Cut Name: Beef Shank
NAMP Guide Number: 117 (Foreshank)
Bone in/Boneless: You can get a roast boneless, but then you'd be missing out on that sweet, sweet marrow
Other names: Shin, Hock, Hough, Jarret Arriere, Chambarete
Best Cooking Method: Braise, stew, smoke if you're feeling adventurous
As this is the first in a series of meat cut highlights, I figured I would come out the gate strong by casting some light on what I feel is the most maligned and misunderstood of all cuts of beef: the shank. The lowest part of the animal, it seems that it occupies some of the lowest places on the menu. This weird looking bone-surrounded-by-meat has a well deserved reputation of being tough and dry when cooked improperly, but with a little love and understanding it can yield some of the most amazing dishes a home cook can produce.
There's no mistaking a beef shank in a butcher's case. In one piece, it's about a foot long and almost perfectly cylindrical, however you're much more likely to see it cross cut into several 1.5-2" thick pieces. There is a long bone filled with delicious creamy marrow running the length of the shank, the Tibia in the rear and the Radius in the front. Butchers prefer to use the rear shank rather than the front (or fore shank) as it's a bit longer, and more uniform in shape.
To truly understand the best way to prepare beef shank, it helps to have a moderate amount of expertise in molecular biology. Shanks are a weight-bearing muscle. If you think about it, a cow is basically a thousand pound refrigerator supported by 4 dainty whiffle-ball bat sized shanks. To support all this weight shanks are packed with tough, durable collagen. The basic collagen molecules, tropocollagen, bond extraordinarily tightly to each other (it arranges the crosslinks in a quarter stagger formation, for anyone playing along at home). This tight bond allows the protein to support a massive amount of weight, but also shrinks when heat is applied, forcing moisture out of the muscle and leading to dryness in the finished product.
The Best Way to Prepare Beef Shanks
By Bill Cavanaugh
Cut Name: Beef Shank
Baking Like a Professional
Buying ready-made food is not affordable and costs have continued to go up over recent years. If you couple that with the simple fact that the quality of ingredients in pre-made meals is commonly low, home cooking starts to appear like an attractive option. However like any skill that needs a little information to get started, people could be put off home cooking given that it could be seen as too challenging. However like most activities in life a small amount knowledge can enable you break through the first barriers and get baking in no time.
Like lots of people, I was fairly hesitant right before I began baking. But now, just a couple of months in, my sureness and ability has grown and I'm taking pleasure in the entire process. I receive a lot of acclaim from my close friends who appreciate what I bake and it's always great to bring some thing home made if we have parties.
So what about these couple of fundamental suggestions? Well, if you obey the list shown below you'll discover that these handful of easy methods can make what you make (!) taste just like something the pros have baked! At some time you're going to produce the odd mistake. However, carry on, learn from it and become far better - easy!
- Sieve your flour just before using it. Clumps are tough to beat out of a mix and this should save you time and irritation.