How Many Ham Hocks Are on a Pig? The Surprising Answer

Have you ever cooked with ham hocks and wondered – how many ham hocks are actually on a pig? As a popular ingredient in many classic Southern and soul food dishes, ham hocks impart a smoky, salty, rich flavor. But despite their popularity, most home cooks don’t know much about their anatomy.

In this article, we’ll take a deep dive into the culinary world of ham hocks. We’ll uncover exactly what they are, where they come from on the pig, and how many you can expect per animal. Read on for the inside scoop on this humble yet mighty cut of meat!

What Is a Ham Hock?

Let’s start with the basics – a ham hock is the lower joint of a pig’s hind leg. Specifically, it’s the joint that connects the ankle to the shank. Unlike the ham itself (from the upper leg), ham hocks contain a higher ratio of skin, fat, tendons, and ligaments.

When raw, ham hocks are unappealing – they look bony, fatty, and full of weird textures But when cooked low and slow, the collagen melts to create an irresistibly rich, meaty flavor The skin also crisps up into delicious little bites.

Smoking or curing ham hocks amplifies their flavor even more. The curing process infuses them with a characteristic smoky, salty taste. Plus, the preservation allows them to be kept longer before cooking.

How Are Ham Hocks Used in Cooking?

So why go through the trouble of dealing with funny-looking ham hocks? For their big bursts of flavor!

In traditional Southern cooking, ham hocks are simmered for hours when making dishes like

  • Collard greens
  • Field peas
  • Potato soup
  • Bean soups like Senate bean soup
  • Savory pies
  • Flavorful sauces and braises

The meat shreds off the bones to mix into the dish, while the fat and collagen add body. Bits of smoky skin also dissolve, leaving behind lip-smacking flavor.

International cuisines also make good use of ham hocks. German Eisbein, Polish golanka, and Italian stinco all utilize this humble cut.

Where on the Pig Does the Ham Hock Come From?

Now that we know what ham hocks are, let’s look at where they come from on the pig’s anatomy.

As mentioned earlier, ham hocks come from the lower portion of the pig’s hind legs. More specifically, they are cut from the area between the ankle (or trotter) and the shank:

[Diagram showing ham hock portion of pig leg]

  • The trotter is the ankle joint along with the feet. These are often prepared as a dish on their own.

  • The shank runs from the trotter up to the knee. It contains a high ratio of bone, fat, and connective tissue.

  • The ham hock is from the bottom segment of the shank, right above the trotter. It contains even more collagen than the rest of the shank.

How Many Ham Hocks on a Pig?

Now for the question you’ve been waiting for – how many ham hocks can you harvest from one pig?

To best answer this, let’s look at how ham hocks are butchered:

  • Each pig has 4 legs
  • Each leg contains 1 ham hock portion
  • So in total, there are 4 ham hocks per pig

Some additional details:

  • Commercial hock cuts may include a small portion of the upper shank as well. This increases the amount of meat per hock.
  • Depending on the butcher, the trotter may be left attached to the ham hock or removed. Trotters are often sold separately.

Buying and Cooking Ham Hocks

Now that you’re a ham hock expert, let’s go over some quick tips for buying and preparing them:

  • Look for hocks that are meaty and have a decent amount of fat. Avoid ones that are mostly bone.

  • Plan on cooking times of 2-3 hours for maximum tenderness. Slow cook them in soups, stews, and braises.

  • Soak salt-cured hocks before cooking to reduce sodium levels. Rinse well after soaking.

  • For convenience, ham hocks can be cooked then removed from the bone for adding to recipes.

  • Substitute smoked turkey parts for a meatless option. Vegans can use mushrooms, soy sauce, and liquid smoke for a similar flavor profile.

  • When buying packages of hocks, estimate 1-2 per person. Buy 4-8 hocks total for serving 4 people.

Put Your New Knowledge to Use!

You now have the insider’s guide to ham hocks! From their anatomy on the pig to their starring role in Southern cuisine, you’re a ham hock expert.

So put your new knowledge to delicious use. Pick up a package of ham hocks and simmer them into a pot of hearty bean soup or collards. Just a few hocks can transform an entire dish.

And as you cook, remember there are 4 of these flavorful cuts on each pig. Use your new ham hock wisdom to elevate all sorts of delicious recipes!

How To Make Smoked Ham Hocks and Pig Feet- Curing and Smoking


How many hams do you get off of one pig?

Hams: On a whole hog you get 2 hams. A whole ham on a hog can weigh between 12 and 25 pounds. Options are to smoke the hams or leave them as is (called fresh). The cutting options for hams are whole, half, thirds, quarters, ham steaks, or ham roasts.

What portion of the pig is the ham hock?

A ham hock (or hough) or pork knuckle is the joint between the tibia/fibula and the metatarsals of the foot of a pig, where the foot was attached to the hog’s leg. It is the portion of the leg that is neither part of the ham proper nor the ankle or foot (trotter), but rather the extreme shank end of the leg bone.

How much meat do you get off a ham hock?

It’s mostly fat and bone and about one third meat but the meat is not the most important thing you’re looking for; it’s the flavor. The meat is just an added benefit. The smoked hock has a smoked flavor, you get flavor from the fat and flavor from the bones.

How much meat from a 350 lb pig?

A hanging pork carcass will typically yield about 75% of the carcass weight, in mostly bone-in meat cuts, resulting in approximately 130-194 pounds of meat to take home.

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