You’ll find pork rinds (also called chicharrones or cracklings) most often in the snacks section of the store. Cozily nestled somewhere between the decidedly non-Paleo pretzels and potato chips. Their packaging and their shelving might lead you to wonder about their Paleo palatability. But let’s take a closer look for a crisper idea on where they fall on the Paleo spectrum.
WHAT ARE PORK RINDS?
Pork rinds are made from pork skin fried in its own fat as it renders out. Rendering is the process of cooking the skins with added salt, which acts as a preservative. This removes much of the fat and a hardened piece of the skin is what remains. To transform it into the packaged puffy crunch we get from the bag; The skin is then fried in lard (or another type of oil) to increase its size and crispiness. Most producers then add seasoning of some type, which could be salt and/or MSG.
ARE PORK RINDS PALEO?
While they do offer crunch and flavor, pork rinds don’t deliver a whole lot of nutritional bang for the buck. If made with just the skins, salt and their own fat, they serve as a compliant ingredient. They can also be used as a breading for meat recipes. Snacking intensively on bagfuls is not recommended, as Paleo experts generally agree. That, yes they are paleo.
WHAT DO THE PALEO GURUS SAY?
Mark Sisson says: “If you’re worried about seed oils being used as the frying medium, just check the label. You want “pork skin” and “salt,” ideally. If oils were used, they’ll be listed in the ingredients. This is pretty rare, though, as frying a piece of fatty skin in exogenous fat instead of using the fat inherent to the skin, only costs the producer more money. MSG is often added, too, so watch out for that if you’re sensitive and wish to avoid it.
Some people crush them up and use them as breading for fried meat dishes. You probably don’t want to make this a regular thing, but it’s a nice alternative to standard breading. (They’re) Primal, as long as they’re cooked in their own fat.”
Sébastien Noël says: “Most people think of them as unhealthy indulgence, but we know very well that there is nothing wrong in eating fatty pork skin. However, making it yourself is probably the only way to go because you can control the amount of salt you use and you’ll know there won’t be any other nasty ingredients.”
Loren Cordain says: Pork rinds don’t pass muster, due to their high salt content and the processing they undergo. They appear on his “Non-Paleo Foods Checklist” from “The Paleo Diet Cookbook” as no-nos.
Read the label carefully or make your own chicharrones. This is to ensure that you’re not consuming harmful ingredients along with the pork skin. As an added ingredient or occasional snack, most Paleo voices agree they’re acceptable. But make sure you know what’s in them before you start crunching away.
Issue No. 24