It’s your dream come true – a juicy Pork Roast with Crispy Crackling AND Gravy. Ultra tender meat, crazy crispy crackling and a gravy to die for. SO easy – no scoring, no pricking. Here are my secret tips!
“Nagi, you have a Crispy Chinese Pork Belly which I love, but I don’t supposed you’re planning to do a non Asian Crispy Pork Roast?? I’m obsessed with crackling. I’d love to know how you do it! ☺️”
When I got that message, I was flabbergasted for a moment. I hadn’t done a “normal” pork roast with crackling??
I had to change that immediately. 6 days after I received that message – here it is. It’s every carnivore’s dream come true. Juicy, tender pork and ridiculously crispy crackling with gravy. Without scoring or pricking!
MY SECRET CRACKLING TIPS
My Method in a Nutshell: Use unrolled boneless pork shoulder, no need to score the skin. Use scrunched up balls of foil to keep the skin surface as level. And roast uncovered for the whole time, firstly on low to make the flesh tender, then high to finish the crackling.
Reason: The greatest enemy of crispy crackling is moisture. Unrolled boneless pork shoulder is flatter than rolled and bone in shoulder so it cooks faster which means it does not need to be covered with foil. Covering with foil creates a steaming situation that crackling does not like!
The other thing crispy crackling doesn’t like is uneven heat distribution. Ever notice how the rubbery bits tend to be in the valleys and creases on the skin or the lower edges, and how the sides of rolled pork never bubble up like on the very top? Using unrolled pork solves this problem because the skin surface is flatter.
And lastly, to help with even heat distribution on the skin and maximise crispy bubbly goodness, use balls of scrunched up foil to level the skin as much as possible.
It all begins with the pork
When it comes to slow roasted pork with a crispy crackling skin, my first choice is unrolled boneless shoulder. Loin, rolled pork (ie trussed with string or netted) and Pork Neck, aka Scotch Fillet Roast (Collar Butt for those in the States) will also work with this recipe but there’s one big difference:
Flatter skin = better crackling
Flatter skin = more even heat distribution across the skin = better crackling.
Rolled Pork Shoulders and Pork Scotch Fillets are brilliant for slow cooking. But they are shaped like a log, and this often leads to good crackle on the very top but ok-to-mediocre crackle on the sides.
So even if your pork shoulder comes rolled, unroll it! If you buy it fresh from the butcher, they will probably ask if you if you want it rolled.
Response: NO! 😂
TO SCORE OR NOT TO SCORE?
There’s plenty of literature out there about foolproof ways to crispy pork crackling. From pouring boiling hot water over the skin, to using a blow dryer, pricking and of course scoring.
You do not need to score for crispy, bubbly crackling. It helps, because with scored skin, the fat under the skin bubbles up while baking.
And this recipe will work just fine with scored skin. Most pork from supermarkets and butchers here in Australia tends to be scored.
But rest assured – scoring is not necessary for crispy crackling! This entire recipe is based around that very fact. 🙂
BONELESS VS BONE IN
When the bone is removed from a pork shoulder, it substantially flattens the meat which makes the skin flatter. Which is why boneless unrolled shoulder is my choice for ensuring I get maximum bubbly, golden crispy crackling – because flatter skin surface area = less risk of rubbery non crispy skin.
Bone-in advocates will tell you that meat is always juicier when cooked with the bone in, and that is true. But we’re using pork shoulder here which is beautifully marbled with fat so you don’t lose juiciness for the sake of crackling.
DRY SKIN = SUPERIOR CRACKLING
Moisture is the greatest enemy of pork crackling. If you score the skin and accidentally cut through to the meat, the juices will bubble up while roasting and will cause patches of rubbery skin.
Pork shoulder from supermarkets usually come vac packed which soaks the skin in juices. If your pork was vac packed, the best way to ensure really dry skin is to pat it dry with paper towels then leave it uncovered in the fridge overnight, or at least 3 hours.
The dry skin test: Run your fingers across the surface. Does it glide smoothly? Great, it’s dry. Is it sticky like when you touch your own skin on a hot, humid day? It’s still wet! Dab, dab, dab with paper towels. (Though this recipe has a step to alleviate some skin wetness, so don’t fret too much!)
PREPARING FOR THE ROAST
Super easy. Sprinkle the underside (ie non skin side) with salt, pepper and fennel seeds (or other herbs/spices of choice) plus olive oil. Rub away, getting it into all the cracks and crevices.
Flip, then drizzle the skin with just a bit of oil, rub away, sprinkle generously with salt and just a bit of pepper. That’s it!
I use halved whole garlic bulbs and onion in the roasting pan which serves 2 purposes – it elevates the pork slightly which helps with even cooking and it creates super tasty pan juices which is used to make a gravy.
As for the braising liquid, there’s plenty of options. From white wine to apple cider, chicken and vegetable broth to apple juice or water, it’s not so much about what is used as it is about using some form of liquid to provide some moisture while the pork roasts.
And here’s another of my tips for the path to crispy crackling – roasting uncovered.
Cover the pork with foil, and your lovely skin is steaming away with all that moisture, compromising your dreams of crispy skin.
This pork doesn’t need to be covered because it cooks faster because it’s boneless.
SLOW THEN HIGH
Juicy, slow cooked meat requires long cooking at lower temperature, whereas crispy crackling requires hight heat.
So we start this pork on a lower temperature for 2.5 hours to break down the tough meat and make it beautifully juicy. This is less time than other recipes you may see because it’s a boneless pork shoulder.
Because it’s roasted uncovered, the skin isn’t subjected to the moisture from steaming so it gets a kick start for the crisping, drying out any residual moisture.
But it’s still not there after the initial slow cook time. Here is what it looks like:
SECRET TIP: LEVEL IT OUT
Remember how I said that the secret to optimum crackling is even heat distribution and how that relies on even surface area?
Well, pork shoulder, being the sinewy connective-tissue dense cut that it is, has a tendency to get all twisted up and warped when roasted without being rolled with string.
So here’s a key tip to optimum crispy, bubbly crackling on your pork skin: LEVEL IT OUT before blasting with high heat. Pull out giant flappy bits to the side and use balls of foil to level out the surface of the skin as much as you can before we blast it with heat to make it puff and bubble.
Here’s an example of how I did my pork – the photo on the left shows how low the front side is, then on the right, it is more levelled out after propping it up with a ball of foil.
NOW BLAST IT
After the pork flesh is broken down so its nice and juicy, now it’s time for the crackling.
Crank up that heat, and this is what comes out.
There’s not even a speck of rubbery skin on that pork. Most of it has bubbled up beautifully and the small parts that haven’t are still ridiculously crispy.
Ultra crispy crackling with ultra tender meat…..
HOW TO REHEAT CRACKLING
The key tip here is to separate the crackling from the pork meat before reheating.
The pork is made for reheating in the microwave under cling wrap, in a moist environment.
Crackling is meant for reheating in an oven, so it stays crisp.
And guess what? Even after refrigerating, crackling is still crispy – COLD!!! 🙌🏻 But it’s even crispier when it’s hot!!!
I thought long and hard about the best sauce to share for this recipe. So many options, from salsa verde to mustard sauces, to simply using pan juices.
But I can’t go past gravy. It has amazing flavour because we use the pan juices – it would be criminal to waste it!
The gravy for this pork roast is simple to make – just strain the roasting pan juices into a saucepan, add flour, mix, then add chicken broth and simmer until it’s the thickness you are after.
And surely it goes without saying… never pour gravy onto crispy crackling! All that effort for epic crackling only to douse it and make it soggy?? Nooooooo!!!
Move the crackling to the side, then douse in gravy!!!
Soooo…what’s on the menu for Sunday night dinner this weekend?? Just the usual Spag Bol… or a crazy juicy Pork Roast with Crispy Crackling…..? 😜 – Nagi x
Recipe video below.
This is how to make a juicy pork roast with tender flesh that's sliceable with a crazy crispy crackling WITHOUT scoring or pricking. Served with a gravy that is to die for. Read the post for extra tips and step photos!
- 2.5 kg/ 5 lb boneless skin on pork shoulder, unscored (Note 1 & 5)
- 2 1/2 tsp salt , separated
- 1 1/4 tsp black pepper , separated
- 2 tsp fennel seeds (or other herb/spice of choice)
- 1 tbsp+ 1 tsp olive oil
- 2 garlic bulbs , halved horizontally
- 1 onion , quartered (brown, white, red)
- 2cups/ 500 ml dry white wine or alcoholic cider (Note 2)
- 1/4 cup / 65g flour (Note 5)
- 2cups / 500ml chicken broth , low sodium
- Salt and pepper
Pat the skin dry with paper towels. If time permits, leave in the fridge uncovered overnight (even 1 hr helps). If not, pat extra well.
Preheat oven to 220C/430F.
Sprinkle pork flesh with 1 1/2 tsp salt, 1 tsp pepper, all the fennel seeds and 1 tbsp olive oil.
Rub into flesh, right into all the crevices and cracks.
Flip pork, drizzle skin with 1 tsp oil, then rub all over with fingers.
Sprinkle all over with 1 tsp salt and 1/4 tsp black pepper.
Place halved garlic bulbs and onion in roasting pan. Place pork skin side up on top of them.
Carefully pour wine into the pan, being sure not to wet the skin. Transfer to oven.
Immediately turn oven down to 160C/320F (standard) or 140C/290F.
Roast 2 1/2 hours.
Check at 1.5 hours to see if the pork is warped and the skin surface is significantly not level. If so, adjust to make the skin surface as level as possible using balls of foil and moving large dislodged pork pieces to the side (key tip for crispy crackling, Note 3). Then return to oven for the remaining 1 hour.
Remove pork from oven. If pan is dried out, add some water.
Turn oven up to 240C/450F, or as high as it will go.
Return pork to oven for 30 minutes, rotating every 5 to 10 minutes or until skin is crisp and bubbly.
Transfer pork to serving platter, tent loosely with foil and rest for 20 minutes. Then slice using a serrated knife.
Serve with gravy. Don't pour gravy over crackling - move it to the side! See note for reheating.
Skim off all but 2 tbsp of fat from the pan, if you can (I usually do not).
Place strainer over saucepan. Scrape all pan contents into strainer, including onion etc. Press to extra juices from garlic, onion etc. then discard.
Add flour into saucepan, whisk to combine.
Turn on heat to medium, then pour broth in while whisking.
Simmer until thickened to syrup consistency - about 3 minutes - it will thicken more while serving. (Note 4 for colour tip)
Adjust salt and pepper to taste. pour into serving jug. Serve with pork.
1. Pork: use a flat, boneless pork shoulder that is not scored, preferably without a big "flappy" piece hanging off it. The flatter the skin while roasting, the better the crispy cracking. The perfect piece is a neat square or rectangle shape that is fairly even thickness all over with a flat, smooth skin.
If you have a big flappy piece hanging off the underside of the pork (it's from cutting the bone out), it's totally fine but be aware that the roast will warp during roasting and will need to be levelled out (see Note 3).
Scored pork will work fine for this recipe but this recipe is specifically designed for pork without scored skin (ie slashes across the skin). If your pork skin is scored, follow the recipe as is, it will work just fine BUT you may be able to take it out earlier during the high heat phase right at the end, judge by how your crackling looks.
2. Any dry white wine or alcoholic cider is fine. Even apple juice is great, which I have tried and loved. Chicken broth can also be used but it you do, use half water and half broth for the gravy. Water can also be used (but stick with broth for gravy).
3. The more level the skin is, the better the crackling. See in post for example. Use scrunched up balls of foil tucked under the pork to level the height of the skin before blasting with high heat to get the bubble.
Pork shoulder that is not trussed with netting or string will warp when cooking, especially if the pork has a big "flappy piece" hanging off it. So when you check the pork at 1.5 hours, if there is a large piece of meat that are sticking out and causing the pork skin to be uneven, just pull it out to the side to help make the more level.
4. Gravy colour is dependent on the browning in the pan juices. If your gravy is lighter than you want, a cheeky tip is to use DARK soy sauce instead of salt. It will darken your gravy whilst also seasoning it, but no one will ever taste the soy sauce!
6. DIFFERENT PORK SIZES - use the recipe scaler (click on servings and slide) to adjust ingredient quantities based on the size of pork you are using. The cook times below are based on pork that is around 5-8 cm / 2-3.2" thick, including skin. I don't recommend using this recipe for pork less than 1.5kg/3lb.
1.5kg / 3 lb: reduce slow cook time by 30 minutes, and check at 1 hour to ensure it's straight*
2 - 3kg / 4 - 6lb: cook times per recipe
3.5 - 4.5kg / 7 - 8lb: add 30 - 45 minutes to the slow cook time and add 1 cup extra liquid (helps keep the flesh more moist + ensure pan doesn't dry out)
* Smaller piece = more warping = less stable = risk of tipping over and skin getting wet.
5. GLUTEN FREE OPTION: Mix 2 tbsp cornflour / cornstarch with a splash of the broth. Then add it into the saucepan with the rest of the broth and the pan juices, per recipe. As it simmers, it will thicken into a gravy consistency.
6. Nutrition per serving, assuming 10 servings and that all the gravy is used. This does not take into account any fat skimmed off the pan juices before making the gravy.
WATCH HOW TO MAKE IT
LIFE OF DOZER
Now that’s true love……