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lamb shanks...roasted or braised?

i was going to make a lamb shoulder but decided it was just too fatty (vs. a pork shoulder which, i think, has more meat together with some fat). i was going to do the long cook - as described in the l.a. times article from way back in 2009 about 6-8 hours of slow cooking (i've done it for pork shoulder before and it was superb..but one of our guests doesn't eat pork but does love lamb).

anyway, am thinking lamb shanks now...thinking 1 per person (they are about a pound each) ...but wondering if they can be slow roasted at 250 or would braising be the much better way to go?

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    1. I'm going to vote for braising. It's all about the delicious cooking liquid. Tie them to keep them on the bone.
      Good luck!

      1. There are recipes where braised turns into roasted toward the end of the cooking when you take off the lid--assuming it was cooked in the oven--and allow the liquids to reduce while the top half of the meat browns. Can make for a wonderful finish.

        1. Braised in red wine is the way to go.

          That said, make sure you brown the shanks well before you add the wine and braise them. That's the secret to great braised meat.

          4 Replies
          1. re: Db Cooper

            Isn't it a pain to brown shanks well? How many minutes, dare I say hours, of painstaking turning does it require? An alternative is to limit the braising liquid, so a good portion of the shakes are exposed to the moist but hot air inside the braising pot. You'll be surprised how much good color and flavor develops during a proper braise.

            1. re: paulj

              If your oil is hot, it takes about 15 minutes to brown them. You have to turn them three times total. It doesn't have to be perfect on the outside, just a good start. Depending on how many you have and the size of your Dutch oven, may have to work in batches. But it isn't that big a pain and in no way takes hours unless you are browning a huge amount, something 99.9% of home cooks aren't doing.

              1. re: Db Cooper

                the browning of the meat is key to the flavor of the sauce. same with browning the onions and carrots before adding any liquid.

                1. re: hotoynoodle

                  Never thought about it that way. Looks like I'll have to start browning them. Thanks! Aside from that, my vote is for braised and with red wine, same as DB. Cooked with cumin and garlic and served with a side of rice to ladle some braising liquid onto. Salad too. If possible a cucumber& tomato salad.

          2. Definitely braised. Shanks take a long time to cook and don't have a lot of fat, and if you don't have any liquid, they'll end up pretty dry by the time they are ready.

            1. Braised. There are so many good recipes out there. Check out the one from Nook and Pantry blog or the Complete Meat Cookbook for lamb shank osso bucco.

              1. The shanks are highly used muscles. You almost have to braise them. They would be tough as a boot if you roasted them.

                The bone in the shank will provide a lot of flavor in the braise.

                You might try an osso bucco with lamb shanks instead of veal shanks.

                1. Cast my vote for a braise as well. It's funny, I prepared lamb shanks two weeks ago, and pork shoulder this weekend- and I found the pork shoulder to be WAY fattier. In both cases though I made the meals a day in advance of serving, chilled them in the fridge, skimmed the fat and reheated before serving. I had maybe 1 cup of fat for the lamb and over 2 cups for the pork (probably more). And in both instances, I think the flavor improves with sitting overnight.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: mjhals

                    OP was saying that the lamb SHOULDER was fattier than the pork shoulder, not the lamb SHANKS. the shanks alone (just the lower part) have way less fat than a whole shoulder. btw, that fat from the pork shoulder makes a great soup base for tom kha gai. at least my version of tom kha gai. i usually freeze some of the liquid that comes from making pork shoulder, pork belly or especially my carnitas for doing soups.

                    1. re: cookmyassoff

                      and i agree with u on the fridge overnight thing.

                  2. Braised--and use this recipe:


                    (sorry-don't know how to make a link here


                    Absolutely. Flippin'. Wonderful.

                    Last time I made it, i did used canned whole peeled tomatoes, what wtih it being the dead of winter. Don't balk at the bottle of port--go with it, it's terrific.

                    Serve it over creamy polenta. you will be in heaven.

                    This is making my formerly delicious salad for lunch seem lacking..

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: SeaSide Tomato

                      Thanks for sharing! I got ambitious and made a huge pot of minestrone and also ragu bolognese on Sunday, which will feed us for awhile, but I'm making this dish next weekend. Can't wait to taste it.

                    2. Nothing wrong with braising...

                      But people are acting like it's impossible to roast a lamb shank and get a tender result when actually you can get it just as tender as a braise. Most roasting recipes call for the shanks to be covered for some or most of the cooking time (I'm sure someone will interject that using foil means you're not 'roasting' - semantics).

                      Upside of braise - braising liquid makes for an easy sauce, harder to screw up the texture

                      Upside of roasting - more intense and concentrated lamb flavor, generally better browning and crust

                      3 Replies
                      1. re: cowboyardee

                        i did a braised lamb shank with this great tomato/wine sauce, and ended up shredding up the lamb and it became sort of a lamb ragout. one night we had it over noodles, then the next night over polenta. it was sssooo gooood. i dont do recipes very often but we used the tom colicchio recipe as a base. it was great.

                        1. re: cowboyardee

                          But didn't you just argue in this thread
                          that you can get the best of both worlds with a 'true' braise?

                          1. re: paulj

                            Good point - I imagine that would be a pretty cool way of treating a lamb shank. Thanks for pointing it out. May have to pick up some lamb shanks and give it a try. Obviously I'm still working out ways to use the 'traditional' braise technique.

                            Plenty of good options for cooking this kind of cut.

                        2. ok...love the responses here. i've decided to serve braised lamb shanks - am using lidia bastianich recipe which incorporates some dried porcinis and using a nice orange-rind gremolata on top. am making them thurs. night and then defatting the pan - serving them sat. night so the flavors will have time to develop a bit. am serving them on top of a soft polenta. olives and pieces of parm to start and an arugula and radicchio salad. no idea what to do about dessert - something to cut through all that richness i think. have to go find the shanks tomorrow...found some fancy butcher and they are charging a ton for them...almost $10 a pound! geez. i need 11 of them - i'll go broke!

                          18 Replies
                          1. re: redgirl

                            I usually see them for $5.99 - 6.99 per pound which I think is bad enough. I wouldn't do it if I had to pay that price.

                            1. re: redgirl

                              Not too long ago lamb shanks were what they got rid of for $2.99/lb..about 5 years ago. I was at cheap but good store today and they were $4.50/lb. Other places it is a dollar more

                              1. re: redgirl

                                i just bought them for $3.98 per pound. you're being robbed. and for that many people, i'd do a leg, using the classic spoon lamb recipe. 11 shanks? that's like restaurant cooking and is krazee to do at home. how many ovens do you have?

                                also 1 pound each? that's really small.

                                1. re: hotoynoodle

                                  i didn't buy them at that price! am going out looking for less. i was going to do 1 leg per person..about a pound a leg.

                                2. re: redgirl

                                  maybe some sort of citrus sorbet for dessert? something acidic to cut the richness as u said. look around and i bet u can find the shanks for at least a little cheaper.

                                  1. re: redgirl

                                    Much as I love love love lamb shanks--and the recipe I supplied upthread, I would not dream of doing shanks for 11 --at 1per person. Agree with HT that leg of lamb is a better option for such a crowd.

                                    1. re: SeaSide Tomato

                                      found them for $5.99 and bought 12...they are not huge - just under a pound a piece. the harder part will be browning them in batches. putting them on soft polenta. the decision here is (and i'd love opinions): a plain polenta made with water or a polenta made with chicken stock (there's stock in the braise liquid for the lamb.) i think the latter...I always want lots of bang for flavor but not quite sure.

                                      1. re: redgirl

                                        I'd use some stock in the polenta and maybe even some Pec or Parm... maybe even fresh herbs, but most of all, if you can, put them in a slow cooker so you don't have to be stir, stir stirring right before service.

                                        1. re: redgirl

                                          i usually do my polenta with half water/half cream or milk, and def add some good quality parm in there too. curious...where did u find the shanks for that price?

                                          1. re: redgirl

                                            i'd do stock and either parm or romano stirred in at the end.

                                            what tiny shanks, jeebus.

                                            what on earth will you cook them all in? they shouldn't be all jammed into the pot.

                                            1. re: hotoynoodle

                                              i live in an mainly-orthodox-jewish section of brooklyn (not borough park) and we're not orthodox. but, guess what? orthodox families are BIG and the local store has some BIG pots and i bought one years ago. fit all twelve of them (yes, they aren't huge but will be perfect one per person). i wouldn't want to lift it though so i'm simmering them on top of the stove instead of in the oven.

                                              1. re: redgirl

                                                my dad lives in a neighborhood in brooklyn like that. i wonder if you are neighbors? lol.

                                                i just finished a stovetop braise of 2 shanks that were almost 4 pounds with the bones.

                                                red wine, onions, garlic carrots, tomato, bay, thyme and fennel. a bit of orange juice. the shanks took about 3 hours on very low heat. i reduced the cooking liquid and seasoned it. WOW! super good. will have it for dinner saturday, with polenta and sauteed zucchini ribbons with lemon and almonds.

                                                1. re: hotoynoodle

                                                  YUM. ...we've been here a very long time and the neighborhood shifted around us. happens that way.
                                                  i made them and pulled them from the liquid - covered them and put them in the fridge. my intention is that tomorrow i'll easily grab the fat off the top and then - here's the 1st question...put the shanks back in the liquid til saturday? or keep them separate? i haven't reduced the sauce yet...thinking i would reduce it til later...but maybe i should before i put the shanks back in or it will be a pain and they'll really fall apart when i go to serve them hot!
                                                  2nd quesiton: how much actual polenta (dry and uncooked) for soft polenta for 8 or 9?

                                                  1. re: redgirl

                                                    one cup for four people.

                                                    Do three cups so you have plenty and/or extr for leftovers.

                                                    I use half broth, half mik, six clooves garlic and tarragon-about 1TBS salt.

                                                    your dinner sounds great!!

                                                    1. re: redgirl

                                                      are you hoping to keep them on the bone for plating? just handle with care. you can always sort of arrange them to look on the bone, lol. mine are in the reduced liquid, waiting for saturday dinner. just be careful with the salt.

                                                      as for the polenta, it depends how much water you add. i use the no-stir, slow oven method and prefer it slightly stiffer, instead of really mushy and soft. i use stock, water and butter. when it's about 1/2 cooked, i stir in some grated cheese and salt to taste. i usually do 2 or 3 parts water to 1 part polenta. if you like it softer, consider 4 or 5 parts water. for 12 people for dinner, i'd make a big pan, probably 3 cups dry. leftovers will last a week and are great with eggs and such. i'd always rather have too much than not enough.

                                                      are you serving anything red or green, for color on the plate?

                                                2. re: hotoynoodle

                                                  so they're small in your eyes. take a pill already. got help? give it. no one needs a detractor.

                                                3. re: redgirl

                                                  They brown really well on a shallow pan in a hot-ish oven. Lightly oil and into the oven for about 30 minutes, which is plenty of time to do your veg prep. Then proceed with your braise.

                                            2. On a completely different note.....

                                              I marinate for a few hours in:
                                              White wine
                                              Lemon Juice
                                              Olive Oil

                                              Dry and smoke over hardwood charcoal and grape vines @ 250F for a few hours until tender.