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What Is a Pork Chip?

By Megan Shoop
Updated May 16, 2024
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Pork chips, often called pork rinds, are simply pork fat and skin that have been deep-fried together until very crispy. The results generally look something like a cross between a potato chip and a piece of fried bacon. The taste is usually very salty and meaty, especially if the cook uses cured pork skin to make them. Both homemade and commercial pork chip varieties may be a low-carb alternative to potato chips for those who love salty, crunchy snacks.

Many Mexican cooks make pork chips with cleaned pig skin leftover from breaking down and roasting other parts of the pig. Called chicharones in Spanish, Mexican-style pork chips are often deep-fried in a large enamel pot. The cook generally melts several inches of pork lard in a pot, heats it until the lard bubbles and drops in the sliced pieces of pig skin. The skin bubbles and pops for a few minutes, crisping up and turning golden brown in the process.

Those that want to make pork chip varieties at home, but can’t find or don’t like to use lard, may replace the melted fat with oil. Peanut, safflower, and grape seed oils all work well because they have a high smoke point. Olive or vegetable oil may burn the pork skin before it has a chance to get crisp and turn brown. Oils with lower smoke points may also start to smoke during the cooking process, as their name suggests. This doesn’t affect the cooking process, but it may set off smoke detectors or make the kitchen very hazy.

Deep-fried pork chips may be made with brined, lightly smoked, or untreated pig skin. The skin must only be clean and free of hair when it is cooked. Adding extra flavoring generally changes the flavor of a pork chip, allowing cooks to experiment and see which flavorings they like best. One might even try marinating the skin strips in barbecue sauce, mesquite seasoning, or hot sauce before frying. Creating several flavors of pork chip could make a tasty addition to a party snack or appetizer spread.

Though low in carbohydrates, pork chip varieties of all kinds contain a considerable amount of fat. Consuming too much fat, oil, and salt could also adversely affect one’s heart and arteries. Pork chips, though often tasty, may not be the best everyday snack. Those on a low-carb diet may successfully consume pork chips without weight gain, but those on a low-fat diet might consider consuming pork chips only occasionally.

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Discussion Comments
By Phaedrus — On Jun 10, 2014

I didn't grow up eating pork chips or pork rinds, but I went to a county fair down here a few years ago and a vendor was selling large bags of seasoned pork chips for only a few dollars. I watched him pour these large squares of dry pork skin into a huge vat of hot oil, and a few minutes later they were all floating on top.

I tried one and thought I was eating air. It was so light, and not as greasy as I thought it would be. The chips had a special barbecue-flavored salt on them, which was pleasantly hot. I have since tried a salt-and-vinegar and a dill pickle flavor. I have to watch my carb intake, so I always keep a bag of pork chips around to satisfy my craving for salty snacks.

By Reminiscence — On Jun 09, 2014

A few years ago, I found microwaveable pork chips at my favorite grocery store. The pork rinds start out as hard chips, but they puff up as they cook and the result is similar to other pork rind snacks. I wouldn't say there was any financial difference between microwaveable pork chips and the ready made snack bags, but the regular pork skins do tend to go stale quickly if not wrapped well.

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