If you want to cook something special such as Osso Bucco, Beef Bourguignon, beef stew, or simply a stock or patty, you will need beef shank in your freezer. When your recipe calls for this part, look for its distinct properties that stand out in a specific cooking method.
The beef shank flavor shines through slow cooking for long hours in low heat—perfect for braised and crackpot dishes.
A beef shank is a meat cut from the leg part of either a cow or bull. It is usually cross-cut, similar to a steak cut— with a bone. This part of the beef is one of the most stressed and overused beef body parts, making its meat thicker, stiff, chewier, and tough to cook. It contains more muscles, less fat, cartilages, and joints.
We cannot stress it enough, but these parts require cooking slowly in lots of water or a pressure cooker. The process softens the meat to fork-tender, brings out its sweet, buttery, and savory beef flavor, and then mixes with the broth [Source].
The problem is that you will not usually find beef shank on the market. Sometimes, you have to reach out to the butcher to make sure it’s available. So when you are craving for that braised dish, you should be quick enough to find the piece of meat that can replace a beef shank.
13 Best Substitute For Beef Shank
For a piece of meat to qualify as a substitute for beef shank, some properties should be present in the replacement.
For the first property, you want the cut to be tough and chewy to stand the process of braising or slow cooking. Second, you want the meat to be lean.
Marbling is fewer on lean meat. Marbling is the pattern made by white flecks or streaks of fat in lean meat. [Source]
Third, you want a piece of meat that is so close to its identity while used in that braised recipe. And lastly, it should be readily available in the market, and is more affordable, if possible.
Given these requirements, the top substitutes for beef shank are chuck roast, beef arm, oxtail, and beef tendon. We include other alternatives besides beef parts. So if you’re ready for it, we’ll explain how these parts are fit replacements for beef shank.
If there is anything closer to beef shank, it would be a beef arm. It is a meat part almost identical to beef shank. Taken from the cattle’s shoulder, it has thick meat, less fat, and may also contain a center bone. The beef arm undergoes almost the same pressure just as the shank.
For this reason, the beef arm also becomes chewy, tough, stiff, and thick—making it great for braising.
When braised, the meat softens tenderly and absorbs the braised liquid well while releasing the fatty, savory beef flavor, enriching a dish’s soup base.
What we love about these identical beef pieces of meat is they have edible bone marrows after being thoroughly braised.
If you use beef shanks for cooking stew and soups, you can use beef tendon as an alternative. This gelatinous beef meat has lots of meat fibers like beef shank. This part of the beef is cut from the cow’s chin and contains less fat. If you can picture a pork belly, it’s a bit similar and great for simmering.
Popular in Asia, its flavor comes out when you marinate it in soy sauce and simmer it for four hours. As a replacement for the beef shank, this part of the beef is also chewy. And after simmering for hours, the meat becomes tender, and releases its juicy, beefy flavor that comes from the tendon and marinated sauce.
Beef shank and short ribs are always mistaken to be the same. But it’s a fit substitute for beef shank if you want to cook a beef shank dish in a shorter time. It’s an easy alternative for stew and roasted beef shank.
Short ribs are much different from the shank because they come mainly from the chuck— not exactly from the ribs. They produce a tasty flavor, and cook in a shorter time, making it more popular for grilling. And when cooked slowly, such as stewing or roasting, the meat falls off its bones, releasing a unique, tasty flavor.
People enjoy this part very much as you can chew it effortlessly when braised.
If you don’t want to stress your teeth from chewing, use the chuck roast as an alternative. Chuck roast is a meat cut in between the shoulder and neck.
Being in this location, it also goes through frequent movements and stress like the arm. However, it sits in between the softness of the neck and the stiffness of the arm.
It has more fat than the beef shank, so you will need less oil when cooking. And because of the added fat, you would want its juiciness to come out in patties and soups.
Although less chewy, this meat still needs braising or slow-cooking. And its fatty flavor comes out moist-tender. And even with the added fat, it would still fit in braised and crackpot beef shank recipes.
Oxtails are a favorite ingredient for stews and soups. We have long been braising and slow-cooking oxtails for years, and their flavor is so rich. The oxtail (though not from oxen) comes from the tail of cattle.
Though it has more fat, marbling is not an issue because it has a balanced distribution of lean meat.
It is tough, and you need a long time to cook it, just like beef shank. What we love about oxtails is the rich flavor and aroma they produce after being braised.
However, this part of the beef is much pricier than the beef shank. But if you have no problems with the budget, this is your best go-to for braised soups and stews.
If you want to roast beef or cook stew, but beef shank is not available, you can shift to silverside. Silverside is the piece of meat that also comes out from the leg of the cattle.
Found on the upper portion of the leg, you will need to bone it out along with the thick flank and topside. It got its name for having seemingly silver walls, a long film of tissue on its sides that you need to slice out before cooking.
Since it shares the same side of the leg, the meat is also tough and chewy, making it perfect for slow cooking. And whether you want to roast it or cook for stew, the best preparation would be searing it to a just-enough crust before slow-cooking.
Good news for the health-conscious because it contains less fat, especially if they are watching their fat intake.
You can cook any beef shank recipe with the skirt steak. You can find this cut under the ribs. It is not a part that frequently moves, so you can guess this part has lots of fat.
The reason you want it to replace beef shank is that you can either cook it slowly or quickly. Either way, you can only enjoy its taste when prepared correctly.
See, you will have to slice it thinly against the grains if you want to slow cook it. Not doing so will make it tough and chewy. If you do not want to braise or slow cook a skirt, make sure to char it first. You don’t want it to come overdone, and the best point to cook this part is between medium rare and rare.
If you’re looking for really tough meat to replace beef shank, it has got to be veal shank. This meat comes from the front and back legs of male calves. Male calves have sturdier meat than females, so you know to have a piece that shines on for slow cooking.
Usually cross-cut, you can identify this part with the exposed shin part. And if you choose from the hind, you will get thicker meat than from the front.
Veal Shank is popular for being the main ingredient of the favorite braise recipe, Osso Bucco.
Round steaks are great for braising and tenderizing slowly in the heat for long hours like beef shanks. These slices of meat come from the cattle’s hindquarters.
And it goes by four different names, depending on its cut: Top round, Eye of Round, Bottom round, and sirloin tip. The reason it’s very similar to beef shank is its muscles, ligaments, and cartilages go through heavy movements, making it tougher and leaner.
However, you should add extra measures to release its flavor when slow-cooking or braising. You can use a mallet to tenderize it more, slice the meat thinly against the grain, or marinate it in aromatic herbs and spices.
People compare beef neck to oxtail more than beef shank, but both are great substitutes for the latter. If you are looking for a more affordable option, you want to go for the beef neck.
It is one of the favorite meat pieces for braising in broth, wine, and aromatics.
This part comes from the neck, and its muscles are also moving body parts of the cattle. With a considerable amount of fat, it produces a savory, juicy-moist braised recipe when slow-cooked in low heat for long hours.
You would love how the meat tastes after falling apart from its tissues and bones.
If you’re looking for a pork substitute for beef shank, your best option would be pork shoulder. Coming from the forelimb of a pig, this part moves a lot.
So you expect its meat to be tough and chewy with less marbling and less fat. They sell it in a triangular cut with skin layers and some fats.
Because of the meat texture properties present, it makes a chewy pork version of the beef shank that you can use for braising, stewing, and (ground for patties).
Here is another piece of meat great for replacing beef shank. Not only as replacements, but Venison shanks can serve as the main ingredient for Osso Bucco.
You will find this meat below the Venison’s knee. And because of having the same exercises as beef shanks, you know it is best cooked for long hours in low heat until it falls apart tender. However, it contains less meat with a bit more connective tissue.
Most people love to take its little meat and grind it for burger patties. If you are craving for Osso Bucco and have an abundance of venison in your area, it is the first thing you can substitute for beef shanks.
If you are thinking of another braised recipe in red wine with some herbs like rosemary and mint, lamb shanks can be your go-to when you cannot find beef shanks.
Find this meat at the bottom of the knee of a lamb, and often cut with the bones and silver skin sliced off.
When cooked slowly, the meat falls off the bones, releasing its gamey flavor from its fatty tissues and skin.