Crispy pork hocks or knuckles (Schweinshaxen): German comfort food at its best! Incredibly tender meat wrapped in super crispy pork crackling and served with a cold beer!
If you ever want to try a typical Bavarian dish, then these pork hocks with crackling are the thing for you! One of the heartiest dishes you can imagine, chunks of incredibly tender meat, juicy and full of flavor. And the extra bonus: crispy skin! For more crispy pork, learn How to Cook Pork Belly Slices.
This is a traditional German recipe; simple, using just a few, rather cheap ingredients, relying on a good piece of meat from the butchers. There is not even need for a sauce, the dish is already so rich and juicy, a sauce would only add calories without contributing much to the story.
What you need on the side is a fresh, crisp salad to clean up the palate between the bites. And definitely a cold German beer.
And if you would like to try more thoroughly typical German recipes, you found the right place. How about this German Lentil Soup or the Beef Roulades to start with? It can hardly get more German than that when it comes to cooking.
German Pork Knuckle
The pork hocks or knuckles are probably Bavaria’s signature dish. Not only served for Oktoberfest! The crispy hocks are one of the most ordered foods in restaurants and breweries in the South of Germany. If you ever visit Munich, make sure you have them, you will be in for a treat! And get some Obatzda with Pretzel as well while you’re at it!
The typical Bavarian way of cooking hocks is to first boil them and then to bake them in the oven. This procedure ensures that the meat will get as tender as it can be. The final broiling makes the crackling crispy.
What do you need for cooking German hocks?
Pork hocks or knuckles
- Pork hocks and pork/pig knuckles are the same. They are the end part of the shank, the part above the foot and ankle of the pig. There are a lot of connective tissues in this piece of meat, they melt during the cooking process, making the meat sticky tender and adding a lot of flavor.
- Cooking them takes a long time, that is why they are often boiled first. Or smothered for hours with sauerkraut, another typical German way of cooking them, which is more common in the North of the country (recipe coming soon).
- For this recipe, you will need 2 large pork hocks, a total weight of about 1.5 – 2 kg/ 3.3 – 4.4 oz. I never actually weigh them, they have more or less the same size all the time. This amount should be enough to feed four people.
- It’s preferable to buy the hocks from the rear legs of the pigs, they are bigger and meatier than the front ones. The front hocks are normally used to make soup.
- They should be fresh, uncured, and unsmoked. If the label says ham hocks, then they are probably NOT what you need, as ham hocks are brined.
Where to find these cuts of meat?
- If you are in Germany, you will find them at the butchers and in most supermarkets. They are particularly good value.
- Otherwise, you might want to look in ethnic food shops (German, Italian, Eastern European) or try to get them from Asian butchers. It might help to ask regular butchers and order them in advance.
Vegetables: onions and garlic.
Spices: bay leaves, cloves, juniper berries, caraway seeds, black peppercorns, salt. If all you have are peppercorns, bay leaves and salt is fine as well. But the rest of the spices are nice to use. Caraway seeds are traditionally used when cooking a German pork knuckle.
Beer: German beer is perfect but regular beer is fine as well, you don’t have to buy pricey export beer if you don’t want to.
How to make crispy German pork knuckles?
The recipe is super simple, but it requires three different steps of cooking: boil, roast, broil! But except moving the hocks from one pot to another and turning on the oven and the broiler, there is not very much you have to do.
Step 1: Boil
- Place the meat pieces, all the vegetables, and all the spices, except the salt, in a large pot.
- Cover completely with water. Bring to a boil. (1)
- Add the salt now, lower the heat.
- Simmer very gently for 1 hour and 30 minutes. The broth should not boil, just simmer very very slowly. (2)
Step 2: Roast
- Before the time is up, preheat the oven to 200 degrees Celsius/ 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Carefully lift the meat pieces from the pot and place them in a roasting tin. Reserve the broth.
- Pour ½ of the beer over the hocks and about 1 cup of the broth into the roasting tin.
- Sprinkle the meat with salt generously.
- Roast for 30 minutes.
- Turn on the other side, pour the remaining beer on top and sprinkle with salt again.
- Roast for another 30 minutes or until the meat is very tender.
Step 3: Broil
- Turn on the broiler. Broil the meat for as long as it takes to make the skin golden crispy.
- Turn it frequently to make sure it crisps on all sides.
- Don’t leave it unattended, the crackling should not turn dark.
Can I make this in advance?
After the initial boiling time, you can stop. Remove the hocks from the broth, let them cool and keep them in the fridge. Roast and broil the next day.
Or you can boil and roast the knuckles on day one, cool and keep them in the fridge until ready to serve. Reheat them in the oven very well, turn on the broiler and crisp the skin.
What to do with the leftover broth?
- The cooking broth makes a good base for soups, stew, or sauce.
- However, you must remove the fat, it is too much of it.
- Strain the liquid and discard the solids and leave to cool completely.
- Place in the fridge, covered, overnight.
- The fat will become solid, and you will be able to remove it very easily with a slotted spoon.
- Use the broth to make White Bean Soup, Bratwurst Soup, Barley Soup, Buckwheat Soup, and so on. Basically, any kind of hearty soup you like.
How to serve pork hocks?
- I often serve them with red cabbage slaw: a fresh, crispy salad that cleans the palate and compliments the meat perfectly.
- German Sauerkraut or Bavarian Sauerkraut, and cooked German Red Cabbage are great as well. Also fitting: a simple German cabbage salad.
- Semmelknödel (bread dumplings) or Kartoffelknödel (potato dumplings) are the first choices when it comes to starchy side dishes. But mashed or boiled potatoes are great as well.
- Other delicious side dishes would be a nice German Potato Salad, a German Cucumber Salad, or even Spätzle.
What to do with leftovers?
Reheat the meat chunks in the oven or in the pan. The skin will not be so crispy anymore, but it will still taste delicious.
You can mix the shredded meat with cooked spätzle or pasta and any leftover pan juices you might have. If you served the meat with sauerkraut or cooked red cabbage, you could mix the leftovers with the noodles as well. This combo makes another mouthwatering and filling main meal.
Create a fusion meal. Stuff pita bread or fill tortillas with leftover shredded meat. Add some onions, feta, tomatoes, cucumbers in the pita. Or some avocado, cheese, chili, sour cream in the tortillas.
More traditional German food:
- Stuffed Savoy Cabbage – Wirsing-Rouladen
- Königsberger Klopse – Meatballs in Caper Sauce
- German Beef Soup – Rindfleischsuppe
- German Green Sauce – Frankfurtersoße
- White Asparagus in Sauce Hollandaise
- Black Forest Cake – Schwarzwälder Kirschtorte
- Jägerschnitzel with Mushroom Sauce
Crispy Pork Hocks (Schweinshaxe Recipe)
- 2 pork hocks knuckles (Notes 1,2)
- 2 onions
- 5 garlic cloves
- 2 cloves
- 5 bay leaves
- 1 teaspoon black peppercorns
- 1 teaspoon juniper berries
- 1 teaspoon whole caraway seeds
- 2 teaspoons fine sea salt + more to sprinkle
- water to cover
- 1 bottle German beer
- 250 ml 8.5 fl. oz/ 1 cup from the cooking broth
- Boil hocks: Place the pork hocks, peeled and halved onions, peeled garlic cloves, cloves, bay leaves, peppercorns, juniper berries, caraway seeds in a large pot. Cover entirely with water. Bring to a boil. Add the salt, turn down the heat and simmer the pork hocks for 1 hour and 30 minutes, the water should only slowly simmer and not boil at any time.
- Shortly before the time is up, preheat the oven to 200 degrees Celsius/ 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Roast: Carefully transfer the knuckles to a roasting tin (Note 3). Pour ½ of the beer on top of the hocks and add about 1 cup hot broth to the tin. Sprinkle the hocks with salt. Roast for 30 minutes.
- Flip: Turn the hocks on the other side and sprinkle them with salt. Add the rest of the beer to the roasting tin. Roast for another 30 minutes. The meat should be very tender.
- Crisp: Turn on the broiler to crisp the skin. Broil the meat, turning the hocks on all sides, so that the skin can crisp all over. Keep an eye on the knuckles all the time, the crackling should not turn dark, but remain golden brown and get crispy. Serve immediately.
- Total weight of about 1.5 – 2 kg/ 3.3 – 4.4 oz. This amount is enough to feed four people; however, it looks nicer to serve a hock per person when serving guests. You will have loads of leftovers, though.
- Fresh, uncured, and unsmoked pork hocks or knuckles. NOT shanks.
- You can use the broth to make a hearty soup. Discard the vegetables and spices, let the broth cool completely. Place the pot in the fridge overnight, the fat will solidify, and you will be able to remove it quickly. Use the stock to make soup; see blog post for suggestions.