Smoked ham hocks have a distinctive flavor that makes them popular in Southern and German dishes. A baked smoked ham hocks recipe may include legumes, greens and other vegetables. Find out the nutrition behind this cut of pork and how to best season it for baking.
What Is a Ham Hock?
Ham hocks usually come from the front of a pig's leg, often around the ankle. They're also called pork hocks and can be purchased either raw or smoked and cured. Ham hock is popular in Southern and German cuisines, although Southern dishes often refer to it as pork knuckle.
This type of meat is fairly inexpensive and packaged with several hocks together. The USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service says that no hormones are used in the raising of hogs, but the animals may receive antibiotics to prevent or treat diseases. However, they go through a withdrawal period before slaughtering, so no antibiotics remain in the meat.
Ham hocks are not typically used as a main dish as they don't have much meat. Their smoky flavor makes them ideal to season or serve with beans or vegetables. They go well with collards or kale but can also be prepared with legumes, such as black-eyed peas, in a slow cooker.
Read more: Is It Healthy to Eat Ham?
Baked Smoked Ham Hocks Recipe
A ham hock is delicious when cooked with vegetables and other seasonings, such as a recipe that uses beer as a flavoring for a German kick. Instead of beer, you may also use broth with your favorite seasonings, like garlic salt or cumin.
To roast and bake a ham hock, wash and dry it with a paper towel. Season with a mixture of salt and pepper all over. It is a good idea to sear the ham hock to seal in the moisture and flavor.
Place it in a pan with oil on medium heat and brown the ham hock on each side. Place it in a roasting pan, and add in liquid, such as beef or chicken broth, for flavor and moisture. Bake the ham hock in the oven for one hour and 40 minutes at 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
To keep your ham hock moist, baste it every 15 minutes with your broth. After it has been cooking for about an hour, you can add in vegetables at this point if you wish. For the last 30 minutes of cooking time, increase the heat to 425 F for a perfectly baked ham hock.
To make ham hocks with lima beans, boil the ham hocks in water for about 30 to 40 minutes instead of baking them. Remove the ham hocks and let cool, while still cooking the lima beans in the broth. You can then remove any meat from the ham hocks to add back into the lima beans.
Regardless of the recipe and cooking method you use, the USDA recommends cooking pork meat to a minimum internal temperature of 145 F, as measured with a food thermometer.
Are Ham Hocks Healthy?
Ham is a good source of protein and iron, but it can have a lot of sodium. According to the USDA, a 3-ounce serving of smoked pork knuckle provides 210 calories, 17 grams of fat and 14 grams of protein.
This type of meat also contains 140 milligrams of sodium and 60 milligrams of cholesterol. The Food and Drug Administration recommends you stay under 2,300 milligrams of sodium per day and less than 300 milligrams of cholesterol.
Read more: Is Pork Better Than Beef?
Prepacked ham hocks can be high in sodium compared to preparing them yourself. For example, the USDA reports that a prepared and cured ham shank contains 688 milligrams of sodium and 60 milligrams of cholesterol per 3-ounce serving. It's important to read the label as the amount of sodium can vary between brands, depending on how the meat is smoked and what ingredients are used.
Roasting and baking ham hock at home will allow you to keep the sodium levels down. If you're planning to cook it with beans or canned vegetables, you don't really need to add salt to the dish because these foods often already contain sodium.
- USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service: "Fresh Pork From Farm to Table"
- German Foods: "Pork Knuckles in Beer Sauce"
- Cooking Matters: "Smoked Ham Hocks With Lima Beans"
- USDA: "Smoked Pork Knuckles Smoked Pork"
- Food and Drug Administration: "Sodium"
- Food and Drug Administration: "Cholesterol"
- USDA FoodData Central: "Pork, Cured, Ham, Shank, Bone-In, Separable Lean and Fat, Heated, Roasted"