Categories
Life hack

How to cook lamb shanks

Lamb shanks are the king of all lamb cuts!! Slow cooked until meltingly tender in a rich, deeply flavoured red wine sauce, this recipe is worthy of fine dining restaurants yet is completely straightforward to make.

Just like the Port Braised Lamb Shanks and Massaman Lamb Shanks recipe, it takes patience for shanks to become fall apart tender, but it’s completely hands off time. Serve it over creamy mashed potato with a side of peas or sautéed spinach, with crusty bread to mop your bowl clean!

Slow Cooked Lamb Shanks

I have a real soft spot for slow cooked lamb shanks. I just love the look of a hunk of meltingly tender meat wrapped around the bone. Hits my carnivore sweet-spot, every time.

Honestly, if you put this and a towering frosted cake in front of me, this would win every day of the week and twice on Sunday:

Cooking lamb shanks is easy!

Being a tough cut of meat that needs slow cooking to make it fall-off-the-bone tender, lamb shanks are actually very forgiving so it’s a real easy cut to cook with.

You literally cannot overcook lamb shanks.Leave it in for an hour too long, and the meat is still succulent and juicy. The worst that will happen is that the meat falls off the bone when you go to serve it.

And if you pull it out too early and the meat isn’t fork tender, just add more liquid and keep cooking!

The only key tip I have is to brown that shank as well as you can. It is a hard shape to brown evenly, but do what you can. Browning is the key flavour base for any protein that’s slow cooked in a braising liquid, like Beef Stew, Pot Roast, Chicken Stew. If you ever see a slow cooked stew recipe that doesn’t call for browning the meat before slow cooking, proceed with caution!

I love slow cooking meat on the bone. Lamb Shanks, Beef Short Ribs and Osso Buco – better flavour more succulent!

What are lamb shanks?

If you’re new to lamb shanks, here’s a rundown: lamb shanks are from the lower leg of lambs, and they are an inexpensive, tough cut of meat.

Because of this, lamb shanks need to be slow cooked – either braised or roasted – to break down the tough meat to soften into succulent tenderness.

The meat itself is full of flavour which adds to the flavour of the sauce.

BONUS: The marrow in the bone melts into the sauce, deepening the flavour and richness. We love freebies around here!!

Classic Red Wine Sauce for Lamb Shanks

Red wine sauce is a classic braising liquid for lamb shanks, with the rich deep flavours a natural pairing with the strong flavour of lamb.

The red wine sauce is super simple to make but after hours of slow cooking, it transforms into an incredible rich, deeply flavoured sauce that’s silky and glossy, and looks totally posh-restauranty.

Just a quick note on the wine – I do not use expensive wines for slow cooking. I truly believe from the bottom of my heart that even the snobbiest of all food snobs would not be able to tell the difference if you made this with a discount end-of-bin $5 bottle or a $50 bottle. (And the New York Times agrees….)

Maybe you could tell the difference using a $100 bottle. But that’s not within my budget….

Non alcoholic sub for wine?

The wine is a key flavour for the broth in this recipe. However, if you cannot consume alcohol, substitute the wine with the following: 1.5 cups beef broth LOW SODIUM + 1 cup water. + 1 tbsp Worcestershire Sauce. Beef has a stronger deeper flavour than chicken so will be more suited to being the sub for wine.

This is one of those recipes that truly is terrific to make in the oven, stove, slow cooker or pressure cooker, as long as its started on the stove to brown the shanks and saute the onion etc. Right now, being winter here in Sydney, I choose the oven so it keeps my house nice and warm! – Nagi x

Slow Cooked Lamb Shanks
WATCH HOW TO MAKE IT

Hungry for more? Subscribe to my newsletter and follow along on Facebook, Pinterest and Instagram for all of the latest updates.

Slow braised lamb shanks in a delicious, rich red wine sauce is the kind of showstopping comfort food cravings are made of. Perfect for a cozy dinner in and a great alternative for roast lamb at Easter.

Ingredients

Full recipe with amounts can be found in the recipe card below.

  • Lamb shanks.
  • Onions.
  • Carrots.
  • Celery.
  • Garlic.
  • Rosemary.
  • Bay leaf.
  • Tomato paste.
  • Red wine. Shiraz or Cabernet Sauvignon, something full-bodied.
  • Stock. Lamb/beef.
  • Salt and pepper.

How to make slow braised lamb shanks

  1. Sear the lamb shanks: Heat a large, oven-proof deep pan/pot over medium-high heat and sear the lamb until well-browned on all sides. In the same pot, saute the onions, carrot, celery, garlic and herbs until soft and fragrant. I like to let the vegetables cook until they are starting to brown to develop as much flavor as possible. Add the wine and stock then cover with a lid.
  2. Braise: Place the pan in a preheated oven. Allow to braise for 2-3 hours until the lamb shanks are tender and the gravy has reduced. Serve with mashed potatoes, rice or polenta.

When are lamb shanks done?

Lamb is safe to eat at 62ºC/145ºF. It will be cooked to medium-rare at that temperature. As lamb shanks are a cut of meat filled with connective tissue, it needs low, slow cooking to break all of that down. Therefore, the temperature of lamb shanks is less important. You will know they are cooked when the meat comes away from the bone easily.

Can I cook lamb shanks in a slow cooker?

Yes, you definitely can. I would still brown them in a pan/skillet before adding to the slow cooker with the remaining ingredients. Cook on low for 8-10 hours, depending on the size of the lamb shanks.

Braised lamb shanks are perfect for a hearty meal. A combination of herbs and spices, carrots, celery, potatoes, and raisins create a complex, mouthwatering dish.

Elise founded Simply Recipes in 2003 and led the site until 2019. She has an MA in Food Research from Stanford University.

  • Pin
  • Share
  • Email

Do you love lamb? Braised lamb shanks are the perfect hearty meal for cooler days.

What Are Lamb Shanks?

The shank is the part of the animal between the hoof and the knee, right below the leg of lamb cut. Because they get a lot of exercise (almost all lamb is raised grass fed on the range), the shanks can be rather tough. But because of that exercise, they also have the most wonderful flavor!

Tough cuts like lamb shanks lend themselves well to a low and slow braise. Long cooking at a low temperature is exactly what you need for meat that is falling-off-the-bone tender.

How to Make Braised Lamb Shanks

For this recipe, we brown the lamb shanks first. Browning brings out even more of the flavor of the meat!

Next, we sauté some onions, carrots, and celery. We add the lamb shanks, garlic, potatoes, herbs, sherry, and raisins. Why raisins? I love the way the little sweet notes of the raisins make the overall flavors of the dish pop.

Then we add stock, bring the stew to a simmer, cover it, and put it in the oven for the lamb to cook, low and slow for a couple of hours, until the shanks are beautifully tender and falling off the bone.

Tips on How to Cook Lamb Shanks

  • Brown the shanks well. If you skip this part, you'll lose out on a lot of flavor.
  • Don't rush it. Raising the temperature may cook the shanks more quickly, but it's the low and slow that make them so tender. Don't go above 350°F and be patient. You can even cook them at 300°F, but your cook time will be longer.
  • Cook to at least an internal temperature of 165°F, but it's fine to leave them in longer until the meat practically falls off the bone.
  • Make sure to have a proper pot. An oven-proof, enamel-coated, cast iron Dutch oven with a lid is ideal for this recipe.
  • Shanks only. Don't substitute leg of lamb or other tender cuts of meat.

Making Lamb Shanks Ahead of Time

This is a great recipe to make ahead because the flavors will meld together like a good stew (which this essentially is). To make braised lamb shanks in advance, follow the recipe as directed, including stripping the meat from the bones.

Allow the dish cool and transfer it to a tightly covered container. Place in the refrigerator for up to 2 days. If you like, remove and discard any solidified fat from the stew. Reheat on the stovetop in the same pot you cooked it in by brining to a simmer, than cooking until good and hot.

Freezing Braised Lamb Shanks

This recipe freezes well, although the potatoes may have a slightly different texture when it's defrosted. Freeze in a freezer-safe zipper bag or airtight container for up to 3 months. Defrost in the refrigerator.

For this recipe I have used lamb fore shanks, taken from the front leg. I find a whole leg shank tends to be too much for one person, whereas a fore shank, being smaller, provides the perfect amount. Ask your butcher for these if you can’t find them in the supermarket.

less than 30 mins

Ingredients

  • 3 tbsp oil
  • 6 x 200g/7oz lamb fore shanks
  • 2 onions, sliced
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1 rounded tbsp plain flour
  • 300ml/10fl oz red wine
  • 450ml/16fl oz chicken stock
  • 1 tbsp redcurrant jelly
  • 1 tbsp chopped rosemary leaves
  • 250g/9oz baby carrots, cut in half lengthways if large
  • 250g/9oz parsnips, cut into batons
  • 250g/9oz baby turnips, cut in half lengthways if large
  • a knob of butter
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tbsp chopped parsley, to garnish

Method

Preheat the oven to 160C/140C Fan/Gas 3.

Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a deep, ovenproof frying pan or flameproof casserole dish and brown the lamb shanks all over on a high heat for 5–6 minutes or until golden-brown. Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside.

Add the remaining oil and the onion and garlic and fry over a medium heat for 3–4 minutes until soft. Measure the flour into a bowl, pour in the wine and whisk into a smooth paste. Add the stock to the onions, then add the wine and flour mixture and, stirring continuously, bring to the boil. Add the redcurrant jelly and rosemary and stir until thickened.

Place the browned lamb back in the pan, season with salt and pepper, then cover with a lid and transfer to the oven to cook for about 2 hours or until the lamb is tender and just falling off the bone.

When ready to serve, bring a saucepan of salted water to the boil, add the carrots, parsnips and turnips and boil for 8–10 minutes or until tender. Drain.

Add a third of the vegetables to the lamb casserole and stir. Melt a knob of butter in a frying pan and fry the remaining vegetables over a high heat for 4–5 minutes or until golden-brown. Season with salt and pepper and remove from the hob.

Serve one lamb shank per person with some of the sauce and vegetables from the casserole and extra fried vegetables on the side. Garnish with the chopped parsley to finish.

Recipe Tips

If you can’t find lamb fore shanks, you can use regular lamb shanks and allow two per person. It’s a bit more disassembled but just as good to eat.

‘Batons’ is just a posh name for vegetables cut into long strips.

Prepare ahead: cook the lamb casserole 1–2 days in advance and prepare the vegetables shortly before serving.

These Braised Lamb Shanks are slow cooked until fall apart tender and smothered in a rich sauce. This is a restaurant quality dish that’s easy to make at home. This recipe is Paleo, Whole30, Grain/Gluten Free, Dairy Free, Keto and Specific Carbohydrate Diet Legal.

I am a total sucker for any meat that is slow cooked and fall apart tender, it could be one of my all time favourite meals. Lamb shanks are such a great meat to slow cook, not only are they rich in flavour, but they become insanely tender. This is a fantastic dish to serve guests because it requires very little work in the few hours before serving, but always seems to impress thanks to the succulent meat.

Why you are going to love these Braised Lamb Shanks:

  • The meat melts in your mouth: there is no need to use a knife to eat these lamb shanks, they are truly fall apart tender.
  • The flavourful sauce: I find that slow cooking cuts of meat still on the bone adds even more flavour to the sauce, and these shanks are no exception. The sauce is so rich thanks to the combination of lamb juices, beef stock, tomato paste, balsamic vinegar and herbs. It sounds simple, but you will be forgiven for wanting to drink the sauce up with a spoon.
  • A restaurant quality meal: This is a really impressive meal that I wouldn’t hesitate to serve to guests. I find that slow cooked meat is always a crowd pleaser and this recipe is no exception.
  • Inexpensive: lamb shanks are a relatively inexpensive cut of meat compared to short ribs etc. I personally think they offer a real bang for your buck, easy on the wallet while seeming fancy once cooked.
  • Alcohol Free: By using a combination of balsamic vinegar and beef stock in place of red wine (which is traditionally used for braised lamb shanks), you get the same richly flavoured sauce, but without the alcohol. That means these lamb shanks are Whole30 and a great option to serve anyone who does not consume alcohol.
  • Make Ahead: I find that the flavours and tenderness of the meat only improves with time, so you can cook these shanks a few hours, or even days in advance.

Can I make this in the slow cooker/crockpot?

Definitely! Use the sauté/sear function on your slow cooker for steps 1-4. Once the lamb shanks have been added back into the sauce, cook them on high heat for 6 hours or low heat for 8 hours. Once the lamb is very tender, place the shanks on a baking tray and keep warm in the oven (this will also help to caramelize the edges of the shanks). Turn the slow cooker back to sauté/sear and leave the sauce to simmer for 10-15 minutes until it has reduced by approximately half.

Can I make this in an instant pot?

You betcha! Use the sear function of your instant pot for steps 1-4. Once the shanks have been added back to the pot, set to Manual mode and cook on high pressure for 45 minutes followed by natural release for 10. Place the shanks on a baking tray and keep warm in the oven (this will also help to caramelize the edges of the shanks), turn the instant pot on sear and leave the sauce to simmer for 10 minutes until it has thickened.

Can I make these Braised Lamb Shanks in advance?

Absolutely! In fact I think the flavours only improve with time. You can make the lamb shanks up to 3 days in advance and store them in the sauce in the fridge. If you notice a layer of fat hardening on the surface of the sauce, you can scoop that out with a spoon. When ready to eat, just put the pot on the stove top and leave everything to heat up on medium heat.

They freeze well too! Freeze leftovers in a ziploc bag with any excess sauce. They will last for up to 4 months in the freezer and are great to pull out for a quick and easy comforting winter meal.

What to serve with these Braised Lamb Shanks:

Mash: I highly highly recommend that you serve these slow cooked lamb shanks with mash to sop up all of that yummy rich sauce. Trust me, you won’t want a drop of it to go to waste. I usually serve them with THE BEST Cauliflower Mash.

Veggies: Why not add some vibrant veggies to the plate to lighten things up. I would recommend adding these One Pan Green Beans, Fennel with Garlic & Herbs or Roasted Broccoli.

Here are a few more date night/dinner party recipes that you might enjoy…

If you make this recipe let me know in the comment section below, I would love to hear what you think or take a photo and tag me (@everylastbite_) on Instagram, I love seeing your photos!