If you need to make something that calls for a pork hock as an ingredient, you might have made the mistake of buying a ham hock. It’s an easy error to make because the two seem to be very similar.
Since the terms ham and pork are used interchangeably by many, it’s easy to see why someone would think that ham hocks and pork hocks are the same. This simply isn’t the case, but you’ll want to learn about the distinctions so that you don’t buy the wrong thing again.
Keep reading to learn everything that you need to know about pork hocks and ham hocks. This should help you to understand the differences between the two.
Understanding the Term “Hock”
Before going further, it’s going to be good to understand what the term “hock” means. When you buy a hock, you’re buying a cut of meat that comes from the ankles.
So both pork hocks and ham hocks come from the ankles of pigs. There is a further distinction between these two hocks, though.
Ham hocks come from the rear ankles of a pig. Pork hocks can come from either the rear or the front of the ankles.
Where the hock comes from on the pig is an important distinction to know. However, this is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to learning about the differences between the two.
Understanding Ham Hocks
Ham hocks are going to go through some type of curing process or they will be smoked. This process is going to ensure that the meat comes out a specific way.
Any type of ham will be smoked or cured before being reheated to reach an internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit. So the term ham specifically refers to the fact that the meat has been cured or smoked.
This further differentiates ham hocks from pork hocks. Not only do these hocks come specifically from the rear ankles, but they also go through a curing or smoking process.
A ham hock is going to taste quite a bit different than a pork hock. Now that you know this, it’s easier to see why you can’t substitute pork hocks for ham hocks in recipes.
Understanding Pork Hocks
Pork hocks are raw and they have not undergone any type of smoking or curing process. It’s just a cut of pork that comes from the ankles of a pig.
For this reason, you can see pork hocks as being more versatile. They’re used in many different recipes because they don’t add any additional flavors.
You don’t have to worry about the smoke or salt as you would if you tried to use a ham hock. Ham hocks and pork hocks might be similar, but the fact that one is cured or smoked makes all the difference in the world.
If you come across a recipe that calls for a pork hock, it’s asking for a raw cut of pork. You don’t want to try to substitute that for a ham hock because the recipe wouldn’t turn out as intended.
Common Ham Hock Uses
When you’re using ham hocks in a dish, you’re typically going to be using it in a recipe to add flavoring. The fact that the meat is cured using salt or smoke allows it to easily flavor a recipe.
You don’t necessarily have to keep the meat in the recipe either. Sometimes people will just use the ham hock to add flavoring, but they’ll then remove the meat to keep it separate.
There are certainly many recipes that call for the meat to stay in the dish as well. It’s just normal for ham hocks to be used either way depending on what the recipe is trying to accomplish.
Ham hocks (and hocks in general) usually come bone-in. This means that once you’ve finished flavoring the stew, it’s going to be simple to remove the hock.
At that point, you’d be able to either store the meat away to use it in some other fashion or cut it up to put it back in the stew. There are many superb types of stew that make use of ham hocks.
Many people love eating potato soup that has been seasoned using ham hocks. It’s also very common for people to use ham hocks to add flavor to white bean stew and split pea soup.
Common Pork Hock Uses
Pork hocks will be used in many different ways. Since they’re uncooked, there are more potential ways that you can utilize them in recipes.
It’s very common for people to cook pork hocks as a main course. You can easily braise, boil, or roast them.
When making a pork hock, you can expect for the process to take between two and four hours. It has the potential to make a very tasty meal that you and your family can enjoy.
Pork hocks have become staple foods in many different cultures. There are popular German dishes that make use of them, and you’ll also find them being used in Chinese cuisine.
Since pork hock can be used in so many different ways, it’s considered to be more versatile than a ham hock. The two hocks are simply used in different ways to make different things.
You Typically Leave the Skin on a Ham Hock
If you’re wondering whether or not you’re supposed to leave the skin on a ham hock, you should know that it depends. Typically, people do try to leave the skin on ham hocks since it can help to add flavor.
When you’re using a ham hock to help flavor a soup or stew, it makes sense to leave the skin on. It’ll release more flavor into the soup so that you can enjoy it to the fullest.
Roasting a ham hock might be a bit of a different story, though. When you plan to roast one, it’s going to be best to score the skin rind first.
Scoring is easy enough once you know what you’re doing. Just slice several lines across the pork skin so that the fat will be able to escape and the skin will become crisp.
If you plan to make homemade pork rinds, you’ll be interested to know that they’re made from the skin. You can truly do a lot with ham hocks even if pork hocks are considered to be more versatile.
What Is a Good Substitute for Ham Hocks?
So you know that pork hocks won’t really work as a substitute for ham hocks now. What can you do if you don’t have ham hocks that you can purchase?
Many people choose to use bacon as a good ham hock substitute. It’ll work especially well if you choose to go with smoked bacon.
Smoked bacon will be able to do many of the same things that a ham hock can. You can flavor various types of soup or stew using it.
It might be a good idea to add extra salt to the bacon. Some even use bacon grease for the extra fat content.
Overall, smoked bacon is going to be the best substitute for ham hocks. It can be used in the same fashion rather easily, and it’s easier to find smoked bacon than it is to find ham hocks.
Ham hocks aren’t necessarily rare, but you can get smoked bacon at just about any grocery store or department store. Having this knowledge should help you out.
Storing Ham Hocks and Pork Hocks
Thankfully, storing ham hocks and pork hocks won’t be that hard. There are some differences between how you should approach storing each of these, though.
Pork hocks are uncooked, and this means that they need to be refrigerated or frozen. You can treat pork hocks the same as you would other types of uncooked meat.
Refrigerate the pork hock if you’re going to use it within the next couple of days. Freeze it if you’d like to use it a few months down the line.
Ham hocks will also need to be refrigerated. Don’t think that they’re safe simply because they’ve been smoked.
If you leave ham hocks sitting on the counter, they’ll go bad fast. You’re going to want to refrigerate them to keep them good for as long as you can.
Ham hocks should last between two weeks and two months in the refrigerator. It’d be safer to assume that they’ll stay good in the fridge for a couple of weeks.
If you want to store ham hocks for longer periods of time, you should freeze them. Frozen ham hocks should stay good for six months without losing any flavor.
Just remember to store your meat properly no matter what. It’ll ensure that it’ll be ready to go when it’s time to make dinner.
Ben has a bachelor’s degree in construction engineering. When not constructing or remodeling X-Ray Rooms, Cardiovascular Labs, and Pharmacies, you can find him at home with wife and two daughters. Outside of family, He loves grilling and barbequing on his Big Green Egg and Blackstone Griddle, as well as working on projects around the house.
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