What Is Beef Shank? The Complete Guide

Beef shank may not be the most well-known cut of beef, but it’s definitely worth getting to know.

This cut comes from the legs of a cow and is known for its tough texture and low fat content. While it may not be the first choice for a quick weeknight dinner, beef shank can be transformed into a delicious and flavorful meal with some simple cooking techniques.

In this article, we’ll explore what beef shank is, where it comes from, and how to cook it to perfection. So, let’s dive in and discover the wonders of beef shank!

What Is Beef Shank?

Beef shank is a cut of meat that comes from the legs of a cow or bull. This portion of the animal is well-worked and rich in muscle fibers, but low in fat and marbling. The shank is cut from the leg above the knee to the shoulder or hip, with the former being the cut for the forelegs and the latter for the hind legs.

Due to its constant use by the animal, beef shank tends to be tough, dry, and sinewy. However, with some simple cooking techniques, it can be transformed into a delicious and flavorful meal. Beef shank is typically cut horizontally in thin slices, resembling a steak with a leg bone circle.

The Anatomy Of Beef Shank

The beef shank is made up of several muscles located in the beef chuck and round primals. These muscles are responsible for locomotion and represent approximately 3.3% of the carcass value. The shank is oval in shape, with a clearly visible bone that is full of fantastic flavorings such as bone, marrow, sinews, and meat.

The meat in beef shank is found above the cattle’s knees because this area is where the muscle has been thickened the most from daily use. Because of this, the shank is full of connective tissue, making it quite tough. However, this connective tissue also makes it an ideal cut to use for beef bourguignon or to prepare very low-fat ground beef.

Beef shank is also commonly used to prepare soups and stews. When preparing beef shank for these dishes, the meat is typically cut horizontally into thin slices and removed in sections. The shank meat resembles a steak with a leg bone circle.

Nutritional Benefits Of Beef Shank

Beef shank is not only a tasty cut of meat, but it also offers several nutritional benefits. It is a rich source of Vitamin B12, which is essential for maintaining healthy nerve cells and red blood cells. Additionally, it contains high levels of Vitamin B6, which plays a crucial role in brain development and the production of serotonin, a neurotransmitter that regulates mood.

Beef shank is also an excellent source of Zinc, which is necessary for a healthy immune system and wound healing. Zinc also plays a vital role in maintaining healthy skin and vision. On the other hand, beef shank is lower in Selenium compared to beef, which is an essential mineral that helps protect against cell damage and supports thyroid function.

Furthermore, beef shank is high in Monounsaturated Fat, which is considered a healthy fat that can help lower bad cholesterol levels and reduce the risk of heart disease. Beef shank also contains Vitamin B5, which is essential for energy production and helps the body metabolize carbohydrates, proteins, and fats.

Cooking Techniques For Beef Shank

Cooking beef shank requires patience and the right cooking techniques to achieve a tender and juicy result. Here are some popular cooking methods for beef shank:

1. Low and slow cooking: This is the most common way to cook beef shank. It involves cooking the meat in a hearty sauce for 3 to 6 hours on low heat. This technique is key to turning tough shank meat into something tender and juicy. Cooking the shanks in wine helps further tenderize the meat.

2. Searing: Before slow-cooking the beef shank, it is important to sear it first to give it color and extra flavor. Liberally season the beef shanks with salt and pepper, and then sear them in a large Dutch oven with hot oil until browned on all sides.

3. Braising: Braising is another popular method for cooking beef shank. It involves browning the meat first before adding liquid, such as wine or broth, and then cooking it on low heat for several hours until tender.

4. Instant Pot: For a quicker cooking time, you can use an Instant Pot pressure cooker to cook beef shank. Simply put all the ingredients in the pot and cook on high pressure for 60 minutes. If you don’t have an Instant Pot, you can cook it on low heat on the stove for about 2 hours.

5. Baking: You can also bake beef shank in the oven for several hours until the meat falls off the bone. First, sear the meat in an oven-proof skillet with a lid, then add wine or broth and bake in a preheated oven at 170°C for about 5 hours.

Recipes To Try With Beef Shank

If you’re looking for a new and exciting way to cook beef shank, we’ve got you covered! Here are three delicious and easy-to-follow recipes that make the most of this flavorful cut of meat:

1. Braised Beef Shank with Wine and Tarragon: This recipe is a true crowd-pleaser, with succulent beef shank braised in a rich mixture of sautéed onions, celery, marsala wine, and beef broth. The meat is slow-cooked until it falls off the bone, making it an ideal dish for a cozy night in or a special occasion.

2. Ossobuco Beef Shanks: This recipe takes the classic Italian dish to new heights, with tender beef shanks slow-cooked in a rich tomato sauce with fresh herbs and vegetables. The result is a hearty and satisfying meal that’s perfect for entertaining or enjoying with family.

3. Slow-Cooked Beef Shank with Polenta: For a comforting and filling meal, try this recipe that pairs tender beef shank with creamy polenta. The meat is slow-cooked in a flavorful broth until it’s melt-in-your-mouth tender, then served over a bed of warm polenta for the ultimate comfort food experience.

No matter which recipe you choose, beef shank is sure to impress with its rich flavor and tender texture. So why not give it a try and see for yourself?

Where To Buy Beef Shank And How To Store It

If you’re looking to buy beef shank, it may not always be available at smaller grocery stores or supermarkets. However, larger stores with meat sections and butcher shops are more likely to carry it. You can also place an order for beef shanks through your local butcher. Despite being a less expensive cut of meat, organic, grass-fed beef shanks can be bought for around $4 per pound, while regular farm beef shanks usually cost about $3 per pound. When purchasing beef shank, the label will indicate whether it is a fore-shank or hind-shank, but there is no significant difference between the two when it comes to cooking.

When storing beef shank, it is important to keep it in the refrigerator or freezer until you are ready to use it. If you plan on using it within a few days, store it in the refrigerator below 40°F. If you want to keep it longer, store it in the freezer at 0°F or below. It is important to wrap the meat tightly with plastic wrap or aluminum foil to prevent freezer burn and contamination from other foods in the freezer.