Smoked Ham Hocks: What is It & How to Make It?

Ham hocks are a delicious part of a pig and are used in many savory cuisines. This meat comes from the joint connecting the pig’s leg to its feet. Due to this, the meat has more bone than flesh and takes a long time to cook.

So this meat isn’t often served as a stand-alone dish. Instead, it is used to impart a meaty taste to stews, bean dishes, broths, etc. Even though this cut may be challenging to cook, it is quite versatile, and you can be creative with it.

Personally, my kids love gnawing on ham hocks, so I find myself making this recipe often. Today, I’ll show you how I make my this tasty pork cut. So, continue reading to find out my smoked ham hocks recipe.

How to Smoke Ham Hocks?

The entire cooking process for smoked ham hocks can take a while. Let’s look at the ingredients and steps you’ll need for this recipe.

Smoked Ham Hocks Placed on a White Ceramic Plate


  • 2 large ham hocks
  • 8 cups of water
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon of black peppercorns
  • Hickory wood chips


  • Start by boiling water in a large pot, and filling the pot with 8 cups of water. Then, add kosher salt, sugar, and peppercorns to the boiling water and stir. Turn off the cooker and allow the water to cool.
  • Next, place the hocks into 2 large resealable plastic bags. Then, pour the cooled water mixture into the hock-filled bags. Seal the bags tightly, place them in a large bowl, and put them in the refrigerator for 24 hours.
  • After 24 hours, take out the large bowl from the fridge and remove the hocks from the bag. Rinse the pork cuts under running water and dry them off with paper towels. Then, place it on a wire rack set on top of a sheet pan. Afterward, place the wire rack of hocks back in the fridge to air dry for another 24 hours.
  • Preheat the grill to 250 °F. Then, place the hocks on the top rack and smoke them for two hours with the vent open, adding new wood chips every hour. After two hours, use a thermometer to check the meat’s internal temperature. The recommended temperature for hock is 145°F. So, cook until the pork reaches this desired temperature.
  • Take the smoked ham hocks out of the grill and let them rest for about 5 minutes before eating or adding them to other dishes.

Dishes to Serve with Smoked Ham Hocks

As you probably know by now, pork knuckles don’t have a lot of flesh. So, they are typically used to flavor other dishes like stews, stocks, etc. Ham hocks can also be minced or shredded and used in salads.

Because these meaty pieces need a lot of cooking to become edible, they are usually cooked slowly so that the fat and collagen can dissolve and give the pork a unique taste. Note that pork knuckles are high in sodium, so take it easy with the salt. 

Having said that, this smoked ham hocks recipe tastes great with a number of sides. Popular dishes include:

  • Roasted potatoes
  • Pea & ham stew
  • Beans
  • Collard greens
Cooked Ham Hocks with Different Sides

Ham Hocks Smoking Tips

Here are my five expert tips for perfectly preparing smoked ham hocks:

  • When purchasing hocks, look for skinless cuts. You’ll get smoother textures and sometimes more meat from these cuts. If you buy pork knuckles with skin, I suggest you fry them after braising them to make them crispy.
  • To prevent the ham hocks from tasting too salty, draw out the excess sodium and soak the meat in cold water for at least 30 minutes before cooking.
  • Use a low-sodium broth if you intend to braise your smoked ham hocks; otherwise, the salty flavor can be overpowering. Moreover, you can add more water to reduce the saltiness.
  • Ham hocks should be slow cooked at low temperatures to allow the meat’s fat and tissue to break down and become tender and moist. 

What is a Ham Hock?

A ham hock, also called pork knuckle, is the joint between a pig’s metatarsals and the fibula and tibia—the joint that connects the pig’s leg to its foot.

Ham hocks have a deep, smoky, porky flavor. Ham hocks are generally inexpensive, and you can find them in the butcher aisle of your local grocery store. They are often packed and sold in pairs.

Ham Hocks vs. Bacon

Bacon and ham hocks share some similarities and add a salty and smoky flavor to the accompanying dish. Ham hocks and bacon can be used interchangeably when making stews, soups, stews, casseroles, etc. 

However, unlike bacon, ham hocks have more collagen and less fat because of the large bone. Also, hocks are generally less expensive and have a lower fat content than bacon. 

How to Store Ham Hocks?

Ham hocks should be stored in a cool, dry place. Fresh ham hocks kept in the fridge can be stored for 3–5 days. So, if you realize you’re not going to use the hocks within that time frame, it’s best to freeze them.

These fresh ham hocks can last up to 6 months in a freezer. In my experience, the flavor of ham hocks is fairly stable and doesn’t significantly change from freezing. On the other hand, smoked ham hocks can last up to 4 days in the fridge and 3 months in the freezer.

The Best Wood Chips for Smoked Ham Hocks

I use hickory wood chips in this recipe because of the strong, sweet smoky flavor that works well with smoked ham hocks. I’ve found pecan wood and mesquite to be impressive alternatives, and the strong smokiness shines through this tasty pork cut. Feel free to mix and blend wood chips for a more distinct taste. You may be surprised by the results.

Ham Hocks With Salad and Pickles

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Are Smoked Ham Hocks Precooked?

Generally, smoked ham hocks are sold precooked, and smoked. If you buy smoked hock, it may be best to soak it in water for an entire night to help reduce the saltiness.

2. How Long Should I Boil Ham Hocks?

First, put the hock in a medium to large sized pot and add all the ingredients. Bring to a boil, lower the heat to a simmer, cover the pot, and cook the hock for around an hour.

3. What’s the Difference Between Ham Hocks vs. Ham Shanks?

Because they originate from the part of the pig’s leg closest to its foot, ham hocks have more bone and less flesh than the ham shank. Ham shanks have more meat because they come from the region directly below the pig’s hip or shoulder. So, the ham shank is the best bet for feeding guests at cookouts.

4. Are Smoked Ham Hocks Healthy?

Although smoked ham hocks are rich in protein and potassium, they also contain a high amount of saturated fat and cholesterol. Therefore, they should be eaten moderately.


Ham hocks are a delicious cut of pork that can bring so much flavor to different recipes. They can be used in stews, soups, or eaten with vegetables. These pork cuts can be prepared in many ways, and they taste especially great when smoked.

Feel free to try out my smoked ham hocks recipe. You’ll love it! Luckily, ham hocks are cheap cuts, so you can confidently experiment with different recipes and cooking methods. So, start cooking!