Learn how pig skin goes from its original form to those crispy, puffy snacks you can find in the supermarket.
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Pork Rinds in a bowl
LauriPatterson/Getty Images
| Credit: LauriPatterson/Getty Images

While you may know pork rinds as the crispy snacks found in the chip aisle of the grocery store, the term can actually be used in a variety of different ways. "Pork rind" is the culinary term for the skin of a pig.

For non-Southerners, the idea of turning pig skin into a chip-like snack that's sold at convenience stores may seem, well, unique. But while pork rinds have been a staple in Southern cooking for years, different variations of the fried pig skin can be found all over the world, including Mexico, where they're known as chicharrones.

So, how does the skin of a pig transform into those crisp, aerated snacks? Learn all about pork rinds, including how they're made.

What Are Pork Rinds Made Of — And How Are They Made?

By now you probably get the picture, pork rinds are made of pig skin. But how are they made? In general, the first step in the process is simmering the pork skin in boiling water. They're divided up into bite-size pieces known as "pellets." These pellets are chilled for at least four hours, allowing the fat to solidify. This fat is then removed and discarded.

Next, the pellets are left in a low-heat oven for about eight hours in order to remove as much moisture as possible. This leads us to the final step: frying. Pork rinds may be fried in peanut oil, vegetable oil, or even lard.

During the frying process, whatever moisture remains in the skin evaporates when it hits the hot oil, causing the skin to puff as it fries. The rinds are seasoned while they're still hot, and then cooled, resulting in the snacks we know and love. You can find pork rinds in all sorts of flavors depending on how they're seasoned, including barbeque, chile pepper, and more.

Pork Rinds vs. Cracklings vs. Fatbacks — What's the Difference?

There are many regional variations of pork rinds. Different versions of the crispy snack can be found in much of Latin America, Asia, and Europe. However, there are three main variations of fried pig skin that you may be familiar with: pork rinds, cracklings, and fatbacks.

So what separates a crackling from its cousin, the pork rind? While pork rinds are placed in the fryer devoid of any fat, cracklings still have some fat on the skin when they go in the fryer, giving them a chewier, somewhat meatier crunch. The fat also prevents the cracklings from puffing up into a shape similar to that of the pork rind.

Fatbacks, on the other hand, live up to their name. They still have most of the fat left on the skin when they come out of the fryer, making them dense and cube-like in shape. You're more likely to be able to find pork rinds and cracklings in stores, whereas for fatbacks, you may need to go local.

Pork Rind Nutrition and the Keto Diet

Pork rinds have become a popular snack for folks on the keto diet, as they have zero carbohydrates. This makes them ideal for the high-fat, low-carb lifestyle.

However, it's important to keep in mind that pork rinds are deep-fried, containing about 5 grams of fat and 80 calories per one half-ounce serving (according to USDA nutrition information). This makes a standard bag of pork rinds about the caloric equivalent of a Big Mac.

Whether or not you're on the keto diet, be sure to keep in mind the potential health consequences of consuming high quantities of fried foods.

How to Eat Pork Rinds

Aside from eating them straight out of the bag, pork rinds can be used in your favorite recipes as well. They can be crushed and used as breadcrumbs (like in this All Protein Meatloaf or Crispy Keto Fried Chicken in the Air Fryer), or as a replacement for chips with your favorite dip or in your next batch of nachos. They can even be used to make pizza dough. Any clever use is sure to be tasty.

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