What Are Beef Shanks? A Complete Guide

Beef shanks are a cut of beef from the leg of a cow. They contain a lot of connective tissue and collagen, making them tough but full of flavor. When cooked slowly using moist heat, beef shanks become fall-off-the-bone tender and make a delicious addition to soups, stews, and braised dishes.

Where Beef Shanks Come From on the Cow

There are two types of beef shanks that come from different parts of the cow’s legs:

  • Foreshank – This comes from the front leg of the cow. It contains part of the chuck arm and chuck roll. It is also sometimes called beef shin.

  • Hindshank – This comes from the back leg or round of the cow. It contains part of the sirloin or round. It may also be called osso buco when cut into cross sections containing bone and marrow.

![Beef shank cuts][]

Beef shank cuts – foreshank and hindshank. Source: Wikipedia

  • Foreshanks come from the front legs
  • Hindshanks come from the back legs

Both contain a lot of collagen and connective tissue from the muscle the cow uses frequently for walking and standing.

Why Cook Beef Shanks?

While beef shanks are a tough cut of meat, they are packed with beefy flavor. Their abundance of collagen breaks down into gelatin when cooked slowly with moist heat. This makes them perfect for:

  • Soups and stews – The gelatin gives body and a silky texture while the meat provides flavor.
  • Braising – Long, slow cooking tenderizes the meat.
  • Shredded beef – Once cooked, the meat can be easily shredded and used for tacos, sandwiches, or toppings.

So while it requires some work, cooking beef shanks yields incredibly tasty, fall-apart tender meat. The cut is also very economical, making it a thrifty choice for stews.

How to Cook Beef Shanks

To turn tough beef shanks tender, they need to be cooked low and slow. Methods like braising, stewing, and soup making allow the collagen to break down over time in moist heat. Here are some tips:

  • Brown the shanks first – This adds color and beefy flavor. Pat them dry and brown well on all sides in a skillet with oil.
  • Cook covered with liquid at low heat – Add shanks to a Dutch oven or slow cooker with broth, wine, tomatoes, or water. The liquid should come about 1/3 to 1/2 way up the shanks. Cook covered on low heat on the stove or in a 300°F oven.
  • Cook for 2-3 hours – Check tenderness after 2 hours. They may need up to 3 hours until fork tender.
  • Skim fat and thicken sauce – When done, skim any fat from the cooking liquid. Make a slurry with cornstarch and water to thicken to your desired consistency.
  • Shred or slice the meat – Once cooked, the meat will be fall-apart tender. Shred or slice it to serve.![Braised beef shanks][]

Tender, braised beef shanks. Source: Wikipedia

This video tutorial also shows step-by-step instructions for braising beef shanks.

Best Uses for Cooked Beef Shanks

Once you’ve braised or stewed beef shanks low and slow until tender, there are many delicious ways to use them:

  • Soups – Beef shank meat adds hearty body and beef flavor. Try beef barley, minestrone, or hamburger soup.
  • Stews – Shredded or chunks of beef shank meat make a perfect addition to beef stews and chilies.
  • Sandwiches – Shred or slice the meat and pile it on sandwiches and French dip.
  • Tacos – Use shredded beef shank meat as the protein inside tacos, burritos, and nachos.
  • Casseroles – Mix tender shredded beef shanks into pot pies, lasagnas, and casserole bakes.
  • Salads – Chilled, shredded beef shank meat makes a tasty salad topping.
  • Appetizers – Slice braised shanks and serve the meat on crackers or bread as an appetizer.
  • Osso buco – Cross-cut shanks make a classic osso buco when served with risotto or polenta.

So put this flavorful yet inexpensive cut of meat to work in your next beef dish! Beef shanks transform into fork-tender perfection with the right cooking method.

Buying Beef Shanks

When purchasing beef shanks, look for cuts that are:

  • Meaty – Choose shanks with a good amount of meat on them versus mostly bone.
  • Fresh – The meat should look moist and red, not dry or brown.
  • Fat trimmed – Excess fat will need to be trimmed before cooking, so less is better.
  • Uncut – Whole shanks hold their shape better when cooking versus pre-cut chunks.
  • Affordable – Since it’s a tougher cut, shanks are inexpensive compared to other beef.

You can find beef shanks in several forms:

  • Whole foreshank or hindshank – This looks like a whole cross section of the arm or leg bone.
  • Cross-cut osso buco – Shanks sliced crosswise into rounds with bone and marrow.
  • Boneless chunks – These may be sold as “gravy beef” since they are good for stews.
  • Ground – The lean meat also makes an affordable ground beef.

At the grocery store, look for beef shanks near other stew cuts or in the discounted meat section. A butcher shop can also cut them to order for you.

How Much to Buy

Beef shanks are quite large, so plan accordingly when purchasing:

  • For stews, expect 1-1.5 pounds per person as the bone weighs a lot.
  • For osso buco, allow 1-2 cross-cut shanks per person.
  • For braising whole shanks, allow 1 whole shank per person.

Since the yield of edible cooked meat is about 50-60% of the raw weight, buy more than you think you’ll need. It’s easy to use up leftover cooked beef shanks.![Raw beef shanks][]

Where beef shanks are located on the cow. Source: Wikipedia

Storing Beef Shanks

Raw beef shanks can be stored like other raw beef cuts:

  • In the refrigerator – Wrap raw shanks tightly and use within 3-5 days.
  • In the freezer – For longer storage, wrap well and freeze for 3-6 months. Thaw in the refrigerator before using.

Cooked beef shanks can be stored:

  • In the refrigerator – Store braised or stewed shanks and cooking liquid for 3-4 days.
  • In the freezer – Cooked meat and liquid freeze well for 2-3 months. Thaw in the fridge before reheating gently.

Proper storage keeps beef shanks fresh until you’re ready to transform this flavorful cut into fork-tender perfection!

Nutrition of Beef Shanks

Beef shanks are a lean, protein-rich cut of meat. A 3 ounce serving provides:

  • Calories: 153
  • Fat: 4g
  • Saturated fat: 1.5g
  • Protein: 24g
  • Iron: 15% Daily Value
  • Zinc: 28% DV
  • Selenium: 18% DV

The abundance of collagen also provides glycine and proline, amino acids important for joint and skin health.

So beef up your meals with the value, versatility, and delicious flavor of beef shanks! With the right cooking methods, this inexpensive cut becomes meltingly tender and packed with nutrition.

The Most UNDERRATED Beef Cut | How I Make Beef Shank


What is beef shank best for?

Because shank meat is quite lean, it makes good low-fat ground beef. It is used in stews and soups and dishes such as beef bourguignon. As a cheaper cut of meat, shank meat cut is found in cultural recipes across the globe. In Asia, it has long been a popular cut.

What is another name for beef shank?

Beef Shin. Also known as the shank, this is a cut of beef taken from the lower leg of a steer. The shin is a highly worked muscle that is supported by high levels of connective tissue. This connective tissue is broken down through slow cooking over a low heat and results in a moist, tender meat with rich flavour.

Does beef shank get tender?

Yes, beef shank is initially tough, but transforms into a tender, melt-in-your-mouth delight with proper cooking. Slow and low is the way to go, allowing the fibers to break down and the meat to become fork-tender.

What does shank taste like?

The meat has a savory, umami-rich flavor with a hint of sweetness and will take on the flavors you cook it with (such as wine, herbs, spices, and vegetables) well.

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