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Lamb meat is definitely pricier than beef, pork, and chicken, however, if you want to have a little taste of lamb, ask for lamb shank. This piece of meat is inexpensive but needs a little extra time and a little extra love.
If you are in the mood for lamb, try this cut first instead of opting for the pricey and quick grillables. Ever wondered where it comes from? Read on to know.
What Part of Lamb is Shank?
In simple terms, a shank is a cut from the shin of the lamb, from the bottom section of the leg just below the knee.
It is one of the flavorful and tough cuts from the lamb’s leg that become tender and juicy when properly cooked.
The lamb shank got its flavor and toughness because of the presence of connective tissues. With a low and slow cooking process, it can become velvety, flavorful, and fall-off-the-bone juicy.
There are different cuts of lambs but the shank happens to be the most inexpensive one. This tough piece of meat has a lot of tendons, collagen, and connective tissue, that’s why it is cooked over low heat.
It is often available french-trimmed, so, a small portion of meat is removed from the bone to make it look more pleasing.
Specifically, the end part of the shank piece is scraped clean of excess bone and fat.
As shank is a working muscle, they become tender and flavor-some when cooked through the moist, low, and slow methods. This piece is often overlooked due to the more easily grilled neighboring cuts.
How to Identify Lamb Shanks?
Shanks are cut from the area above the knee joint and below the leg. There are two different cuts of the shank; foreshank and hind shank. As the names imply, the foreshank is taken from the front legs whereas the hind shank comes from the rear leg.
This part of the lamb has a thin layer of fat and a paper-thin membrane covering.
It is leaner than the sirloin cut of the lamb. The membrane covering should be removed to make the meat more tender and flavorful.
Like all working muscles, it is tough and full of connective tissue and collagen, therefore, requires a long cooking time. It is typically a solid cut that has a center bone intact and cooked with little prep.
It is an affordable option for people who love lamb meat but avoid it due to the high price points. Because of its bold, gamey flavor, it is a fancy dish in Mediterranean cuisines such as Greek, Italian, French, and Moroccan.
Different Cuts of Lamb Shank
As mentioned earlier, lamb shank has two main cuts; foreshank and hind shank. Both Lamb shank cuts are popular among meat lovers, however, one is preferred over the other.
There are four shanks per lamb; two foreshanks and two hind shanks. Both these parts come from the lower region of the front and rear legs.
It is a bone-in cut from the lower portion of the front leg. Under the skin, you will find a thin layer of fat. Lamb foreshanks, being smaller, provide a sufficient amount of meat for a hearty serving.
Coming from the forequarter, it consists of the radius, ulna, carpus, and distal portion of the humerus bones, and associated muscles.
Most of the lamb shanks available in the market are foreshank, however, it might not be everyone’s favorite shank cut because of the less meat portion.
It is also cooked low and slow to transform into a tender and succulent piece of meat. The foreshank may take about 1 ½ hours to cook. It can be slow-roasted, stewed, and braised to break connective tissues.
The hind shank is preferred over the other cuts like a lamb chop because it is meatier and full of bold, gamey flavor. It is a knobbly part cut from the lower portion of the back leg.
This cut is typically a bit meatier and surrounds the marrow bone which adds to the flavor and texture. The meaty cut becomes meltingly tender when cooked with a low and slow cooking method.
This cut can be transformed into a rich meaty dish due to the high content of gelatinous sinew. One hind shank is more than enough for one person.
Which Lamb Shank is Better?
Foreshanks and hind shanks can be used in different recipes interchangeably as there is no significant difference between the two cuts in terms of flavor.
Both shank cuts are equally delicious, look super fancy, and offer enough meat for one serving. However, the hind shank is preferred over the foreshank as the former is larger and meatier than the latter.
If you do not have a lot of patience, buy a shank from the front leg as they can be quickly cooked owing to the smaller size. Hind shank will take slightly longer to cook as it is a meatier piece.
Is Lamb Shank Tender?
This popular item in many upscale restaurants is extremely tough and full of connective tissues, tendons, and collagen. When cooked through the long and slow method, it becomes flavorful, succulent, and tender.
What Does Lamb Shank Taste Like?
Famous for its gamey flavor, it has an even more intense flavor than the other milder cuts of lamb, such as loin or shoulder chops.
The strong gamey flavor pairs well with different spices, marinades, and aromatics like garlic, onions, fennel, ginger, lemon peel, and rosemary.
Being a tough piece of meat, they are best cooked low and slow until the meat begins to fall off the bone. Braising is one of the best cooking methods for lamb shanks.
Braising liquid keeps the meat from drying out and cooking it on low heat for hours gives this meat a more tender and succulent flavor. It can be pressure cooked but should be pan-fried or sautéed as it will become too tough to chew.
Lamb shin or lamb shank comes from the lower portion of the leg. It is pretty lean meat that has low calories and high connective tissues, therefore, cooked carefully to retain the flavor.