In some recipes, certain cuts of quality meat seem to be irreplaceable. Even though beef shank is a rather unique cross-section of the leg, there are still similar cuts that could replace it.
Beef shank is a popular ingredient of Osso Buco and one of the best-quality beef cuts you could get your hands on. However, not everyone appreciates its texture and the time it takes to prepare it properly.
Whether you were unable to find a nice piece of beef shank, or you’d simply like to use something else, we can help you find the best beef shank substitute!
The best substitutes for beef shank
Beef shank is a meat cut that comes from the leg portion, and it is usually cut into cross sections for the best ratio of the meaty and the fatty parts. Beef shank is also commonly referred to as shank cross-cuts due to this method of cutting.
This piece of meat comes either from a cow or a bull, and it has a rather low-fat content compared to other popular beef cuts. However, this makes it a bit tougher and chewier – especially if not prepared well.
When it comes to preparing beef shank, slow cooking seems to provide the best results, since we’re talking about a tough piece of meat. It is most suitable for slow-cooked meals that will allow the meat to cook thoroughly and tenderize as much as possible.
Properly cooked beef shank should be easily pulled apart using a fork. However, the beef shank can also be used for ground meat for your lean hamburger patties – especially if you enjoy a drier patty with less fat.
Since the shank is located in the leg, which undergoes a large amount of pressure every single day, the texture of the meat is rather thick and stiff. Shank is also one of the most economical beef cuts you can get since it yields a large amount of meat.
In most stores, you’ll be able to find boneless beef shank, as well as the cut with the bone, depending on what you want to prepare. You can always use the bones for bone broths or similar dishes if you prefer to remove them.
Due to the thick texture we’ve talked about, the best way to prepare a beef shank would be by braising it in a lot of liquid. This will allow for the meat to soften completely, especially if you use a slow cooker.
When it comes to beef shank recipes, it pairs amazingly with garlic, onions, tomato sauce, and of course – beef stock that you can use for braising. Beef Burgundy is one of the most popular beef shank dishes, where you cook beef chunks in red wine and mushroom soup.
Stay tuned for the best meat cuts to use to replace beef shank in your recipes!
1. Beef arm roast
This beef cut comes from the shoulder of the animal, and just like animal legs, their shoulder area is pretty frequently used, as well. This kind of daily pressure makes the meat tough – and that makes beef arm roast the best substitute for beef shank.
Due to this tough, chewy texture, the beef arm is also suitable for cooking techniques such as braising. It basically requires slow cooking to allow for the meat to tenderize, release its juices, and absorb the flavoring of the braising liquid.
Beef arm, just like a beef shank, has a low-fat content, which also makes it a great substitute for a beef shank steak.
2. Chuck roast
Chuck roast, just like beef arm roast, is located in the shoulder area, so you can expect to get a similar meat texture as a beef shank cut. However, this cut isn’t all shoulder, which gives it a bit of a mixed structure.
In addition to the shoulder area, the chuck also entails some of the neck area, which may make it a bit more tender than both beef shank and beef arm roast. It is an ideal option for those of you who don’t appreciate the chewiness of beef shank meat.
Also, you’ll notice that the chuck does contain more fat than the shank and the arm, which makes it a great option for ground meat, as well as slow cooking without the addition of any oils!
Some would think that this is a bit of a stretch when it comes to replacements for the beef shank. However, don’t beat it ‘till you’ve tried it! Oxtail, as the name itself implies, is the meat taken from the tail of the animal, and it is quite lean and flavorful.
However, it isn’t as dry as you may think, since it does have some marbling to it. This unique blend of lean fat and delicious fat makes it one of the best choices for cooked beef meals. Nevertheless, oxtail is more on the pricey side, but it is certainly worth every penny.
Silverside, just like beef shank, comes from the leg of the animal – the only difference being in the cut. It is located on the outside portion of the outer leg, right between the knuckle and the topside. Coming from the leg, it is also a bit sturdy and tough.
When dealing with tougher meat, the best way to prepare it is in a slow cooker. You can add your braising liquid of choice (beef stock, mushroom soup, tomato sauce, red wine), your favorite seasoning, herbs, and veggies.
Over time, the meat will absorb all the different aromas and flavors and come to a tender, smooth consistency.
5. Skirt steak
If you choose skirt steak, you will also be dealing with a tougher piece of meat with a lot of connective tissue. While many people try to stay away from this kind of texture, it is precisely the connective tissue that makes the skirt steak so flavorful and prevents it from being dry.
As opposed to beef shank that is mainly used for slow cooking, skirt steak does give you more options. It is a beautiful piece of meat to put on a grill, which helps it retain all its flavors and moisture. You should also try cooking it directly on coals for a beautiful aroma and color.
As we’re talking about a tough meat texture, you want to make sure not to overcook it. The best cooking point for skirt steak is medium-rare to medium.
6. Beef tendon
Beef tendon is a perfect beef shank alternative if you do not shy away from tough, fibrous meat. Just like beef shank, it does not contain much fat as it is mainly lean meat, which requires a bit more cooking than other beef cuts.
This beef piece is very popular in Chinese, Japanese, Thai, and Vietnamese cooking. It is certainly one of the best options for slow-cooked stews and soups since its flavor enhances the more you cook it. Don’t be afraid to let your beef tendon dish simmer for hours!
7. Short ribs
This replacement for beef shank meat comes from the chuck section of the animal, as these are the first five ribs that don’t belong to the actual rib portion. While ribs are generally prepared with the bone, you can also remove the meat and prepare it on its own.
The meat from the ribs is tough and chewy, and even though it may lack the softness that other beef cuts offer, it is much more flavorful. Many people choose to grill short ribs, but they’re also delicious braised.
The slow-cooking allows for the meat the easily fall off the bone and tenderize as much as possible.
8. Veal shank
Veal usually comes from male calves, and the more mature the animal is – the tougher the meat will be. Therefore, if you’re looking for a tougher piece of meat similar to beef shank, you can count on matured veal.
Veal shanks come from both the front and the rear legs of the animal, and they’re distinguished as foreshanks and hind shanks. Keep in mind when buying your veal shanks that the hind shanks are larger and yield more meat.
9. Beef neck
As the name itself suggests, this beef cut is taken from the neck portion, and it offers far more versatility than the cuts we’ve mentioned previously. It allows for both quick cooking, which will leave the meat tougher, or slow-cooking which will tenderize it completely.
The beef neck can easily replace beef shank in your slow-cooked meals – especially if you’re using a slow cooker. It is an ideal choice for all kinds of soups and stews, but you can also throw it on a grill if you’re too impatient to wait for it to tenderize.
How to choose a beef shank substitute
Sometimes you may not be able to find the best cut of beef shank, which calls for an adequate replacement. Depending on whether you’re making a slow-cooked meal, or you need a nice piece for your grill, you may choose different options.
Beef arm roast, chuck roast, silverside, and beef tendon are perfect options to replace your beef shank in stews, soups, and other braised or slow-cooked dishes. These cuts of meat are tough at first, but they become incredibly soft and tender when properly cooked.
Delicious grill-meat options include skirt steak, short ribs, and beef neck. While these beef cuts can also be slow-cooked, they offer more versatility and don’t necessarily require as much cooking time.
Finally, oxtail and veal shank may not be the most obvious options, but both can work as a great replacement for beef shank. While oxtail is not the most affordable option, it is certainly a piece of meat worth investing in!