Pork rinds, pork scratchings, crackling – these terms are often used interchangeably, but are they really the same thing?
If you’re a fan of these crispy, salty snacks, you might be curious about the differences between them. In this article, we’ll explore the various types of pork rind snacks made in the UK and how they differ in terms of texture, taste, and cooking methods.
So grab a bag of your favorite pork snack and let’s dive in!
Are Pork Rinds The Same As Pork Scratchings?
While pork rinds and pork scratchings are both made from the skin of a pig, they are not exactly the same thing. Pork scratchings are a British snack that is made by deep-frying salted pork rind with fat produced separately from the meat. The skin is usually burned to remove any hair before being cut into pieces and cooked in hot fat. Pork scratchings are typically heavy and hard, with a crispy layer of fat under the skin and are flavored only with salt.
On the other hand, pork rinds are a popular snack in the United States and are made by cooking the skin of a pig until it puffs up like popcorn. Unlike pork scratchings, pork rinds do not have any fat attached to them and are usually seasoned with various flavors like chili and lime.
What Are Pork Rinds And Pork Scratchings?
Pork rinds and pork scratchings are both snacks made from the skin of a pig, but they have distinct differences in their preparation and taste. Pork scratchings are made from the skin of a pig’s shank, which has a layer of fat underneath. The skin is cooked once in hot fat until it becomes hard and crunchy, with a crispy layer of fat under the skin. Pork scratchings are typically only seasoned with salt, as they already have a natural pork flavor.
Pork rinds, on the other hand, are popular in the United States and are made by cooking the skin of a pig until it puffs up like popcorn. Unlike pork scratchings, pork rinds do not have any fat attached to them and are usually seasoned with various flavors like chili and lime.
In addition to these differences, there are also regional variations of pork rinds and scratchings found in Latin America, Asia, and Europe. Some variations include cracklings and fatbacks, which have different levels of fat and meat on the skin, resulting in varying textures and flavors.
The History Of Pork Rinds And Pork Scratchings
The history of pork rinds and pork scratchings dates back centuries. Pork scratchings, also known as pork crackling, originated in the Black Country of England in the 1800s. During this time, families would keep their own pigs at home and feed them up for slaughter. Every part of the pig was used, including the skin, which was deep-fried and salted to create the delicious snack we know today.
In the 1930s, butchers began selling pork scratchings, with some calling them pork crackling due to their association with homemade Sunday pork joint dinners. Today, pork scratchings are enjoyed throughout the UK, with half of all sales occurring in the Midlands, London, and the South East. They have even gained international popularity, with variations like chicharrones in Mexico and pork rinds in the United States.
Pork rinds, on the other hand, have a different history. They were first created by Native Americans who would cook the skin of a pig over an open flame until it puffed up like popcorn. This method was later adopted by European settlers in America and has since become a popular snack throughout the country.
While both pork rinds and pork scratchings are made from pig skin, they are prepared differently and have distinct textures and flavors. Pork scratchings are heavier and have a crispy layer of fat under the skin, while pork rinds are light and puffy with no fat attached. Despite these differences, both snacks remain popular among pork lovers around the world.
How Are Pork Rinds And Pork Scratchings Made?
The process of making pork rinds and pork scratchings is quite different. Pork scratchings are made by deep-frying salted pork rind with fat produced separately from the meat. The skin is usually burned to remove any hair before being cut into pieces and cooked in hot fat. The result is a heavy and hard snack, with a crispy layer of fat under the skin and flavored only with salt.
Pork rinds, on the other hand, are made by cooking the skin of a pig until it puffs up like popcorn. The process starts with simmering pork skin in boiling water to soften it. Then, it is cut into bite-size pieces known as “pellets” and chilled for at least four hours so that the subdermal fat can solidify. After that layer has congealed, it is pared away and discarded. This is what separates rinds from cracklins, the pork rind’s crunchier, comparatively more artery-clogging sibling.
The pellets are then dried and rendered to remove as much moisture as possible. These individual proto-rinds are placed across a mesh tray over a drip pan, then left in a low-heat oven for about eight hours. Larger operations often use industrial-size dehydrators. Once the skin is dried, it’s ready for frying. Oil—peanut, vegetable, even lard works, as long as it possesses a high smoking point—should be heated to about 360 degrees, and then the slices can be submerged.
The rinds will sink at first, but what little moisture is left in the skin evaporates soon after hitting the hot oil, expanding the nooks and crannies as it fries. The rinds audibly crackle like popcorn after about 15 seconds of frying, and cooks need to make sure that the entirety of the skin gets exposed to the deep frying, otherwise you’re just left with gummy bits of oil-sodden rubberiness. As is standard practice with most deep-fried foods, pork rinds need to be seasoned immediately after frying while they’re still slightly damp and hot, so the spices will stick to its surface.
Texture And Appearance Differences Between Pork Rinds And Pork Scratchings
Apart from their different origins and flavors, pork rinds and pork scratchings also differ in their texture and appearance. Pork rinds are light and puffy, with a crispy texture that melts in your mouth. They are similar in texture to potato chips but with a more delicate crunch. Pork scratchings, on the other hand, have a harder and denser texture, with a crispy layer of fat under the skin. They require more chewing than pork rinds and have a meatier flavor due to the presence of fat.
In terms of appearance, pork rinds are usually round and curled up like popcorn, while pork scratchings are irregularly shaped and have a rougher surface due to the presence of fat. Pork rinds are also larger in size compared to pork scratchings.
Taste Differences Between Pork Rinds And Pork Scratchings
The taste of pork rinds and pork scratchings differs significantly due to their different cooking methods. Pork scratchings are typically heavier and have a harder texture, with a crispy layer of fat under the skin. They have a salty flavor and are not usually seasoned with any other flavors. On the other hand, pork rinds are lighter and fluffier, with a crispy texture that is less hard than pork scratchings. They are usually seasoned with various flavors like chili and lime, making them more flavorful than pork scratchings.
Another significant difference in taste between pork rinds and pork scratchings is the level of meatiness. Pork scratchings often have some fat and meat attached to them, which gives them a meatier flavor than pork rinds. Pork rinds, on the other hand, have no meat or fat attached to them, resulting in a lighter taste that is more focused on the seasoning used.
Nutritional Differences Between Pork Rinds And Pork Scratchings
When it comes to nutrition, pork scratchings and pork rinds have some differences. Pork scratchings are high in fat, but two-thirds of the fat in pork scratchings are actually mono and polyunsaturated fats, which are beneficial for heart health. Additionally, the fats in pork scratchings are rich in Oleic Acid, a healthy monounsaturated fatty acid that can reduce the production of cholesterol receptors in the small intestine, making it harder for the body to absorb dietary cholesterol. An increase in levels of Oleic Acid can also help reduce oxidative damage in cell membranes caused by free radicals, which can contribute to aging.
In contrast, pork rinds are high in protein and fat and are carb-free, making them a popular snack for people on low-carbohydrate diets like keto or paleo. However, they are very low in any beneficial vitamins or minerals and are notable for being high in sodium. A medium-sized, single-serving bag of pork rinds provides nearly half of the recommended daily limit for sodium. Some brands of pork rinds also contain artificial colors, flavor enhancers like monosodium glutamate (MSG), and preservatives.
While both snacks have their pros and cons nutritionally, it’s important to remember that moderation is key when consuming any processed snack. It’s best to enjoy them as an occasional treat rather than a staple in your diet.