2 Ways to Grill Lamb Shanks So They're Tender and Juicy

If you have time, braise your lamb shanks a day before grilling them.
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Cooking very tough meats, such as lamb shank, involves some compromises. You'll earn the richest mouthfeel and tenderest texture by slow-cooking them at very low temperatures — either dry or in a flavorful liquid. Yet, the most savory flavors come from high-temperature cooking methods such as grilling.

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The simple solution is to slow-cook your shanks first, either by braising or low-temperature barbecue, then grilling them rapidly at the finish.

Tip

If possible, braise your lamb shanks a day ahead and refrigerate them overnight. Their flesh becomes firm again in the refrigerator and they're less likely to fall apart on the grill as you turn them. The overnight rest also allows the fat in your cooking juices to rise to the top and harden, so it can be easily removed for a leaner, lighter sauce.

How to Braise and Grill Lamb Shanks

Things You'll Need

  • Lamb shanks

  • Sharp knife

  • Salt

  • Pepper

  • Seasonings of choice

  • Onions

  • Celery

  • Carrots

  • Casserole dish or slow cooker

  • Broth

  • Water

  • Wine

  • Grill

  • Tray or serving plates

1. Remove the Fat

Use the tip of a sharp knife to remove the silver-gray sheath of connective tissue, called silverskin, from any parts of the shank where it's visible. Remove any areas of visible fat.

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2. Add Liquid and Veggies

Place the shanks in a casserole dish or slow cooker, and surround them with onions, celery, carrots and other flavoring ingredients, as desired. Pour in enough broth to come halfway up the shanks, or use any combination of broth, water and red wine.

3. Braise the Lamb Shanks

Cover the casserole or slow cooker with a lid. Cook on high in your slow cooker for 3 to 4 hours, or on low for 6 to 8 hours.

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For oven-braising, place the casserole dish in a preheated oven at 325 degrees Fahrenheit for 2 to 3 hours. If you're braising in a casserole dish, turn the shanks every 30 to 45 minutes to ensure even cooking.

4. Thicken the Sauce

Simmer the shanks until they're tender enough to easily insert a fork and twist off a morsel of the meat.

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Drain the meat thoroughly, and let it rest for at least 20 minutes while the grill preheats. During this time, strain the cooking juices, skim off any fat and thicken it to use as a sauce with the shanks.

5. Grill the Lamb Shanks and Serve

Preheat the grill to a medium-high temperature, roughly 400 F to 450 F. Transfer the shanks to the grill, searing and browning them on all sides. Brush them with the cooking juices, so they'll cook on and create an extra-flavorful surface.

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Transfer the shanks to a tray or individual plates, and serve them with their sauce and your choice of side dishes.

How to Grill Lamb Shanks (Without Braising First)

Things You'll Need

  • Lamb shanks

  • Sharp knife

  • Salt

  • Pepper

  • Seasonings of choice

  • Coals

  • Hardwood chips or chunks (optional)

  • Charcoal grill

  • Tray or serving plates

1. Prep the Grill

Build a bed of coals in the kettle of your charcoal grill. Rake the coals to one side of the grill, leaving the other side free for your shanks. Cover the grill and adjust the vents until the temperature stabilizes at 225 to 250 F.

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  • For a gas grill: Light the burners on only one side.
  • For a three- or four-burner model: Light the sides and leave the middle off.

Preheat the grill to the same temperature range.

2. Remove Fat From the Lamb Shanks

Trim the lamb shanks while your grill is preheating. Remove any visible fat or silverskin, and rub the shanks with salt and pepper or other seasonings of your choice.

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Tip

For a deeper flavor, season the shanks a day ahead and refrigerate them overnight.

3. Put the Lamb Shanks on the Grill

Position the shanks on the unheated portion of your grill, leaving room between them for the hot air to circulate. You can also add a few small pieces of hardwood to the coals to give the lamb a smokier flavor.

Close the lid, and stabilize the temperature at 225 F to 250 F.

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4. Grill the Lamb Shanks on a Low Flame

Slow-cook the shanks for 1 1/2 to 3 hours, until they reach your desired degree of doneness and tenderness. Usually, shanks must be well done for the tough connective tissues to melt and dissolve, but feel free to experiment with other degrees of doneness.

5. Turn Up the Heat

Remove the shanks from the grill temporarily once they're done. Open the vents on your charcoal grill, or turn up the heat on your gas grill, until it reaches a temperature between 400 F and 450 F. Return the shanks to the grill for 5 to 6 minutes, turning them frequently, until they're well browned.

Serve them hot with your choice of side dishes.

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