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Scrapple has everything you’d want in a breakfast meat.
It’s got history, with the first recipes published in the Philadelphia region back in the 1860s. It’s anti-waste, since it’s made using less-favored pork parts. It’s intensely savory and rich, but also a complete meal, thanks to grains mixed right in.
And it’s simple to cook at home — with some important caveats.
Prepping store-bought scrapple isn’t hard. But if you don’t think out the steps first and follow a few important tips, it’s easy to end up with something disappointing.
The key to deliciousness here is a crispy, crunchy exterior and a hot melty interior. You do not want a warm pile of pig mush. Look online for pics and you’ll find many sad, soggy versions.
That’s possibly because people outside the Philadelphia region don’t know what the dish should be like, don’t know what they’re missing.
So many restaurants offer it in Philly (even during the pandemic) that residents are spoiled. Some of the modern brunch spots even offer non-pork alternatives, like mushroom scrapple at Royal Tavern, or seafood scrapple at Guard House at the Frankford Arsenal.
Professional cooks know how to do scrapple right, and they have the tools to do so — namely, a searing hot flattop and lack of squeamishness with grease. Surprisingly, so do many tailgaters. During normal seasons, Eagles gameday parking lot at the Linc is awash in the scent of browning pork loaf.
The coronavirus put a damper on tailgating this year, so we asked some experts to give us tips on how to get that perfect crust and ethereal hot inside at home.
(There’s also a recipe for making scrapple from scratch, if you decide you want to go there.)
1) Obtain your loaf
Did you know classic Philly scrapple brand Habersett is now made in the same Delaware facility as its main competitor, Baltimore fave Rapa? Pick up Amy Strauss’s “Pennsylvania Scrapple: A Delectable History” for more details on how that happened.
Turns out the brand name blocks found at the Acme and other supermarkets are relatively wholesome.
Unlike many packaged bacon or sausage products, there’s no preservatives on the Habersett ingredients list:
Pork stock, pork, pork skins, corn meal, wheat flour, pork hearts, pork livers, pork tongues, salt and spices
If you want to get even more sustainable (and likely more flavorful), hit up a butcher shop that works with local farmers and sustainable slaughterhouses. The pigs that donated their snouts, heads, feet and livers to the scrapple loafs at Primal Supply Meats, for example, were all pasture-raised.
2) Slice your meat
As long as you keep your scrapple loaf cold, it’ll be easy to cut through. The only question is how thick to do it.
Heather Thomason, butcher and founder at Primal Supply, likes hers on the thicker side, and recommends slices that are about 1 inch thick. You can also do it as thin as half a inch — but be careful the slabs don’t fall apart.
If you’re worried about disintegration, one tip Thomason has heard from customers is to par-freeze your loaf before cutting. This, she explained, can also “buy you some extra time to crisp/fry the outside without it melting too quickly.”
Another crisping technique, said chef Khoran Horn of Guard House, is to coat each slice in a mixture of flour, salt and pepper, then set it aside before frying.
3) Heat your pan
Most pros agree you’ll want to do the main part of your scrapple cooking over medium heat, and that a skillet will work just fine.
If you want to try to recreate a restaurant flattop, Horn recommends using cast iron, and getting it “ripping hot,” then turning it down to medium at the last minute.
4) Add the grease
Don’t pay attention to online recipes that say “scrapple has plenty of fat in it, so you don’t need to add any more fat.” Our experts dismiss that out of hand — because if your slices stick to the pan, you won’t be able to get that crisp exterior.
Horn, of Guard House, suggests butter, because “the milk solids help with creating a crust.” Let it get nice and foamy before tossing in the meat, he said.
Thomason, of Primal Supply, has a different suggestion: lard. You’re already porked up, why not go all out!
5) Slap it down — and don’t touch
After you place your slices in your pan with space between them, the key thing is to leave them alone for 3 to 5 minutes, chefs say.
“Don’t touch it until a nice crust forms,” Thomason warned.
Once you see plenty of browning crawling up the sides, use a spatula to do a single flip, then leave the slices alone for another 3 to 5 minutes, depending on thickness.
6) Pull and enjoy
Once you’ve got your crispy slices, the only important thing is to have the rest of your meal ready at the same time or in advance. Cold scrapple just isn’t very good.
What to serve it with? Eggs is a go-to combo. Some people like ketchup. There’s a faction that eats it with applesauce.
With scrapple, the possibilities are limitless.
Want to make your own?
Chef Peter McAndrews, who helped Philadelphia love offal at Modo Mio and Monsu, offers a simple recipe for starting all the way from scratch.
- Get a bunch of pork products and/or byproducts (a little liver and snouts add flavor depth)
- Place them in water in a heavy-bottom stockpot with a lot of black pepper, coriander, some onion and maybe a little garlic
- Simmer till the meat falls apart, about 2 to 3 hours
- Skim the layer of fat on top, and remove the bones, adding back any meat
- Add cornmeal to the pot, like you were making polenta (you want an equal ratio of cornmeal and meat)
- Mix it up and cook for about 10 minutes longer until it’s nice and thick
- Taste for a seasoning and add anything missing
- Mash it up with a spoon (or add to food processor if you prefer a smooth pate-like loaf)
- Transfer the paste to a greased loaf pan
- Allow to cool, then wrap in plastic and place in the fridge
- The next day, cut your slices and follow the steps above