Cooking pig feet, also known as pork trotters, takes patience and time to make them tender and flavorful. The exact cooking time can vary quite a bit depending on the recipe, size of the feet, and cooking method. Generally speaking, cooking pig feet takes a minimum of 3 hours when braising or boiling and upwards of 6-12 hours when cooking low and slow. Having an understanding of the different cooking methods and their time requirements will help ensure your pig feet turn out just right.
Braising Pig Feet
One of the most popular ways to cook pig feet is by braising them in a flavorful liquid like broth, wine, or a sauce. This method involves browning the feet first to develop flavor and then simmering them in the braising liquid for several hours until very tender.
For stovetop braising, plan on cooking pig feet for at least 3-4 hours. The liquid should be kept at a gentle simmer and the pot partially covered. Check the feet after 3 hours; they should be extremely tender but not falling off the bone. If still tough, continue braising for an additional 1-2 hours until tender.
Braising in the oven can take 4-6 hours or even longer depending on the size of the feet. Place the browned feet in a Dutch oven or braising pot and add your liquid of choice to come about halfway up the feet. Cover tightly with a lid or foil. Cook at 300°F, checking tenderness after 4 hours. Continue braising until a fork inserted into the meat meets no resistance.
When braising pig feet, it’s important to keep an eye on the liquid level in the pot. If too much evaporates, add a bit more so the feet remain mostly submerged. This will ensure they braise evenly and become meltingly tender.
Boiling Pig Feet
A simple but effective way to cook pig feet is by boiling them in water seasoned with aromatics like onions, carrots, celery, garlic, and spices. This is one of the speedier cooking methods, with feet becoming tender in 3-4 hours.
Place the pig feet in a large pot and cover with cold water by about 1 inch. Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce to a gentle simmer. Skim off any impurities that rise to the surface. Add your choice of vegetables, herbs, and spices to the pot to infuse flavor. Partially cover and simmer for 3-4 hours, occasionally skimming fat or scum. Check tenderness after 3 hours. Once the skin pulls back from the toes and the meat is completely tender, they are ready.
For even more flavor, the boiling liquid can be reduced down after cooking and turned into a sauce. Chop and add back some of the cooked vegetables for texture. Drizzle the flavorful sauce over the cooked pig feet before serving.
Slow Roasting Pig Feet
For the tenderest, most fall-off-the-bone pig feet, try slow roasting them in the oven. This hands-off method requires a lengthy cooking time, but yields unparalleled texture and intense flavor. Plan on roasting pig feet for a minimum of 6 hours, but up to 12 is ideal.
First, rinse and thoroughly dry the feet. For added flavor, season with salt, pepper, and spices a day in advance and refrigerate uncovered. When ready to cook, preheat the oven to 250-275°F. Place the seasoned feet in a roasting pan or baking dish. They can be positioned upright or laid on their sides; upright cooks them slightly faster. Pour in a small amount of liquid like broth, wine, or water to help keep the pan juices from burning.
Tightly cover the pan with foil and roast for 6-12 hours, checking tenderness after 6 hours. The feet are done when the meat is completely falling off the bone and a fork slides in with no resistance. Every oven is different, so exact cooking times can vary. Add more water to the pan if needed to prevent burning.
Once tender, the pan juices can be made into a luscious sauce or gravy. Simply remove the feet, strain the juices and defat if desired. Thicken on the stovetop with a cornstarch slurry for a perfect finishing touch.
Stewing Pig Feet
For a classic Southern-style pig feet dish, try stewing them long and slow with seasonings. Stewing utilizes a cooking liquid like broth and keeps the feet submerged the entire time. Plan on a minimum 8-10 hours cooking time for perfectly tender stewed feet.
Start by seasoning the cleaned feet with salt, pepper, Creole seasoning, paprika, garlic powder, and other desired spices. Place them in a large pot and add enough broth or water to just cover. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer very gently for 8-10 hours. Keep the pot partially covered so steam can escape.
After several hours, check the feet for doneness by poking with a fork. They should be extremely tender and easily pierced. Once fully cooked, stir in sliced onions, celery, bell peppers, and other vegetables during the last 30 minutes of stewing to infuse additional flavor. Serve the succulent stewed feet in bowls with the flavorful cooking broth.
Pressure Cooking Pig Feet
One shortcut method for tender pig feet is using a pressure cooker or Instant Pot. The pressurized environment allows the feet to become tender in a fraction of the normal cooking time.
After seasoning the feet, place them in the pressure cooking pot and add 1-2 cups of liquid like broth or water. Secure the lid and set to high pressure for 45-60 minutes, depending on size. When pressure cooking time is complete, allow pressure to naturally release before carefully removing the lid.
Test feet for tenderness; they should be extremely soft and falling off the bone. If needed, place lid back on and cook for an additional 10-15 minutes under pressure. The concentrated flavors of pressure cooked pig feet make them worth the shortened cook time.
Deep Frying Pig Feet
Deep fried pig feet are a delicious, crunchy appetizer popular in soul food cuisine. Choose pre-cooked feet, as raw ones take too long to cook through with frying. Thoroughly dry the cooked feet and then fry at 350°F for 5-7 minutes until beautifully browned and crispy.
Soak dried feet in buttermilk or seasoned milk overnight to rehydrate and tenderize before frying. Another quick-fry method is to boil feet for 2 hours until almost tender, allow to dry, then deep fry until crispy. Fried pig feet are often paired with dipping sauces like ranch, BBQ sauce, or hot sauce.
Factors That Affect Pig Feet Cooking Time
When cooking pig feet, keep in mind that several factors can determine the time needed. These include:
Size of Feet
Larger, meatier feet from older, larger hogs will take longer to cook than smaller, more delicate feet from younger pigs. Very large feet may need upwards of 12-16 hours for braising or slow roasting.
Amount of Feet
The more feet stacked in a pot, the longer the overall cooking time. Crowding the pot will require longer simmering or roasting until all feet are tender. For quicker cooking, keep feet in a single layer if possible.
The lower the temperature used, the longer pig feet take to become tender. Keep braising liquid at a gentle simmer, and use oven temps of 250°F-300°F for slow roasting. Higher temps can toughen the meat.
Moist-heat methods like braising are faster than dry-heat roasting. Pressure cooking speeds up cook time significantly compared to traditional stewing or boiling. Frying yields tender results only when using pre-cooked feet.
Thorough cleaning and removing all hair, skin, and nails helps pig feet cook more evenly. Cutting larger feet into smaller pieces can slightly decrease cooking time as well.
Condition of Feet
Very fresh, raw pig feet take the longest to break down and become tender. Salted, cured, or pickled feet rehydrate and tenderize faster when simmering. Frozen feet thaw very quickly.
Tips for Cooking Pig Feet
Follow these tips for the most fork-tender homemade pig feet every time:
Select Fresh Feet
Choose feet that look moist and plump, not dried out. Make sure they are thoroughly cleaned by your butcher. Refrigerate fresh feet for just 1-2 days before cooking.
Prep Feet Well
Rinse feet and use a sharp knife to remove any remaining hair, nails, or skin. Make cuts between each toe to allow flavors to penetrate. Soak in cold water if very bloody or salty. Pat dry thoroughly before cooking.
For the most flavor, season feet a day in advance with salt, pepper, spices, and herbs. Refrigerate uncovered to allow moisture to evaporate and seasoning to penetrate.
Sear Before Braising
Browning the feet first adds loads of flavor to the finished dish. Don’t skip this step when braising or stewing feet!
Simmer Low and Slow
Pig feet cooked over high heat can become tough and stringy. Maintain a gentle simmer for braising, boiling, and stewing feet to break down collagen.
Check Doneness Early
Monitor tenderness starting at 3 hours for braising and boiling. Check roasting feet at the 6 hour mark. Continued cooking until fork tender.
Cook in Flavorful Liquid
For maximum flavor, use broth, wine, tomatoes, or beer instead of plain water. Aromatics and spices also infuse great taste.
Make a Sauce
Don’t throw out the cooking liquid! Strain and reduce down to make an incredible sauce for the finished feet.
How to Know Pig Feet are Done
Determining when pig feet are fully cooked requires checking a few key indicators:
– The meat should be pulling completely away from the toe bones
– A fork, knife tip or skewer should slide in and out of the meat very easily, without resistance
– The skin on the feet should be gelatinous and wiggly when lightly shaken, not tough or stiff
– The joints where the toes meet should move freely, not be stiff
– The meat between the toes should be extremely tender and fall off easily from the bones
– A chunk of meat when pressed should practically melt between your fingers
– The broth or cooking liquid should be thick and rich from all the collagen
When these doneness tests are met, your pig feet are ready to enjoy! Getting them perfectly tender requires patience, but the rewards are well worth the wait.
Serving and Eating Pig Feet
Once cooked to falling-off-the-bone tenderness, pig feet can be enjoyed in many ways:
– Serve them whole, with dipping sauces like hot sauce, ranch, or BBQ sauce on the side for flavor
– Carefully remove the meat from the bones and toes. Chop or shred and add back to the thickened braising liquid
– For an appetizer, deep fry boiled, braised, or roasted feet until crispy and golden brown
– Stew shredded pig feet meat in a flavorful sauce with vegetables as a main course
– Add tender meat to soups, stews, tacos, rice dishes, omelets, or sandwiches
– When the feet are incredibly soft after cooking, the bones can actually be eaten as well. They contain lots of collagen!
With an incomparable, gelatinous texture, pig feet are worth their long cooking time. Their meat makes a delicious addition to many soul food classics like ham hocks and beans, collard greens, and pot likker soup. Now that you know the basics of how long pig feet take to cook, you can enjoy this nourishing, budget-friendly ingredient to its full potential.
Cooking pig feet until meltingly tender is an act of patience and love. While time-consuming, the results are well worth the effort. Perfectly braised, roasted, stewed or boiled pig feet are a magical ingredient that enhances many traditional dishes with their rich, collagen-filled meat. Understanding the minimum times needed by cooking method helps ensure your feet turn out succulent, not tough. Low and slow is key, as is checking tenderness early and often. With the right techniques, you can enjoy incredible homemade pig feet that highlight this humble yet flavorful cut of meat.