How to cook lamb shanks

Find out everything you need to know about cooking lamb shanks. From prep to braising, our ultimate guide will make sure you cook this popular meat perfectly every time.

Lamb shank is a cut of meat on the bone, which has been taken from the top of the lamb’s leg. The ‘fore shank’ is from the front legs, while the back legs are referred to as ‘hind shanks’.

Traditionally a lamb shank was known as a very cheap cut of meat, however with a spike in popularity over the past few years, lamb shanks have recently increased in price. A pack of two small lamb shanks can be priced anywhere between £5-£10 a pack from the supermarket.

Ingredients

  • vegetable oil, for frying
  • 4 lamb shanks
  • 90g plain flour
  • Large glass red wine
  • 1 onion, sliced
  • 1 large carrot
  • 3 fresh sprigs of rosemary
  • 2 fresh sprigs of thyme
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 300ml chicken or vegetable stock

Method

  1. Allow the meat to come to room temperature and pat dry with kitchen paper.
  2. Heat a large ovenproof pan on high heat, add a little oil and sear the meat in batches in a single layer until evenly browned all over.
  3. Add wine, stock, vegetables, and herbs. Make sure that the liquid covers at least a third to a half of the meat and bring to a gentle simmer. 
  4. Cover with a lid and transfer into the preheated oven or continue to simmer gently on the hob at a consistent temperature. The oven method is gentler and the meat should not stick to the pot.
  5. Check from time to time and top up with liquid if needed. See below for times and oven temperatures. This recipe serves four people.

What temperature should lamb shanks be cooked to?

The temperature you cook lamb shanks will vary on the method you choose to cook them.

  • Classic braised lamb shanks cook at 180ºC-200ºC/Gas 4-6 for 1 ½ to 2 hours
  • Slow-braised lamb shanks cook at 140ºC-160ºC/Gas 1-3 for 4-6 hours

How to cook lamb shanks in a slow cooker

Cooking lamb shanks in a slow cooker is a similar process to braising, the meat will however be much more tender and moist and will fall off the bone but will, of course, take longer to cook overall. 

  1. Allow the meat to come to room temperature and pat dry with kitchen paper.
  2. Heat a large ovenproof pan on high heat, add a little oil and sear the meat in batches in a single layer until evenly browned all over. Transfer to the bowl of a slow cooker.
  3. Deglaze the pan with the red wine and add to the slow cooker, along with the stock, vegetables, and herbs. Make sure that the liquid covers at least a third to a half of the meat and bring to a gentle simmer. 
  4. Turn the slow cooker on high and leave to cook for 8 hours. Check halfway through and top up with liquid if needed.

How do you know when lamb shanks are cooked?

We recommend checking the casserole after 1 hour and at regular intervals thereafter. Insert a meat fork into the thickest part of the joint – it should slide in and out easily and the meat shouldn’t be tough.

You can also use a meat thermometer to test the internal temperature of the lamb shank to make sure it’s cooked fully:

  • 53-57C for medium-rare
  • 58-62C for medium
  • 63-67C for medium-well

Why is my lamb shank tough?

If you are experiencing issues with the texture of your lamb shanks and finding the meat tough, this could be the result of a couple of things.

Firstly, you may not have let the lamb shanks cook for long enough. The shank is tough meat as it’s a muscle that is put to work, so it will only be tender if you show it a little patience.

It could also be that you haven’t prepared it well enough. Leaving the silverskin and not trimming the tendons can also result in tough meat. 

Our best lamb shank recipes

Lamb shank is luxurious meat that can be served in a variety of different ways. It’s all about choosing a quality cut of meat, taking your time when cooking, and pairing it well with some of our inspirational recipes.

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