Center-cut beef shanks are cut from the foreleg, just below the shoulder. They are excellent for use in soups and stews because they take so well to being cooked in liquid. Beef-shank soups typically require several hours of simmering to tenderize the meat and draw all of the flavor from the bones. Bone-in beef shanks make the deepest flavors, but you can also use boneless beef shanks to make soups or stews. The only difference is that you cube the beef before cooking it instead of picking it off of the bone afterward.
Heat a deep skillet or Dutch oven over medium-high heat for one to two minutes.
Add just enough oil or fat to coat the bottom of the pan. Olive oil and canola oil are more heart-friendly than butter or drippings. Use a mixture of half oil and half drippings if your recipe calls specifically for bacon or other animal fat and you are concerned about saturated fats.
Place sliced onions, chopped garlic, chopped leeks or whatever vegetable your recipe calls for into the hot oil. Stir and cook them for five to seven minutes, or whatever time your recipe recommends.
Season the vegetables as they cook with the herbs and spices that your recipe calls for. Beef stews are complemented by bay leaf, cloves, rosemary and other aromatic herbs. Experiment with more exotic herbs like fennel if you are creating your own recipe.
Put three to five center-cut beef shanks in with the vegetables. Brown them for five to seven minutes. Turn the beef shanks with tongs and brown the other sides for five to seven minutes. Do not crowd the pot because the darker brown the beef shanks get, the richer your soup will be.
Cook the beef shanks in small batches until they are thoroughly browned and cooked through.
Add broth, stock or whatever liquid your recipe calls for. Deglaze the pan by scraping up any bits of meat and vegetables which may have stuck to the bottom with a wooden spoon. Put the beef shanks back into the pot and simmer them in the liquid for two to three hours.
Remove the beef shanks from the soup to drain and cool to room temperature.
Pick or cut all of the meat off of the center-cut beef shanks and return it to the pot. Taste the broth and adjust the seasonings.