Who doesn’t love smoked pork! The smokey neck bones are an especially flavorful piece of meat that also adds a ton of texture.
What makes this piece of meat so versatile is that there are a few different ways you can cook it that will leave you with different outcomes.
So, how do you correctly cook smoked neck bones? The best method for cooking smoked neck bones is slowly in a braising liquid, either salted water or stock. You can braise your neck bones in an oven, simmer it on the stovetop, or cook it in a pressure cooker.
In today’s article, we will be discussing what exactly neck bones are, how they are made, and the best ways to prepare and cook them.
We will also give you step-by-step instructions on how to best apply these various methods regardless of the recipe or ratios. Ready to dive in?
What Are Neck Bones?
Neckbones, or also commonly referred to as pork neck bones, is a type of pork meat cut that is situated from the very top backbone of the pig and runs down to the shoulders (aka its neck).
The neck bone is removed from the shoulders and often portioned into smaller pieces. Like many other pork cuts, neck bone is often smoked to add additional smoky and deep flavors.
The term “neck bones” strictly applies to pork and isn’t used for other types of meat. Cuts like this that come from beef are usually called the beef neck, and cuts from lamb are either called lamb neck or neck chops.
How Are Neck Bones Smoked?
Neck bones can be smoked in the same way any other piece of meat is smoked. You can use any type of smoker depending on the size of your cut or batch.
There is also a wide variety of smoking woods you can use to smoke your pork neck bones. A personal favorite of ours includes apple smoking chips or maple smoking chips.
Both add a delicate and slightly sweet flavor that complements the natural saltiness of the pork bones.
The exact method you have to follow to smoke your pork neck bones will depend on the smoking vessel you are using, but in principle, they all work the same.
The meat is placed inside a vessel above smoking wood, chunks, or chips.
The wood is ignited which creates smoke and sometimes even acts as the heat source that will help cook the meat. Different woods act differently and some will smoke intensely while others only provide delicate and light smoke.
Are Smoked Neck Bones Already Cooked?
Smoked neck bones are technically already cooked when it undergoes the smoking process.
They can usually be eaten as is when fresh, but the older the meat gets the tougher it will become and ultimately have a very unappealing texture.
How To Cook Smoked Neck Bones
Unfortunately, smoked neck bones are not an extremely versatile meat cut when it comes to different cooking methods.
A good rule of thumb when choosing a cooking method is to always make sure it is wet. By this, we mean that you should always be able to include a liquid in the cooking process.
Pork in general can very easily overcook and become extremely tough and dry. With pork neck bones you want to prevent that entirely.
You can use any type of liquid in your cooking method, but we generally prefer flavored ones. This can include a type of pork, vegetable, or even beef stock, you can use a red wine-type liquid mixture, or simply use some salted water.
How To Prepare Smoked Neck Bones for Cooking
There are a few steps you have to follow before cooking pork neck bones, regardless of the method you choose! These steps will ensure that you have a wonderfully flavored and well-balanced final dish.
- First, you have to wash your pork neck bones. This is simply to remove any impurities.
- Next, you can season your smoked pork neckpieces with some salt, pepper, and other spices or dried herbs. Please be careful not to over-salt your meat. Because pork is naturally salty and these bones have already been smoked, it is easy to overdo it. We would recommend seasoning at the very end of the cooking process and simply adjusting the final flavor.
- Then, brown your pork neckpieces on medium-high heat in a pan to create a beautiful, more appealing color and a nice caramelized flavor that will intensify during the long cooking process.
- Once your meat has been browned, you can set it aside and continue with the rest of the recipe. Usually, recipes start by sautéing vegetables, adding the browned pork neck bones, and then the liquid base.
- The final step in this process is the cooking method. There are many different methods you can follow, all requiring some time to cook. Keep on reading to find out the different methods that there are!
Cooking Smoked Neck Bones In The Oven
Cooking smoked neck bones in an oven is arguably the most popular and common way to cook them and use them in different recipes.
The biggest benefit of this method is the ease you can do it with. You don’t have to follow excessive steps, you can simply place it in the oven for a few hours and forget about it, and it uses a few pieces of equipment that are easy to clean.
- Start by preheating the oven to 350°F. Line a baking tray or roasting tray with some baking paper or foil.
- Prepare your pork neck bones by washing them, seasoning, and browning them. Set them aside until they are ready to be used.
- To cook your pork neck bones in an oven, you first have to prepare the base on a stovetop. Sautee your vegetables, add any spices or aromatics, and finally add your browned bones. Make sure they are well incorporated into the base (vegetables and spices).
- Add your liquids like stock, broth, or water, and mix them well to fully incorporate all of the ingredients together.
- Finally, the cooking in the oven part! Make sure your bones are fully covered with liquid. These bones have to cook for a couple of hours to become soft and tender, and will therefore definitely lose a lot of moisture.
- Cover your baking or roasting tray with a lid or a sheet of aluminum foil and bake in the oven for roughly 4 hours, depending on the size of your pieces and batch.
Tips for braising smoked pork neck bones:
- Covering the bottom of your roasting dish or tray with aluminum foil will benefit your greatly! When you braise the meat for hours on end, the juices and meat itself tend to stick to the sides and bottom, dry out completely and become a difficult task to clean.
- One simple layer of foil will not only act as a non-stick surface but also make cleaning your tray much easier as you can simply remove it and throw it away.
- Do not overfill your tray with ingredients. This creates a few problems during the cooking process. First, it creates a very uneven cooking surface of different densities and thicknesses. This will lead to some areas being fully cooked, while others are still tough. The second problem is that your dish will take longer to cook if it is packed to the brim! Rather try to place your pork neck bones in a single layer. This will promote even and quicker cooking.
- Try to cook your meat and vegetables in a cooking vessel that can be used on a stovetop and inside an oven. This will mean that you use a lot less equipment and therefore have less to clean!
- Sauté the vegetables and spices in the same pan you browned the meat in. This will add a ton of umami flavors that will only elevate your dish.
Cooking Smoked Neck Bones On The Stovetop
Perhaps the best method for cooking smoked neck bones on the stovetop is via boiling.
Boiling pork neck bones is simple; you use pork neck bones and a liquid such as broth or stock to cook for several hours.
- First, wash, season, and brown your meat pieces. Set them aside until you are ready to use them. Then sauté your vegetables, spices, herbs, and other aromatics.
- Add the browned bones back into the pot and make sure to mix everything well. Lastly, add your liquids until it covers your ingredients.
- Bring the mixture to a boil, then lower the heat and allow it to simmer for 3-4 hours, depending on the size of your pieces and batch. Make sure to stir every 30 minutes or so to ensure that your ingredients do not stick to the bottom of the pot.
Tips for simmering smoked pork neck bones:
- You should start simmering your mixture with a lid on to prevent too much moisture (cooking liquid) from evaporating. When you are nearing the end of the cooking process, you can remove the lid to allow the liquid to reduce and the flavors to concentrate.
- Use one pot for as many steps as possible to help add additional meaty flavors and increase the intensity of the smokiness of the pork pieces.
Cooking Smoked Neck Bones In A Slow Cooker/Pressure Cooker
Our last method uses a pressure cooker to slowly cook the pork neck bones over a long period of time. Generally, this method takes a bit longer; however, the wait is definitely worth it.
Make sure you understand how a pressure cooker works, especially your own specific one. It can be a potentially dangerous piece of cooking equipment if you do not seal it correctly, to allow the steam to properly escape before opening.
- Brown your smoked pork neck bones in a pan over medium-high heat on the stovetop. Remove the bones and place them directly into the pressure cooker.
- Add your liquids and make sure it covers the bones, but that the entire mixture doesn’t overfill the vessel (there is usually a maximum fill line). Place the lid on top of the cooked, seal properly, and set the timer for about 4 hours.
- De-pressurize the slow cooker and make sure all the steam has left before adding in the additional ingredients. Place the lid back on and set another timer for roughly 1-2 hours, depending on how far the meat has currently cooked.
- Once the time has passed, again, carefully de-pressurize the slow cooker and remove the mixture from the vessel.
- Make sure to release the steam inside before removing the lid. Use a wooden spoon to push down the de-pressurizing button.
- You can sauté the vegetables and spices before adding them into the pressure cooker, but they might be a bit overcooked because there is no dry heat in the cooker.
How Will These Methods Affect The Taste And Texture?
So, all of these cooking methods for cooking smoked pork neck bones will have similar effects on the meat because they all follow the same cooking principles, being wet cooking methods.
All of these methods will leave your meat tender and completely soft; however, there will be minor differences in texture and taste.
When braising meat in an oven, you will generally have much more flavorful end results and a slightly drier, thicker end product – regardless of the ingredients you use.
This is larger due to the fact that an oven uses dry heat to cook the food, which is why it is so important to cover the tray or baking dish and constantly add a cooking liquid.
We love braising our smoked pork neck bones as it releases a ton of flavors and the smokiness intensifies drastically.
When it comes to boiling or cooking the bones on the stovetop, your flavor will generally be a bit more diluted and your final dish much wetter.
Stovetop cooking cannot reach the same temperatures as an oven can, which means less moisture evaporates.
The smokiness is also often lost because of all the moisture inside the pot.
This is a problem that can be easily solved by simply allowing your mixture to simmer for the final hour without a lid. This will reduce the liquid and concentrate its flavors, making a much thicker sauce and soft tender meat.
The pressure cooker will leave you with an even wetter recipe. It doesn’t allow any moisture to escape and you therefore will have a difficult time creating a thicker and intensely flavored dish.
Pressure cooking your pork neck bones will leave you with incredibly soft meat and juicy flavors.
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