Tender, smokey and rich, the shank or shin is one of the most glorious cuts you can BBQ. Here’s how to achieve perfectly tender smoked beef shank.
The beauty of barbecue lies in its ability to transform unloved cuts into something tender and delectable. The long and slow cooking process allows even the toughest meats to break down into glorious piles of soft and gelatinous shreds. All the classic cuts like brisket, pork butt and clod are notoriously stubborn unless subjected to a long cook. But there are lots of great cheap alternatives to the classics that perform so well in the smoker! Beef cheeks are one of the first alternatives that come to mind. They’re like little pillows of brisket that cook in about half the time.
So, here’s the biggest thing to keep in mind: the reason brisket is the holy grail of BBQ, is thanks to the natural marbling of collagen in the muscle. That’s what gives it brisket’s unique satisfyingly gelatinous wobble. Many of the other cuts that are suited for low and slow cooking do not have the same structure, and need a little help. That’s where a two step process steps in to win the day. Smobraising – smoking, THEN braising. Simply, this process is exposing the meat to several hours of smoke flavoring, then adding it to a liquid to braise until tender.
I’ve done this with deer necks, beef cheeks, shins, and short ribs. The really cool part about the Smobraise is the ability to customize with the liquid. For purists, this may be nothing more than broth or stock of the same animal, ie beef stock for beef, deer broth for venison, etc. For the more adventurous, you can use aromatics and richly flavored liquids to enhance and boost the final dish.
Some ideas for customizing the braising liquid include:
- LIQUIDS: Red wine, soy sauce, coffee, stout or other strong beer, balsamic vinegar.
- AROMATICS: star anise, fresh ginger, fresh garlic, szechuan peppercorn, citrus rind.
Braising liquid is only the final flavor step, and you’ll need to start with a strong foundation. For this beef shank I recommend Black or Camo seasoning – the Black is also a great if you choose to do this entire recipe in the oven as it will help form a lovely dark crust.
Note when purchasing the meat:
It’s not always easy to get your hands on a whole beef shin or shank (they’re the same cut, btw). You do pay a little more considering it has a whopping heavy bone in it, but it’s also extremely cost effective because you’re not paying for someone to butcher it in advance, and it’s already a cheap cut. If you cannot find a whole beef shank, you can use slices which you may find sold as Osso Buco. Note – if you use smaller pieces/slices, the cooking time will be dramatically decreased.Print