Aussies love slow cooked lamb shanks, and this might be the king of them all! With a rich, deeply flavoured red wine sauce, this is the sort of food you’ll find on the menu of fine dining restaurants. Oven, slow cooker, pressure cooker or stove top!
I have a real soft spot for slow cooked lamb shanks. I just love the look of a hunk of meltingly tender meat wrapped around the bone. Hits my carnivore sweet-spot, every time.
Honestly, if you put this and a towering frosted cake in front of me, this would win every day of the week and twice on Sunday:
COOKING LAMB SHANKS IS EASY!
Being a tough cut of meat that needs slow cooking to make it fall-off-the-bone tender, lamb shanks are actually very forgiving so it’s a real easy cut to cook with.
Leave it in for an hour too long, and the worst that will happen is that the meat falls off the bone when you go to serve it. If it’s not yet fork tender, just add more liquid and keep cooking.
The only key tip I have is to brown that shank as well as you can. It is a hard shape to brown evenly, but do what you can. Browning is the key flavour base for any protein that’s slow cooked in a braising liquid, like Beef Stew, Pot Roast, Chicken Stew. If you ever see a slow cooked stew recipe that doesn’t call for browning the meat before slow cooking, proceed with caution!
ABOUT THIS SLOW COOKED LAMB SHANK RECIPE
Lamb shanks are ideal slow roasted or braised. This is a braised version, and I’ve chosen a classic red wine sauce as the braising liquid.
The red wine sauce is super simple to make but after hours of slow cooking, it transforms into an incredible rich, deeply flavoured sauce that’s silky and glossy, and looks totally posh-restauranty.
Just a quick note on the wine – I do not use expensive wines for slow cooking. I truly believe from the bottom of my heart that even the snobbiest of all food snobs would not be able to tell the difference if you made this with a discount end-of-bin $5 bottle or a $50 bottle. (And the New York Times agrees….)
Maybe you could tell the difference using a $100 bottle. But that’s not within my budget….
This is one of those recipes that truly is terrific to make in the oven, stove, slow cooker or pressure cooker, as long as its started on the stove to brown the shanks and saute the onion etc. Right now, being winter here in Sydney, I choose the oven so it keeps my house nice and warm! – Nagi x
WATCH HOW TO MAKE IT
Recipe video above. A classic way to prepare shanks, these are slow cooked in a deeply flavoured red wine sauce until they are meltingly tender. You can't taste the red wine at the end, it completely transforms into a rich sauce. Make this in the oven, on your stove or even in a slow cooker - instructions provided for all!
- 4 lamb shanks , around 13 oz / 400g each (Note 1)
- 1 tsp each salt and pepper
- 2 - 3 tbsp olive oil , separated
- 1 cup onion , finely diced (brown, yellow or white)
- 3 garlic cloves , minced
- 1 cup carrot , finely diced (Note 2)
- 1 cup celery , finely diced (Note 2)
- 2 1/2 cups / 625 ml red wine , full bodied (good value wine, not expensive! Note 3)
- 28 oz / 800g can crushed tomatoes
- 2 tbsp tomato paste
- 2 cups / 500 ml chicken stock, low sodium (or water)
- 5 sprigs of thyme (preferably tied together), or 2 tsp dried thyme
- 2 dried bay leaves (or 4 fresh)
- Mashed potato, polenta or pureed cauliflower
- Fresh thyme leaves, optional garnish
Preheat the oven to 350F/180C.
Pat the lamb shanks dry and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
Heat 2 tbsp of olive oil in a heavy based pot over high heat. Sear the lamb shanks in 2 batches until brown all over, about 5 minutes.
Remove lamb onto a plate and drain excess fat (if any) from the pot.
Turn the heat down to medium low. Heat remaining 1 tbsp of olive oil in the same pot, if needed. Add the onion and garlic, cook for 2 minutes.
Add carrot and celery. Cook for 5 minutes until onion is translucent and sweet.
Add the red wine, chicken stock, crushed tomato, tomato paste, thyme and bay leaves. Stir to combine.
Place the lamb shanks into the pot, squeezing them in to fit so they are mostly submerged. (Note 1)
Turn stove up, bring to a simmer. Cover, then transfer to the oven for 2 hours (see notes for other cook methods).
Remove from oven, remove lid, then return to the oven for another 30 minutes (so 2 1/2 hours in total). Check to ensure lamb is tender - if not, cover and keep cooking. Ideal is tender meat but still holding onto bone.
Remove lamb onto plate and keep warm. Pick out and discard bay leaves and thyme.
Strain the sauce into a bowl, pressing to extract all sauce out of the veggies (Note 5 for repurposing the veggies). Pour strained sauce back into pot. Bring to simmer over medium heat and reduce slightly to a syrupy consistency (see video) - I rarely need to. Taste then add salt and pepper to taste.
Serve the lamb shanks on mashed potato or cauliflower puree with plenty of sauce! Garnish with thyme leaves if desired.
1. The size of lamb shanks vary considerably so make sure you get ones that will fit in your cooking vessel! 4 x 400g/13oz lamb shanks fits snugly in a 26cm/11" diameter Chasseur dutch oven which is what I use. They don't need to be completely submerged, just as long as most of the meaty end is mostly submerged, that's fine.
If you don't have a pot large enough, you can switch to a baking dish for the slow cooking part, and cover with a double layer of foil if you don't have a lid for it.
You can also ask your butcher to cut the shaft so it bends if you are concerned, or to trim it slightly.
2. Onion, carrot and celery is the "holy trinity" of slow cooking, creating a beautiful flavour base for the sauce. It's not a deal breaker to exclude the carrot and celery, but it does give the sauce an extra edge.
3. Use a good value full bodied red wine, like cabaret sauvignon or merlot - no need to use expensive wine. I use discount bottles from Dan Murphey's end of bin specials. Shiraz is ok too, or any mix of these Pinots are not suitable, they are too light. You can tell if a red wine is "full bodied" by looking at the colour - if they are a dark, deep red, then they are full bodied. If they are lighter and almost see through, then they are light reds.
4. Most of the alcohol in the red wine will evaporate during this step but not completely - it will finish evaporating during the slow cooking. The sauce does not taste winey at all, it completely transforms.
5. Sauce options: The other option is to blitz the sauce using a sick blender. The sauce will be thicker, and you'll have more of it (leftovers great tossed through pasta). This is what I used to do, but nowadays I prefer to strain the sauce because I like how glossy and rich it is - also very restauranty. You could also skip straining or blitzing, it just means you get little veg lumps in the sauce. All are tasty options, it mainly comes down to visual.
TIP: If you strain the sauce, keep the veggies etc in the strainer to make a terrific sauce, they are loaded with flavour even though all juice is squeezed out of them. What I do is make a basic tomato sauce with garlic, onion, canned tomato and water. Then I blitz that with the veggies. Use it to make a killer pasta or lasagna!!
6. OTHER COOK OPTIONS:
Slow cooker - Follow recipe to step 7. Bring sauce to simmer, scrape bottom of pot to get all brown bits into the liquid. Place shanks in slow cooker, add the sauce. Cook on low for 8 hours. Remove shanks, strain and reduce sauce to desired thickness on stove (if you blitz per Note 5, you won't need to reduce).
Pressure Cooker - Follow Slow Cooker steps, cook for 40 minutes on high. Release pressure according to manufacturer directions.
Stove - to cook this on the stove, cook for about 2 hours on low, ensuring that you check it at 1 hour then every 30 minutes thereafter to ensure there is enough braising liquid (because liquid evaporates faster on the stove). Turn the lamb shanks twice. You won't get the brown crust, but the flavour is the same!
7. Cauliflower puree - boil cauliflower florets until soft, drain and let steam dry for few minutes. Then puree with butter, milk or cream, salt and pepper. Use milk to adjust the consistency to your taste.
8. Slow Cooked Lamb Shanks Nutrition per serving. This is conservative - it doesn't take into account fat trimmed from shanks or discarded fat. Also assumes all sauce is consumed which it probably won't be.
Originally published August 2015, updated with new photos, video and a slightly refined recipe. Previously the base recipe said to blitz the sauce at the end. It looks much posher and actually does taste nicer just to strain it. 🙂
LIFE OF DOZER
And I stuck my tongue right back at him….