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Ryan Farr's healthy chicharrones - “Crunchy crack-in-a-bag”?

I was amused to see bags of fried pork rinds at Fatted Calf's Napa store ... the upscaling of the snack is what I found funny.

Anyway, I breifly mentioned it in a trip report and there was an enthusiastic chowhound reply, so I thought I'd pull it out as a tip for fans. I haven't tried them yet.

Here are where they are sold in addition to Fatted Calf. FC doesn't make these.

They are fried in "healthy rice bran oil" and are from local upscale pigs, Devil’s Gulch Ranch and Niman Ranch. They contain natural pork, sea salt, cane sugar, and chiles. The crack quote is from Tablehopper.

Other press mentions with photos

Does 4505meats sell anything else? Are they planning to sell anything else?

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  1. On Saturday, March 28th, they were available for tasting at the Fatted Calf counter at the Ferry Building Farmer's Market. I had no idea that pork rinds were so good - though I've never had any of the widely available supermarket brands so I don't know how they compare. A little tiny bag was I think $3.50. Probably a good idea that the bags are small, I guess (don't want to go into pork rind overload.) Not a buy every week, but for sure, once in a while. Very light, crisp, with a slight heat to them.

    1. According to the SFGate article, each bag (which retails for $2.50-$3.50) is just under half an ounce....what the...? By comparison, a SNACK-size bag of Kettle Chips contains 2 1/2 ounces.

      Either this was an error, or the "crack" analogy is more fitting than we thought...

      10 Replies
      1. re: Agent 510

        A better analogy would be to chicharones anywhere in the Mission or Fruitvale or really anywhere anyone hispanic lives.

        As for the taste, I can vouch that these are the tastiest chicharones I've had in my life. By far the crispiest, with a great balance of salty/spicy/sweet that goes awfully well with beer. By coincidence, I encountered these at two of the bars where they are on offer, Mini Bar, and Bloodhound, last weekend. Bloodhound also has upscale slim jims by Fatted Calf for sale, $3 each.

        So, hounds, who makes the best chicharones? I'll have to check out La Palma, but frankly I'd be surprised if there is much competition out there--these are very light and shatteringly crispy with ideal seasoning. My memory of lard-fried chicharones is much heavier.

        The event is now past, but the grilled rabbit, rabbit sausage, and smoked ham event put on by Ryan Farr & Taylor from Fatted Calf at Bloodhound bar was pretty good. Tasty food, and all you can eat chicharones. I particularly liked the ham, which was strongly smoky and salty with deep hammy taste. Somewhat dry, but not so dry it was unpleasant to eat, and since it was smoked in thick slices the dryness was not surprising. It just meant it had to be paired with beer or other beverage to balance the strong flavors.

        1. re: SteveG

          Not to be smug, but the only time I've tasted chicharones was on a Labor Day picnic at China Beach in SR when I kept watching this large Hispanic gathering on the tables next to us where the men were cooking big pots of food over a fire, including a pot that was deep frying different meats. After they'd fried up some pork that was transfered to the stew pot, I saw them snacking on what looked like curled up fried skins, so I wandered over and asked for a taste. They chuckled and seeminly dared me to try. I think they were amused that I liked them. They needed more salt, and they were plenty greasy. But the crispy pork flavor was a fun, unexpected treat.

          If my chance encounter was representative, you would not want to consume large quantities of this stuff. A few small chomps were just right. And I don't see how I can ever match the circumstances of my first encounter, so even if the ingredients and preparation are many gourmet worlds beyond what I had, I think I might have to pass on this new take on this old treat. Why mess with this memory?

        2. re: Agent 510

          $5-$7 an OUNCE? To give you an idea of the profit margin, thin chicharron at my latin market is $7.99 a pound. I bough 2 huge sheets of it today, each about the size of a ladies hat at the Kentucky Derby, for 4 bucks.

          1. re: Veggo

            You didn't mention how your hat-sized hunks of chicharron tasted, though. Ryan Farr's taste really good, and have a unique texture that I like quite a bit.

            When you're paying $5 for a draft beer, $3 for a bag of chicharrons to snack on is not an unreasonable price, especially if they're absolutely delicious.

            1. re: SteveG

              I have only been home an hour and I've eaten about half a hat. I never had Ryan Farr's for comparison, but the one's I'm enjoying are mild salty, almost as light as Cheetos, zero oiliness in taste or feel. I lathered up my last chunk with El Yucateco red, and I had no choice but to open a frosty Tecate.

              1. re: Veggo

                I think from now on grocery store chicharrones should be referred to only in terms of Hat, Half-hat, etc etc. Thanks for giving my afternoon a smile.

                1. re: Veggo

                  As light as cheetos? Are you joking? Cheetos are massively heavy compared to Farr's chicarones, which are lighter than the lightest tortillas, more like a heavenly pillow of pig reduction, molecular gastronomy style.

              2. re: Veggo

                Ryan Farr's are so light because of the extremely labor intensive process used to make them. They manually scrape every bit of fat off the skin after it has been simmered, then the pieces are spread out and dehydrated before frying. That's what makes them so light and crunchy in a way that melts in your mouth. Your local market chicharrones are, I'm sure, much heavier. Even so, if Ryan made his in vast quantities in a factory, using industrial equipment to dehydrate rapidly and that sort of thing, he could certainly get the costs down. But then they wouldn't be nearly as special.

                1. re: barzelay

                  I would like to be able to do a taste comparison, but I am not aware of Ryan Farr's in my area. My market makes / sells 2 types of chicharron. Delgado is very thin, light, non-oily and very crispy. The grueso has a little fat / meat by design and is distinctly thicker and tougher on the tooth. I prefer the delgado.
                  Does Ryan Farr use any seasoning or additional flavors? I don't think chicharron needs any. Also, does anyone know how long this stuff stays fresh?

                  1. re: Veggo

                    Ryan Farr is the proprietor of 4505 Meats, an artisanal producer of sausages and meat products in the Bay Area. According to the label, the chiccharrones are seasoned with chili, sugar and salt, but just enough to tantalize the tongue. The package I bought July 29 is stamped August 10, which I assume is the "best by" date.

                    4505 Meats
                    1 Ferry Building, San Francisco, CA 94111, CA

            2. Yeah, I saw these and I'm curious. But they'd have to be a thousand times better than the stuff I can get in the Mission or the packaged ones I can pick up in any Asian supermarket to be worth that price.

              1 Reply
              1. re: PegS

                I'm thinking about going to the Ferry Building Farmer's Market on Saturday just for these alone. That's how good they are.

              2. Thanks for these links!!

                I was hooked on them before reading any media on it, apparently they're all the rage! I'm an addict.

                1. Ryan Farr's going to be one of the guest chefs at the Meatpaper pig party next Monday at Camino. The food at their last event was really good.


                  5 Replies
                  1. re: Robert Lauriston

                    He'll also be at a "Pig Out" at Coffee Bar on May 3rd., starting at 3:00 for a butchering demo, with dinner at 6:00. They also sell the Chicharonnes there.

                    Coffee Bar
                    1890 Bryant St, San Francisco, CA 94110

                      1. re: Robert Lauriston

                        Oh darn... I recalled this thread but didn't remember the name and couldn't make the connection. And this chicharonne craze is suprising to me... (also used to getting them at Asian stores)
                        I saw small bags of chicharonne at Ritual Coffee in the Mission this afternoon. I'll have to go back and try them. Healthy is good, that will make me feel better about them. The ones at Asian store have more fat (good, but limiting)

                      2. re: Zach Georgopoulos

                        I went to this event at Coffee Bar yesterday afternoon. It was really enjoyable, and in a charming venue. The space is quite airy, and the event started right as the rain stopped so it was hazy and bright. We started sipping the Balleto rose as the pig was hauled up the stairs and dumped on a giant cutting board for photo ops. The demonstration started sort of unceremoniously, I didn't realize at first that the chopping had begun. The butchery was fascinating to watch - Farr was clearly adept, and quite gracious as well, taking questions and providing lots of insights and tips (I can't say that there aren't old school butchers around town who could perform similar feats, but I'm not aware of any doing these sorts of demonstrations). The meat was well prepared, seasoned mostly with salt and a little of Farr's spice rub. The whole thing took about four hours.

                        My only beef (I am hilarious) was that the event could have been a bit better organized - the staff of the venue were setting up for some time while the actual demonstration was happening, which was distracting. There were also people turned away at the door for having RSVP'd late, only to be contacted a few hours later saying that there was room for them because of some no-shows. My friend then hustled back across the Mission, having missed the bulk of the actual butchery, but no discount off the $35 entry fee.

                        Other than that, good times.

                        1. re: isaac1972

                          I missed the butchering (though many pieces were still on the cutting board when I arrived). My only regret was not making it up to the table for a taste from each new platter that came out!

                    1. Growing up in South Looziana I was raised on pork rinds. Fresh, bagged, spicy, you name it. Saw my friends at Fatted Calf last week at the SF Ferry Building, and bought a bag. The bride and I split 'em, then we headed back to buy two more bags. Pricey, sure, but the flavor is really good. I am a texture guy, and these easily blew away any other rind texture I've ever had before. Nice spicy sweet bite, really unique. I am a fan, sure.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: bayareatiger

                        I've had Ryan Farr's chicharrones fresh and warm at Orson and a Meatpaper event. I don't know what he does to get that texture but it's amazingly light. Maybe he cuts them differently or rice-bran oil can fry at a higher temperature than lard.

                      2. Wow, gourmet chicharrones. It makes sense because it's a simple thing and a little respect and choice pig would make a difference. Still, gourmet? I guess I shouldn't say anything because I could like them.

                        16 Replies
                        1. re: ML8000

                          Chicharrones on a pulled pork sandwich is as close to heaven as pigs can fly.

                          1. re: Veggo

                            On a pulled pork...excellent. Ever hear of a Kalua Pig BLT? Grated tsitsaron (Filipino chicharrones) would be flying pigs playing harps.

                            1. re: ML8000

                              Tsitsaron... interesting word... is that the root for Chicharron or other way around? Local Filipinos flipped out when I presented them Chicharrones guisados.... nothing like that in the Pilipinas?

                              1. re: Eat_Nopal

                                Frankly I have limited knowledge of Filipino food but I do know what tsitaron is because someone grated some on a dish and I asked what it was. It seems obviously it's the Spanish connection from the word but I'll let an expert comment. The different use however was a show of adaptation. So what is chicharrones guisados, a stew? How are chicharrones added?

                                1. re: ML8000

                                  It could be the Spanish connection but on the other hand... I believe domesticated pigs have been used in Asia much longer than in Europe.. so it could very well be the other way around.

                                  Chicharrones Guisados... WOW you've never had them? They are quite common in bay area Mex places particularly those in Michoacanian neighborhoods.

                                  The crunchy Chicharrones are added to various brothy, spicy sauces with/without other vegetables... and the texture result can range from airy, spongey dumplings to more compact, al dente pasta.

                                  The neat thing about them is that, it can truly make for an extremely low carb "pasta/noodle" like meal.

                                  1. re: Eat_Nopal

                                    The pasta description made a connection. I've seen chicharrones guisados but I didn't know what it was called. I didn't have any however. Frankly I didn't understand it at the time and I think I went with some chicken soup, caldo de pollo.

                                    1. re: ML8000

                                      Give them a try... there are typically two types of pork chicharrones in Mexican cuisine... the airy light kind referenced in this thread... or the really, rich dense types that are fully of meaty bits... the light type are the ones usually made in to the Guisado... the meatier ones usually end up in Chicharron prensado (another food that should not be absent from any serious Charcuterie platter).

                                      Lola's Market in Santa Rosa has good quality Chicharrones (both types but no Chicharron Prensado), as well two types of Lard (strained white, darker colored with little bits of browned pork) & Asiento which is all the stuff scraped from the bottom of the fryer.

                                      Great way to umami up your next kosher, vegetarian meal.

                                      1. re: Eat_Nopal

                                        sounds yum, chich. guisado.

                                        it's not an entire dish of chicharron, but there is a filipino dish (pinakbet) that has chicharron cooked in it. stir fry of different veggies then chicarron as well, softened but adds chewiness factor. i always experience it as the decadent reward for eating your veggies.

                                        then there's pancit palabok, a noodle dish that has a topping of crushed up chicharron. crushed finely so it almost flies away...

                                        1. re: rln

                                          Pancit Palabok sounds great... in Baja they like topping Nopalitos with Avocado Dressing & crushed up chicharron... good stuff.

                                          1. re: rln

                                            pinakbet is the best! especially with the meatier chicharron and real ilokano FISH bagoong, not shriimp. Filipino's are masters with blending pork and seafood flavors.

                                          2. re: Eat_Nopal

                                            I don't really like the light, dry kind that others are talking about in this thread. The really rich, meaty, dense kind, on the other hand, are perhaps the best food ever created on this planet. I've heard La Palma is good, but La Espiga de Oro up the street on 24th street near Alabama has amazingly good chicharrones. I think they will even put them in a burrito for you, but you would probably get a heart attack if you finished it.

                                            The idea of coming up a marketing gimmick to charge 5 times what good fried pork skin should cost is great -- if someone will pay it, find an excuse to charge the markup. The chicharrones at La Espiga de Oro are about $6 per pound.

                                            1. re: cornflower55

                                              Farr's chicharrones are unique and great for what they are. I also love the three styles of traditional Mexican chicharrones I've had: skin only, picado (some meat), and de pella (full slice of belly). I can't quite imagine eating a burrito filled with something that crunchy.

                                        2. re: Eat_Nopal

                                          Hmmm ... thinking of them as pasta might help me overcome my aversion to this dish... and seriously I had people in Mexico City competing to bring me some their grandmother makes or the best restaurant for them ... you have never had good chicarrones. That's why you don't like them. Wait till you try xxx

                                          Nope. It actually was quite the horror show for me. That tight smile. the polite mmmm ... remembering to say ... I don't like them except for the chicarrones I've had with/at xxx

                                          It is the sliminess factor I couldn't get past. But if I don't think pork but rather pasta, that might work.

                                          1. re: rworange

                                            I think if you pretend that they are fried tofu, you'll get over it really quick. From my understanding chicharron in Mexico is almost like a 6th food group. Its one of my favorite foods and I consistenly stock it in my pantry. In fact I made it en salsa verde topped with pepitas for breakfast this morning.

                                            If you are ever in Watsonville, I had the most incredible chicharron in my life from their Mi Pueblo about a month ago, better than Mexico.

                                            1. re: rworange

                                              Krys... you are an exemplary hound... if you haven't liked them you shouldn't torture yourself thinking of them in different ways. We all have our aversions.

                                            2. re: Eat_Nopal

                                              Self Correction.... the better analogy is Spaetzel not Pasta.... they have that same airy, spongy texture.

                                  2. I'm eating a bag of these right now, purchased this morning at the Ferry Building. (Note: I was afraid they'd be sold out by the time I rolled in around 11:30, given the press coverage, but there was a huge jar filled with bags of them when I got there. Maybe pork rinds aren't an easy sell in a health-conscious town like SF?)

                                    They are really good, several levels above their Safeway counterparts.

                                    One question...why do some of you say a tiny bag is all you should eat? I could see that being true for Safeway pork rinds, but if these things are fried in "healthy rice bran oil", why are they any unhealthier than potato chips?

                                    10 Replies
                                    1. re: Agent 510

                                      "Maybe pork rinds aren't an easy sell in a health-conscious town like SF?"

                                      Mission Burritos............. Yes
                                      Creamy Soups............... Yes
                                      Pasta, Noodles, Rice..... Yes
                                      Fish & Chips................. Yes
                                      Steak & Potatoes.......... Yes
                                      Protein Centric Meals.... Yes

                                      Chicharrones................. No

                                      SF has a strange definition of health-conscious

                                      1. re: Eat_Nopal

                                        Don't forget Ice cream, cheese, pupusas, truffles (the chocolate variety filled with ganache), baked goods up the wazoo

                                        Then there's anything bacon ... bacon donuts, bacon lattes, etc

                                        That reminds me I have a report for a place near radio cat cafe.

                                        1. re: Eat_Nopal

                                          Frankly part of the deal is that chicharrones are "ethnic", everything else you mention is some how santitized.

                                          The artisan factor somehow makes things "safer", even if they are better or worse. I think Bay Area barbecue suffers a similar deal with the idea that barbecue is unhealthy. Sure it can be if you eat it every day but a plate of ribs isn't any worse then a big steak, creamed spinach, a butter or sour cream soaked baked potato and a slab of choco cake every month or so.

                                          1. re: ML8000

                                            I disagree that "part of the deal is that they're ethnic" -- I think it's partially health (people perceive them as unhealthy, whether that's justified or not) and partly an issue of class. "Pork rinds" are considered low-class -- the kind of food that Rosanne Connor would eat (and that would be making her fat), not what college-educated urbanites eat.

                                        2. re: Agent 510

                                          Frying in rice bran seems so stupid and yuppie - whats the point?

                                          1. re: kare_raisu

                                            High smoke point (nearly 500 F) and fairly neutral flavor?

                                            I suppose one could posit that Chef Farr selected the oil because he's a stupid yuppie, but the decision was likely driven by the properties of the oil, which is used by regular non-yuppie (and presumably non-stupid) folks across East Asia.

                                            1. re: hohokam

                                              i can totally undertand that but why does he call them chicharrones then? why not pork rinds or the asian name?

                                              1. re: kare_raisu

                                                Probably a question best put to the proprietor. I bet he would answer you if you asked him. He strikes me as being that kind of guy.

                                                1. re: kare_raisu

                                                  Maybe because of the spicy Mexican seasonings?

                                              2. re: kare_raisu

                                                "The addicting crunchy, heavenly cloud texture comes from our unique cooking techniques using healthy rice bran oil."

                                                Rice bran oil's smoke point is 490 degrees vs. 425 for lard, so he can fry hotter. The texture is different than other chicharrones.

                                            2. A half-hounce serving of Mission-brand chiccharones has 80 calories, 45 from fat and rest from protein, and provides 8% of the DV of total fat and 10% saturated fat.

                                              Presumably, 4505's are similar, maybe with a bit less saturated fat due to being fried in rice-bran oil and a few more calories from the sugar.

                                              Whether chichcarrones are healthy in general, or 4505 Meats' are healthier than average, is I believe off-topic for this board.

                                              1. The woman who makes these was handing them out at the Meatpaper pig party last night. She said Farr spent five years perfecting his secret recipe, but confirmed that frying in rice-bran oil is one of the reasons that the texture is so different. I suspect the prep involves scraping and maybe a marinade.

                                                If you haven't had these, they're light and almost fluffy. The texture's closer to Pirate's Booty or Cheetos than to other chicharrones. When you chew one, it collapses to almost nothing.

                                                1. We've removed some posts about the healthfulness of the product and about frying in rice bran oil. Those issue are off topic for this regional board. Please keep the discussion focused on local chow - where to find it and whether it's delicious. Thanks.

                                                  1. I bought some of these ($3) at the 4505 stand at the Thursday Ferry Plaza market today. I opened the bag when I was waiting for the rest of my order (merguez sausages on a bun with lemon and cilantro, which was very good). Then I bought another bag when I picked up my order.

                                                    These are definitely crack-in-a-bag. Three dollars sounds like a lot, but it's less than you'd pay for a lot of other products of equal quality if you think of it on the basis of cost per serving and not by the pound.

                                                    I've had -- and enjoyed -- various Mexican-style chicharrones, and these are a whole other animal: not as leaden as the ones made with lard, but still satisfyingly porky.

                                                      1. I had my first taste of Ryan's chicharones during his whole beef class. They are like no other chicharones you've ever had. They are light, crispy, and melt in your mouth, unlike the crunchy variety you buy in the store. Ryan was a little secretive about his process, and I guess I don't blame him.

                                                        1 Reply
                                                        1. re: spinn1

                                                          These things are perhaps the best cocktail snack of all time.

                                                        2. I'm going to toss out a dissenting opinion...had the 4505 chicharrones and didn't like them. I can understand how some people like them, they are light and fluffy but not to my liking...too light and well-made shrimp chips...i.e., no more pork taste (or the lightest greasiest taste) to me.

                                                          As to how they are made, my guess is they use very select pieces of de-skinned fat, process it somehow for consistency, like take a tenderizing mallet to it and fry it at a different temp. The tendering might not happen...but something is done to make them consistent.

                                                          6 Replies
                                                            1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                              I wonder if maybe they're just simmered for a while in water. That would melt off the fat, and tenderize the skin before it is dumped in hot oil where it would puff up more than non-tenderized skin. If the water were seasoned, it would allow flavor and salt to fully penetrate the skin too.

                                                              1. re: SteveG

                                                                There's actually description of the process higher up the thread: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/6122...

                                                                1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                                                  I just made some chiccharrones using the boil, scrape (and scrape and scrape), dehydrate and fry at 390-400 F method with pig skin from Ryan Farr's hog butchery class and the texture turned out about the same, though mine were less consistent. The flavor of the 4505 chicharones was better, however--mine felt like they could have used some acidic flavor--I tried adding powdered buttermilk and/or Tajin chili-lime flakes, but it wasn't as good.

                                                            2. re: ML8000

                                                              I love the 4505 chicharrones and now that I work close to the Ferry Building Farmer's Market, I've been getting them regularly and using them as gifts (all of which have been happily consumed). But I'm open to others. Who has better ones in your opinion?