Are you looking for a flavorful and hearty addition to your soups or stews? Look no further than the humble bacon hock!
This cut of meat, located between a pig’s front trotter and shoulder, is traditionally used for slow-cooked dishes like split pea soup or braised collard greens. But with a little know-how, you can turn this tough cut into a tender and delicious meal.
From soaking and simmering to roasting and baking, there are many ways to cook a bacon hock. In this article, we’ll explore some of the best methods for preparing this flavorful cut of meat.
So grab your apron and let’s get cooking!
How To Cook Bacon Hock?
Before we dive into the cooking methods, it’s important to note that bacon hocks are often cured and smoked, which means they can be quite salty and smoky. To reduce the saltiness, it’s recommended to soak the hock in cold water overnight before cooking.
What Is A Bacon Hock?
A bacon hock, also known as a ham hock or pork knuckle, is a cut of meat from the lower leg of the pig. It is a chunky, bone-in section surrounded by collagen, connective tissue, and some meat, all encased in a thick band of fat and skin. Bacon hocks are typically cured with salt and smoked, which gives them a distinct smoky and salty flavor. They are also collagen-rich and inexpensive, making them a popular addition to long-cooked dishes like soups, stews, braised greens, and stocks. When cooked in a liquidy environment for a long time, the collagen and fat slowly dissolve, infusing their surroundings with richness, saltiness, and smokiness. Bacon hocks are not especially meaty, but they can be shredded or diced up and added back to the dish for added flavor and texture. To reduce the saltiness of a bacon hock before cooking, it’s recommended to soak it in cold water overnight.
Soaking And Preparing The Bacon Hock
To start, place the bacon hock in a large bowl or pot and cover it with cold water. Let it soak for at least 8-12 hours, or overnight, in the refrigerator. This will help to draw out some of the excess salt and smokiness from the hock.
After soaking, remove the hock from the water and rinse it thoroughly under running water. Pat it dry with paper towels.
To cook the bacon hock, place it in a large pot or saucepan and cover it with cold water. Make sure that the hock is completely submerged, with about 1 inch of water between the top of the hock and the water line.
Add chopped onion, carrot, and celery to the pot, along with a bay leaf and 2-3 sprigs of thyme. Bring the water to a boil over high heat, then reduce the heat to low and let it simmer gently for about 3 hours, or until the meat is falling off the bone.
Once cooked, remove the bacon hock from the pot and let it cool slightly. Use a fork or your fingers to shred or dice the meat into small pieces, discarding any fatty bits or skin.
The cooking liquid can be used to make soup or stock by straining out any solids and simmering it for an additional 30-60 minutes to concentrate the flavors.
With these simple steps, you can prepare and cook a delicious bacon hock that is tender, flavorful, and not overly salty.
Simmering The Bacon Hock For Maximum Flavor
Simmering the bacon hock is a great way to extract maximum flavor from this delicious cut of meat. The process is simple and straightforward, but it does require some patience. To begin, place the bacon hock in a large pot and cover it with water. Add any additional seasonings or aromatics you desire, such as bay leaves, onion, garlic, peppercorns, and cloves. Bring the water to a boil over high heat, then reduce the heat to low and let the hock simmer for at least 2 hours, or until it is tender and falling off the bone.
As the bacon hock simmers, its fat and collagen will slowly dissolve and infuse the liquid with rich and salty flavors. The smokiness from the curing and smoking process will also add a deeper layer to the dish’s flavor profile. Be sure to periodically skim off any foam or impurities that rise to the surface of the water during simmering.
Once the bacon hock is fully cooked, remove it from the pot and let it cool slightly before shredding or dicing any meat you want to keep. The fatty bits left at the end of cooking can be easily pulled off to uncover pockets of meat hidden close to the bone. Simply add the meat back into your dish and enjoy the delicious flavor that only a bacon hock can provide.
Roasting The Bacon Hock For A Crispy Finish
Roasting a bacon hock is a great way to achieve a crispy finish while keeping the meat tender and flavorful. To begin, preheat your oven to 350°F. Place the bacon hock in a deep sheet pan or roasting pan and generously rub it with lard or olive oil. Season it well with salt and pepper, and optionally add some ground paprika and garlic powder for extra flavor.
Bake the hock in the oven for at least 2 hours, depending on your oven, until the meat is tender and falling apart. If you can’t place it upright in the oven, try turning it to the other side every 30 minutes. You’ll know it’s done when the meat is sticking to your fingers.
To achieve a crispy finish, score the thick layer of skin and fat with a sharp knife. Turn on the broiler for the last 5-10 minutes, keeping an eye on it to prevent burning. The skin will crackle and get super crispy.
Once it’s done, remove the bacon hock from the oven and let it rest for a few minutes before serving. This method is perfect for those who love crispy bacon but want to try something different with a bacon hock. It’s also great for those who want to add some crunchy texture to their dishes. Serve it with potatoes, sauerkraut, or any other sides of your choice. Enjoy!
Baking The Bacon Hock For A Tender And Juicy Result
Baking the bacon hock is an excellent way to achieve a tender and juicy result. To start, preheat your oven to 350°F. Heat olive oil in an oven-safe skillet and sauté the ham hocks until they become brown and crispy. Next, pour in the vegetable broth, turn off the heat, and cover with a lid. Bake in the oven for 2 to 3 hours or until the meat becomes fork-tender.
Alternatively, you can also bake the bacon hock in a sheet pan for a crispy skin and juicy meat. Firstly, wash the fresh ham hock with running water and put it in a large pot. Cover with water and cook for 30 minutes. Remove the water, rinse the ham hock to remove any foam from the surface, add fresh water and 1 teaspoon of salt, and cook for an additional hour. Once cooked, put the ham hock in a large deep sheet pan and incise the skin with a sharp knife in a diamond shape. This will help to achieve a crispy skin at the end. Next, put a generous layer of lard all over the meat and season it with salt, pepper, and optional red ground paprika. Bake in a preheated oven at 350°F for 2 hours with the vent on. Try to roast it in an upright position or turn it every 30 minutes to ensure even cooking. In a sheet pan, you can also add garlic cloves and onion for the last 45 minutes if you wish to prepare gravy with meat juices.
Baking the bacon hock is a great way to achieve a tender and juicy result while also achieving a crispy skin on top. It’s perfect for serving with cauliflower mash and fried cabbage or fried sauerkraut. So give it a try and enjoy this delicious cut of meat!
Serving Suggestions For Your Cooked Bacon Hock
Once your bacon hock is cooked and ready to serve, there are a variety of ways to enjoy it. One classic option is to serve it with split pea soup, as the smoky and salty flavors of the hock complement the earthy flavor of the peas. You can also add the cooked hock to pots of beans, braised greens, or beef or poultry stocks for added richness and depth of flavor.
For a salad option, try using thinly sliced chiogga beetroot with a good vinaigrette and chopped bacon hock pieces. The sweet and earthy flavor of the beetroot pairs well with the smoky flavor of the bacon hock.
Another option is to use the cooked hock in a pasta dish. Cut pasta sheets into ribbon lengths and cook in boiling salted water for eight minutes. Drain and mix with a pea and spinach mixture, along with pieces of the cooked bacon hock. Top with grilled bacon pieces for added texture and flavor.
No matter how you choose to serve it, a cooked bacon hock is a versatile ingredient that can add depth and richness to a variety of dishes.