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Dec 08

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Ham Hock vs. Ham Shank

Yesterday I went to the store to buy a ham hock for a slow cooker dish I’ll be making on Sunday. I didn’t see any ham hocks but the store did have ham shanks. I consulted the butcher and he said that ham shanks are meatier than ham hocks. They’re perfect for cooking with beans he stated. I bought the ham shanks.

When I got home I looked the definition up in Wikipedia.

A ham hock is the end of a smoked ham where the foot was attached to the hog’s leg.

There wasn’t a definition for ham shank though. I looked on the Internet and in the Joy of Cooking. There were recipes for ham shanks but no definition. I guess I’ll have to wait until tomorrow when I unwrap the shank and take a look for myself.

Permanent link to this article: http://www.beetleeyes.com/2007/12/08/ham-hock-vs-ham-shank/

19 comments

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  1. Meredith from Merchant Ships

    Hmmm. Even though I live in the South, those strange gnarled ham pieces still scare me a little!

    I always assumed that the ham hock is from the meatier end of the ham while the shank was the bonier side.

  2. CJ

    Check a site I found called askthemeatman.com —- according to that site, the hock and shank are one in the same. Having grown up in the south (E. Tenn. & Western N.C.) — I actually thought they were a little different. Hocks are always unique — I cooked a pot of beans tonight with a lovely, huge smoked hock and it yielded hardly any of that yummy meat. Other times, I’ll buy them and they are loaded! Either way, they season very well.

  3. Mark R.

    Please, please tell us where in Seattle you found ham shanks!!! I have been looking for them for a long, long time to make Scweinshaxe”, a German dish.

    1. mike

      kenmore safeway has great ones, just bought one to make 15 bean soup.it weighs about 3 lbs costs 8 dollars well worth it. it is cut into four pieces.

  4. Beetle Eyes

    Mark – It’s been awhile, but I think that I got them at the Bellevue Top. Good luck with your search!

  5. Jenny

    Mark – I found them, frozen, at the Safeway in the Factoria Mall area.

  6. Kristaps

    They have them at the Whole Foods in Ravenna (in Seattle). I just got one the other day to use in an African sweet potato soup, and it was excellent.

    Anatomically, the hock is roughly equivalent to the ankle and foot, whereas the shank is the pig’s calf, so it’s meatier. The shank I got at Whole Foods was smoked as well, so it made the whole house smell like delicious.

  7. John

    To us there is a huge flavor difference between “smoked ham hocks” and “smoked pork hocks”. The pork hock is much more bland and does not flavor soup like the ham hock. They are very hard to find here in South Texas. Time was they were in all the stores, now just pork hocks and most by Tyson?

    Good luck

  8. Chris

    Thank you for these contributions.

    I was looking around on this subject since yesterday, at Derby (UK) Market Hall, I picked up a ‘Gammon Shank’ which looked for all the world the exact same thing as what we usually know as a ‘Hock’. I note that it was packed in Greater Manchester and that elsewhere on the Web I have seen that somebody from the North-East of England also knows a ‘Hock’ as a ‘Shank’, so it may be a case of regional taste in vocabulary over here as well as on your side of the Atlantic. We’re on more or less the borderline between the English Midlands and the North of England here so we may be at the very northern edge of the area where the word ‘Hock’ is used.

    Being something of a Soul Music fan I of course am aware that Ham Hock is a staple thereof.

  9. Doug R

    I worked previously at a ham processing plant. I think the “official” definition is that a whole ham has two parts, the ‘butt’ portion and the shank portion. The shank portion is the lower part of the leg. It can include the ham hock which is the joint connecting the foot and leg. Sometimes the hock is cut off and sold seperately. But it can be included in the shank portion of a ham. Having said that it appears that some recipes use them interchangeably.

  10. Randy

    A ham shank is a meatier cut found inbetween the ham and the hock, next to the shank end of the ham!

  11. phillip

    I agree with Randy. Just from experience, the ham shanks I buy generaly have MUCH more meat than the hock. I have wondered the same thing for years, so buying both at the same time several times has given this result.

  12. Patrika

    I live in Maryland and have NEVER seen “ham shanks” in any store; hocks – yes. For a healthier dish, however, I have switched from smoked ham hocks to smoked turkey drums. They have so much more meat to flavor those beans and you really can’t tell that much of a difference in taste!

  13. Cheryl

    I bought a meaty ham shank at Shoreline Central Market. It is in the pot now and will be followed by cannelini, dark greens and squash for the last of the slow cooked soup.

  14. Paul

    Legs/hams – Although any cut of pork can be cured, technically speaking only the back leg is entitled to be called a ham. Legs and shoulders, when used fresh, are usually cut bone-in for roasting, or leg steaks can be cut from the bone. Three common cuts of the leg include the rump (upper portion), centre, and shank (lower portion).

  15. rosemary mcdonnell

    I have been using ham shanks for some time now, thinking that they were just REALLY GOOD ham hocks…..I buy them at Kroger (I live in Virginia) and we have decided that they are SO MUCH BETTER than ham hocks….ESPECIALLY for someone who actually likes to eat them (not just use them for flavoring)…they actually have quite a bit of meat on them, so they make for much better eating, very tender, and still very flavorful. I have only used them for soups but they sure are yummy after simmering for a few hours. Try it, you’ll LIKE IT!!!

  16. ava

    My mother used salt pork to cook her pinto beans with. I was told to use a ham hock. I did and found it to be ok, but not flavorful. I used a ham shank and LO! WHAT A DIFFERENCE! Very tasty and delicious with pinto beans.
    I will never use anything else. Goodbye ham hock! Salt pork just seems like it would be really greasy. It was probably the half-runner beans my mother used the salt pork for. She was a southern gal from Tennessee!

  17. BayouGuy

    Randy hit the nail on the head with his response. The hock is lower on the leg, followed by the shank, then the shank end of the ham and, finally, the butt end. Only the rear leg is called a ham. The hock is almost completely fatty and used for flavoring only (unless you like pork fat) and the shank is almost all meat and can be used for flavoring and be eaten (yum).

  18. Ray

    Ham shanks are meatier than hocks… But here in Colorado… Hocks cost more at both King Sippers (Kroger) and Safeway. I haven’t figured out why. I have cooked with both and don’t really see a difference in taste. The hock meat seems more tender but I’d rather have more meat in my recipe. You decide. Both give off GREAT flavor. Happy New Year.

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