Venison shanks are often overlooked and discarded due to their tough and sinewy nature. However, with the right preparation and cooking techniques, they can be transformed into a delicious and savory dish.
In this article, we will guide you through the process of cutting venison shanks, step by step. From removing them from the deer to breaking down the connective tissue, we’ll show you how to get the most out of this under-appreciated cut.
So, grab your knife and let’s get started!
How To Cut Venison Shanks?
First, it’s important to note that when processing deer, the shanks should not be discarded. They may be tough and sinewy, but with the right techniques, they can be transformed into a delicious and savory dish.
To begin, locate the shanks on the deer. There are two shanks per deer, one on the front shoulder and one on the rear ham. For smaller game like whitetail deer, it’s best to leave the shanks whole and bone-in. For larger game like elk or moose, cut them into disks for a traditional osso buco look.
To remove the shank from the front shoulder, find the point that you might call the elbow and cut inward above that joint until you reach the bone. Delicately and with just the tip of a flexible knife blade, ring around the joint to free the muscles of the shoulder from those of the shank. With that meat out of the way, you should be able to begin to see where the bones meet. Cut through the connective tissue surrounding the socket to expose the joint. Now you can push down on the shank against the shoulder and twist to create tension on the ligaments so you can lightly slice them away with the knife blade. Flip the shoulder over and continue to just touch the knife point against the connective tissue until the shank comes free from the shoulder.
The shank on the rear ham may look more complicated to remove because of the big hamstring ligament running alongside it, but it’s still relatively simple. Begin by cutting through the fascia that creates a sheath over the top of the shank. This will separate the foreleg itself from the muscle at the top of the hamstring. Cut through the hamstring and into what would be the inside of the knee. You should be able to gently work the tip of the knife into the joint and begin freeing up the tendons. Then score the fascia around the knee joint and begin twisting and creating tension to cut against. Sometimes it helps to twist and then push down hard in order to snap tendons inside the joint. Keep cutting and cranking until the shank separates from the ham.
The last step is to remove that triangular muscle attached to the hamstring. Simply follow sinew lines on both sides then find a point to slice straight across the top.
Preparing The Venison Shanks For Cutting
Once you have removed the shanks from the deer, it’s important to prepare them properly for cutting. It can be challenging to hold the shanks still while cutting them, but there is a simple solution. Use a shop vice to lock the shank down in place.
To avoid contamination of both the shank and the vice, place a silicone baking mat in the vice first. The silicone mat makes a nice barrier, it’s very durable, and easy to clean. Pop one end of the shank (the skinny end is recommended) wrapped in the mat in the vice, and crank it down nice and tight.
Once the shank is securely in place, use a saw to cut through it. This method allows for precise cuts without having to worry about holding the shank steady. It’s important to note that when cutting through the shank, it’s best to use a saw with small teeth and a thin blade. This will make it easier to cut through the tough connective tissue.
After cutting the shanks into desired sizes, they are ready for slow cooking. Whether you prefer to braise them or cook them in a crockpot, be sure to give them enough time to break down all that tough stuff into delicious gelatin and leave behind savory, flaky meat.
Removing The Shanks From The Deer
When it comes to cutting venison shanks, it’s important to start with a well-butchered deer. Locate the shanks on the front shoulder and rear ham, and decide whether to leave them whole or cut them into disks.
To remove the shank from the front shoulder, begin by finding the elbow joint and cutting inward above it until you reach the bone. Carefully ring around the joint with a flexible knife blade to free the muscles of the shoulder from those of the shank. Next, cut through the connective tissue surrounding the socket to expose the joint. Push down on the shank against the shoulder and twist to create tension on the ligaments so you can lightly slice them away with the knife blade. Flip the shoulder over and continue to just touch the knife point against the connective tissue until the shank comes free from the shoulder.
Removing the shank from the rear ham may seem more complicated due to a large hamstring ligament running alongside it, but it’s still relatively simple. Start by cutting through the fascia that creates a sheath over the top of the shank to separate it from the muscle at the top of the hamstring. Then cut through the hamstring and into what would be the inside of the knee. Work the tip of the knife into the joint and begin freeing up tendons. Score fascia around knee joint and start twisting and creating tension to cut against. Sometimes it helps to twist and then push down hard in order to snap tendons inside joint. Keep cutting and cranking until shank separates from ham.
Lastly, remove triangular muscle attached to hamstring by following sinew lines on both sides then finding a point to slice straight across top.
By following these steps, you can successfully remove venison shanks from a deer and use them in a variety of delicious dishes. Don’t let this under-appreciated cut go to waste!
Breaking Down The Shanks Into Manageable Portions
Once you have removed the shanks from the deer, it’s time to break them down into manageable portions. This is especially important if you plan on slow cooking them, as they can be quite large and difficult to handle.
For whole shanks, you can simply leave them as is or cut them in half if they are too long for your pot or slow cooker. For disk-shaped shanks, you may want to trim any excess fat or sinew from the edges to ensure even cooking.
If you plan on using the shanks for a stew or soup, you may want to cut them into smaller pieces. Using a sharp knife, cut the shank meat away from the bone in 1-2 inch sections. Avoid using a saw as it can damage the meat and bone.
Once you have cut the meat away from the bone, trim any excess fat or sinew and cut the meat into bite-sized pieces. This will allow for more even cooking and make it easier to eat.
If you plan on using the shanks for a specific recipe, be sure to follow the instructions for cutting and preparing them. For example, if you plan on making osso buco, you will want to cut the shanks into thick disks and tie them with twine to keep them from falling apart during cooking.
Trimming The Excess Fat And Connective Tissue
Once you have removed the shanks from the deer, it’s important to trim away the excess fat and connective tissue. While this may seem like a daunting task, it’s crucial for achieving a tender and flavorful end result.
Start by removing any large pieces of fat on the outside of the shank. This can be done with a sharp knife or kitchen shears. Next, use a sharp knife to carefully trim away any silverskin or connective tissue that is visible. This tissue can be tough and chewy, so it’s important to remove as much as possible.
If you’re having trouble identifying the connective tissue, look for the thin white lines running through the meat. These are usually the areas where the tissue is thickest and will require more attention.
Be sure to take your time with this step and remove as much excess fat and connective tissue as possible. This will not only improve the texture of the meat but also enhance its flavor.
Once you’ve trimmed away all the excess fat and tissue, your venison shanks are ready to be cooked. Whether you choose to slow cook them in a crockpot or braise them in the oven, your efforts in trimming them will pay off in the end with a delicious and tender dish.
Preparing The Shanks For Cooking
Now that you have successfully removed the shanks from the deer, it’s time to prepare them for cooking. The shanks are a tough cut of meat, but with the right cooking technique, they can be transformed into a delicious and tender dish.
Before cooking, it’s important to brown the shanks to add flavor and color to the meat. To do this, salt the shanks and set them aside. In a heavy pot with a lid, put spices and herbs in with wine and molasses. If your bacon had the rind on it, put that in too. Turn the heat to medium-low. Preheat the oven to 300°F. Pour olive oil into a second pan set over medium heat. Fry the bacon slowly, turning all sides to get crispy. As each piece crispifies, toss it into the pot with the wine. Do not let the wine pot go past a gentle simmer. When the bacon is done, brown the shanks on all sides except the one with the bone; this helps the shank stay together after long cooking.
After browning, set the shanks aside and finely mince aromatics to go into the pot. Cut the vegetables into tiny pieces as they will melt and form the sauce. When minced vegetables have softened and are just starting to turn a light golden color, add some hand-crushed drained canned tomatoes to the pot. Tomatoes are an optional ingredient in osso buco, but they add great flavor and texture.
Now it’s time to cook the shanks low and slow. Put onions in the frying pan and turn up heat to high. Toss to combine. After about 3 minutes like this, add garlic and toss to combine. Continue cooking until you hear the sound change: That’s onions losing enough moisture to begin browning. Cook another minute or two. Pour in stock and mix well with onions. Bring to a furious boil and make sure you’ve scraped everything off the bottom of the pan. Add everything to the wine pot with shanks still bone side up.
Cover and cook in the oven for 3-4 hours until meat is almost falling off bone. Remove gently and tent it with foil. Fish out bay leaves, cinnamon stick, cloves, peppercorns, allspice, and juniper berries in a few minutes. It’s okay if you don’t get them all. Puree sauce in a blender or pass it through a food mill set on a medium setting. It should be thick. Pour over shanks and serve at once with mashed root veggies and something green.
By following these steps, you can turn tough venison shanks into a delicious and savory dish that will impress your guests and leave your house smelling great!
Cooking Techniques For Tender And Flavorful Venison Shanks
Once you have successfully cut and removed the shanks, it’s time to cook them. Venison shanks are tough cuts of meat that require low and slow cooking to break down the connective tissue and achieve a tender and flavorful result. Here are some cooking techniques for tender and flavorful venison shanks:
1. Braising: Braising is a cooking method that involves searing the meat on high heat and then slow-cooking it in liquid at a low temperature. This method is perfect for venison shanks, as it allows the tough meat to break down and become tender. To braise venison shanks, sear them in a hot pan with oil until browned on all sides. Then, transfer them to a large pot or Dutch oven with vegetables, herbs, and enough liquid (such as broth or wine) to cover the shanks halfway. Cover the pot and cook over low heat for several hours until the meat is tender and falls off the bone.
2. Slow-Cooking: Slow-cooking is another great method for venison shanks. It involves cooking the meat at a low temperature for an extended period of time, which allows the connective tissue to break down and results in a tender and flavorful dish. To slow-cook venison shanks, place them in a crockpot with vegetables, herbs, and enough liquid (such as broth or wine) to cover them halfway. Cook on low heat for 6-8 hours, or until the meat is tender.
3. Sous Vide: Sous vide is a cooking method that involves vacuum-sealing the meat and cooking it in a water bath at a precise temperature for an extended period of time. This method is perfect for venison shanks, as it ensures that they are cooked evenly and retain their moisture. To sous vide venison shanks, season them with salt and pepper and vacuum-seal them in a bag with herbs and butter. Cook in a water bath at 131°F for 24-48 hours, depending on the thickness of the shanks.
4. Grilling: Grilling may not be the most traditional method for cooking venison shanks, but it can be done with great success. To grill venison shanks, season them with salt and pepper and brush with oil. Grill over medium-high heat for 10-15 minutes per side, or until they reach an internal temperature of 130°F for medium-rare.
No matter which cooking technique you choose, be sure to let the venison shanks rest for at least 10 minutes before serving to allow the juices to redistribute throughout the meat. With these techniques, you can transform tough venison shanks into a delicious and flavorful meal that will impress your guests.