Pig meat, also known as pork, is very popular in many parts of the world, especially in China and many developed western countries.
Some popular cuts include pork belly, pork cheek, pork shoulder, pork hock, and ham hock. But wait, aren’t pork hock and ham hock the same thing?
Well, for starters, you need to understand that while all ham is pork, not all pork is ham.
Pork is basically meat from any part of the pig, while ham comes from a specific part that has been preserved through either salting, wet-curing, or smoking.
With that out of the way, let’s shift our focus towards pork hock and ham hock. Hock is the joint that attaches the pig’s foot to its leg, which can be the anatomical equivalent of an ankle or lower calf region on a human body.
So, what is the difference between pork hock and ham hock? While both are a part of the pig’s “ankle”, ham hocks are made from the rear ankles, whereas pork hocks can come from either the rear or the front pig ankles.
This is not the only difference though. Read on for a detailed explanation on how pork hock is different from ham hock and how they are used in cooking!
What Is Ham Hock?
Ham hock, also called pork knuckle, is made from the rear ankles of the pig between the tibia/fibula and the metatarsals. It is typically cured or smoked to preserve the meat and imparts a bacon-like flavor to whatever it is added to.
What Is Pork Hock?
Pork hock is made from either the front or rear ankles of the pig and is neither cured nor smoked. It is different from ham hock in that it is raw, more versatile, and does not add a distinct flavor to any recipe it is added to.
Difference Between Pork Hock and Ham Hock
Other than the part of the pig’s body that pork hock and ham hock come from, there are a few additional major differences between the two.
For starters, ham hock is cured or smoked whereas pork hock is raw. Due to this reason, it is not ideal to substitute one for the other since they each impart a distinct flavor and differ in the way they are used in recipes.
Since ham hock goes through a curing or smoking process, it is typically used for flavoring a dish by either adding the meat back in or keeping it separate. The typical cooking time for ham hock is about 4-5 hours.
The majority of the time hocks are bone-in, which means that you can cook the ham hock in a soup or stew and remove it at the end to either pick off the meat and add it back to the recipe or enjoy it on its own.
Some common recipes where ham hock goes wonderfully include potato and ham hock soup, ham hock and white bean stew, and split pea and ham soup.
Pork hock is raw and uncooked, offering versatility and allowing it to be used in a variety of applications. It can be roasted, braised, or boiled, and the typical cooking time is around 2-4 hours.
Pork hock is popular in Germany where it is enjoyed at Octoberfest in the form of a dish called Schweinshaxe. It is also popular in China where it is commonly eaten during the Chinese New Year in a dish called Ti Pang.
What Can You Substitute For Ham Hock?
Ham hock is a fatty cut of pork that has a rich, smoky flavor. If for some reason, you can’t find it at the grocery store, there are several great meaty options that you can use as a substitute.
Bacon is one of the best alternatives to use in place of ham hock since it is a similar fatty cut. Just make sure that the bacon you are using is smoked to get the same flavor.
For a non-pork alternative, you may use turkey leg. Like ham hock, it is fatty, full of skin, and usually smoked. It makes not just a good alternative for ham hock but also a healthier one.
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