HOME > Chowhound > Home Cooking >


Quick veal shanks question (for Osso buco)

I want to make Osso Buco this weekend and am not sure what type of veal shanks to get. I have read some of the threads on Chowhound and there was discussion about using hind shanks which are smaller...and some from a certain part of the leg...

Can anyone offer some tips and suggestions? I'm going to a market where I can't trust that the butcher will just give me the best shanks for Osso Buco without me being specific. Knowledge is power. Thanks!

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. I'm no butcher. But there really isn't much to debate. It comes from the shanks, and usually they cut from the forelegs, not the hind legs. I'm not sure they will have meat from the hind legs available to you, unless you are going to a specialty meat shop that has the entire carcass there being butchered. I would be very surprised if there was much difference between the two, anyway. Perhaps more knowledgeable hounds can correct me if I'm wrong, or you can research the threads you recall.

    I would just ask them for veal shanks cut cross-wise, with as much meat on them as possible.

    1. I've actually never used veal shanks. but instead the beef shanks normally available at my markets. (Especially affordable at Latin grocers, by the way.) So we'll see what others say about the beef/veal.

      In my experience, any shank works fine if cooked well. But of course you get a higher proportion of meat and also a bit more marrow when you get the beefier cuts from higher up the leg, esp. from the rear (hind is larger, so I've thought). Taste- and texture-wise, a shank is a shank. If possible, I also recommend getting cuts that are a bit thicker than an inch (1.25-2").

      1. Foreleg shank, from as high up as possible on the leg without actually being leg. : )
        Edit: oops, Bada Bing got in there first.
        Someday I will learn to fully read threads, but apparently not today.
        Enjoy the Ossobucco; what are you serving with it?

        1. Thanks for the tips. I'm going shopping for them now. I plan on serving them with a parmesan risotto and haricots verts with lemon and pepper.

          1. Hmmmm... I've seen veal shanks on the hoof walking around moo-ing and I've seen veal shanks on the tray in my butcher's display case. I can't say I've noticed front legs having more meat than hind legs, but I suppose that depends on what your butcher is calling "shank." A true shank is the part of the leg that lies between the knee and the ankle. In cattle, there's not that much difference between the front and rear shanks. I've attached a couple of pictures, one of a cow (that obviously gives strawberry milk!) and one of a calf. You can see that whether it's an adult or a calf, there's not a lot of difference. *IF* they're cutting above the "knee," then there will be a little difference with variance from breed to breed. But the bottom line is that everywhere I've ever shopped in the last decade or two, veal is hard to come by so you probably won't have a lot of choice. Good luck with finding meaty ones!

            6 Replies
            1. re: Caroline1

              Thanks for the pix, especially of the strawberry milk cow!

              This was my first time making Osso Buco and I used Marcella Hazan's recipe as a guide as well as tips gleaned from Julia Child and Jacques Pepin. The Web site I'm linking to is where I got the basic recipe. The writer says the hind shanks are meatier (as does Julia Child).

              However, as was pointed out on this thread, at the store, the shanks were marked as Veal Shanks for Osso Buco, nothing more. You bought them as they were or you didn't buy them. They were expensive.


              Yesterday, I braised the shanks. I let them cool down and then refrigerated them overnight. Today the fat has risen and thickened and will be easy to. I am serving them tonight for dinner along with risotto and lemon pepper string beans, and with the same wine I used for the braise - a 2008 Vittiano white, nice and dry, and not expensive.

              I sampled the braising liquid periodically as it was cooking, and was blown away with how the flavors developed - full and rich from the veal shanks. It would be excellent on its own as a soup without the meat.

              I am not using gremolata at the end as hubby does not care for it...but there was lemon peel, parsley and garlic in the dish and the flavors are harmoniously there. Can't wait to try it with the meat tonight.

              Thanks for the tips.

              1. re: TrishUntrapped

                The veal shanks were excellent! I spooned off the accumulated fat and reheated them slowly. The meat was so tender you could eat it with a spoon, which we did. The spoon was also good for getting every bit of the delicious sauce which danced with savory flavors.

                The veal went very well with risotto and lemon pepper string beans.

                Will make this again.

                1. re: TrishUntrapped

                  They are delicious! The only problem is that when you get to be my age, you can remember when veal shanks were considered "dog bones" and the butcher gave them to you free! And now they run around the same price as tenderloin! Ah, yes. Time travel is the only answer. '-)

                  1. re: Caroline1

                    I totally agree with Caroline1. Shanks, whether lamb or veal or beef, used to be cheap meat. Nowadays it costs a lot to buy these mostly bone meats, and lamb/veal shanks have become a luxury. It's also true of oxtails and short ribs.

                    I love the idea of shopping in Mexican stores.....probably Asian stores have cheaper meat as well. I suppose I'll have to research this. Tough on me, I'll admit, having to make and eat veal and/or lamb shanks. I'll bite the bullet.

                2. re: TrishUntrapped

                  I cook OB every year in the winter. The recipe you showed is very traditional, but I prefer a few changes. I dredge the shanks in a spiced flour and brown them in bacon grease (instead of veg oil) until a nice crispy brown forms all around it. Remove to side dish and spoon the oil out and keep the dredgings in. Add olive oil and some butter, then saute' the onions, carrots and celery until about cooked through. Place the shanks back on top, add one to one ratio chicken and beef broths, then some white wine (helps counter the acidity of the tomatoes)...bring to a simmering kind of boil. Add fire roasted diced tomatoes to cover and fill between the shanks completely. Lower heat and let cook for 2 hours minimum...

                  Otherwise, same spices (basil, oregano, thyme, bay leaf, chipotle or red peppers for a kick and a whole new layer of flavor, garlic near the end) and technique - slow cook until meat is fork tender, and the trinity has married.

                  Cous Cous with pine nuts...excellent alternative to fat pasta or risottos...wine to serve with, a big fat Napa Cab or complex Bordeaux. After 6 hours of love you gotta have the right wine. A great dish on a Sunday Night Football in cold rainy weather...

                3. re: Caroline1

                  last time I made Osso Buco it had a faintly sweet berry taste.... thanks now I know where that came from.

                4. I wanted to convert Mario Batali's recipe for Osso Buso for the slow cooker and I think this is the right group of experts to ask:


                  I have seen slow cooker recipes that call for cooking on low anywhere from 6-10 hours! Big Difference!

                  And......Mario says on the introduction for this recipe that "Contrary to popular belief, you can overcook veal shanks and it is important that they do not dry out, so pay careful attention to the final half hour of cooking time"
                  ........would that apply to a slow cooker? Dry out??

                  5 Replies
                  1. re: MSK

                    I have a slow cooker but haven't actually used it. But I make osso buco a lot using beef shanks, veal shanks and lamb shanks. The only difference I see is that the (cheaper) beef shanks have a lot more fat and gristle than the veal or lamb. This is easily remedied although a PITA but I find the beef shanks have better flavor than the vastly pricier veal shanks. Lamb shanks make a different dish that I adore but not everyone goes for lamb so it is reserved for family and close friends. As to over-cooking osso buco I am a bit flummoxed. You can over cook anything but osso buco, as long as kept moist is pretty forgiving. Mario's recipe looks like many and should work in a slow cooker as long as you brown the meat intensely but ultimately a bit boring. I think that osso buco requires acidity to the sauce itself to make it interesting. The gremolata is not enough Here's my version with capers and olives.

                    Braised Veal Shanks with Olives, Capers & Gremolata

                    ¼ to 1/3 lb pancetta, thickly sliced & diced
                    1 to 2 tbl each, olive oil and butter
                    4 to 6 veal shanks (osso buco) or beef or lamb shanks cut into pieces about 2 to 3 inches thick
                    2 carrots, finely diced
                    1 large onion, finely diced
                    2 stalks celery, finely diced
                    4 to 6 sprigs fresh thyme leaves
                    4 medium tomatoes, peeled and cored (seeded if excessively seedy) and
                    ½ to 3/4 cups dry white wine
                    1 to 3 cups meat stock, preferably homemade (my stock was made from veal
                    shank, turkey legs and chicken thighs plus vegetables and spices. Low sodium preferred.
                    1/8 cup rinsed and drained capers
                    ½ cup pitted black olives, preferably kalamata
                    Flour for dusting the meat
                    Salt & Pepper to taste
                    ½ cup minced flat leaf parsley
                    Zest of 2 lemons, finely grated or minced
                    2 cloves garlic, minced

                    Preheat the oven to 325F. You'll need a large pan to brown then to braise
                    the veal in the oven. A Dutch oven or enameled cast iron casserole work
                    well. Heat pan over medium heat and add the pancetta. Sauté until it
                    gives off most of its' fat and remove from pan. Add butter and olive oil to
                    pan and increase heat to medium high. Dredge veal/beef/lamb in flour all over and
                    shake off excess flour. Brown in pan (do this in batches if necessary) all
                    over, about 5 minutes per side, and set aside on a plate. Season generously
                    with salt and pepper. Add onion, celery and carrot and sauté till
                    translucent then return pancetta to pan. Sauté a few more minutes. Deglaze
                    pan with wine taking care to scrape up all the brown bits. Let reduce until
                    almost all wine evaporates. Add ½ cup meat stock and the tomatoes and
                    reduce for about 5 minutes. Add thyme leaves, capers, and black olives plus
                    about 1-cup meat stock. Let heat through and transfer contents of the sauté
                    pan to the casserole with the meat. Make sure that braising liquids raise
                    at least ¾ of the way up the meat. Place in oven and cook till the meat
                    starts to separate from the bone and the meat is meltingly fork tender (at
                    least 2 hours but more will not hurt as long as you add additional stock or
                    wine as needed to keep the meat moist.
                    While meat cooks prepare the gremolata. . Place veal shanks portions along with a generous serving of the braising sauce (reduce on the stove top if not thick enough to your liking) on plates. Top the veal shanks generously with the gremolata.

                    1. re: KateBChi

                      This does look interesting thank you.

                      1. re: KateBChi


                        Any recipe calling for "olives, capers and gremolata" cannot be anything but deelish! Thanks for the recipe. If I decide to spend lots of dough for lots of bones, I'll use it and let you know how we liked it.

                        1. re: oakjoan

                          Thanks! It is really the best version I have ever had or made. If you don't want to make your own stock, in a pinch, you can use doctored stock. Basically buy low sodium stock and simmer with chopped onions, carrots, celery or whatever and a chicken leg or two for 30 to 40 minutes. It dramatically improves the flavor of store bought stocks.


                      2. re: MSK

                        I think a slow cooker is just fine. All slow cookers are different, and I would check the instruction booklet with yours to see recommended cooking times. My initial thought is six hours should be plenty.

                      3. More important than the end of the animal the shank comes from is where on the shank. Middle third is best, where the bone is smallish and surrounded by a nice portion of meat. Toward the knee and ankle is mostly bone.

                        Here's what it should look like:

                        3 Replies
                        1. re: rjbh20

                          a closer look at this photo does answer my question below. I believe the shank at store #2 had a bigger bone and less meat??

                          1. re: rjbh20

                            there are many that will argue that the bone marrow is the best part!

                            1. re: JRCann

                              All the more reason to get the ones from the middle of the shank -- the end piece are mostly solid bone.

                          2. OK... so now I am really getting into the "meat" of this...so to speak. I've never made Osso Buco before nor dealt with Shanks in any way. I don't know if I knew what i was getting into when I volunteered it for a pot luck for 12.

                            I got a little nervous by reading on posts here that the expense would be astronomical for Veal so I began considering Beef as an alternative. Is it personal preference between the taste in this particular dish or is one really much better than the other?

                            I did price the shanks at 2 local stores and I am suspicious that there is a huge difference in price for the Veal between the 2 locations:

                            The first is a small, high end , independent grocery that I trust implicitly to only carry top quality, but for a price....they were $15/lb. A lot for a pot luck but not as high as I had feared. I did not have a chance to view the shanks, however as they were frozen in the back (due to shelf space).

                            The second is a larger store part of a small chain. Many people think it's high end because it is quite expensive but I don't think the quality stands up. They had Veal shanks in their case for $5/lb and I am concerned about how big that difference is. The shanks were cut into long 5-6 inch sections.

                            Of course I would love to save the $$ but could it be, as mentioned here and elsewhere on Chow that they are just from different section of the leg and therefore less desireable? Less meat per shank??

                            Lastly, can I sear the meat on Fri. and then compile the ingredients in the slowcooker on Sat. for consumption that evening? I often do that with other slow cooker recipes but am questioning this one for some reason.

                            Thanks for the advice!!!

                            9 Replies
                            1. re: MSK

                              I saw those shanks for $4.99/lb too (at MS) and would not hesitate to buy if I had the time to make o.b. I've used them in the past, and they've been fine. Just have the butcher slice them into 2" sections.

                              1. re: Sarah

                                MS's it was!...... Was I standing next to you at the case with a pondering look on my face?
                                The other store is Woodlands....I really love those guys!

                                1. re: jaykayen

                                  Currently on offer at Restaurant Depot (NY) for $5/lb, case only. Nice cuts, too

                                2. re: MSK

                                  So here's how it turned out......YUMMY!

                                  I purchased the beef shanks for the pot luck. I decided to do Mario Batali's recipe and it was perfect. Very easy too! I prepped everything the day before (browned the meat, made the wine/stock/vegi sauce as well as the basic tomato sauce but kept them separate until I compiled them in the slow cooker. The meat was still tough at 6 hours but good by 7 1/2 -8 on low. After 8 hours, the meat started to break apart to be incorporated in the sauce rather than staying in chunks (Maybe that's what is meant by overcooking?).

                                  I doubled the recipe for 12 people and had some leftover sauce so I am making another batch with the pricier Veal shanks for just the family. I will let you know if there is a big difference.

                                  1. re: MSK

                                    I really wanted to be able to post that there was not that big a difference between the Beef and the Veal but I just can't. The Veal meat was just sweeter and more tender.

                                    I looked again at the Veal Shanks at the first store I mentioned above ($5/ lb) and saw that they were mostly bone with only a little meat. The amount of marrow on those 6 inch babies would have been awesome but the cut was apparently from the lower part of shank that has less muscle.

                                    This is not the product I made this second batch of OB with that had better flavor. Just an observation for arguments sake. No cheaper way around it I guess?

                                    1. re: MSK

                                      Interesting -- name of first store please (the "good" veal) -- MVM, PF, WM, BF, other?

                                      1. re: Sarah

                                        Woodlands - good veal - $15/lb, no beef shanks
                                        WF's in San Rafael - good beef shanks - $5/lb, veal shanks were $3 more/lb than Woodlands
                                        MS's - Veal shanks for $5 but not meaty

                                        Didn't check out PF or MVM, don't know BF?

                                        1. re: MSK

                                          BF = Bryant's Foods in CM. Guess WF's the place if the veal looks ok. Thanks!

                                3. Get thick slices from the middle of the hind shank. This cut has a good amount of meat and is more tender than the foreshank.

                                  Excellent recipe from Clifford A. Wright here: