An inexpensive cut of beef, the shank requires a little bit of work and a lot of slow cooking to coax out its many desirable qualities. These qualities include a meat with rich flavor and a tender fall apart consistency.
The short preparation time consists of seasoning and browning the outside of the meat in fat over high heat. The heat is then reduced and liquids such as water, wine, or broth are added. A long, slow cooking time over low heat will produce a flavorful and tender piece of meat.
Beef shank refers to the leg portion of the cow. Since it is a highly used part of the cow's body the meat consists mainly of lean muscle and very little fat. This makes the meat extremely tough.
The shank is often cut crosswise to a thickness ranging from one to two inches for ideal serving portions. This cut consists of a piece of the bone surrounded by the meat. In the middle of the bone is the bone marrow.
Beef shank requires a long, slow cooking process with plenty of moisture. Stove top or oven braising with a small amount of liquid are common cooking methods.
The lean meat, the collagen content, and the bone marrow also make this cut desirable for soups and stews. The collagen converts to gelatin which provides body and richness while the bone marrow adds plenty of flavor and unctuousness.
In many cases the bone marrow portion of the beef shank is the star. Short spoons with narrow bowls are provided so that the bone marrow can be extracted from the middle of the bone and enjoyed.
Selecting and Buying
Preparation and Use
Another popular cooking method is the use of a slow cooker. The meat can first be browned in a frying pan or placed directly in the cooker. After adding liquid, the cooker is then set to low and the meat allowed to cook for several hours or the entire day.