What Is Beef Shank?

What Is Beef Shank?

When it comes to cooking beef shanks, we obviously need some great ideas. Whether you are making a stew or simply want to prepare this cut in your crockpot, beef shank recipes will help you get started. Besides most recipes make enough food for an army brigade, and my family is not big enough for them (or me) so most of these beef shank recipes end up in my freezer for later consumption. In this article, we will discuss what is beef shank, what are the best ways of cooking them, and some recipes for this delicious cut.

What Is Beef Shank

What is a beef shank?

Beef shanks come from the lower part of a cow leg and are usually cut between knee and ankle joints. The large muscles in this area provide beef shank with good amounts of collagen (marbling), which breaks down during cooking to make your sauce or stew tastier. Beef shanks can easily be identified by their rich maroon color, fleshy look, long bone shape, and a high proportion of meat; marrow fat is also often present.

Common cuts:

Beef shank cuts vary across countries and regions. In the US, beef shanks may be cut in several ways:

Whole cross-cut – this is a single piece of meat with a bone attached. This type of cut is often used for stews and soups because it’s easier to eat after cooking than before;

Individual cut – there are two separate pieces, each consisting of one leg with bone and marrow fat present;

Cross-cut – these pieces will have only one bone that passes through them;

Ground or diced shanks can also be found in some grocery stores.

Nutrition Information:

Although beef shanks are a winter food, they can be eaten any time of the year. These cuts contain less fat than most other beef parts and yield rich flavors when properly cooked. 100 g of beef shank provides you with just 70 kcal, 0.4 grams of sugar, and 2 mg of sodium. Moreover, it includes 27 mg of Vitamin B6 (as P5P form), which is 76% of recommended daily dose according to national nutrition standards. It also contains small amounts of iron, potassium, phosphorus, and several important minerals not present in other types of meat.

Due to their unique structure, beef shanks have more collagen that needs to be broken down by the heat or low ph- foods before it can dissolve into our body. This process is called hydrolysis, and it takes time to occur – at least 3 hours for a tough cut like a beef shank. In the meantime, amino acids dissolve into our bloodstream and get used by our muscles right away; this is why we feel hungry again soon after eating meat in general (and not having any carbs). Finally, when this process is done and your protein gets broken down into amino acids, muscles will be fed and you’ll feel full with enough energy to keep going.

How to choose a good beef shank?

There are several things to consider when choosing beef shanks in the grocery store.

First, beef shanks should have a similar size and shape. This way you can be sure they were once attached to the cow leg – the same as human arms, for example. It’s better to avoid ground cuts or those that look broken or smaller than others;

Second, you’ll want them under 5 pounds per piece because bigger ones will not cook properly before collagen hydrolysis is done;

Third, choose cuts from organic cows if possible. Besides being more humanely raised and fed with the best quality food, these animals are usually allowed to walk more often and exercise their muscles which results in healthier meat with higher mineral contents. In addition, organically grown cattle don’t consume antibiotics or other medicines so their byproducts go directly into our food and we don’t ingest them in the process.

Finally, choose beef shanks with uniform color; they should not be very red or brown but rather a bit greyish. Darker meat means more oxidation and faster spoilage.

How to store beef shank? 

Once you’ve decided on exact cuts of beef shanks to buy at home, make sure to keep them properly refrigerated for up to 3 days (maximum 5 if sealed in vacuum). If you live in a warm place or aren’t going to use your meat within that time frame, consider freezing it instead and thawing before cooking (this is what I do most of the time). Frozen shanks can last up to 6 months when properly wrapped in aluminum foil or other plastic and stored in a freezer.

Good ways to cook a beef shank:

There are several good ways to cook beef shanks at home. Here are a few that always bring great results:

Slow cooking with tomato sauce is the simplest way to get flavorful results;

When done right, beef shanks are perfect for lean ground beef recipes. This is especially true when it comes to burgers because you’ll get moist flavors without any additional fat or carbs;

Grilling really brings out all flavors of this cut and makes it very juicy at the same time. Make sure your meat is not overcooked on a grill or pan to avoid losing proteins through evaporation;

Last but not least, taking the time to make stocks from beef shanks will give you delicious homemade broths that can be sipped throughout winter. You can also use these broths for soups or stews if you have much leftovers after eating your shanks;

How to cook a beef shank?

Here is a basic, easy-to-make beef shank guide for anyone looking for cooking ideas.

Soak the beef shank overnight in a bowl of water. This will help remove excess fat and blood from the meat before cooking, as well as relax muscles that tend to tighten up while being cooked.

The next day, rinse your beef shanks with fresh water and place them on a cutting board or pan for seasoning. First up is salt: make sure you coat each side evenly by pressing it down onto the meat. In addition, add some ground black pepper to taste (I also like adding rosemary or bay leaves) along with 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Make sure to spread everything around nicely so you get even flavors all over the shank;

When the seasoning is done, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and seal the flavor in by covering your beef shanks with aluminum foil. Put the pan with the covered meat into the oven and let it bake for up to 3 hours or until collagen has been hydrolyzed completely.

In a separate pot, pour some olive oil and place chopped garlic cloves inside so they can slow cook on low heat. When done, remove them from heat and set them aside;

Take a few veggie chunks (I used carrots, celery stalks, and sweet potatoes) and add them into the same pot as before. Place it over medium/high heat until veggies have softened enough, then take them out of the pot but keep warm on an additional plate;

Now you can move on to browning your beef shanks: put more olive oil in the pot you used for veggies and wait until it gets really hot before adding the shanks. Make sure to spread them around so they don’t touch each other while cooking;

When browned nicely on one side (about 2 minutes), flip the meat over and start building your sauce by adding more garlic cloves, bay leaves, thyme sprigs, and 1 cup of red wine into the same pot;

Next up is pouring homemade beef broth (or chicken broth if you prefer) into your sauce along with some tomato paste. Stir everything slowly while making sure not to scrape the bottom of the pan (this will prevent burning);

Once done, add your cooked veggies back into the pot and mix well. it’s time to let this pot simmer for another 3-4 hours;

When done, remove beef shanks from the pot. Make sure to keep vegetables until they cool off enough because you can use them as a side dish if you like.

There is nothing like digging into a tender meat that falls off the bone by itself… now all you need to do is pick your favorite sauce, cut your beef shank into pieces and start spooning!

Tips for cooking a beef shank:

Do not overcook the beef shank as this is a tough cut and it will be very hard to chew if you want to eat it anyway besides sipping its juices. Also, make sure the oven does not go above 350 degrees F, or else that meat will start drying out; 

There is no limit for seasoning with beef shanks: feel free to add some extra spices like bay leaves, thyme sprigs, and rosemary during the roasting process (besides salt and pepper); 

The beef broth goes perfectly with beef shanks but you can always change things up by turning your cooking pot into homemade gravy instead; 

You can use leftover broth from beef shanks for cooking stews, soups, and even risotto later on.

There you have it: the basics on how to cook a beef shank recipe that can be made with just basic ingredients and spices found in any kitchen.

Common mistakes when cooking a beef shank:

When cooking a beef shank, you might encounter the following problems:

It tastes like rubber: this is because you overcooked your meat to the point where collagen has been hydrolyzed. If there is no more juice left inside and it’s too dry, chances are either cook time was not long enough (to get rid of collagen) or temperature was too high to turn into charcoal; 

The beef shank was not tender enough: to fix that, just cut off excess fat and roast longer until the beef falls apart by itself. On the other hand, if meat was cooked perfectly and for a long period of time but still feels rubbery, next time make sure to marinate it before the roasting process so that collagen dissolves faster. Also, use chicken broth instead of beef broth if you are not a fan of strong flavors; 

Meat got stuck to the pan: remember, no oil is needed when browning your meat. If this happened to you, try cooking slower by either turning down the heat or increasing roasting time;

The color of meat was too dark/ there were black pieces on meat: this means temperature was too high (charcoal) which also means overcooking took place and probably some parts even turned into carbon. To prevent that from happening again next time, set up oven temperature lower than 300 degrees F; 

There was no sauce left at all: it might mean your meat had less juice inside or you didn’t roast it for long enough to get rid of collagen. In either case, make sure to always cover the meat with water/ broth while roasting and let it simmer longer.

Beef shank is a tough cut but the right way of cooking can produce a tender dish that melts in your mouth! It’s perfect as a main course or even as a side one for those who don’t want the meat to take center stage.

Good beef shank recipes:

  • Beef Shank Ragu over Creamy Polenta:

Ingredients:

4 beef shanks (about 5-6 inches each), olive oil, salt, and pepper, 1 tsp minced garlic, 1 large onion, chopped roughly, 2 carrots peeled and diced into cubes, 2 celery stalks chopped roughly, 14 oz can of crushed tomatoes or petite cut tomatoes in their juices, 1 tsp dried oregano.

Instructions:

Heat 1 tbsp of oil in a large cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat. Salt and pepper the beef shanks to your liking and add them into the hot pan, searing on one side for about 7 minutes or until golden brown.

Remove beef from the pan and set aside. Using the same skillet, reduce heat to medium and add another tablespoon of olive oil along with garlic and onion. Cook for 5 minutes stirring every now and then and add celery and carrots; cook an additional 4-5 minutes or until onions are golden brown.

Add tomatoes, dried oregano, salt, pepper, and bring to a simmer; add beef shanks back into the mixture submerging them as much as possible (add water if needed). Cover and cook for about 2 hours or until the beef falls apart easily. Serve over creamy polenta.

  • Braised Beef Shanks with Roasted Red Pepper Sauce, Arugula, and Parmesan Cheese:

This recipe is a wonderful example of how you can take basic ingredients and spices from your pantry and turn them into something special. In this particular dish, beef shanks were braised with roasted red pepper sauce, arugula, and parmesan cheese for extra flavor.

Ingredients:

4 beef shanks (about 5-6 inches each), 1 tbsp olive oil, salt, and pepper, 2 tsp minced garlic, 4 cups chopped onion, 3/4 cup dry white wine or chicken broth, 28 oz can crushed tomato in their juices, 1 tbsp dried oregano, 2 bay leaves.

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F; Season beef shanks with salt and pepper all over; Set up an oven-safe cooking pot over medium-high heat; add some olive oil to the pan after it has preheated until the bottom is covered. Once hot enough place seasoned shanks inside making sure not to overcrowd them (if you need more room for your veggies later on, remove beef from the pot and place on a plate). Let them brown for about 2-3 minutes before flipping to the other side until that side is nicely seared as well.

Once shanks are done set aside on a plate; Reduce heat down to medium then add garlic and onions into the same pot, let cook about 5 minutes or until soft stirring often; Add in wine/ broth, salt, and pepper plus bay leaves, crushed tomato in their juices, oregano and bring to a boil; Once boiling add back your beef shanks into the pot then place in the oven for at least 2 hours or until meat is falling off the bone.

Notes:

You can substitute beef with lamb stew meat instead. This dish would be delicious paired with creamy polenta or cooked/ baked potato wedges. It’s also an easy dish to make ahead of time since it tastes even better after resting in the fridge overnight!

  • Beef Shank, Potato & Mushroom Parcels:

If you are looking for something different but equally tasty, try this one out. Every ingredient used to flavor these parcels was carefully selected by the author who loves fresh parsley, rosemary, and thyme. Not only are they found in this recipe but they are also ingredients that can be pulled out of your garden or bought from your local farmers’ market.

Ingredients:

1/4 cup milk, 2 garlic cloves, grated, 1 tbsp olive oil, 1 tbsp lemon juice, salt and pepper, 6oz boneless beef shank (cut into 3- 4 pieces), 1/2 sweet onion cut into thin wedges then separated into layers, 8oz baby potatoes peeled and cut in half lengthwise, 8 large crimini mushrooms stems removed and quartered.

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F; Cut parchment paper leaving enough for folding over the sides; Mix garlic with milk in a small bowl, set aside; Mix lemon juice, olive oil, salt, and pepper together in another bowl; Season beef shanks with the mix of your choice (in this case it was lemon juice), heat up a large skillet over medium heat then add beef to let brown on all sides (about 2-3 minutes); Remove beef from the pan but do not clean out pan; Add onion into that same pan and cook about 2-4 minutes or until onions become translucent; Layer potatoes then mushrooms then top with seared beef shanks (all of this should fit within one layer) Top everything off with some garlic milk mixture, sprinkle fresh parsley leaves on top of everything.

Fold the parchment paper over each other making sure to cover ingredients completely in a pouch, twist the sides, and bake in the oven for 35-45 minutes or until potatoes become soft. Serve immediately.

Notes:

If you have a favorite cut of beef that would be just as good in this particular dish, go ahead and substitute it instead! This dish is great served with a simple salad but feel free to add even more color to it by making some roasted carrots or parsnips on the side. 

  • Beef Shanks with Sweet Potatoes & Cranberries:

Ingredients:

4 large beef shanks (about 1.3 lbs in total) 3 tbsp of extra-virgin olive oil (divided), 1/2 cup all-purpose flour, fine sea salt and freshly-cracked black pepper, 2 large yellow onions (thinly sliced), 8 oz chicken broth, 1 cup red wine (such as Cabernet Sauvignon or Merlot), fresh parsley leaves (chopped)

Instructions:

Preheat an oven to 375 degrees F and then season flour with some sea salt and freshly-cracked black pepper; Toss beef shanks in the seasoned flour until well coated, shake off any excess while leaving a light coating of the mix on the surface. Heat up half of the olive oil (2 tbsp) in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat; Once hot add beef shanks and sear for about 5 minutes per side or until they become browned all around. Remove beef from pot and set aside on a plate; add the remaining tablespoon of olive oil into the pot along with onions; Sauté for about 10 minutes or until onions become golden then add chicken broth and red wine into that same pot.

Go ahead and return your seared beef shanks into the pot with onions and broth. Cover with a lid then place everything in the oven and bake for about 2 hours or until meat is fork-tender and fall-off-the-bone; Once baked remove from the oven then let it cool for about 10 minutes before removing beef shanks from that same pot to a serving platter;

Strain broth through a fine-mesh sieve to get rid of all the cooked onion pieces pour strained broth back into Dutch oven still containing juices from beef while heating over medium heat; Once simmering whisk in some browned flour (about 1 tbsp at a time) stirring constantly until it becomes thickened, you should have something resembling gravy. Add fresh parsley leaves on top of everything before serving.

What sides are good with beef shanks?

You can pair this meal with whatever side dish you would like, it is very versatile in that sort of way. Here are some recommendations:

Vegetables: roast some carrots, parsnips, or other root vegetables the same way you would cook with potatoes. You can even throw in some squash for good measure!

Rice: cooking rice is really easy all you have to do is add 1 cup of long-grain white rice with 2 cups of water into a pot over high heat then once it starts boiling reduce the heat to medium-low and cover with a lid; Let the rice cook for about 12 minutes before removing from heat and keeping the lid on until ready to serve.

Polenta/Creamy Mashed Potatoes: these two dishes are both great compliments to beef shanks so feel free to try them out! All you need for polenta is to bring 4 cups of water to a boil, whisk in 1 cup of polenta slowly until it’s all combined before turning the heat down low and adding in 3 tbsp of butter. Let the mixture cook for about 20 minutes or until thickened then season with sea salt before serving.

Good wines to pair with beef shank:

No matter what you serve alongside beef shanks, it’s always a good idea to pair them with the right wine. Here are some of our recommendations:

  1. Merlot: this is a classic pairing that will never let you down! You can either choose to drink red or white whichever one you like more;
  2. Syrah (Shiraz): although it works best with Australian wines, if you are looking for something different consider trying out this type of wine;
  3. Zinfandel: another great option especially if your meat of choice is beef or lamb;
  4. Cabernet Sauvignon: most people go for merlots but cab sauvignons are also very good choices considering the fact they have high tannins that work well with the rich flavor of shank dishes!

FAQs

How big are beef shanks?

Beef shanks can be anywhere between 1″ and 2″ thick, they usually weigh around 3 pounds per one pound of uncooked meat.

What spices go best with beef shanks?

Any kind of spices you find delicious when cooking with other meats will work just fine with beef shanks! But if you want some ideas to check out our recipe card at the very bottom for an idea of what we like to use most often when making this dish! 

Can beef shank be cooked like steak?

Yes, the beef shank can be cooked just like a steak. You will only need to keep it in the oven for about half the time that you would cook a steak BUT you will have to make sure to add some extra liquid (broth or wine) into your pan when cooking the shank because the meat is quite tough and doesn’t tend to release too much juice on its own!

How long do shanks take to cook?

Beef shanks are usually done after cooking for about 2 hours, however, if they haven’t cooked in 1 hour make sure to baste them every 20 minutes with beef broth (this will help it release its flavor more).

Can you freeze beef shanks?

Yes! Just make sure your beef shanks are completely frozen before putting them into the freezer or else you risk ruining all of your food. When thawing out frozen beef shanks always thaw them either in the fridge or submerged under cold running water for several hours!  

How long can you leave beef shanks in the oven?

You can leave your beef shank in the oven for as long as possible, there’s no specific time limit. Just make sure to keep an eye on it while it cooks and once it’s browned on all sides and tender; remove from heat and let cool for about 5 minutes before serving!

Is it safe to eat rare beef shanks?

You should always cook your meat until at least 165 degrees Fahrenheit before eating to make sure you’re not going to get sick from eating undercooked food. The safest way to tell if your beef shank is cooked is by poking a fork into the thickest part of the meat and if the juices that come out are clear then your beef shank is done!

How to cut into shanks?

To cut into beef shanks you will need a large knife, cutting board, and some good kitchen shears. Make sure to place one hand on top of the part of the shank where you want to cut then use your other hand to put pressure on top of your first fingers. Make sure that when you’re cutting into the meat that you don’t go too deep as it might separate from the bone!

How long can cooked beef shanks stay out?

If they’re still warm after cooking them, they should be fine for about an hour or so before going bad but if they have been sitting out for several hours make sure to throw out any leftovers instead of risking getting sick from undercooked food!

How to reheat beef shanks after being frozen?

Beef shanks can be cooked and frozen (uncooked or even if already cooked) but make sure you always defrost them in the fridge! You can cook beef shanks straight from the freezer by putting it back in the oven until it’s nice and warm throughout. But make sure you cook them at a lower temperature than your usual baking temperatures (around 300 degrees Fahrenheit instead of 350 degrees Fahrenheit) to prevent scorching.

Where should I store my beef shanks?

Just like any other kind of meat, you should always keep your beef shank stored in the coldest part of your fridge; which is usually at the bottom shelf. Make sure to place any bags of beef shank in a separate plastic bag to prevent the meat from soaking up other food odors or flavors!

What does beef shank taste like?

Beef shanks are just as delicious as any other part of the cow! They’re tender, juicy, and packed with flavor. To draw out all their great flavors you should season your meat generously before cooking it and use enough broth when braising them during the cooking process!

Where can I buy beef shanks?

Beef shanks are usually only found at your local butcher or grocery store because they’re not something that you can just buy at the supermarket. If you can’t find any in your area then consider ordering them online if possible.

Does beef shank have to marinate overnight?

No, you don’t have to marinate your beef shanks overnight in order for them to be delicious! You can marinate it for as little as 10 minutes or even just season them with salt, pepper, and any other spices you want!

Can you eat beef shanks every day?

Beef shanks are a great cut of meat but make sure you don’t eat them every day! They’re high in calories, high in cholesterol, and high in sodium. You should only have beef shanks once or twice a week max to avoid any negative side effects.

Are beef shanks lean?

Beef shanks are not at all lean! They’re actually considered to be very fatty which is why they taste so delicious! If you want to reduce the amount of fat you’re eating then I would recommend looking into purchasing beef shank strips instead of whole beef shanks.

How do you BBQ a beef shank?

BBQ-ing a beef shank is actually very simple and easy to do! All you have to do is season your beef shanks with salt, pepper, and any other spices that you want then put it in a roasting pan with onions and carrots. 

Cover the entire thing in aluminum foil and poke some holes into the top so all of the juices can escape when cooking. Finally, place it over medium/high heat for around an hour or until the meat has cooked through! Once done take it out of the oven and let it rest on a cutting board for about 5 minutes before slicing into them!

Can you overcook beef shanks?

Yes, you can overcook beef shanks but the key is to make sure it’s not past a medium/rare internal temperature. If it’s overcooked then the texture of the meat will change from being super tender and delicious to being tough and chewy!

How do you clean a bone from a beef shank?

Cleaning any kind of bone from your beef shank isn’t as difficult as you might think. Just place it in a large pot filled with cold water and let them sit for about 30 minutes to an hour before boiling them on high heat. Once they’re done boiling take them out and start scraping off all the flesh until there’s nothing left on it! Finally, rinse off your beef shank with cold running water before seasoning it with salt, pepper, and whatever other spices you want.

Does beef shank have a smell?

Whenever you cook any kind of meat it’s going to smell bad but the smell will dissipate as soon as it gets off the stove/oven or out of the refrigerator respectively. If the smell never goes away you should consider cooking your beef shanks for a little bit longer or purchasing some air fresheners to spray around the house because something might be wrong with it!

Why are beef shanks so expensive?

Beef shanks are expensive simply because they’re not at all easy to find in grocery stores. You’re much more likely to find them at your local butcher or somewhere that specializes in selling meat by the pound. Compared to other cuts of meat like beef ribs, pork shoulder, etc. beef shank is one of the most affordable options which is why people tend to buy them!

Can beef shank be cooked sous vide?

Yes, you can cook your beef shanks with the sous-vide method but make sure to season them first or they might come out bland tasting. Once seasoned just place them in a water bath set at 155 degrees Fahrenheit for around 4-5 hours before taking them out and searing them over high heat for 1 minute per side. You can then cut up your cooked beef shank and use it for whatever you want!

Does beef shank have a lot of fat?

Beef shanks are by far one of the fattiest cuts of meat that you could possibly buy which is why they taste so delicious. The perfect way to cook them is by searing them on high heat first then braising them over low heat for an hour or two until it’s completely cooked through and tender. I would recommend making sure your beef shank doesn’t have any excess fat before eating because they’ll most likely be inedible!

Does beef shank have a lot of tendons?

Beef shanks are packed with tendons that allow them to absorb all the flavors you’re cooking them in! They’re also super chewy but can be cut off using a knife depending on how much tendon is in your beef shank. I highly recommend having a tender beef shank for this reason because otherwise, it might not turn out too great depending on how tough or chewy the tendon is!

Are beef shanks good for soup?

Yes, beef shanks are very good for soups, stews, and chilis especially if you want to make some rich tasting broths out of them. You simply need to make sure to cook your beef shanks at low heat for around 3-4 hours or until the tendons become really soft and pliable. Once that happens you can then cut up your beef shank into smaller pieces and add them to your broth/soup which will allow it to absorb all the flavors!

Can the bone come out of a beef shank while cooking?

A lot of people wonder if the small bones found in their beef shanks are going to fall out while cooking but taking them out isn’t as difficult as you might think. Just grab a pair of kitchen tongs and pluck them out one by one until they’re all gone! If you don’t have any tongs just leave them in and chop around them!

Conclusion

Beef shanks are one of the most affordable cuts of meat out there which is why so many people buy them in large quantities. They’re also incredibly delicious if cooked correctly so don’t be afraid to buy yourself some beef shank for dinner tonight!

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