Fatback -- literally, pieces of fat taken from a pig's back -- is eaten as an entree in the South alongside black-eyed peas and collard greens for New Year's. The fatback is typically fried in a skillet, but you can bake it in the oven to render the fat and make it crispy. Fatback is also commonly used to flavor beans and greens. While it's typically added to the pot at the beginning of the cooking process,it can be baked to cook it quickly if you decide to add it at the last minute.
Season both sides of the fatback with your choice of spices. Simple salt and pepper are usually all you needed, but fatback is often salt-cured and doesn't require additional salt.
Place the pieces of fatback on a baking pan in a single layer, leaving a small space between each piece. Line the pan with aluminum foil to make cleanup easy. There's no need to add oil to the pan because of the meat's high fat content.
Preheat the oven to about 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Place the baking pan in the oven on the center rack.
Bake the fatback for about 15 minutes to achieve a slightly crisp texture and light golden brown color. Remove it from the oven at this point if you want to add it to a pot of greens or beans, such as pinto beans or green beans.
Continue baking the fatback for another 10 to 15 minutes to achieve a medium or deep golden brown color, the preferred doneness for serving fatback as an entree. It's not necessary to turn the fatback, but you can turn it before cooking for the additional 10 to 15 minutes, if desired.
Insert a meat thermometer in the thickest part of the fatback to make sure the internal temperature is at least 145 F, the safe minimum cooking time for pork.
Cut the baked fatback into smaller bite-sized pieces if adding it to a pot of beans or greens. Alternatively, leave the pieces hole and serve it on a plate just as you would serve sliced ham.
- Baked fatback works well for making crispy fried pork cracklings. After baking to a light golden color, cut them into small pieces about 1 inch in diameter and cook them in a deep-fryer for about 3 minutes or until dark golden brown and crispy.