Beef shank often overshadowed by more popular cuts of meat. However, when cooked right, you can transform this humble cut into a tender. In this article, I will instruct you on how to cook beef shank properly at home.
1. What is Beef Shank Best For?
Beef shank is a tough, sinewy cut of meat that comes from the lower leg of the cow. Due to its muscular composition and connective tissue, beef shank is not suitable for quick-cooking methods like grilling or pan-frying. However, its unique qualities make it perfect for slow-cooking techniques, particularly braising.
Braising involves simmering the beef shank in a flavorful liquid, often with aromatics and vegetables, at a low temperature for an extended period. This method allows the tough fibers and connective tissues in the meat to break down gradually, resulting in a tender, succulent dish. The collagen in the shank slowly converts to gelatin, adding richness and depth to the sauce, making it ideal for hearty stews and soups.
2. How To Cook Beef Shank
- 2 beef shanks (about 1.5 to 2 pounds each)
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 1 onion, chopped
- 2 carrots, chopped
- 2 celery stalks, chopped
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 cups beef broth
- 1 cup red wine (optional)
- 1 can (14 ounces) diced tomatoes
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 teaspoon dried thyme
- Salt and pepper to taste
Preheat your oven to 325°F (163°C).
In a large ovenproof Dutch oven or heavy-bottomed pot, heat the vegetable oil over medium-high heat. Season the beef shanks with salt and pepper and sear them on all sides until nicely browned.
Add the chopped onion, carrots, celery, and minced garlic to the pot. Sauté for about 5 minutes until the vegetables begin to soften and release their aroma.
Next, pour in the red wine (if using) and use a wooden spoon to scrape up any browned bits from the bottom of the pot. Allow the wine to simmer for a few minutes to reduce slightly.
Add the Braising Liquid: Pour in the beef broth and diced tomatoes with their juice. Stir in the bay leaves and dried thyme. Season with a bit more salt and pepper if desired.
Place the seared beef shanks back into the pot, ensuring they are submerged in the braising liquid. Cover the pot with a lid and transfer it to the preheated oven. Let it braise for 2.5 to 3 hours, or until the meat becomes fork-tender and falls off the bone.
Once the beef shank is done, remove it from the oven. Discard the bay leaves. Serve the beef shank over a bed of other side dishes.
3. What To Eat With Braised Beef Shank
Creamy mashed potatoes are a classic accompaniment to braised beef shank. The velvety texture of the potatoes complements the tender meat and absorbs the rich braising liquid, creating a perfect harmony of flavors.
Creamy polenta is another excellent choice. Its smooth, corn-based texture provides a wonderful contrast to the hearty flavors of the beef shank. The mild, slightly sweet flavor of polenta acts as a versatile backdrop for the dish.
A generous portion of cooked rice is a simple and satisfying option. The rice serves as a neutral base that soaks up the flavorful juices from the beef shank, creating a delectable combination.
A creamy risotto, infused with flavors like Parmesan cheese and fresh herbs, is an elegant and indulgent side dish that complements the richness of braised beef shank. The creamy texture of the risotto enhances the overall dining experience.
Serve your braised beef shank with wide egg noodles, pappardelle, or any pasta of your choice. The pasta not only adds substance to the meal but also absorbs the sumptuous sauce, ensuring each bite is packed with flavor.
Now, you know how to cook beef shank properly at home. With patience, a few simple ingredients, and the braised recipe provided, you’ll be on your way to savoring one of the most delightful and comforting dishes you’ve ever tasted.