Ham Hock vs Pork Hock – What’s The Difference Anyway?

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If you’ve ever wondered what the difference between pork hock vs ham hock is, you’re certainly not alone. It’s a confusing name for such an easy distinction to make – but not to worry!

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In this article, I’ll not only be going over the differences between them but also how to substitute them for each other. And, if you’re lucky, there may just be some bonus recipes at the end!

Table of Contents

What Is The Difference Between Ham Hock And Pork Hock?

There are two basic differences between a ham hock and a pork hock – where they come from, and how they’re cooked.

To clarify, both hocks are technically from the same part of the pig – the hock, of course. It’s that liminal space on a pig that’s sort of an elbow, but also sort of an ankle. The difference is that ham hocks refer to the rear hock, and pork hocks refer to the – you guessed it! – front hocks.

The other distinction between them is that they are usually prepared differently – ham hocks are always smoked or cured, like other hams. Pork hocks, however, are always raw. Both are sold whole, but pork hocks can also come cut into cubes. For the most part, both hocks are sold ‘bone-in’ to add to the flavor while cooking.

Which Dishes Are Hocks Typically Used In?

What Are Pork Hocks Used For?

Because pork hocks are raw, they are much more versatile than ham hocks. They can be roasted, braised, and boiled with no threat of overpowering other foods with smokiness.

Some pork hock recipes include roasted German pork hocks, beer-braised pork hocks, pork hock soups and stews, Taiwanese braised pork hock, and Polish beer-and-honey glazed pork hocks.

What Are Ham Hocks Used For?

Ham hocks generally have two purposes in a dish – to add flavor, and to be the meat. Since they are cured or smoked, using ham hocks brings the danger of overpowering other ingredients, which is why they are either the main star of the dish or used sparingly on the sidelines for some seasoning.

This is why ham hocks do exceptionally well in soups and stews – they add flavor to the broth itself while cooking, but the meat also makes for a good bit of protein.

Some examples of pork hock recipes include potato and ham hock soup, ham hock and white bean stew, split pea and ham soup, honey-whiskey glazed ham hocks, ham hock terrine, and honey-mustard ham hock pie.

crispy pork hock

How To Substitute Ham Hock vs Pork Hock

What Can I Use In Place Of A Ham Hock?

Any smoked or cured ham will do – pork shank, smoked bacon and smoked sausage all work great. If you don’t have any at hand, consider smoking your own ham, like below:

Or add ingredients like liquid smoke or homemade chipotle peppers. And if you’re avoiding pork altogether, smoked turkey bacon makes a great alternative.

Can I Use Pork Hock Instead Of Ham Hock?

You can absolutely use a pork hock instead of a ham hock! Just try adding some liquid smoke to it and give it a nice char before cooking.

However, it’s more difficult to substitute a pork hock with ham because of the strong flavor ham hocks have. Both pork shoulder and unsmoked shank are good substitutes for pork hock.

Some More Pork Hock And Ham Hock Recipes

Below I’ve linked some different recipes to get started cooking with pork hock and ham hock, respectively. I’ve also added my own recipe for ham hock bean stew at the end!

Crispy German Pork Hock

This classic recipe posted by My German Recipes shows you how to roast an entire hock whole, in the traditional fashion. Once cooked, this pork hock would pair amazingly with a side of rice, or some vegetables and Yorkshires.

Pinto Beans And Smoked Ham Hock

This ham hock stew recipe by Mattie’s kitchen demonstrates an easy, beginner-friendly method to making delicious food. It may take a good while to cook, but the prep is quick n’ easy!

Bonus Recipe: Ham Hock Fakejoada

This recipe is a perfect next step from Mattie’s recipe. If you’re okay with spending some extra time prepping, you’ll be rewarded with a flavorful stew that lasts for days.

Although not traditionally used in a feijoada, ham hock is an excellent cut to use if you’re short of the traditional ingredients. The hock replaces the smokiness of the sausage and enhances the flavor of the black beans, all while adding even more protein to your meal.

To make this dish, follow Nando Cuca‘s Brazilian black bean stew recipe with the instructions I’ve detailed here. Be sure to make the hock before the rest of the dish – you could even make it the day before if you’d prefer!

Ingredients

  1. 2 smoked ham hocks
  2. 1 500g bag of black beans
  3. 1 onion
  4. 3 garlic cloves
  5. Salt to taste
  6. Finely chopped cilantro to taste
  7. 2 bay leaves

Method

Making Ham Hock Fakejoada

  1. Place into dutch oven

    To start, take your smoked hocks and place them into a cast iron dutch oven with some oil on the bottom. (Enameled cast iron like Le Creuset works even better, but there are other great cast iron sets out there if you find Le Creuset too pricey.)

  2. Brown

    Brown your hocks on medium-low heat for 15 to 20 minutes, making sure to get every side.

  3. Incorporate fond

    Then, add in a little water and carefully scrape the bottom of your pan to deglaze it – incorporating the fond will make your food much more flavorful! Then, add in enough water to just about cover the meat. Place on the lid and leave it to slow cook on low heat for 2 to 4 hours.

  4. Shred and store

    Once cooked and cooled, shred and refrigerate the meat, and DON’T throw out the water. This is because you’re going to be adding the bone and any leftover meat or skin to the same water you cooked the hock in. You can also add in some chopped vegetables and bay leaves if you’d like.

  5. Cook

    Leave this cooking in the same pot for about an hour, with the lid on of course.

  6. Cook broth and store

    Once your broth has cooked, strain out the solids and save the water for the next day. Make sure to skim any excess fat from the top once cooled, but leave a little in there for flavor! Then refrigerate with the shredded meat until you start making the beans.

  7. Don’t forget the beans

    When you’re ready to make your beans, use the bone broth to cook them instead of water. To use the meat, simply add it in after sautéing the garlic and onion, then add some kosher salt to season.

Pork Hocks vs Ham Hocks – Which Is Better?

Ultimately, it depends on what you’d like for your dish! Pork hocks are raw, and so are good stand-alone ingredients. They’re generally the star of the recipe, often glazed and served with sides. Ham hocks tend to be team players; the smokiness of their meat is used to enhance the flavor of other ingredients in stews and soup.

Now that you know the difference – and the different ways to cook them – why not try out one of the recipes I’ve linked? Better yet, try out one of the recipes at the end! Whatever you choose, at least you can now go into it confidently, knowing which cut you need.

By Anna

Hey, I’m Anna; writer, editor and amateur cook extraordinaire! Food has been my life and my passion for the most of my life – it’s crazy to think I didn’t pursue a career in cooking. I’m obsessed! However, keeping cooking as an obsessive hobby has worked for me – my passion grows as the years pass by – maybe I wouldn’t say the same if it was also my day job! I hope you find cooking inspiration, entertainment and “stop and think interesting tid-bits” throughout my writing – and I’d love to hear from you if you’ve got anything you want to share. Food feeds the soul – so get eating!

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