidewalk food vendors, and sari-sari stores (small, home made stores). Chicharon is prepared by deep-frying dried pork rinds and seasoned with salt. It is usually eaten with vinegar, hot vinegar (chopped chilies and/or soy sauce are added), or with bagoong, lechon liver sauce, or atchara (pickled green papaya). Chicharong manok, which is made from chicken skin, and chicharong bulaklak (literally 'flower chicharrón', from its distinctive shape) made of pig intestine, are also popular. It is also used as a topping for pancit palabok and pancit malabon and in preparing pork sisig.
Khaep mu (Thai: แคบหมู, pronounced [kʰɛ̂:p mǔː, kʰɛ́p mǔː]), as crispy pork rinds are known in Thai cuisine, are a speciality of the northern Thai city of Chiang Mai. One way of making khaep mu is to first cure the pork skin, with an attached layer of fat, in salt for several days, after which it is soaked in water for a couple of hours. This ensures that the fat cells will expand, resulting in a "puffed skin" after cooking. The slabs of belly fat are then slowly cooked at a low heat in, preferably, lard but other animal fat and vegetable oil can also be used. Similar to a confit, the pork thus treated can be stored. The pork is then cut into smaller pieces and baked in an oven until perfectly crispy. Another method of making the pork rinds again involves salting the pork skin, but instead of soaking it, the skin is hung out to dry in the sun after which it is sliced and deep-fried twice. Yet another way to make this dish in Thailand is to first cut the pork skin into strips, then boil them in water after which they are thoroughly dried before being deep-fried.
Northern Thai people most often eat pork rinds together with different Thai chili pastes, such as nam phrik num (made with grilled green chili peppers) and nam phrik ong (made with dried chili peppers, tomato and minced pork). It can also be eaten as a snack, either on its own, or with nam chim khaep mu, a dipping sauce made with lime juice, fresh chili peppers and a sweet chili paste. It can also figure as an accompaniment to Thai dishes such as Nam ngiao and the famous Thai salad som tam or used crushed as an ingredient, for instance in sa makhuea, a northern Thai salad made with minced pork and Thai eggplant.
Pork rinds used to be a very common food in Vietnam before the Doi moi program in 1986. Due to various economic difficulties in the pre-Doi moi era, cooking oil and meat were still considered "luxury goods", and consequently fat liquid and pork rind became excellent replacements in Vietnamese daily meals. Nowadays with a better economic situation for the country, pork rind is no longer a substitute food, but rather a special component in many Vietnamese dishes, such as cơm tấm, noodle and snails (bún ốc), noodle soup, etc. In Vietnamese, pork rind is called tóp mỡ, which translates to "dried piece of fat".
In Bulgaria, pork rinds are known as "prazhki" or "пръжки' in Cyrillic. Prazhki are usually made around Christmas when traditionally the home grown pigs are slaughtered. A favourite winter snack, they are usually consumed with red wine or pickles and rakia. Sometimes they are cooked with leak or mixed in polenta ("kachamak").
Pork rinds are very popular in Serbia, where they are known as čvarci. Version of "duvan čvarci' exist in west Serbia, but it is extracted meat that is separated from fat. It is a byproduct of pork rinds.
In the Czech Republic and similarly in Slovakia, they are known as "škvarky". Often they are mixed with lard as a type of spread, and served with bread. They are particularly popular in this form during celebrations when alcohol is to be consumed.
In Poland, similarly like in the Czech Republic, they are known as "skwarki" and are a common ingredient of lard. They are typically consumed with pickles, lard and bread and are quite common during traditional celebrations where they serve as a popular snack for vodka. They are rarely consumed as a snack on its own. They are also often added to pierogi and kluski together with melted lard as a kind of topping.
In the Netherlands and Belgium, they are known as knabbelspek, which translates to "nibbling bacon". They are usually sold with no flavorings other than salt at most butchers and supermarkets. They are usually eaten as a snack food.
In Denmark, pork rinds are known as flæskesvær and can be found in most grocery stores and kiosks. They are also sold in plastic bags as a snack food item and may be consumed with beers or other beverages. They are made in a two-step process: the pork skin is first boiled and blotted dry, and then salted and roasted in the oven. Cracklings from pork roast are also known as flæskesvær, but are often just called svær when served with the roast, as in flæskesteg med svær (pork roast with cracklings).
In Hungary, pork rinds (töpörtyű in Hungarian), are commonly found at butcher's shops and food markets. They are usually consumed with bread and red onions, or simply as a snack. Ground pork rinds are often baked into pogácsa, a savoury disk-shaped pastry.
Pork scratchings is the British name for deep-fried, salted, crunchy pork rind with fat produced separately from the meat. This is then eaten cold. Pork scratchings typically are heavy and hard, have a crispy layer of fat under the skin, and are flavored only with salt. The pig hair is usually removed by quickly burning the skin of the pig before it is cut into pieces and cooked in hot fat. In comparison, Crackling is distinguished from normal pork rind in the United Kingdom by the fact that it is cut from a freshly-roasted joint of pork (Usually a Pork loin or Pork chops) after the meat has finished cooking and is usually served warm or hot, before the fat on the underside of the roasted skin can finish cooling down and re-solidifying.
Pork scratchings are sold as a snack food, and common brands include Mr. Porky, Big D, Uncle Albert, Jays, and Midland Snacks. Unlike the physically large, but relatively light bags of 'deep-fried skin without the fat' sold around the world, in the UK they are sold in relatively small bags, which usually weigh between 42 g and 90 g. Traditionally, they are eaten as an accompaniment to a pint of beer in a pub, just like crisps or peanuts. Scratchings can also be bought from butchers, supermarkets or newsagents. They have been taken to both the North and South Poles on various expeditions, because of their high energy content.
This food is believed to have originated in the West Midlands or Black Country, where they were widely consumed by the working classes. The pork scratching dates back to the 1800s, when families kept their own pigs as a source of food; in order to not waste any part of the pig, due to the scarcity of food, even the offcuts of fat and skin were fried and eaten.
There are three distinct types. Traditional scratchings are made from shank rind and cooked just once. Pork crackling is also made from shoulder rind, but is fried twice. It is first rendered at a low heat, and then cooked at a higher temperature for a less fatty, crispier result, or cut from roasted pork joints to produce heavier but less fatty results. A more recent development is the pork crunch, which is made from back rind and again double-fried to become a large, puffy snack. Some supermarkets now sell just the layer of skin and fat (no meat), in a raw form for home grilling or roasting, or cooked and ready to eat from hot food counters. The term 'crackling' is also often applied to a twice-cooked variety of pork scratchings.
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