Why You Should Consider Substituting Bacon With Ham Hocks

It can be easy enough to get into a rut when cooking, always following the same old recipes and depending on the same ingredients as well. This year has proven to be a great time for many home cooks to adapt though, as rising costs force many to change how they shop for groceries.

CBS News reports that the price of bacon continued to rise steadily last year, as it costs an average of 9% more than it did in 2021, per U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Luckily, ham hocks make a great-tasting substitute for bacon in many recipes. Spruce Eats adds that they also tend to cost less because they aren't considered a prime cut of pork.

Ham hocks come from the bottom section of the pigs' legs and are sometimes referred to as pork knuckles. Ham hocks are typically salt-cured and smoked, which gives them a similar flavor profile to bacon. They also have a few other properties that might just make them an improvement over bacon in some cases.

Ham hocks add tons of flavor

One of the challenges of using ham hocks is their tough nature. Spruce Eats says that the meat in this cut is usually surrounded by collagen and other connective tissues. It is also normally sold on the bone, which can appear as an obstacle for some. In the right scenarios though, these challenges are actually advantages.

Spruce Eats adds that when the collagen present in ham hocks is slow-roasted (especially when in liquid like soups, stews, or braises) it turns to gelatin. This gelatin then coats the normally tough meat and produces juicy succulent bites of meat that will fall off the bone. This is the same process that makes pork shoulder the best cut for pulled pork. After a low and slow cooking period, the meat will be falling apart and full of juicy flavors. Spruce Eats adds that the bone present in ham hocks will add more collagen as well, and this will add more flavor to your recipe.

Southern Living says that ham hocks are the secret to classic southern American staples like collard greens. Spruce Eats adds that it also works as a substitute for bacon recipes, along with soups, stews, chilis, or anything that goes in a slow cooker. They can also easily be found in most grocery stores and butcher shops, so they won't add to shopping time either.