A thick slice of center-cut beef shank looks remarkably like a well-marbled steak, and is often labeled as shank steak in retail stores. They're too tough for grilling, but like chuck steaks, they're ideal for braising. The long, slow cooking process softens the tough muscle fibers and connective tissues, leaving the meat fork-tender with a luscious texture. The shanks also make their own sauce by infusing their cooking liquids with an intensely beefy flavor. This cooking method requires hours in your oven or slow cooker, but only a few minutes of hands-on preparation.
Preheat your oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. Wipe the shank steaks with a clean paper towel to remove any bone fragments, then sear them one or two at a time in a hot skillet.
Transfer the shanks to a deep casserole dish or Dutch oven. Add coarsely chopped onions, carrots, celery, garlic, tomatoes or other aromatic ingredients as desired.
Pour in enough beef broth or other liquid to submerge the lower half of the shanks. Cover the casserole dish or Dutch oven, and slide it onto your oven's middle rack.
Simmer the beef slowly in your oven until you can easily slide a fork into the shanks, and twist off a mouthful of tender beef with minimal effort. Depending how thickly your shank steaks were cut, this can take 2 1/2 to 4 hours.
Remove the shanks to a bowl or serving platter with a slotted spoon, then strain the cooking liquids into a narrow measuring cup. Ladle off the fat that rises to the surface, then heat the juices in a saucepan and thicken them to make a sauce. Serve the sauce and shanks with your favorite side dishes.
Slow Cooker Method
Line the bottom of your slow cooker with a handful of coarsely chopped onions, garlic, carrots, celery or other aromatic ingredients as desired. Sear your shank steaks in a hot skillet, and arrange them evenly on top of the vegetables.
Pour in 1 to 2 cups of beef broth or other cooking liquid. Your slow cooker will lose less moisture to evaporation, so it isn't necessary to use as much broth as you would in the oven.
Cover the pot and plug it in. Cook the shanks for 3 to 4 hours on the high setting, or 5 to 6 hours on low. The shanks are ready when you can easily slide a fork into the tender meat.
Transfer the shanks to a large bowl or serving platter with a slotted spoon, then strain the cooking juices to remove the aromatics. Ladle off any excess fat, then pour the liquids into a small saucepan and thicken them to make your sauce.
Serve the sauce with your braised shanks, and your choice of side dishes.
Things You'll Need
Onions, carrots, celery, garlic, tomatoes or other aromatic ingredients
Beef broth or other cooking liquid
Large bowl or serving tray
Once cooked, the shanks can be shredded with a fork or your fingers and used as the filling in ravioli or other pasta. Alternatively, thicken the sauce and add cooked vegetables for a rich and hearty stew.
Browning the shanks is an optional step, but it intensifies their rich, beefy flavor.
Although beef broth is the most natural choice of cooking liquids, there are many other alternatives. Tomato juice or tomato sauce, prepared beef gravy, barbecue sauce, red wine, dark beer and even water are all appropriate choices.
Other slow cooking techniques are also suitable for use with shanks. For example, the shanks could be baked at 275 F for a similar length of time, without the use of a braising liquid. The key is to keep the meat at an internal temperature of 180 F or higher for an extended period, so the tough connective tissues melt and form rich, moist gelatin.