A whole pork shoulder is divided into two cuts in Texas grocery stores—the Boston butt and the picnic. I used to buy Boston butts when I wanted to barbecue pork. Not anymore. When I am not cooking a whole pork shoulder or a hog forequarter, I buy a picnic.
Barbecuers ignore the picnic because of the poor yield. There are two big shoulder bones in a picnic and a half a pound of skin on the outside. The picnic I cooked last night weighed a little over eight pounds raw and yielded only five pounds of pulled pork. But you know what they say about the meat closest to the bone. The meat from a barbecued picnic is much moister and creamier and than the meat from a barbecued Boston butt.
And that half pound of skin is a bonus as far as I am concerned. Not only does the skin protect the barbecue pork from drying out—it also fries up into a lovely plate of chicharrones.
Fried Pork Skins
Fried pork skins are known as cracklins in Louisiana and chicharrones in Mexico. The crispy pork skins make a great breakfast, cocktail snack or taco filling. In Mexico, they are dunked in salsa and eaten like chips with cold beer.
Be careful when frying these—they hiss and pop and splatter oil all over the place unless you keep a lid on them.
- 1/2 pound of cooked pig skin from a barbecued picnic
- 2 cups rendered lard or peanut oil
- Salt to taste
Cut the skin and attached meat and fat into 1 to 2-inch squares. (Heavy-duty shears work well for this.) Heat the lard or oil in a frying pan with a lid over medium heat. Carefully add the pieces of skin to the hot oil with a slotted spoon and immediately cover with the lid. Fry in batches to avoid crowding. Cook until all the skin is done, turning it with a slotted spoon until both sides gets crispy, which may take 3 to 5 minutes depending the thickness of the skin. Salt the cracklins lightly and serve warm.