What is Beef Shank? [Buying, Preparation And Cooking Guide]


Beef shank is a lean cut of meat that develops an intense flavor when smoked, stewed or sous vide. Find out everything you need to know about the taste and texture of the leg, how to prepare it and what to look out for at the butcher’s counter.

smoked beef shank with bone on a white plate

Beef shank is a tough cut of meat obtained from the forearm and upper hind legs of the ox. With the right treatment and cooking process, we can turn that tough cut of beef into a tender roast beef dish. Find out how to find the best leg cut, how to prepare it, and how to properly prepare it. Let’s get into that.

Close up of grilled beef shank

What is beef shank?

The beef leg comes from a cow’s legs, under the breast in front(the front leg) and the tack in the back(the hind leg). These parts of the steer have a lot of movement, so they are well written and high in muscle fiber but low in fat and marbling.

Like round meat, this low fat content can make leg muscles tough and dry, but if we smoke it slowly and slowly, stew it, or cook it sous vide, we can achieve a beautiful meat dish.

The fat content of the cut of beef is quickly negligible, with a one-pound cut of beef shank being only one ounce of fat. While the low fat content limits its use in traditional recipes, it also makes beef shank popular with people who want to eat high-protein, low-fat foods. Because of this, it’s one of the best cuts of beef to make cecina .

The texture of the shank is tough compared to other cuts of beef and is much stringier and leaner. Since the fat content is not minimal either, there is a beef leg far too black. However, the traces of fat it has appeared as a handful of well-defined white streaks on the surface of the meat.

This positioning is crucial to characterize the flavor and texture of the meat. Because the cows stand or walk most of the day, the muscles around the legs do not develop much fat and are lean and wiry. A piece of beef shank comes from each ox shank, which means that each cow produces four shanks.

How to buy beef shank

In the US , beef shank is generally not available in small grocery stores and supermarkets. However, it is easy to find in stores with larger meat departments and in butcher shops. You can also order beef shanks through your buyers butcher.

Cross sections of raw meat presented on parchment paper and wooden cutting boards

However, despite ordering beef shank, it’s still a cheap cut. Organic grass-fed beef shanks can be purchased for $4 a pound, while regular farm-raised beef shanks are only about $3 a pound. The labels of the knuckle of beef SHALL indicate whether they are shoulder or hind legs, in addition to the information about the company. But there is no major difference between them, and both types are great for grilling and roasting. 

How to cut beef shank

Although the beef shank contains little or no fat, it can be wrapped in a thin layer of fat. In some places, the layer is so thin that you can remove the meat and fat if you’re not careful. 

Ditch your regular steak knife and get a scraper to get rid of that grease. Depending on your dominant hand, tuck it into the beef shank from the side and scrape toward you while holding the beef shank in place.

 Continue to twist the leg and repeat the process on all sides until all of the fat is removed. For excess fat in the corners, use the same knife to scrape the fat up or down in gentle motions while supporting the leg with your other hand. 

After removing the fat from around the beef shank, you can cut it two different ways. The method of cutting should depend on how YOU want to cook it.  

The first process is the deboning process. This method requires you to cut straight across the bone until you reach the bone. After that, you need to take a boning knife and make small cuts between the bone and the muscle. 

Make several cuts around the bone to completely debone the beef shank. You can then use this boneless beef shank in various barbecue recipes or even make lean ground beef out of it. The bone can also be used separately to make beef bone broth. Beef broth can also be used in various recipes, especially stews and soups. 

The second method of cutting a beef shank requires a butcher knife. With this knife YOU can make thick cuts over the entire width of the beef leg. The result is boneless pieces that can be grilled or smoked whole. You can further cut these pieces into boneless steaks one or two inches thick. These boneless steaks may take longer to grill, but they result in flavorful steaks due to the presence of bones. 

Whichever method you choose, always cut beef shank cuts against the grain. By cutting against the grain, the meat keeps its shape. 

Beef shank substitutes

If you can’t find beef shank for your grill, you can look for other tough cuts like beef shank, roast beef, and saucepan. But grilling substitute meat doesn’t exhibit as much flavor as beef shank because there are no bones in the beef arm, roast, or saucepan to carry that extra flavor.

On the other hand, if YOU are looking for beef shanks to make lean ground beef, YOU can do the same with a round eye or butt roast. Roast and rump cuts contain minimal round fat, and ground beef is quickly as fat-free as beef drumsticks. 

BBQ smoked beef shank with bone, cut crosswise

How to smoke beef shank

Beef shanks can be roasted in the regular oven or in the smoker. 

To smoke beef thighs, prepare them by removing any fat from around them. While removing fat, preheat smoker to 250°F. 

After removing the fat, cut the beef thighs into 2-inch thick pieces. Season these pieces and place them on the smoking grate. Close the smoker lid and let the beef thighs smoke for up to three hours. 

After three hours, increase the smoker temperature to 300°F and let the stick roast uncovered until the internal temperature reaches 200°F. The thermometer would slide easily into the meat at this point. Remove the beef thighs from the smoker and let rest 45 minutes before serving as the star of the meal. 

You can also roast beef shanks in a regular oven if you preheat the oven to 325°F and prepare a skillet. The dish should contain beef broth with whatever spices YOU want to use to flavor the beef shanks. The saucepan should have enough broth and seasoning to half-submerge the beef thighs. 

After you’ve clearly picked up the beef shanks, take a spoon, take some broth from the saucepan and pour it over the exposed portion of the beef shanks. It drips onto the plate but also leaves some flavor on the exposed leg. Place the casserole on the oven rack and bake back 2 to 4 hours. 

The time would be affected by the size of the pan and the number of beef drumsticks placed in it. After cooking, you can thicken the leftover beef broth in a pan and sear the beef shanks for a minute before serving. 

Ways to enjoy

Mashed potatoes and steamed vegetables are popular accompaniments to braised and smoked beef shanks. It is also sometimes served with thickened beef broth or gravy for a savory meal. 

However, the ways to serve a well-smoked beef shank are endless, and YOU can try different accompaniments depending on the spices you used during the grilling. Different combinations of spices can bring out different flavors, which pair well with different breads and vegetables. 

Also try the popular Italian dish osso buco made from beef shank . It means braised beef shank and calls for serving the braised beef shank over a bed of polenta or risotto. You can also serve beef shanks simmered in beef broth with roasted vegetables for a hearty yet healthy meal.

It can also be served in a stew with thickly sliced ​​​​​​​​roasted vegetables and eaten with bread, or served on a bed of rice or baked garlic mushrooms.

The shredded smoked beef shank can be used in a variety of sandwiches, burgers, and tacos. The lean ground beef can be used in meatloaf and Asian beef noodle recipes. 

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