At the heart of Southern home cooking, smoked neck bones and ham hocks are commonly enjoyed with things like beans, potatoes, rice, cabbage as well as in soups and stews where they’re slow-cooked until their smoky, fork-tender meat falls right off.
Most of you have probably bought smoked neck bones or smoked ham hocks at the store to add flavor to your dishes, especially your soups and stews. Their flavor contribution is downright wonderful. (E.g., can you imagine split pea soup without them? No way!)
But have you ever had homemade smoked neck bones or ham hocks?
Let’s just say you can figure on multiplying the flavor factor by about a hundred and that’ll land you somewhere in the ballpark.
I made my homemade chili a couple of weeks ago and it’s always a hit. But this time I thought I’d thrown in a smoked neck bone and wow, it took that chili to a new level!
The process for making smoked neck bones and ham hocks is the same but I’m demonstrating the process using neck bones. They are very straightforward and simple to make, it just involves a bit of a wait for the neck bones to marinate in the brine. Once the waiting game is up it’s time to smoke them, and that part is relatively short.
You can get raw neck bones and ham hocks at your local butcher – ask them to set some aside for you.
There are also stores in the U.S. like Cash and Carry (where I got the ones I’m using for this batch) that come frozen and at a good price.
Let’s get started!
Add all the brine ingredients to a large bowl and stir until the salt and sugar are dissolved.
Divide the neck bones or ham hocks between two gallon ziplock bags and pour in the brine.
You can also place the neck bones/ham hocks in a stainless steel or food-grade plastic bucket with a lid to brine in there.
Make sure the meat is submerged in the brine.
Place the ziplock bags in some kind of a dish to catch any leakage. I’m using baking dishes.
Refrigerate for 7 days, turning the bags over to ensure even distribution of the brine.
After 7 days of brining, rinse the neck bones or ham hocks and place them on a wire rack, set it on a cookie sheet, and refrigerate uncovered for another 24 hours. This will enable to smoke to better adhere to the meat.
Don’t have a smoker? See the recipe box for instructions for oven smoking.
I’m using my Masterbuilt 30″ Digital Electric Smoker. I LOVE this smoker. I really can’t praise it enough. It’s incredibly easy to use, comes with great features and produces terrific results.
Check out my full review on this Masterbuilt smoker.
When you’re ready to smoke them, set your smoker to 200 degrees F. Place the neck bones or ham hocks on the smoking grates, making sure they’re not touching each other. Add a couple of handfuls of wood chips to the smoker throughout the smoking process.
Smoke until the internal temperature reaches 150 degrees F. You’ll need an instant read thermometer.
Once done, wrap the smoked neck bones or ham hocks and freeze them for long-term storage or refrigerate them if you’re going to use them within a week.
- 5 pounds pork neck bones or ham hocks
- 8 cups water
- ¾ cup kosher salt
- ¾ cup packed brown sugar
- 2 teaspoons pink salt, aka Prague Powder
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 teaspoon black peppercorns
- Make the brine by placing all the ingredients, except for the neck bones, in a large bowl and stirring until the salt and sugar are dissolved.
- Place the neck bones in a stainless steel or food grade plastic bucket/container with a lid, or divide between 2 gallon ziplock bags, and pour the brine over the neck bones. Cover with lid or close the ziplock bags and place the latter in a large dish to catch any leakage. Make sure the neck bones are covered in the brine. Refrigerate for 7 days, flipping the ziplock bags over each day to ensure even distribution of the brine.
- After 7 days rinse off the neck bones and place them on a wire rack on a cookie sheet and refrigerate them uncovered for another 24 hours. This will help the smoke to better adhere to the neck bones.
- Set your smoker to 200 degrees F and place the neck bones or ham hocks on the smoking grates, making sure they're not touching each other. Smoke the neck bones until they've reached an internal temperature of 150 degrees F, adding a handful of wood chips a couple of different times throughout the process. Smoking time will vary depending on the size of the neck bones but you can figure on about 2 hours.
- Once done, wrap the neck bones and freeze them for long-term storage or refrigerate if you plan on using them within a week.
- IF YOU DON'T HAVE A SMOKER: You can create a makeshift smoker in your oven. Here's how: Place some wood chips in the bottom of a roasting pan (or something like it) on the bottom shelf of the oven and add just enough water to to the pan to moisten the chips without immersing them in water. Cover the pan with aluminum foil creating a tent at the top where the smoke can come out and circulate around the meat. Then place the prepared hocks on the oven rack above it and then roast them at 200 degrees F until they reach that 145 degree F internal temperature.