#116 – Pork Rinds
#116 – Pork Rinds
This is recipe roundup episode 116. This week we are going back to talking about convenience food items. Today it’s pork rinds! And just like everything else, I have A LOT of opinions.
Nothing compares to getting freshly made pork rinds at a fair or festival. Still warm from the kettle, these crunchy pig skins really punctuate an eating experience with their salty smokiness. Unfortunately, we can’t always have access to such a delicacy.
Growing up, I didn’t eat pork rinds at all. It was only when I started removing grain and carbohydrates from my diet that I even considered them – and in the past five years I’ve tried a lot of different pork rinds. While not exactly nutritious beyond providing some collagen, pork rinds can satisfy the craving for crunch provided by chips without the resulting spike in blood sugar. And if you are looking for something with a porky essence that’s not too heavy, pork rind or cracklins (which have a bit of fat attached) can hit the spot.
Like everything else in this world, you are always going to be better off making your own pork rinds. Unfortunately, it can be a messy and complex process in a home kitchen and I have yet to set aside enough time and space to try it out – and thus I am back at the gas station again.
I have the most respect for brands that keep it classic – when you can look at the ingredients and only see Pork skin and salt as the two ingredients, that’s about as good as it gets. Many brands have an option like this when it comes to their unflavored or traditional option. My favorite currently for plain is Uncle Ray’s – the puff is solid, the taste is clean and porky, and the bag itself is mylar rather than cellophane – lending a little extra strength for saving any left overs.
Things get a little more complicated when we take a look at the many flavors available. Barbecue is always the second flavor of a given brand, and there’s actually a lot of fluctuation between them. Some are spicier some are sweeter. Even though I love the flavor of bbq, I am always looking for something a little different.
Baken-Nets are what I consider “big pork rind” – produced by Frito-Lay, I have literally never been not able to find them in a convenience store. Special points for their Queso and Honey Mustard Flavors – both are unique and break up the BBQ monotony.
My all time favorite flavor however is dill pickle – I’ve only ever had this produced by Turkey Creek and I will ALWAYS grab a bag if I see them. The perfect combination of pork smoke and pickle tang in a crunchy snack. Overall, Turkey Creek is a favorite of mine, boasting not only pork rinds but cracklings as well. They also offer chili lime and salt and vinegar flavors.
Notable mentions – Tom’s Salt and Vinegar has an excellent sour to salt balance that fans of the chip flavor will find themselve reaching for again and again. And Golden Flake BBQ varieties are…perhaps one of the most unique. The rinds are pillowy soft and sort of come the closest to fresh fair rinds, but be warned the flavor is SWEET. Also, a visiting friend recently brought a bad of salt n’ pepper mac’s rinds. It’s a brand I’m less familiar with, but they were really good.
A quick note on flavored pork rinds – while there is nothing particularly unhealthy about monosodium glutamate when used in small amounts, some individuals do in fact have trouble processing high levels of glutamate in food, whether natural or otherwise. It’s not an allergy, but can feel like one. Unfortunately, there is a pretty significant amount of MSG in many pork rind flavors – so if you eat a whole bag and have a splitting headache or fall asleep or get red and puffy…know that your body might just be at it’s daily glutamate limit!
Finally, we live in quite the age for prepared foodstuff – of course there are bougie and high quality versions of pork rinds! You can find these at larger grocery stores and some of them are well worth the extra cents. Epic, which is known for their high quality meat products, produces rinds and I love that they have a cinnamon and sugar flavor! Porq with a Q is another one that has several interesting flavor options, but I think my all time fancy favorite is jalapeno cheddar from 4505. It’s spicy and cheesy and the rinds have a lovely texture.