Pricking Pork…

It might seem counter-intuitive that punching tiny holes into pork epidermis (skin) would yield incredibly crisp skin. But it does. The chinese have known this for centuries(?) and aggressively prick their roast pork all over, before deep-frying, to achieve this amazing, blistered, crisp and caramelized skin. This method was the inspiration for my version of “accupunctured” lechon where we pin-pricked (yes, with single large needles) the entire pig before roasting it. And we loved the results and have prepared our Zubuchons in the same manner ever since. Many folks and apparent expert lechoneros thought we were nuts, evil sadists released from the asylum…

A few months ago, on a trip to Hong Kong, I finally found the implement I was looking for the past several years, and which I absolutely had to acquire. Sister had pointed me in the direction of a much larger and far more expensive version in the U.S. years ago, but I never bought it, knowing the chinese would have a far more economical solution. This wood handled implement, the “turbo pricker” I would call it, is fitted with several sharp pins/nails that make pricking the pork a much easier task. When I found it on the “restaurant street” in Hong Kong (sorry, don’t ask me for the name), I was giddy with excitement, and bought 6 of them! At just USD4-5 each, they were a bargain. We now have one at home, at the beach and four of them at the roasting pits of Zubuchon. We use them on crispy pata, roast pork, porchetta, and of course, lechon. :)

This post in answer to Bettyq and Footloose’s comments regarding the implement used to prick the pork.


59 Responses

  1. ok…that settles it, MM! Hubby asked me a few days ago where I would like to go for our summer holidays. This calls for a trrip to HK…Palawan will have to wait, Ms. Connie C!

    On second thought, if Ms. Ragamuffin is around, can you posssibly send maybe 12 to make it worth your while?) to Canada? I will reimburse you , of course plus send you maybe Maple Syrup or Maple Creme or Butter? or how about some Indian Candy and canned salmon sardines?

    MARAMING SALAMAT< MM for providing with the info!

  2. Excellent addition to your torture/cooking implements! :-) MM, I think you found Shanghai St, in Yau Ma Tei, the section south of Waterloo Road.

  3. The street is called Shanghai Street, Exit C using the Yau Ma Tei MTR Stop. I highly recommend a visit if you are a cooking buff.

  4. When I was younger I remember having these at my grandma’s kitchen drawer! Had no idea what it was I thought it was ice pick with many sticks!!! Man was I ever so wrong. Now that I know what it is I have no idea where it might have floated away after Ondoy

  5. I saw that too but did not buy it. Went for the cake decorating stuff instead.

  6. MM…mind if I use the picture up above to carry it with me to Chinatown tom?…so i won’t be misinterpreted in the little Chinese I speak! I might get lucky and find it here since we have Chinese lechon in every street corner in Chinatown.

  7. Looks like it came from the latest Hollywood blockbuster “The Silencing of the Pork.”
    Or an environmentally friendly, multi-pronged tazer gun.

    Imagine getting caught with 8 of those by the overzealous customs examiners in NAIA.

    “Ano yan?!? Ano yan?!? ”
    “Pinabili ho ito ni Marketman.”
    “Naku, electronics ‘ata yan. 300% tax niyan!”
    “Di ho’, this is para you can make tusok tusok ho’ the lechon.”
    “Naku, eh di tourism tax yan, 200% tax na lang.”

  8. I used the smallest screw driver, (which resembles a mini ice pick), in a set my husband has when I made lechon kawali. I started out with a big needle but I almost poked myself so found that the screwdriver with the handle worked out better. I was wondering if they sold a gadget of this sort made for something else but wow…interesting that the Chinese already has discovered this crispy pork skin gadget. My family was looking at me with puzzled expressions as I explained how I got the skin so crispy. I might have to see if I can make my own gadget using a glue gun and push pins maybe??

  9. Ok…found it! Don’t need to go to HK after all…ebay has it for $11 and free shipping to US and only $5 shipping to Canada. It looks sturdy but has plastic handle and also rounded like your picture above.

  10. This reminds me of the Spanish Medieval Inquisition…they could use this to torture gluttons. Joke lang! ;-P

  11. Shanghai Street is restaurant supply street in Kowloon side. I saw this gadget being sold locally in one of the restaurant supply stores during the trade fairs in here in World Trade Center.

  12. At the local fish market in Pinas, I saw a similar but improvised gadget with more nails though shorter, used not to puncture holes in pork skin but to remove scales from large fish. Rather than a rounded handle, It has a small paddle like one for ease of use.

    MM, wonder if you might be able to improvise something similar, with even more nails now that you have a commercial use for it. Seems like a repeated supple wrist action using a paddle could be quicker and perhaps more ergonomically efficient?

    I thought to use my flower arranger pins ( the one you use to to keep flower stems in place, gawd! senior moment, the name escapes me now) but I did not want my flowers to be contaminated by meat even after cleaning it.

  13. Connie C, could it be needle holder? Would not work on pork rind. Think fakirs lying on beds of nails.

    There’s this biko specialist who delivers biko in Toronto who actually smells of biko. It must have been the lay-out of our shop but the smell of biko preceded his every appearance like a fanfare. Tataaaa…umm it must be Boy Biko.

    So what I’m setting up for is Marketman has to take care his person does not soak up too much smell of Zubuchon because the first sentences of Tania Sanchez’ introduction to her book (Perfumes – The Guide; Turin and Sanchez) reads thus: “The question that women casually shopping for perfume ask more than any other is “What scent drives men wild?” After years of intensive research, we know the definitive answer. It is bacon”.

  14. We have alot of chinese stores in my area… I think I will go to the older ones, hopefully meron sila nyan. In a vietnamese supermarket na pinuntahan ko last week, I strolled through diff. kitchen gadgets nila (sus, isang aisle po yon), and gosh things that I don’t know exist meron sila although I did not see this one. I think I will try again. Speaking of gadgets, Avon sells the battery operated pepper mill, yung nakikita mo sa TV program Quickfire. Imagine sa AVON ko pa yon mabibili, I was searching for it for a while.

    Ako din MM, request ko if I can print your picture para pag-punta ko sa Chinatown, maipakita ko kung ano ang hinahanap ko, also I am going to send it to my folks in Quezon Pronvince to make me one. Baka sa mini-wooden sagwan nila i-design. Thanks again.

  15. Just found it guys, go to – under meat tenderizer. The price is reasonable. I am buying me two.

  16. a good way to work off aggression—stress-relief and crunchy lechon skin at the same time..

  17. This looks inspired by the “trumpo” , or spinning top (the precursor of today’s Beyblades) – wooden cylindrical top portion, nail at the bottom.

  18. Lojet, just Google meat tenderizer – ang dami sa sites. Ranging from $10 – $25.

  19. Interesting piece of contraption! I would love to have one of my own too!. Btw, how did you get passed customs with that in your luggage? hehehe

  20. Just last Sunday, I saw meat prickers for sale at the True Value branch in Park Square I. Oster brand. Can’t remember, though, how much they cost…

  21. I love kitchen gadgets! Funny enough our Pinoy ‘pangkayod ng buko’ / young coconut scraper is basically native to the Philippines, as is our handheld pulvoron molds. The Thais have a papaya shredder like a peeler which I’ve only found in Thailand supermarkets. Great to know about this pork pricking paraphernalia. I’ll be on the lookout at Joo Chiat Road, where there are kitchen supplies sold.

  22. Natie: yes, that’s right! the frog, but mine has sharper tines and could easily have been used to prick the pork skin.

    Footloose: a straight question with a good answer. But to digress from pork, biko scents and kitchen gadgets, I am reminded of a conversation overheard during our dancing days at an Argentine tango convention in Miami when a lady politely asked her tastefully scented dancing partner ( tho I am not sure if she was having any wild thoughts herself): “What are you wearing?”, and the response was probably an honest but naive one: “Fruit of the Loom”. I nearly broke up in hysterics.

  23. Oww Connie, hahahahhahaha – these are the kinds of conversations that I mentioned to my husband, and him telling me that he most probably starts lurking at the site. I told him to watch out for Lee, Footloose, BettyQ and you… and some other folks..

  24. So…. what’s the difference between the western style of scoring pork skin and the eastern pork pricking? Haha, that is true… Men would rather smell bacon than Bvlgari! :)

  25. LMAO @ Footloose’s comment … no wonder hubby often requests bacon ! hahahahaha guess he prefers it over my regular perfume :'(

    still LMAO @ Connie’s too …………. hahahaha

  26. Wow…I’m going on a treasure hunt to see if I can score one here in the bay area. We have alot of Asian restaurant supliers. I tried duplicating the Zubuchon skin with a fork while making Liempo the other day (yes, I followed one of MMs post…with a twist). Unfortunately using an oven and a fork doesn’t work, but the taste was good nonetheless.

    Looking at the picture…eegads…it looks like an industrial strength version of the armamentum for testing tuberculosis.

  27. I have a meat tenderizer that looks a lot like this. The brand is Norpro. I’ve actually never used it; it was one of those kitchen gadget gifts in my Christmas stocking from hubby. Now I can use it for my pork belly roasts. Thanks, MM.

  28. EbbaBlue, Kim: Still on scents and triggered by Footloose’s you tube link, here’s to oblige, and I will stop after this, or I risk future posts being popped off the screen. Sorry MM.

    While on an European holiday, a young friend unable to wait to get to her room asked to use a couple friend’s CR/WC at their hotel room at the near end of the corridor. Getting a whiff of bathroom air, hubby soon realizes that wifey has just used the toilet. Trying to keep a straight face and hoping to save his wife the embarrassment, he quickly asks: “But do you REALLY want to know the scent of a REAL woman?” Perhaps even Al Pacino may not or wouldn’t want to know, he, he.

  29. Connie C, I just looked at my kenzan and it’s made out of lead with brass nails so you can’t use it on food because of the toxicity of the lead.

  30. Hi MM! just bought one also, but its from MK Kitchen along Pioneer Ave Pasig. it has much more needles in it. and it looks like more of a hammer.

  31. Hi MM. How deep do you push the pins in? Clear through the skin and fat til it hits flesh?

  32. If only the pork rind or skin needs to be pricked, then an easier idea will be to have this gadget with shorter nails (about 1/4″ maybe) then have it in roller form so it will be much faster to wheel around. Just an idea :) Thanks for the tips for the crispy skin!

  33. Laura….there is already one out there…Deni roller meat tenderizer. However, because the pork skin esp. the pata tends to be more resilient? and you have to exert some degree of presuure not like rolled out puff pastry (we use a docker). If the pata is boiled first and then air dried , then using that roller will work for the skin is already denatured. But for lechon kawali and whole lechon, using the roller will pose some degree of dificulty, I think!

  34. thanks betty q. I wasn’t thinking about how tough pig skin can be…you’re right…I was imagining it already boiled & tender for lechon kawali :-)


  36. My Mom uses a fork to prick the skin of the liempo for lechon kawali before cooking in the turbo broiler which really makes the skin crispylicious and yesterday I just saw a similar gadget to the one pictured above at the City’Super (branch of Hongkong supermarket chain) Shanghai IFC.

  37. MM, I’m curious. How do you explain to your staff all these innovations that you do? Or have you trained them to think out of the box just like you do?

  38. Hi Bettyq! sorry i missed your comment… my broadband connection was down the whole weekend. Do you still want the 12? I can definitely get them and ship them to you in exchange for some maple syrup and candied salmon (I lived in Vancouver for 4 months and those are the stuff I miss the most). :) Or you can plan a trip here and I’ll take you food tripping and cooking implement shopping! MM- the street is called Shanghai Street in Yau Ma Tei. If you ever need anything from there let me know! I go to Manila once in a while and can get them for you.

  39. Thanks Marketman. Hey is there anywhere I can email you? Im getting ready to roast my first 65lb pig this coming fourth and would like to pick your brain a little.

    I ordered one of those tenderizers from amazon today. Im glad that I stumbled on this website

  40. There is a contact form on the upper level of the opening page for this website. However, if you review my old posts under “lechon chronicles” that should give you a very clear picture of how I learned how to roast pigs…

  41. Did my very first Lechon this past weekend. I followed most of your guidelines and the pig came out great. I stuffed it with lemongrass, shallots, lots of garlic and salt and pepper and rubbed it with olive oil. my 60 lb pig came out great in about 5 1/2 hours over cooking

    FYI i purchased this “pricker” from Amazon and it did not work. the prickers were just too dull. so if your looking for something to prick the skin, this will not cut it

    I cant wait for my next one!

  42. Hi MM,

    did you get to use this? the pricks on your lechon (hmm, that did not come out right) seem a lot closer to each other – or is it just my imagination?

  43. g, yes, we definitely use this. They sometimes go over an area more than one pass, so holes will be closer together. Also, the skin bursts in parts more readily than others… so some parts of the lechon still seem a bit smooth, but aren’t really… Also, these prickers work well for a huge liempo cooked whole or into lechon kawali… :)

  44. wow, that’s quite a bit of effort. but somehow am unworried about this attention to detail being lost to the demands of mass production efficiency when you begin to branch out.

  45. wow, that’s quite a bit of effort. but somehow am unworried about this attention to detail being lost to the demands of mass production efficiency when you begin to branch out. the restaurant would do well in a location you and I are familiar with. mind if i send a recommendation to the folks in charge?

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