Smoked Pork Shanks: A New Way of Doing Things!

November 2, 2022

Tired of making braised pork shanks? Then you have to try your hand at these revolutionary smoked pork shanks!

The first time that I made smoked pork shanks was an experiment. However, I loved it so much that I kept working on the recipe until I created just the right result to share with you!

Check out how to whip up this unusual recipe right here!

Smoked pork shanks

What Are Pork Shanks?

If you have bought pork shanks but aren’t quite sure what they are, you can be forgiven. The reality is that these aren’t the most popular part of the pig.

The shanks come from the lower part of the pig’s leg. It is below the ham section but above the trotter.

The thing about this cut of meat is that it is naturally quite tough. Not only does it consist of a lot of connective tissue, but this muscle gets a lot of exercise. On the upside, I find the flavor to be unmatched.

By smoking the pork shank properly, you make it nice and tender. This is why people also make braised pork shanks – the low and slow cooking process, along with the meat cooked in liquids helps to soften it.

Dry Brining the Pork Shanks

As I mentioned, this cut of meat can be pretty tough. Due to this, finding any way to soften it up can be handy.

This is why it is a good idea to dry brine each pork shank ahead of time. This way, the salt has time to break down certain tissues so that the meat is a bit more tender.

What’s more, dry brining ensures that the pork shanks end up retaining more moisture as well.

It is really easy to dry brine this cut. Simply sprinkle kosher salt all over each shank. Then, place on a baking sheet and place in the refrigerator, uncovered, for about 12 hours.

Now, some people will recommend covering each pork shank in dry rub and allowing it to marinate for this long.

This is something that you can do. However, you should know that contrary to popular belief that the spices don’t actually penetrate the surface of the meat – only the salt does.

Therefore, leaving the spices on the meat for an extended period of time is going to help as much.

Smoked Pork Shanks Recipe

Ingredients

  • 4 pork shanks
  • Yellow mustard
Pork Shank with Potatoes and Other Ingredients

Dry Rub

  • 1/2 cup of brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup of kosher salt (skip if dry brining)
  • 1/4 cup of coarsely ground black pepper
  • 3 tbs. of garlic powder
  • 2 tbs. of cayenne pepper
  • 2 tbs. of paprika
  • 1 tbs. of onion powder

Method

Step 1

Take the pork shanks out of the refrigerator about an hour before they are to be smoked.

Trim any excess fat or silverskin from each pork shank. You can also trim each pork shank so that they are a more uniform shape.

If you don’t feel comfortable doing this, ask your local butcher to do it when buying the pork shanks.

Some people like to rinse the shanks with cold water but you don’t need to do this.

Step 2

Combine all the ingredients of the spice rub in a small bowl. Set aside.

Pat dry each pork shank with a paper towel.

Apply a thin layer of yellow mustard to each pork shank. Sprinkle on the rub all over each of the pork shanks.

Step 3

Preheat smoker and set to 225 degrees Fahrenheit.

Step 4

Place shanks in the smoker.

Close the lid and cook until internal temperature reaches 190 degrees Fahrenheit.

Remove shanks from the smoker and let rest for 15 minutes before serving.

Taking the Pork Shanks Out of the Fridge

I like to do this so that the pork shanks have time to warm up before going into the smoker. As a result, they cook more evenly.

Now, don’t leave the pork shanks out on the counter for longer than this, though, as this could increase the risk of food poisoning.

About half an hour to an hour should do the trick.

Seasoning the Pork Shanks

Technically, you can use any seasoning at all for your pork shanks. However, I like to keep it simple.

This is because the pork shank has such an incredible taste that you don’t want to overpower it with the rub.

Of course, if you want, you can always add more flavor with various other seasonings if you prefer. A little trial and error can go a long way.

As you will have noticed, I have asked you to spread some yellow mustard on each pork shank before adding the spices over the entire surface area.

I do this so that the spices adhere to the meat better and add more flavor.

I know that some people like to use olive oil for this but I don’t. I find that the olive oil prevents the surface of the meat from crisping up properly.

What Kind of Wood Chips Should You Use?

When it comes to any kind of pork, I like to keep the choice with wood chips mild. This is so that you get that good smoked pork shank flavor without the smokiness overcoming the natural flavor profile of the meat.

I like to use wood with a bit of sweetness to it like apple wood or pecan wood. You can also use maple wood if you would like something a bit different.

Smoking Outdoor Grill

Choosing the Smoker Temperature

Ask anyone about making smoked pork shank and you will probably get a lot of different answers regarding what the smoker temperature should be.

While a lot of people like to go higher so that the meat will cook faster, I like to keep it low at 225 degrees F.

This ensures that the meat is cooking low and slow, ensuring all that tough muscle and connective tissue have the time to break down and get nice and tender.

If you want, you can go up to medium high heat or 275 degrees F, but you do have to keep a closer eye on the meat to ensure that it doesn’t dry out.

Keep in mind that unlike with braised pork shanks, you aren’t adding any liquid such as chicken stock to the dish. Due to this, you need to rely on the temperature to cook the shanks to perfection.

How Long Does It Take to Smoke a Pork Shank?

Most people like to rely on a cook time when it comes to smoked pork shank. Unfortunately, the cook time isn’t going to do you and good and can actually lead to over or under cooking the meat.

Instead, you need to use a meat thermometer to track the internal temperature of the smoked pork shank. Only when it registers 190 degrees F should you take it out of the smoker.

Do You Need to Wrap the Pork Shanks?

When you smoke meat, there is always the risk of the meat stalling. When this happens, you have to wrap the meat with aluminum foil or butcher paper so that the meat can start cooking again.

Shanks, however, are quite small and will not experience the stall. Due to this, there is no need to wrap them in aluminum foil.

A Note About Basting and Spritzing

A lot of people swear by basting or spritzing smoking meat with chicken stock or apple juice. They do this as a way of adding moisture to the meat. It is also a way to make up for the lack of moisture as in the case of when cooking braised pork shanks.

I am here to tell you that this is unnecessary, however. For one thing, the apple juice or other liquid will simply evaporate and won’t add any moisture to the pork.

In fact, spritzing the meat can wash the spices of the meat, meaning that you don’t end up with that gorgeous and delicious crust.

Resting the Meat

I know a lot of people imagine that they can skip this step and get away with it but they can’t!

Resting the pork shank after cooking or smoking isn’t a myth. See, when you give the shanks sometime to cool down after they cook, the tissues will relax. When this happens, the meat is able to reabsorb any juices it has lost.

In short, it becomes more tender.

What Should You Serve Smoked Pork Shank With?

I would argue that there is no wrong answer here! Personally, I like to go with traditional cookout side dishes like mashed potatoes, corn on the cob, potato salad, etc.

However, this does depend on if the entire meal is based off the smoked shanks. If you want to add more filling items, then maybe have mac and cheese and other meat items in addition to the mashed potatoes.

Cooked Pork Shank with Sauerkraut

Frequently Asked Questions

1. How Do You Smoke a Shank?

You simply have to dry brine the shanks, season them with a dry rub, and then smoke at 225 degrees F until they reach an internal temperature of 190 degrees F. Then, rest for 15 minutes.

2. What is the Difference Between Pork Hock and Pork Shank?

The hock comes from the lowest section of the pig’s leg, near the ankle. The shank, on the other hand, sits just above this area. They are quite similar in terms of texture, though, as they both contain a lot of connective tissue.

Wrapping It Up

This is all that you need to know to make smoked pork shanks. Just follow all the tips and tricks here and you should end up with a truly delicious recipe that you are going to want to try again and again!

By Kristy J. Norton
I'm Kristy – a chef and connoisseur of all things BBQ! You can find me either in my kitchen (or someone else's) or at a big outdoor barbecue surrounded by friends and family. In both my professional and personal life I’ve picked up more than a few tips and tricks for turning out delicious food. I consider it a privilege to share it with others!
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