What is Beef Shank? A Guide to This Tough Yet Tasty Cut

While it may not be the most popular or prettiest cut of beef, shank has a deep, rich flavor that shines when slowly braised or stewed. But what exactly is beef shank? And how do you transform this tough cut into tender, mouthwatering meals?

In this guide, we’ll cover everything you need to know about beef shank – where it comes from, how to cook it, and some delicious recipe ideas. Let’s get cooking!

Definition and Overview of Beef Shank

Beef shank comes from the leg of the cow, right above the hoof. It’s the portion of the leg bone surrounded by layers of fat, skin, meat, and collagen-rich connective tissue.

Shank is a hard working muscle for the animal so the meat is quite tough. But when cooked properly using moist heat methods, all that connective tissue transforms into rich gelatin that gives beef shank an incredible depth of flavor.

There are two main types of shank

  • Front shank – From the foreleg. More irregularly shaped with more connective tissue.

  • Hind shank – From the rear leg. Tends to be larger and meatier.

You can find whole bone-in shanks or cross-cut bone-in pieces. Boneless shank is also available, though the bone adds even more flavor during cooking.

Where to Buy Beef Shank

Beef shank can be found at:

  • Butcher shops or meat markets – Ask the butcher to ensure you get meaty, well-trimmed shanks.

  • Latin or Asian markets – Shank is popular in many cuisines, so ethnic grocers carry it.

  • Warehouse stores like Costco – They sell big packs of hind shanks at great prices.

  • Online retailers like ButcherBox – Order high-quality, humanely raised shanks delivered to your door.

When selecting shanks, look for cuts with a high ratio of meat to fat and skin. Well-trimmed shanks yield more edible cooked meat.

How to Cook Tough Beef Shank

Cooking method is key to making beef shank tender and delicious. The connective tissue needs prolonged moist heat to break down. Here are some top cooking methods:

Braising Shank

  • Brown seasoned shanks over high heat to develop flavor.

  • Braise in broth, wine, or tomatoes at 300°F for 2-3 hours until fork tender.

  • Cool in braising liquid before slicing. Use liquid to make gravy or sauce.

Stewing Shank

  • Cut shanks into 2-3 inch pieces. Season and brown in batches.

  • Simmer with vegetables in broth until very tender, 2-3 hours.

  • Thicken cooking liquid if desired. Serve stew over rice, potatoes, or pasta.

Grilling Shank

  • Marinate shanks for at least 4 hours to tenderize. Use oil, acidic ingredients like wine or citrus, and spices.

  • Grill over medium heat for 1-1.5 hours, turning occasionally, until 145°F internal temperature.

  • Let rest 5 minutes, then slice for grilled beef shank dishes.

Pressure Cooking

  • Cut shanks into smaller pieces to fit pressure cooker. Season and brown if desired.

  • Add 1 cup broth per shank piece. Cook on high pressure for 45-60 minutes until falling apart tender.

  • Use in shredded beef tacos, soups, etc. Strain and use cooking liquid as broth.

Slow Cooker Shank

  • Place whole seasoned shanks in a slow cooker. Add onions, carrots, broth, etc.

  • Cook on low for 8-10 hours until the meat shreds easily with a fork.

  • Carefully remove bones before shredding meat.

Tips for Cooking Shank

  • Choose larger, meatier hind shanks when possible for more usable cooked meat.

  • Trim excess outer fat, but leave some for flavor and moisture.

  • Cut slits so seasonings and braising liquid can penetrate the meat.

  • Cook beyond well done, to 195°F internal temperature, so the collagen fully melts.

  • Chill and skim hardened fat from surface of stews and braises before reheating.

Delicious Ways to Serve Braised Beef Shank

Once your shanks are fall-apart tender, here are some tasty ways to serve them:

  • Shredded beef tacos and burritos – Top with salsa, avocado, cotija cheese, etc.

  • Hearty beef stew over mashed potatoes or buttered noodles

  • Vietnamese pho or ramen – Shredded shank and rich broth

  • Shepherd’s pie – Braised beef topped with creamy mashed potatoes

  • Stuffed peppers – Mix shredded beef with rice, veggies, cheese and bake

  • Beef dip sandwiches – Pile tender meat on rolls with au jus for dipping

  • Osso buco style – Gremolata and risotto accompany braised veal shanks, but beef shank works great too

With its deep flavor and luscious collagen-rich texture when braised, beef shank is delicious in all kinds of dishes. Just be sure to cook it low and slow!

Can You Grill Beef Shank?

While braising and stewing are best for ultra-tender beef shank, you can also throw shanks on the grill with a few preparation tips:

  • Choose smaller, meaty cross-cut shank pieces rather than whole bone-in shanks.

  • Marinate for at least 4-6 hours to help tenderize and add flavor.

  • Parboil shanks for 20-30 minutes before marinating to soften collagen.

  • Grill slowly over medium heat, turning occasionally, until 145°F internal temperature.

  • Slice across the grain for more tender grilled beef shank.

The key is the long marinade time to help break down the collagen. Grilling won’t make shanks as tender as braising, but imparts great flavor.

Shank Soup Bone Uses

Besides eating the meat, beef shank bones make fantastic additions to soups, stocks and broths. Here are some uses for the bones after cooking:

  • Add to chicken broth for more depth and body

  • Simmer bones into beef bone broth or stock

  • Make pho broth – Charred beef bones are key

  • Use in hearty bean or lentil soups

  • Flavor posole, minestrone or other hearty soups

  • Beef up vegetable or tomato soup

Roast bones at 400°F until browned before adding to soup for deeper flavor. Just be sure to strain out bones before serving.

Substitute for Beef Shank

If you can’t find beef shank, these cuts make good substitutes:

  • Oxtails – Very similar texture and flavor when braised

  • Short ribs – More expensive but just as tasty

  • Chuck roast or stew meat – Affordable but may be less gelatinous

  • Boneless leg of lamb – Works well in lamb osso buco

The key is finding another cut with lots of collagen that will break down into luscious gelatin during braising. Proper cooking technique is also essential.

Is There a Difference Between Beef Shanks and Veal Shanks?

Veal shanks come from younger calves while beef shanks come from adult cattle. Here are some key differences:

  • Veal shanks have a milder, more delicate flavor

  • Beef shanks have a deeper “beefier” taste

  • Veal shanks usually contain less connective tissue so cook slightly faster

  • Beef shanks require longer, slower cooking to fully tenderize

Both make excellent osso buco when braised. The cooking method is the same – just adjust cooking times as needed.

Tips for Buying and Cooking Beef Shank

  • Look for thick, meaty shanks with a high meat-to-bone ratio

  • Soak in cold water before cooking to remove excess blood and impurities

  • Trim away outer silver skin or ask the butcher to do it

  • Cut slits so seasonings penetrate the meat

  • Braise in flavorful liquid until fork tender, about 2-3 hours

  • Chill braises and stews overnight so fat solidifies for easy removal

Is Beef Shank Expensive?

Beef shank is actually quite affordable compared to other cuts of beef. Here are some benefits of buying shank on a budget:

  • Often costs less than $5 per pound

  • Contains lots of bone and connective tissue, which drives cost down

  • Can braise many meals using just 1-2 shanks

  • Yields tender, juicy meat with deep beef flavor when braised properly

  • Makes incredible broth for soups when bones are simmered

For a tasty cut that delivers big flavor without breaking the bank, beef shank can’t be beat! With the right long, slow cooking technique, this tough cut transforms into one of the most comforting beef dishes.

The Most UNDERRATED Beef Cut | How I Make Beef Shank


What is another name for beef shank?

The shank cross cut is the only real cut, but it goes by different names. These include the beef fore shank and the beef Osso Bucco cut. Shank meat is generally cut horizontally in thin slices. The cut resembles a steak with a leg bone circle.

What is beef shank best for?

Beef shank is best for slow-cooking methods like braising or stewing. Its rich flavor makes it perfect for osso buco or hearty soups and stews.

Is beef shank tender or tough?

Since they come from the leg, the beef tends to be tough and sinewy due to higher levels of collagen. To cook past such flavors, cook shank cuts long and slow with moist heat. Soups and stews are often vastly improved when they incorporate shank as an ingredient.

Is beef shank the same as oxtail?

Oxtail is actually the tail of a cow, whereas Osso Bucco is from the shank (lower leg). For example, if you were cooking Osso Bucco, you would probably use a slow cooker to keep the meat moist while it cooks. You could also sear the meat first before braising it for a long time.

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