Chicharrón prensado has achieved cult status among fried pork fans. This Colombian specialty involves pressing planks of marinated pork belly to a wafer-thinness before frying into shatteringly crispy perfection.
Prensado means “pressed” in Spanish, referring to the unique technique of sandwiching seasoned slabs of fresh pork between sheets of plastic or wax paper weighted down by heavy bricks or a mechanical press. As the meat compresses, moisture is forced out while adobo flavors are pressed in.
Once flattened paper-thin, the pork belly gets portioned into rustic rectangles then deep fried until puffed and crisp. The resulting chicharrón prensado packs unparalleled crunch yielding to tender, melty meat that dissolves on the tongue. No wonder it’s become the darling of street food stalls across Latin America!
This specialty takes pork rinds to the extreme. Learn all about the regional favorite – from its Colombian origins to perfect prep methods – in this complete guide to making chicharrón prensado at home.
What Is Chicharrón Prensado?
Known as “chicharrón” in Colombia and much of Latin America, this beloved street food features cuts of fried pork belly or pork rind. The name comes from the Spanish word “chicharrón”, derived from the verb “chicharrar” meaning to fry in oil until crispy.
The version enjoyed across Colombia gets labeled “prensado” or pressed, referring to the technique of flattening slabs of pork prior to frying. This allows more surface area to crisp up.
Prensado-style chicharrón begins with fresh, raw pork belly. It gets portioned into half-inch thick rectangles, then layered between sheets of wax paper or plastic. Next, weight placed on top compresses the pork while simultaneously infusing flavors from an adobo-style marinade.
Once flattened and seasoned, the pork slabs fry in hot oil until puffed and crackling crisp. The combination of compression and frying gives chicharrón prensado its signature shattery texture contrasted by succulent, tender meat that shreds under the hint of pressure from your teeth.
This specialty takes pork rinds to the next level! Now let’s explore the roots of prensado preparation in Colombia.
Origins of Chicharrón Prensado in Colombian Cuisine
Like many beloved street foods, the exact origins of chicharrón prensado get muddled by history and local legend. However, the technique likely emerged as a creative way to prevent waste and transform oft-discarded scraps into coveted snacks.
Pork features prominently across every region of Colombia. Diverse cooking methods evolved to make use of every part of these precious animals in the relatively resource-scarce country.
Resourceful home cooks would save leftover bits of raw pork belly and skin, layering them between stones or bricks stacked on a plate to gently press out moisture. Meanwhile, the compression allowed salt and other seasoning penetrated the meat.
After an hour or so, the squished pork got fried in lard, becoming beautifully crispy. The weight created more surface area for frying while the salt and seasoning infused rich flavors.
Vendors likely adapted the concept by using wax paper and presses to achieve wafer-thin pork to sell as street food. Customers went crazy for the crispy pressed pork, and a new specialty was born!
While various Latin American countries have similar fried pork snacks, none has embraced the prensado preparation more fervently than Colombia, where it ranks among the most iconic street foods today.
Now that you know the backstory of this specialty, let’s break down the ingredients and equipment needed to make chicharrón prensado from scratch.
You don’t need any special equipment beyond basic kitchen tools:
- Cutting board and sharp knife
- Large plate or pan
- Parchment paper
- A second plate or pan to weigh down pork
- Heavy cans, bricks or dumbbells (as pressing weight)
- Mixing bowl
- Paper towels
- Slotted spatula
- Wire cooling rack
And of course, a stove or outdoor propane burner for heating up frying oil. Now we’re ready to transform that pork belly into gloriously crispy chicharrón prensado!
Chicharrón Prensado RecipeCourse: SnacksCuisine: ColombianDifficulty: Intermediate
Part of chicharrón prensado’s appeal comes from the short list of humble ingredients transformed through technique.
- For the pork:
pound skinless pork belly, about 1/2 inch thick
tablespoons kosher salt
teaspoon ground cumin
teaspoon onion powder
teaspoon garlic powder
cup distilled white vinegar
Lime wedges, for serving
- For frying:
Peanut or vegetable oil, for frying
Purple cabbage, sliced (optional garnish)
Salsa, guacamole, lime wedges (for serving)
Step-By-Step Guide to Making Chicharrón Prensado
- Prep Ingredients
- Cut pork belly into long rectangular slabs about 3 inches wide. Make them as evenly thick as possible across the slab, about 1⁄2 inch.
- In a mixing bowl, stir together the salt, cumin, onion powder, garlic powder and oregano.
- Sprinkle the seasoning mix evenly all over pork slabs on both sides, gently pressing in.
- Drizzle the distilled vinegar over the pork. Turn slabs over and drizzle again to evenly coat both sides.
- Compress the Pork
- Layer 4-5 pieces of parchment paper on a large plate or pan. Arrange seasoned pork slabs in a single layer on top, leaving space between each.
- Top pork with another 4-5 stacked pieces of parchment paper. Place second plate/pan directly on top to weight down pork.
- Optional: For more weight, place heavy cans, bricks or dumbbells on the top plate/pan.
- Let pork compress under the weight for 1 hour at room temperature, allowing flavors to penetrate meat.
- Fry the Pork
- Heat at least 2 inches peanut or vegetable oil to 350°F in a heavy pot.
- Once pork is done pressing, carefully remove top layers and set pork slabs aside.
- Gently add a slab to the hot oil. Fry for 2-3 minutes until puffed and golden.
- Flip slab and fry other side another 1-2 minutes until crisp.
- Use a slotted spatula to transfer fried pork to a paper towel lined tray to drain briefly.
- Fry remaining pork slabs in batches allowing oil to return to temperature between batches.
- Transfer fried pork planks to a wire rack. Sprinkle with salt if desired while still hot.
- Slice into triangles or small rectangles. Enjoy immediately garnished with lime juice, cabbage, guacamole or salsa if desired!
- Use the freshest, best quality pork belly possible
Cut pork into uniform rectangles for even pressing/frying
Weigh pork down as much as possible to get wafer-thin
Fry in small batches to maintain oil temperature
- Be prepared to become obsessed with creating batches of chicharrón prensado to enjoy anytime with an ice cold Colombian beer.
6 servings per container
- Amount Per Serving% Daily Value *
- Total Fat
- Trans Fat 2g
- Amount Per Serving% Daily Value *
- Total Carbohydrate
- Protein 8g 16%
* The % Daily Value tells you how much a nutrient in a serving of food contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
Chicharron de Pescado Tips and Tricks
- Use fresh high-quality pork for best texture – avoid pre-frozen or pre-cut pork packs.
- Cut uniform pork portions – evenly thick and sized slabs will press and fry evenly.
- Press in a single layer – overcrowded pork won’t flatten properly.
- Compensate with weight – the more pounds pressing down, the thinner and crispier the pork.
- Blot fried pork – removing excess grease helps it stay crispy longer.
- Work in small batches – 2-3 pork slabs at a time prevents oil temp dropping too much.
- Use instant read thermometer – maintaining 350°F oil temp is vital.
- Cool and store pork separately – stacking causes steaming and sogginess
Mastering the art of chicharrón prensado may take some trial and error to customize for your set up. But once you perfect the method for hitting that ideal shatter, there’s no going back!
Now let’s go over how to incorporate prensado into dishes beyond snacking.
How to Serve Chicharrón Prensado
The most common way to enjoy chicharrón prensado is freshly fried, as they do on the streets of Bogotá, Medellín and Cali. But the crispy pork slabs also lend wonderful texture and flavor contrast to meals.
- As a snack – Slice into triangles and dip into salsa, guacamole or lime juice.
- In sandwiches – Stuff into crusty rolls with sautéed onions for hearty pan con chicharrón.
- As a garnish – Finely chop and sprinkle over soup, tacos, beans or eggs for a salty crunch.
- Over salad – Break into bite sized shards to top crisp salads for fabulous contrast
However you enjoy chicharrón prensado – on its own or creatively incorporated – its shattery texture and full-flavored porkiness make an addictive addition to any plate. Now how about we dig into some history behind pork’s prominence in Colombian cuisine:
Why Does Pork Reign Supreme Across Colombia?
The majority Catholic country inherited pigs from Spanish colonizers. Raising pigs proved practical in the mountainous highlands since they adapt easily to varied climates and convert table scraps into protein effectively.
Their omnivore tendencies allows pigs to thrive on a diverse diet including roots, fruits, grains, vegetables, insects and small animals. Mothers require little care of piglets, weaning them quickly to root around family land.
Robust reproduction cycles ensuring ample fresh pork. Curly tails got docked to distinguish domestic swine from wild boars. Generations perfected techniques like encasing bits in barnyard mud for insulation during crisping.
Whether preserved into crunchy chicharrón or simmered in hearty sancocho stew, pork signifies celebration and nourishment in Colombia. Its prominence and symbolism continue today just as in ancestral eras.
Now let’s get into some frequently asked questions:
Chicharrón Prensado FAQs.
What is chicharrón made of?
Chicharrón consists of fried pork rind or fatty pork belly until puffed and crispy. Pressing then frying pork belly fat creates the shattering texture unique to prensado preparation.
What cut of pork is used for chicharrón?
Skin and fat discarded from pork belly trimmings often get used to produce basic chicharrón or pork rinds. Prensado-style chicharrón begins with fresh raw pork belly which gets seasoned, pressed and fried.
Where did chicharrón originate?
Fried pork snacks exist across Latin America and Spain but likely trace roots to early Spanish colonizers introducing pigs across the Americas. Colombia passionately embraced the dish, pioneering the prensado preparation.
What do you call the meat of chicharrón?
The fatty marbled portion is called pork belly while the crispy fried exterior gets labeled as pork rind. So prensado contains both belly and rind, yielding tender meat blanketed by ultra crispy fried exterior.
What does the term chicharrón prensado translate to in English?
Chicharrón translates generally to fried pork rinds or pork cracklings. Adding “prensado” indicates the pressed or flattened preparation style yielding wafer-thin pork fried extra crispy.
Why is pressed chicharrón so shatteringly crispy compared to regular pork rinds?
Using considerable weight to compact pork belly into thin sheets allows more surface area to bubble and crisp during frying. Pre-salting and piercing the meat also extracts moisture for added crunch.
Is eating chicharrón healthy or unhealthy?
Like most fried foods, chicharrón lies on the indulgent end of the spectrum. But the protein does contain high amounts of collagen. Enjoy in moderation as the occasional treat.
I hope this guide has illuminated everything needed to pursue pressed pork perfection at home! Let me know if you have any other questions on your journey to discovering Colombia’s most craveable street food.
Recreate the Magic of Chicharrón Prensado at Home
Armed with this complete primer on chicharrón prensado – from its street food origins to frying techniques – you can unleash this marvel of texture and flavor magic right in your own kitchen.
Don’t let the multi-step process intimidate you. Taking raw pork belly through compression then frying is easier than it sounds. And the glorious outcome of shatteringly crispy fried perfection is so worth the nominal effort.
Once you experience authentic chicharrón prensado, there’s no going back to basic pork rinds! Be prepared to embark on your very own Colombian-style fried pork obsession.
I’d love to see your prensado creations! Share some snaps on Facebook @radiantnourishblog and tag me so I can ooh and ahh over your handiwork.
Thanks so much for stopping by to learn about one of Latin cuisine’s most craveable snacks. Now get pressing and frying my friend!