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Chinese Cha Sui Pork Hocks

After our first try at hot smoking pork shanks turned out great, we decided to try out a couple of variations on the barbecue. Our Thai barbecue pork shanks are not a big success yet, but these Chinese Char Siu pork hocks are certainly worth an in-depth smoking report.

We first marinated these Char Sui Pork Shanks for three hours in a Cantonese Char Sui marinade, then hot smoked them for four hours on charcoal briquettes and chunks of oak smoke wood at a temperature in between 300F and 350F.

After 3 hours of smoking we started to apply our Hot Smoke BBQ Soy Honey Glazing until these shanks looked bright red and shining!

Hot Smoked Chinese Pork Hocks

Pork hocks, also named pork shanks (or a section of the shank), eisbein or schweinshaxe, are cut from the pork fore or hind leg between ankle and knee. The meat in pork hocks consists of work muscles, which are relatively tough and not so tender, yet full of taste!

Pork hocks are not so famous as pork ribs, still it is a beautiful product. Although these savory cuts of meat are not suitable for hot and fast grilling, pork hocks are ideal for indirect grilling in a smoker.

Hot Smoke BBQ Charcoal Briquettes

Pork Shanks from the Supermarket Ingredients

For this hot smoked pork shanks recipe you will need the following ingredients:

2 each
1/2 cup
1/2 cup
Pork Shanks / Pork Hocks (about 1.5 pounds each, skin may be left on if still there)
Cha Siu Marinade (click for recipe)
Soy Honey Glaze (click for recipe)

Juancho's BBQ Tip
In the colder parts of the world, each season will bring its own traditional food. For our barbecue this has its drawbacks, but is also has great advantages.
For example, in the Netherlands and Belgium, in winter, spare ribs are not widely available in butcher shops. However, they are replaced by other cuts of meat to suit the favourite winter staple of the clients. Opportunities for the BBQ!

Hot Smoke BBQ Charcoal Briquettes


Preparation of the meat


Photo of Pork Shanks, ready to take a dive into the marinade. Rinse the porkhocks under cold running water, removing all loose particles (especially bone);


Blot porkhocks dry using paper towels;


Cut off any dangling pieces of meat, excess skin or excess fat;


If necessary and/or desired, remove the membrane around the meat as much as possible, or puncture holes in it to allow the flavours of the marinade to penetrate the meat;


Photo of Pork Shanks marinating in sealable plastic bag. Put the pork hocks into the Cha Siu Marinade; For marinating round pieces of meat like this I prefer to use a sturdy sealable plastic bag.

Juancho's Split Grill

Juancho's Split Grill To obtain sustained lower heat and improved temperature control inside the barbecue, and to increase the grate area and thus to be able to accommodate more meat or larger cuts of meat, I set up my relatively small Weber Grill for indirect grilling on one side as per the method that I call Juancho's Split Grill.

Photo of Chinese Pork Shanks on the barbecue grate.

Once the barbecue had been set up and pre-heated, I took the pork hocks out of the marinade, put them on the grate above the drip pan, and closed the lid of the barbecue.

While the top vent holes in the lid will always stay fully open, I closed the bottom vent holes halfway.

Hot Smoke BBQ Charcoal Briquettes

Hot Smoked Pork Shanks = Slow Food

As these slowfood pork shanks will have to cook on slow heat for a number of hours, I use a electronic thermometer to keep an eye on the temperature inside the barbecue.

By opening and closing the barbecue's bottom vent holes you can keep the temperature inside the barbecue within a certain range.

For hot smoking pork shanks my goal was to keep the temperature inside the barbecue within the 300F - 350F range (roughly 150-180 degrees celcius).

This may seem very easy, but you have to watch it...

Let's Smoke!

With those bright red Cantonese pork hocks sitting in that black backyard coal-fired microwave, take it easy. Have a seat, take a drink, check the temperature of the fire, look at that smoke swirling through your backyard.

While you smell those smoking pork heels, read a book, listen to your favourite music. Relax.

Keep monitoring the temperature inside your smoker, and try to resist peeking under the lid too often. Every time you open your barbecue you will loose heat, and the cooking process will take longer.

On the other hand, if you have the time anyway, what the heck...

Photo of Chinese 'Char Siew' pork shanks after three hours of hot smoking in the barbecue smoker. After about 3 hours of smoking at temperature in between 290F and 330F, I opened the barbecue to check if all was OK, and to start applying the Soy Honey Glazing.

Photo of the Chinese 'Cha Siu' pork hocks after application of the first layer of Soy Honey Glazing. I mopped the Soy Honey Glazing Sauce onto the pork shanks using a wide brush.

At this point in time I estimated that the remaining charcoal briquettes should be enough to keep the fire going for about two hours more.

Juancho's BBQ Tip
I guessed that these two hours should be enough to get these pork hocks to an internal temperature of at least 160F, which I consider the minimum proper temperature for ham. Based on this guess I decided not to add any charcoal.
With hindsight, this was a bit of a risk. Next time I will add some briquettes, just to be safe!

Photo of the Chinese 'Cha Siu' pork hocks after turning around and application of four to five layers of Soy Honey Glazing. After almost 3.5 hours of smoking, I turned the pork shanks around and applied a second layer of the Soy Honey Mop Sauce.

From this point on, the mopping was repeated every fifteen minutes or so.

At this time, the temperature inside the barbecue had dropped to 230F, and I opened to bottom vent holes from 1/2 open to 3/4 open. As a result, the temperature increased to 260F.

After 4 hours of smoking the temperature inside the barbecue started to drop again, therefore I opened the bottom vent holes completely. This kept the temperature at 240F.

Hot Smoked Chinese Pork Hocks

Chow Time!

After 4.5 hours smoking the temperature inside the thickest parts of the pork shanks had reached 170F, which is plenty for smoked ham.

If you prefer your pork hocks to be thoroughly well done you should leave them on the barbecue grate until the internal temperature has reached 180F.

Transferred the smoked pork hocks from the grill to a cutting board, covered them with aluminium foil, and let them rest so the internal juices could redistribute inside the meat.

Hot Smoked Chinese Pork Hocks

After four hours of indirect grilling these Chinese barbecue pork hocks turned out tender and juicy.

Hot Smoke BBQ Charcoal Briquettes

The PitBoss Suggests:

You could make fried rice and stir fry Chinese vegatables, but you could also simply enjoy these barbecue Cantonese pork hocks with plain white rice and green beans.

At Hot Smoke BBQ we love Chile Peppers!

Keep Smokin' !