I don’t even remember the last time I bought a package of beef at the store.
We usually butcher a steer every 12-18 months, which keeps our freezers filled to overflowing.
But even though we’ve been doing this for years, the same thing happens every. single. time.
The hamburger and steaks fly out of the freezer first, and I’m left with the same lingering packages of cuts I’m not entirely sure how to use.
Ever had that happen?
Well, I’m tired of it. And it’s kinda embarrassing. And I’m ready to get rid of this problem once and for all.
Therefore, may I present to you…
The Cooking Through the Cow Series.
The goal of this blog series is to help you (and yes, me too) figure out how to best utilize the cuts of beef that might not be as popular in our modern American diets; the cuts with all sorts of wonderful attributes that tend to stay buried at the bottom of the freezer due to hesitation on what the heck to do with them.
But they won’t be lingering at the bottom of the deep freeze anymore. Because we’re gonna turn them into something delicious.
First up on the proverbial cutting board? The beautiful, yet often overlooked, beef shank.
More Cooking Through the Cow posts:
Learn about how to cook short ribs here.
What is Beef Shank?
The shank is found on the leg of a cow, just above the knee or hock. This cut of meat is cut in horizontal cuts (often in 1-inch slices), which is why beef shank looks like a steak with a circle of the leg bone in each piece. (It is also sometimes sold boneless.) Inside the bone there is piece of marrow that is edible as well.
This bone-surrounded-by-meat cut is either unknown by most people or has a reputation for being tough and dry. However, with some simple tips, beef shank can not only save you money, but also provide a nutritious and very flavorful meal.
Other Names for Beef Shank
There are two shank parts in a cow (the front and back legs), and they can be sold under the different names: the Fore Shank and the Hind (or Rear) Shank.
Beef shank can also be sold as “soup bones” at the store (this is how my local butcher labels them). If you go to a butcher shop for your beef shank, they often only sell the rear shank because it is longer and more uniform in shape.
Is Beef Shank Easy to Find?
It’s likely your standard neighborhood grocery store might not carry beef shanks, although it never hurts to ask behind the butcher counter. It’s not a popular cut in generic grocery stories since many people aren’t sure how to best use beef shanks and they are a cheap cut which yields minimal profit for the store.
However, since there are four beef shank cuts per cow, it can be a common and frugal item to find at local farms, local butcher shops, or better-quality grocery stores.
Are Beef Shanks Tough or Tender?
Since beef shank is the leg parts of the cow, it is a very tough, dry, sinewy piece of meat. Naturally, the legs of cows are hard-working, and so it it full of muscles, connective tissues, bones, and joints.
However, beef shanks can become extremely tender, as in: eat-it-with-a-spoon-tender if it is cooked for a long time in moist heat (like simmering it all day in your crockpot). Therefore, braising or slow cooking beef shank is ideal.
Are Beef Shanks Expensive?
Because beef shanks are incredibly overlooked, they are generally very affordable. As a bonus, they are also very nutrient-dense (more on that below), which gives them a ton of bang for just a few bucks.
Versatility of Beef Shank
How to Cook Beef Shank
The most important thing you need to know about cooking with beef shanks is that it requires time. Plan on cooking your beef shanks for at least 4 to 6 hours to transform it from tough and chewy to tender and flavorful. (Or try using a pressure cooker to reduce the time.)
However, as beef shanks are cooked slowly at a low temperature, the nutritional value of this cut really comes out. Bone and cartilage are rich sources for important nutritional minerals, and as the beef shanks simmer/cook, the minerals are seep out and give the beef shanks a deep and rich flavor.
(Some people claim this cut can be “gamey” or especially strong flavored. I would agree that it has more flavor than a basic burger, but I don’t find it offensive.)
After a long day of simmering, beef shanks actually give you THREE edible parts: the meat, bone marrow (yes, bone marrow is edible AND good for you!), and gelatin from the bones.
Once you’ve made your meal from the beef shank (recipe ideas below), save the bones and make a rich, nutrious bone broth from them. Here are my best tips for making beef bone broth.
Or, if you’d like to make stock first, sear the shanks, let them simmer in the broth for at least 12 hours, then remove the meat from the bone, shred it, and use in other dishes.
Beef Shank Recipes:
- Slow Cooked Beef Shanks with Onions and Mushrooms
- Ossobuco Beef Shanks
- Braised Beef Shanks with Gremolata
- Rich Beef Barley Soup
- Pot Au Feu (Beef Stew)
- Slow Cooked Beef Shanks with Garlic, Veggies, and Herbs
- Caldo de Res (Mexican Beef Soup)
Don’t forget to save the bones to make a rich and hearty beef bone broth!
Beef Shank Quick Rankings:
- Sourcing Difficulty: 5 (1= available everywhere, 10= very difficult to find)
- Versatility: 7 (1= very versatile, 10= very limited uses)
- Price: 2 (1= cheap as it gets, 10= special occasions only!)
- Toughness: 8 (1= spoon tender, 10= shoe leather)
Alrighty readers! It’s your turn– what are your favorite tips and recipes for cooking beef shanks?
Great post, Jill!! Now I need to look for beef shanks. So glad you are doing this blog series. I pretty much suck at coming up with ideas so I’m glad you are here to help!?
This is a GREAT idea for a series! We buy a side of beef every year from a local farmer (we don’t yet have the space to raise our own) and I would love to learn how to utilize some of the cuts that get pushed to the back of the freezer. We go through our ground beef first because it makes for quick meals and my family loves chili, meatloaf, spaghetti with meat sauce, etc. I’m looking forward to learning some new recipes that will hopefully add some new favorites to the dinner-rotation 🙂
We also butcher beef every year. My shank comes labeled as soup bones. I absolutely love to add them with boneless cuts such as stew meat to simmer all day and add flavor and depth to my stew or soups. Even added with bone in cuts they absolutely fall off the bone and melt in your mouth when cooked all day! Then like you said – make bone broth afterwards! I am so excited for this series!!! I am embarking on a new entrepreneurial adventure in selling beef to our community from our open replacement heifers. I will have to include a link to this series for sure to my customers!
Make sure your beef never get grains only NON-GMO GRAINS is safe for human consumption
I love the idea for this series! We’re always left with stew meat. My husband doesn’t love soups or stews so I’m hoping you’ve got some good ideas for stew meat!
Stew meat is AWESOME for tacos, taco salad, 7 layer dip, and beef stroganoff!
He must be a dummy or crazy or tastebuds deprived.
Our favorite way to use stew meat is to cook it in a roasting pan with some frozen or canned green chile, garlic, and water. Before serving, bring chicken or beef broth to a boil on the stove, add chopped garlic and green chile (anaheim or New Mexico chiles). Simmer for 10 minutes and thicken with corn starch and cold water. Add the stew meat and serve in corn tortilla with cheese to make enchiladas, or in flour tortillas with beans for burritos or over a rice bowl.
That sounds delicious!
Christopher Dwyer says
Great ideas, thank you!
Great topic for a series. We also butcher every so often. Mine have usually been labelled soup bones. I’ve dry-roasted them for a short time. Just long enough to bring flavor out. Then make broth and soup with them in the Instant Pot. First making a big batch of broth and then making soup after removing any clumps of undissolved fat and the bones.
This is a wonderful idea. I am glad to see the post about shank steaks as I have several in the freezer. Looking forward to more posts.
Love this idea, thank you!
Very nice blog! Shanks are one of my favorite parts of the cow, the head is another favorite of mine. Sooo much beefy flavor n incredibly silky texture. Since California is experiencing the worst winter weather in 30 years right now and I have a new Dean Koontz book I can’t put down, my shanks will be unearthed from their winter haven and get acquainted with the oven, low n slow! Thanks again!
I was so happy to see this post! Very informative. I’m always at a loss for what to do with those last pieces. I have quite a few cuts called “Plate Boil”. I can’t find a whole lot about what it is exactly and what to do with it. Maybe you’ll cover it in this series. Looking forward to the next one!
Manny Khan says
From Manny Khan. I cook Beef Shanks on a lowest setting of the top burner over night and remove the bones and put them in a seperate large pot and add chopped tomatoes, onions, chiles, potatatoes, ginger, garlic and the soices of your likings including the salt and the pot goes back on top of the stove on the lowest settings and walla, enjoy!!!!!
Very excited for this series!!
Victoria CB Trees says
I was surprised to see no Instant Pot recipes! I have used shank for years for soups and stews but lately the price tag on them in Oregon hasn’t been particularly attractive. I usually end up buying leaner cuts for less money, believe it or not. I find that really weird.
It’s because of all the other cultures moving into Oregon. They ‘have not’ forgotten how to use the whole animal as we have. And because of demand prices go up. Just look at gizzards and liver…
In South Africa we call it ‘Shin’. It was my favourite for stews and slow cooking. With the added pleasure of the marrow.
My Mom always called it “shin beef” and used it for vegetable beef soup
Joyce Fields says
Thanks for this useful information. Much appreciated.
Elfreda McNair says
I am totally in love with your site. You are my kind of gal even though I’m probably old enough to be your
mother or more likely grandmother . Thank you for sharing your information ,one is never to old to learn
and try new things .
I didn’t realize they were also called soup bones. I’ve been wanting to try Oso Busco, but around here, shank is expensive, so I haven’t. I’ve had “soup bones” in my freezer for almost a year! My work buys a couple of hogs at the fair every year and butchers them, giving them to the employees. Well, last year, they stepped out of the groove and bought a hog and a steer. In my share, was two or three soup bones. So, YEA! I am going to put that on my menu next week.
This was great. The butcher who cuts our cows calls them arm roasts….and they make the best almost strogonoff meals. I just remove tougher tendon around the outside and the bones when the meat falls off of the bone then add mushrooms, onions, seasonings and then sour cream. We eat the marrows in the dish but the dog loves them also.
Shirley L McCabe says
Thank you , Cynthia. I think I am going to try yours today. Very good idea for shanks. Should be great tasting.
When you are done with the series maybe you could put all the ideas into a book. I would buy this one!
Thank you I have alot of this in my freezer and not a clue what to do with it!
Great information! I just bought shanks to experiment with…
I have my beef shank cut into Osso Bucco style cuts and braise with wine, broth, and herbs.
I’m so glad I saw your post today. I’m running out of idea on what to do with those meat in the fridge. This is very helpful. Thank you for sharing.
Kayla- Prairie Homestead Assistant says
Yay! We’re so glad this is helpful for you!!
Bob Garcia says
Thank you for your post! I am of Mexican heritage, and shank is what we use in caldo de res (beef soup). Shank and beef stock simmering in a stock pot for about 4 or 5 hours. Add potatoes and carrots halfway through, sliced zucchini and squash later, cabbage after that, halved corn on the cob added near the end. Quantities aren’t important. Add more of what you love, less ( or none) of what you don’t like as much. I like to make arroz (Mexican rice) and a mixture of cilantro and chopped onions and lime juice (with chopped Serrano peppers for heat). Let the mix sit in the fridge for a couple of hours so the flavors come together. When you serve up a bowl of soup, add some rice and mixture to the top. Serve with corn tortillas, which also get a little lime juice. My dad loved the marrow! He would save it for last, rolling it up in a tortilla. I just made this yesterday.
Kayla- Prairie Homestead Assistant says
Wow! So cool, thanks for sharing your experience!
Janet Hawkins says
I buy these often and try to always have some in the freezer. I throw them in the slow cooker with a load of good seasonings, the smoked shanks and SW blend of seasonings is so yummy. I add chopped carrots, onions, garlic celery and when done I shred the shanks, dump the fat and server this super flavorful mixture over rice. Sometimes I make it the day before, set it all in the fridge that way I can skim off the excess fat that solidifies on the top and keeping the mixture for 24 hours makes it even better!
A friend recently gave me a beef shank he got from a Wagyu beef farm. It was ridiculously cheap compared to the strip loins ($100/lb).
I made beef barley soup with it in my pressure cooker. It was INCREDIBLE! So rich and flavourful!
Rose Bourg says
During the recent ice storm in Louisiana, my son & I decided to make a beef & vegetable soup with beef shank in the Instant Pot…WOW! The shank was falling apart tender in less than 45 minutes (meal prep included). AND, the bone marrow was a rich, exquisite treat.
What about beef soup bones? Any good recipes to share?
Kris Adler says
I just got my first 1/4 cow and had no idea what to do with these. I made the onion and mushroom recipe and it was fantastic. I slow cooked it for 7 hours and turned out really well.
I was sold 3 beef shanks and neck for $13 from a local meat vendor! This was a great read because I really want to do the meat justice and use all of it.
When times got tough (thru Covid) I saw where my local Safeway had beef shanks very inexpensive-my grandma used to slow cook them, so I thought I can do this! Lol she was from the depression era & a farm girl so she really could cook good! So I just put a little olive oil to grease my crockpot, then threw the shanks in and squirted Baby Rays bbq sauce on it and a little water, then cooked on high 4 hours, adding a little water if necessary-like just a few tablespoons. Then after a few hours on high I took the lid off for about an hour (still on high) and it reduced the wonderful juice down to a rich gravy. Served with mashed potatoes and a salad! After 2 meals of this I had the gravy/sauce leftover in fridge do I used the fat (in fridge it hardened) & cooked some lean ground beef I had in freezer, added chopped bell peppers and onions, sautéed a little-then a chopped tomato in the skillet, then the leftover congealed reddish brown gravy from my beef shanks-it made excellent sloppy joes for a couple more meals!!
How do you cook beef shanks in the oven, so they’re fall of the bone tender? I need an exact temp and time. That’s what I can’t find on the internet. My crock pot broke, and the new ones run hot, so I’m left with my oven. And I want to learn how to use my oven anyways. Most of the recipes listed in your article either don’t use the oven or the times/temps would turn those shanks into leather. Thank you so much!
Cris - Prairie Homestead Team says
If you do not have a crockpot, try using a dutch oven. You need to use low heat for a long time and a dutch oven can help keep the meat tender. If you google ‘beef shank in dutch oven’ there are some recipes that pop up that should help you out. I hope that helps! 🙂
Hi, do you have a recipe for beef shanks in the oven? My crock pot broke, and I’d like to learn how to use my oven. I tried to do these in the oven once (200 F for 4 hours) and they turned tough as hide. I can’t figure out what I did wrong! Did I cook them too long, too little??
Cris - Prairie Homestead Team says
Hi, there is a section of this post titled “Beef Shank Recipes” with many ideas for recipes. Not all of them use a slow cooker, so you have some options there! Enjoy!