Schweinshaxe recipe for the quintessential dish of the Bavarian beer halls. Learn to make a fork tender and juicy roasted pork hock (knuckle) with crispy skin.
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Read on for relevant information and step-by-step pictures (2 mins)
What is Schweinshaxe (German Pork Hock)?
Schweinshaxe – roasted, skin-on pork hock (knuckle) is a veritable symbol of Bavarian cuisine and beer culture. You will find a crispy and tender German pork knuckle on the menus of beer halls, beer gardens, restaurants big and small and even street food stalls all over Bavaria and other parts of the country.
The traditional way to roast pork hock is on a spit. The knuckles are skewered on long metal rotisserie rods and and set up in front of a heating element.
One of the most spectacular displays of roasting pork knuckles we have come across is at Haxnbauer in Munich, Germany. If you visit the city during Oktoberfest, the Haxenbraterei near the Hofbräu tent on the Wiesn is a great place to enjoy Schweinshaxe. Every year more than 80,000 pork hocks are consumed on the Oktoberfest grounds alone.
IMPORTANT NOTE: In the US the words pork knuckle, pork hock and pork shank are used interchangeably to reference the general area of the pig’s leg where the foot connects with the shoulder or hip of the animal (depending on front or back feet).
Technically, shanks have more meat (especially hind shanks) because they come from the area closer to the shoulder or hip parts of the pig, while hocks are a bit bonier as they constitute the lower portion of the cut, closest to the foot.
The reason the word knuckle comes into play is because it is a direct translation from German – Schwein=pig, haxe=knuckle and subsequently Schweinshaxe=pork knuckle. Overall, whether you say pork hock, pork shank or pork knuckle you will be referencing the same thing.
Ingredients You Need to Make German Pork Hock at Home
- Pork hock(s). Preferably from the rear ankle, with the rind on. Average weight is around 2 lbs per ham hock.
- German seasonings. Bay leaf, caraway seed and cloves for the poaching liquid, if using (see step-by-step below). Caraway seed, black pepper and salt for the rub.
- Garlic. To add to the poaching liquid, if using.
- Onion. To add to the poaching liquid if using and more to slow roast with the pork hocks.
- Dark beer. To add to the pan drippings during slow roasting. Don’t skip if you want to make a delicious beer gravy to serve with the Schweinshaxe. Choose a dark German lager such as dunkel, bock, doppelbock or schwarzbier or an amber lager such as Marzen or Vienna lager.
Where to buy Schweinshaxe?
In Bavaria pork hocks are sold with the skin (rind) attached and during roasting it becomes nice and crispy. To find skin-on pork hocks in the US you must either go to the butcher and request them or buy them online.
We used to ask the local butcher for skin-on pork knuckles until we happened upon the choice offerings of D’Artagnan meat purveyors and are now devout fans of the cut they sell.
They offer porcelet hindshanks (affiliate link, if you purchase this product we may receive a small commission at no cost to you) imported from Canada that are just perfect for German style slow roasting. Once you order Schweinshaxe from D’Artagnan they are shipped promptly and are delivered to you perfectly packaged for the journey and still frozen.
Below are the last ones I pulled out of our freezer. We typically roast two hocks for four people.
How to Roast Schweinshaxe
You can approach roasting pork hocks in several different ways. The key to fall-off-the bone tender meat is to allow the collagen rich connective tissue abundant around the bones of pork knuckles to melt away and flavor the meat as it liquefies. Therefore lower temperatures work better.
If you happen to have a built-in or stand alone rotisserie oven you can approximate the pit roasting method without too much effort.
Here we assume that you will be using a regular oven. If your oven is fan assisted (convection oven) you should reduce the temperatures noted by about 35-40 F. To save a little bit of time you can poach the pork hocks prior to slow roasting them. It is up to you.
- Oven only.
- You will cook a large pork hock or two or more smaller ones at a lower temperature for a few hours, at least 3 hours and up to 4 1/2 hours (depending on the size, the calibration of your oven and if it is fan assisted or not).
- You will then finish off the cooking process either at a high temperature or by using the broil feature in order to crispen up the skin. Refer to the recipe card for precise steps.
- Poaching, then oven.
- You will begin by placing each pork hock in a deep pot along with a cooking liquid with chopped onion, garlic cloves and aromatics. You will then add enough boiling water to cover the pork hocks (#2 above) and let them poach over low heat (not simmer) for about an hour.
- Once you remove them from the poaching liquid you will score the skin with a sharp knife (#4), rub with spices (#5) and then slow roast on top of thick onion slices (or roasting rack).
- To make a delicious gravy you can add dark German beer to the roasting pan about half way through the cooking time (#6) and use the pan liquids after the Schweinshaxe is done.
How to Make The Schweinshaxe Skin Crispy and Use the Drippings for Gravy
Regardless of whether you poached prior to roasting follow these steps:
- Crispy skin. Towards the end of the slow roasting time remove the pig knuckles to a different pan and either increase the temperature of the oven to about 400 F or use the broiler element. The skin will get crispy and puff up. A crackling will form much faster in a convection oven, so watch them closely.
- Gravy (beer sauce). This is the moment when that dark German lager you added to the roasting pan really pays off! While the hocks are getting crispy in the pan you transferred them to, add about a cup of boiling water to the pan drippings, scrape all the brown bits and transfer the onions and pan liquids to a blender. Blend until smooth, then transfer to a small saucepan and bring to simmer. If you need to thicken the consistency, add a slurry (1 tbsp corn start mixed with 1 tbsp cold water) and stir it into the sauce. Keep warm until the Schweinshaxe is ready to serve.
Most Popular Sides for Schweinshaxe
Slow roasted Schweinshaxe is typically served with one of these sides, popular in Bavarian cuisine. A side of German mustard is a lovely touch as well.
- Dumplings. Potato dumplings (Kartoffelknödel, often stuffed with bread croutons) are by far the most common type of German dumpling dished up alongside Schweinshaxe. Pretzel dumplings and German Bread Dumplings are delicious here as well.
- Potatoes. Most frequently mashed potatoes, but warm German potato salad as well.
- Sauerkraut. No surprises here. Usually sauerkraut is not the only side, but rather a small helping is served alongside potatoes. It is more common with Eisbein.
- Rotkohl. Braised red cabbage with spices.
- Spatzle. Typically just browned in a bit of butter and sprinkled with herbs, but Kasespatzle as well.
Other Recipes You Might Enjoy
- 2 pork knuckles (aka hocks, about 1.5 lbs each, skin-on, uncured/unsmoked)
- 1 tbsp caraway seeds (plus 1 tsp extra if poaching)
- 2-3 bay leaves (needed only if poaching first)
- 4-5 whole cloves (needed only if poaching)
- 1 tsp black pepper
- 1 tbsp kosher salt
- 2-3 garlic cloves (needed only if poaching)
- 1 onion (plus 1 more if poaching)
- 12 oz dark German lager (dunkel, bock, schwarzbier or amber lager like Marzen or Vienna lager)
OVEN ONLY METHOD
1. Preheat oven to 300 F.
2. Slice the onion into rings and place on the bottom of a roasting pan. Grind 1 tbsp caraway seeds (use pestle and mortar or spice grinder) and mix with ground pepper and salt.
3. Score the skin (rind) of each pork hock and rub with the spice mix from previous step. Place hocks on top of onions, with the tapered end facing up.
4. Slow roast for about 90 -120 minutes (depending on how large the hocks are, about 90 mins for 1.5 lbs hocks and about 120 for larger). Add the beer and a little bit of water to the pan and continue slow roasting for another 60-90 minutes. If the skin is browning too fast consider loosely tenting it with foil.
5. Transfer the hocks to another pan and keep the pan with the drippings and onions (see gravy below). Place the hocks back in the oven and either roast at 400 F or broil, until the skin gets crispy and puffy. Watch them closely during this step to avoid burning.
POACHING + OVEN METHOD
1. Bring 4 quarts of water to a boil. In a deep pot place the pork hocks, one chopped onion, garlic cloves, bay leaves, 1 tsp caraway and whole cloves. Add boiling water until the hocks are covered. Poach the hocks on low ( do not simmer) for about 60 minutes.
2. Preheat oven to 300 F. Cut an onion into thick rings and place at the bottom of a roasting pan. Remove the hocks from the poaching liquid and score the skin. Place the scored hocks on top of the onions, tapered end pointing up.
3. Grind 1 tbsp caraway seeds (use pestle and mortar or spice grinder) and mix with ground pepper and salt. Rub the mix over the hocks and place in the oven for 60 minutes.
4. Add the beer to the pan and continue slow roasting for another 60 minutes. If the skin is browning too fast consider tenting it with foil.
5. Transfer the knuckles to another pan and keep the pan with the drippings and onions (see gravy below). Place the hocks back in the oven and either roast at 400 F or broil, until the skin gets crispy and puffy. Watch them closely during this step to avoid burning.
Add 1 cup of hot water to the pan drippings and scrape the brown bits from the bottom. Transfer to a blender and blitz until smooth. Pour into sauce pan and bring to simmer. (If the consistency is too thin, add a slurry (1 tbsp corn starch mixed into 1 tbsp cold water) and whisk it in to thicken.)
Remove from heat and serve with the Schweinshaxe.
Roasting pork hocks is best done at low temperature (about 275-300 F) to allow for the collagen to melt. This will make the meat tender. The fat from underneath the skin of the hocks makes the meat juicy,
Exact times are tricky because the size/weight of each pork knuckle matters. The strength of your oven is also important - no two ovens are calibrated the same. Make adjustments to temperature if you notice that the skin is browning too fast, or loosely cover with tin foil.
Generally a 1.5 hock will need about 2 1/2 hrs of slow roasting plus a bit more at high temperature (400 F) or under broiler, as needed until the skin becomes crispy.
Because a pork hock can weigh up to 2 1/2 lbs adjustment to these times and temperatures should be made on an as needed basis.
If your oven is fan assisted (convection oven) you should reduce the temperatures noted by about 35-40 F.
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Nutrition Information:Yield: 4 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 866Total Fat: 47gSaturated Fat: 17gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 26gCholesterol: 299mgSodium: 1944mgCarbohydrates: 7gFiber: 1gSugar: 1gProtein: 91g