Since discovering that pork rind can brown and turn crisp without frying, I haven’t deep fried pork hock in years. Before we became owners of an air fryer, I used to do the roasting in the oven. Well, the oven takes a long time to preheat and it consumes more electricity too. So, air frying is how we cook crispy pork hock these days.
It is a simple dish, really. The pork hock is simmered with spices and seasonings until tender, drained then roasted. How can that be so hard, right? Nothing difficult about cooking crispy pork hock. But, to get it right, we have to clarify the cooking process and separate facts from myths.
The first thing to remember is that the best hock for this dish is from the front leg of a young pig. The front hock is meatier. The more mature the pig, the thicker and tougher the meat fiber, rind and tendon.
Second, frying (or air frying, in this case) is not the only step in cooking this dish — the hock has to be simmered to tenderness prior to deep-frying.
Third, let’s get rid of the myths. There are so many old wives’ tales surrounding crispy pata in the Philippines.
Myth number 1. According to the oldies, one has to drip-dry the hock after boiling and then allow it to air-dry for a day prior to deep-frying. That’s not true. For as long as you drain, cool and, preferably, chill the boiled pata, there’s no reason why you can’t boil and fry or air fry it on the same day.
Myth number 2. The hock has to be frozen after air-drying before it is fried so that the meat stays moist. Holy crap, frying frozen anything is the major cause of unnecessary oil spatter and kitchen accidents. Air frying frozen meat will yield terrible results too because the skin is moist.
Myth number 3. Deep-frying is the only way to make the pork rind crisp and puffed. Nope. A good oven and a very high cooking temperature does the job equally well. So does an air fryer. No oil spatters.
With all that out of the way, let me show you just how easy it is to cook crispy pork hock on the stovetop and in the air fryer.
First, prick the pork hock. I used an ice pick to pierce the hock several times and in different spots from the skin all the way to the thickest part of meat. This prevents the skin from bursting during cooking. The meat is thick, steam builds up inside and, as that steam searches for a way to escape, the skin can burst. By pricking the hock, we create vents for the steam to escape without tearing the skin.
Place the pierced hock in a large pot, cover with water and add seasonings and spices. You will need to heavily salt the water because that’s a lot of meat that needs salt. For the spices, I chose garlic, bay leaves and peppercorns. No need to go overboard.
The pork hock needs to simmer until very tender. Depending on the size of the hock and the age of the animal it came from, the simmering time can be anywhere from an hour and a half to twice as long. Inspect the hock after it has been simmering for an hour. You’ll know it’s ready to be lifted out of the liquid if the skin is so soft that it’s like jelly.
When the pork hock is tender, scoop it out and rest on a rack to cool. This stage will help dry the skin’s surface to help it brown and turn crisp better and faster in the air fryer.
Place the rested pork hock in the fryer until the top is browned and crisp. Turn it over and air fry for to brown the opposite side. Serve it immediately while the pork hock skin is delightfully crispy. Exposure to air will turn that crispness into chewiness as the pork hock cools.
- 1 front pork hock
- 3 tablespoons salt
- 1 tablespoon peppercorns
- 4 cloves garlic
- ½ teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
- 1 bay leaf
- Place the pork hock in a large pan and cover with water.
- Add the rest of the ingredients and bring to the boil.
- Lower the heat and simmer until tender. Check the liquid once in a while and add more water, if needed, to make sure the hock is submerged in liquid throughout the simmering. Alternatively, if your pan in on the shallow side, turn the hock over carefully every half an hour.
- Scoop out the hock and rest on a rack. Leave to cool and for the skin to dry out.
- Move the hock to the air fryer basket.
- Air fry at 190C for 20 minutes.
- Flip the hock over and air fry for another 20 minutes.