How to Soften Pork Rinds? (The Right Way)

A sunbathing pork rind

September 30, 2022 4 min read

Pork rinds are becoming more and more sought after as a guilt-free snack to substitute potato chips and other unhealthy junk food. Because they are high in protein and low in carbs, those with sensitive diets (Keto, Paleolithic or Atkins) are opting for a bag of pork rinds to satiate their cravings.

While there are pre-packed pork rinds that you can get ready to eat, there might come a time when you prefer to cook your pork rinds yourself. If so, you should get ready for a rather long but fulfilling preparation process. 

Pork skin will need to be softened before you can toss it in the oven or in a skillet to cook. You may also have to score the thick layers of fat attached to the skin and remove the moisture, otherwise, your pork rinds will be chewy and hard. 

How Do You Soften Pork Skin?

Pork skin is typically hard and crunchy. While some people enjoy them as is, others may find them to be too tough and chewy. If you fall into the latter category, there are a few things you can do to soften hard pork rinds.

One way to do it is to soak them in water for a few hours. This will help to rehydrate the skin and make it more pliable. Here's a quick guide on how to do it:

  1. Start by placing your hard pork rinds in a bowl or other container.
  2. Cover the pork rinds with water, making sure that they are completely submerged.
  3. Let the pork rinds soak for at least 30 minutes, or up to several hours if you have the time.
  4. After they have soaked, drain off the water.

You can also try simmering the rinds in water for a few minutes to cook them slightly and make them easier to chew. To do so: 

  1. Place the pork rinds in a pot or saucepan.
  2. Cover the pork rinds with water. The water should be about an inch above the pork rinds.
  3. Bring the water to a boil.
  4. Let the pork rinds simmer in the water for about 10 minutes, or until they are soft.
  5. Drain the water from the pot or saucepan.

After soaking the pork skin, you may also opt to remove the fat from the back of the skin so your pork rinds don’t end up chewy. Score the skin using a sharp knife and rub it with salt. If there are any stubborn fat layers, cut them off and discard them. 

When softening pork skin, you are essentially allowing it to soak in extra moisture. But before cooking it, you’ll need to remove the excess water content so you yield pork rinds that are light and airy. 

Why are Pork Cracklins So Hard?

Pork cracklins are particularly hard because they are made from the skin of the pig, which is very thick and tough to chew. Pork skin also has a high fat content, with fat attached to the back of the skin, making them meatier and thicker than regular pork skin. However, this fat prevents the cracklin from expanding and taking a lighter and airer form. 

Further, when pork cracklins are fried in oil without removing the thick layers of fat, they become harder and more difficult to bite through. Removing the fat will help make the pork skin softer and crunchier. 

The heat at which you cook pork cracklins can also cause them to become hard. If the temperature is not high enough, the skin won’t crack properly, resulting in a rubbery texture. Make sure to cook pork skin in oil that has a smoke point of 400 degrees. Lard doesn’t burn at high temperatures, so they work best when cooking pork skin. You can read more about pork cracklins here.

Are Cracklins Supposed to be Hard?

Cracklins are naturally heavier and thicker than regular pork skin because of their thickness, high fat content, and the way in which they are cooked. But they can still be chewed, although they are not as crunchy and airy in texture. 

There are some pork cracklins that are fried twice to make them even harder as a matter of preference. If you’re not like those who like to chew on hard cracklins, you might want to soften them before you consume them. 

What is the Best Way to Consume Hard Pork Skins?

Softening pork skin yields pork rinds that are crunchy, airy, and a delight to eat. But if you don’t want to go through the lengthy softening process or your pork skin has become too stale to soften effectively, you can still consume hard pork skin, so long as you cook it first. You just need to get creative with your pork rind cooking practices. Here are some ideas:

  • Cut cooked pork skin into thin strips and use them as a healthy alternative to chips with keto dips like guacamole or salsa.
  • Grind pork skins up and use them as a low-carb breadcrumb alternative in recipes like chicken parmesan, fish fillet, or meatballs.
  • Make your own pork rind nachos by topping hard, cooked, pork skins with cheese, diced tomatoes, and jalapeños.
  • Use cooked pork skins as a crunchy topping or garnish for salads or soup.
  • Get creative and make your own hard pork skin snacks by seasoning and cooking them with your favorite spices or herbs.

Bottom Line: Can You Soften Pork Rinds?

While some people enjoy pork rinds that are hard and chewy, others prefer a crunchier texture. If you are like the latter, there are various ways that you can soften pork rinds and get the airy and crunchy texture that it is known for. Whether you opt to soak the rinds in water or simmer it in low heat, find the alternative that works best for you and is up to par with what you find convenient. 

While there are a handful of ways to soften pork rinds at home, that’s not to say that it’s easy. The process can take a bit of work, not to mention cleaning up. If you’re not up for it and want to enjoy pork rinds without all the fuss, you can always opt to purchase ready-to-eat pork rinds and enjoy your guilt-free snack right off the bag.