"I don't often eat a Big Mac, but when I do, I replace the center bun with a thick piece of crispy pig skin."—The Most Interesting Man In The World
The other day I found myself in a nearly impossible situation: After slow-cooking and serving a whole skin-on pork shoulder for a dinner party, complete with porky, juicy, fall-apart tender meat and a huge piece of crisp, crackling skin, I cleared the table and found this:
That's right. In the entire history of dinner parties, I've NEVER had any leftover pig skin, much less a piece shaped vaguely like France. I mean, it's unheard of. How could anyone resist a piece of crisp, greaseless, thick and crunchy pig skin? Particularly after a little over a bottle of wine per person had been drunk?
Slightly baffled, I set the pig skin aside, rejoined the party, and went to bed several hours later just over the other side of a little bit tipsy.
The next morning I woke up still smarting a bit from the night before's festivities. Normally in these situations, I do one of two things: a) sleep it off or b) distract my stomach with the greasiest thing I can find so that the rest of my body can get a bit of work done while my stomach sorts itself out.
With a dog to walk and work to do, a) was not an option this time, while a nearly empty fridge save for some cheese, a ton of condiments, and leftover pig skin meant that I'd need to bring in some greasy reinforcements from outside.
My neighborhood being the way it is, there really aren't all that many options as far as a quick lunch goes other than McDonald's, and I'm so loathe to order anything there asides from french fries.
But then, a thought struck my brain like a spatter of hot grease off a sizzling skillet of bacon, and it went something like this. Ladies and gentlemen, burger lovers of all ages and super sizes, I present to you The Pig Mac.
Step 1: Deconstruct Big Mac, Toss Middle Bun, Add Crispy Pig Skin
Of course, if you want, you can make the entire thing 100 percent from scratch using my Better Big Mac recipe, but on this particular day, I was in no shape to do so.
I reheated my pig skin in the toaster oven for this until it was nice, hot, and crisp.
Step 2: Replace Lettuce, Pickles, and Sauce on Top of Pig Skin
I actually ended up adding an extra dollop of homemade Big Mac Sauce and few extra slices of homemade pickles. For the electrolytes, I told myself.
Step 3: Replace Top Patty and Top Bun
And that's really all there is to it.
The key is that you need to get your pig skin really nice and crisp. I do this by roasting a whole salted and peppered skin-on pork shoulder on a rack set in a rimmed baking sheet in a 300°F oven (or even lower if you've got the time) for around five hours until the meat is completely tender (you should be able to pull it off easily with a fork).
At this point, the collagen in the skin has completely broken down, but it's still relatively soft. After letting the shoulder rest, I remove the skin with my fingers, scrape up any excess subcutaneous fat, crank the oven up to 425°F, place the skin on a foil-lined baking sheet, and roast it until it's completely crisp. This takes about 15 minutes longer.
The results are perfectly rendered, grease-free, ultra-porky crackling in sheets big enough that you can cut them to whatever size and shape you require.
As The Most Interesting Man In The World would say, "I don't often eat a Big Mac, but when I do, I replace the center bun with a thick piece of crispy pig skin."
Is it a long shot to hope that this concept appears in burger joints soon?
About the author: J. Kenji Lopez-Alt is the Managing Editor of Serious Eats where he likes to explore the science of home cooking in his weekly column The Food Lab. You can follow him at @thefoodlab on Twitter, or at The Food Lab on Facebook.