KNOW YOUR MEAT CUTS - LAMB SHANK?
Know Your Meat Cuts – Lamb Shank?
Lamb shank, a cut from the shin of the lamb, is one of the most flavourful cuts of lamb. The connective tissue, which gives lamb shank its flavour, also leads to toughness if not prepared correctly.
Lamb shank needs to be cooked over low heat for a long time to become velvety, flavourful, and fall-off-the-bone juicy.
Lamb shank is a favourite in Mediterranean cuisines, such as Greek, Italian, French, and Moroccan. Because it has a bold, gamey flavour, it pairs well with warm spices, such as cinnamon and cloves, as well as bold herbs such as rosemary and mint.
What Is Lamb Shank?
Lamb shank is a tough cut from the lamb leg that becomes tender and juicy with slow and low cooking. The foreshank comes from the front legs and is smaller than the hind shank, which comes from the back legs and is much meatier. As with all hard-working muscles, lamb shank is full of connective tissue and collagen that requires stewing or braising. The lamb shank is typically sold cut, with the centre bone intact, and is cooked on the bone with little prep required.
Because lamb shank requires long cooking times and a lot of patience, it is an inexpensive cut of lamb that is often overlooked compared to more easily grilled neighbouring cuts.
How to Cook Lamb Shank
Due to its toughness and low fat content, braising lamb shank is the ideal way to enjoy it. The braising liquid keeps the meat from drying out and the hours-long cooking over low heat gives the tough meat a chance to become tender and succulent. Lamb shank typically comes bone-in, and braising gives the bone marrow a chance to melt into the braising liquid, transforming it into a rich and full-bodied sauce.
If you don’t want to braise, you can cook it for hours on low heat in the slow cooker to stew the meat. Be sure to keep the lid on to retain moisture. Similarly, it can be pressure-cooked with liquid. Lamb shank shouldn’t be pan-fried or sautéed or else it will be too tough to chew.
Lamb shank often comes with a thin white membrane that can be trimmed away or left on to melt away during cooking. Most importantly, brown the meat before slow cooking or braising to add a deeper flavour. You can achieve this by searing the meat in the same pot that you are using for slow-cooking or braising.
Check out HOW TO PREPARE LAMB SHANKS BRAISED WITH RED WINE & ROSEMARY?
What Does It Taste Like?
Lamb is famous for its gamey flavour. Lamb shanks have an even stronger gamey flavour than milder cuts of lamb, such as loin or shoulder chops. American lamb tends to be milder than New Zealand or Australian lamb because it is grain-finished. Its bold flavour pairs well with marinades and aromatics that have equally sturdy flavours, such as garlic, onions, fennel, ginger, lemon peel, and rosemary.
When cooked properly, lamb shank is tender and juicy, practically falling off the bone.
Lamb Shank vs. Leg of Lamb
It is easy to confuse a lamb shank with a bone-in leg of lamb because they both come from the lamb’s legs. The difference is that lamb shank is the portion just above the knee and usually contains less meat and more sinewy fibres than a leg of lamb which is adjacent to the sirloin and flank cuts. Bone-in leg of lamb is a larger cut of meat that is already tender and well-suited to oven-roasting, whereas lamb shank is tough and is best-suited to braising.