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What went wrong with my Veal Osso Bucco?

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I made veal osso bucco for the second time for a dinner party. The first time it was fall-off-the-bone delicious, but last night the meat was not very tender and it was hard to separate the meat due to it's fat content. I was so disappointed because I paid a steep price for it and everything else (milanese risotto, brussel sprouts with pistachios and lemon, spinach salad with proscuitto and pine nuts) was perfect. I wonder if the osso bucco didn't have enough liquid in the pan (perhaps last time I had more sauce), or if the cut of the meat was poor? I used a dutch oven on top of my stove and cooked the veal shanks for over two hours on simmer. The tomato, beef stock, carrots, celery, onion and bacon liquid covered the shanks about half way. The last time I used the same recipe. Any thoughts, or cooking experience you'd like to share with me? I am frustrated with the results.

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  1. Just a thought.....

    If you do not include the actual preparations methods you used....it is hard for any one to determine where the mistakes occurred.

    Amount of liquid and type.
    Cooking Vessel with or without covering
    Oven or Stovetop....or other

    This is the type information needed to assess your query.

    1. I agree with fourunder. There are many variables. I have a recipe that I have made about 4 times and I get consistent results each time. Mine only briefly browns the shanks on the stovetop and then cooks in the oven.
      Let me know if you would like me to post the recipe.

      1. I think it's pretty important to cover the meat all the way, otherwise it will not benefit from the braising liquid. I always cook my osso bucco in the oven.

        1 Reply
        1. re: sibeats

          If you turn the meat several times during the cooking you don't have cover it all the way to take advantage of the flavorings. A plus is that you end up with a more concentrated liquid in the end. And the meat that is exposed to the hot air above the liquid develops flavor from browning.

        2. I've cooked osso bucco both on top of the stove in nice deep pan/with a lid that is heavy (non-stick) and in the same pan in the oven. I have been disappointed once. First of all I used beef shanks, not knowing any better, and then I find that it is really important that cook it low and slow. Keep the lid on, and make sure to barely cover the shanks with your liquid.

          The time I messed them up, not knowing any better I had purchased beef shanks which were not as good as veal,and then on top of that I dried them out because I simply was holding dinner and the sauce cooked down.

          The sentence you wrote "it was hard to separate the meat due to it's fat content." I am guessing that there was a lot of fat? And that the meet sort of clumped of the bone? That might be caused by the age of the veal/beef. Are you sure you got veal, it should be very very pale.

          1 Reply
          1. re: chef chicklet

            I've never cooked veal shanks, but have cooked beef shanks several times recently using a peppery seasoning (Peposo). I've had no problem getting the meat tender, though I certainly cooked it longer than 2 hrs. Actually the most traditional Peposeo cooks the meat overnight in an industrial kiln (by tile makers). And the beef shank slices that I bought were not particularly fatty either; certainly no worse than chuck.

            In the problem case, where was the fat on the shanks? I assume you were using slices an inch or two thick. Could you have trimmed the fat off before cooking?

            Generally with a braised dish like this, I like to cook it in the evening when I have plenty of time, and then store it in the fridge. When I reheat it I can remove the fat that has solidified on the surface, trim the meat if necessary, and adjust seasoning before serving.


          2. If you absolutely did everything the same this time as you did last time, then it has to be the meat. I've pretty much given up on osso bucco in this country because my experience is that American "veal" is so undependable. True veal, by definition, has only had milk for its diet. Once it eats grass, it's "baby beef." And often as not, I pay for veal but get baby beef. Sounds like you may have gotten an animal even older. Good veal should be as light in color or lighter than pale pork.

            1. As noted by others it's hard to tell what went wrong without specifics. How large were the shanks and did they appear excessively fatty before cooking? I find that shanks in the 2 to 3 inch size work best. I always cover at least 3/4 of the way with braising liquid and turn the shanks several times during the braising time and I think the amount of liquid is very important to the final result. I always start the braise on the stovetop until it reaches a simmer and then finish in the oven at 325F. When the meat is meltingly tender remove from the heat. I find the whole thing generally tastes best after a day of flavor mingling so I cool, cover and refrigerate overnight. This is also very nice in party planning as a major componant is completed well in advance. Just re-heat, place shanks on individual plates, and if the braising liquid seems to watery, reduce to desired consistancy

              My basic technique starts with sauteing pancetta (versus your bacon - just a flavor preference) over medium heat until it renders most of it's fat. Remove the pancetta from the pan and set it aside. Supplement the rendered pancetta fat with olive oil in order to brown the flour dedged shanks over higher heat. Brown over medium high heat for about 5 minutes per side then remove shanks to a plate and season generously with salt and pepper. Then I make my braising liquid by sauteing onions, carrots and celery, re-adding the pancetta towards the end when the vegetables are translucent and then deglazing with wine. I use home made meat stock which gets reduced with freshthyme, tomatoes (canned or peeled and seeded fresh in season) the veggies and wine plus I add capers and kalamata olives (for that certain extra piquancy that many osso bucco recipes seem to lack). The meat, along with any juices collected on the plate, gets returned to the pan and additional meat stock is added to almost cover. I finish as indicated above. I've never had anything but moist and tender and falling off the bone deliciousness. I've used the same recipe and technique with lamb and beef shanks albeit with a slightly altered finishing technique to remove excessive fat and gristle from the latter before serving.

              I hope this helps!