Ham hocks are inexpensive, thick leg meat cuts which can be cooked and used in many different ways. Typically, they are cured and smoked, giving them a longer shelf life and a more complex flavor.
They are traditionally used to add flavor to Southern classics like black-eyed peas and collard greens. Hocks are not particularly meaty, unlike bacon or pancetta, which is why they are a great addition to slow–cooked recipes like soups.
You can smoke ham hocks on a smoker, roast them in the oven until they are crispy and browned, or boil them on the stove. Learn the three best ways to cook a ham hock below.
Smoked Ham Hock
First, make a brine for moist and flavorful ham hocks. For every 5 pounds of ham hocks, mix 8 cups of water in a large bowl with 3⁄4 cup of salt and 3⁄4 cup of brown sugar. Stir all the ingredients with a spoon, or whisk until the salt and sugar have dissolved completely.
Next, ensure each piece of ham hock is covered in brine as you place them in a bowl. To allow the ham hocks to soak the liquid, put it in the refrigerator for 3 to 7 days. Before making smoked ham hocks, take out the ham hocks from the brine and briefly rinse them under cold water and dry them.
Then, set the temperature to 200 °F when using an electric smoker. When using a charcoal smoker, let it heat up until the temperature reaches 200 °F. Place the ham hocks in the smoker and spread them out sufficiently, without touching each other.
Leave the ham hocks on the smoker for 2 to 6 hours. Once your ham hocks are cooked, they can be served immediately. Smoked ham hocks are best in soups, with rice, black beans, or collard greens, or eaten on their own.
Roasted Ham Hock
First, preheat the oven to 350 °F. While the oven heats up, carefully create thin crisscross slice marks across the skin and fat layers of each of the ham hocks using a sharp knife. Pour a liberal amount of salt, pepper, pork seasoning, caraways seeds, or any other seasonings.
After seasoning them, put each of the ham hocks into a large roasting pan with the meatiest part facing down. Spread the ham hocks to prevent them from touching each other. Then, add enough water to fill up the bottom 1 inch (2.5 cm) of the roasting pan.
Add any additional ingredients you want to roast with the ham hocks. Onions, potatoes, and quartered apples may all be cooked alongside them. Roast the ham hocks in the oven for 3 to 4 hours. Once the ham hocks reach an internal temperature of at least 165°F, turn off the oven.
Wait a few minutes for the ham hocks to cool before serving. For a traditional German dish, serve your roasted ham hocks with potatoes and sauerkraut.
Boiled Ham Hocks
Choose a pot that is large enough to hold all the ham hocks you are cooking. To ensure that the meat is clean before boiling, rinse each of the ham hocks with cold water in your kitchen sink.
Gently put the rinsed ham in the pot one at a time to ensure that the water doesn’t spill over. If you want to add a bit more flavor to the ham hocks as they cook, you can add the seasonings or vegetables to the water before boiling.
Adding 1 teaspoon of black peppercorns, 1 to 2 sliced onions, 1 teaspoon of garlic, 2 or 3 stalks of celery, or 1 teaspoon of salt, for example, can all add flavor to your ham hocks as they cook. Then, bring the water to a boil. Let the ham hocks simmer for 2 to 4 hours.
The exact cooking time varies depending on how many ham hocks you’re cooking, how big they are, and the water temperature. Once the meat pulls quickly away from the bone, you can use the boiled ham hocks in a soup, stew, casserole, or, enjoy them with potatoes and a salad.
Given that a ham hock generally consists of a lot of skin, tendons, and ligaments, it requires a long cooking process to be made palatable.
Follow these recipes for a delicious yet affordable meal, in whichever method you choose.