Monday, October 22, 2007

Beer-Braised Lamb Shanks

Our friends Oren and Jill have been on a cooking-with-beer kick recently. Talking beer and food with them over a few pints at the Liars' Club got us inspired. We have a number of bottles left from our second attempt at a San Diego Pale Ale. That particular batch had a much more malty character than we were going for, but we figured it would be a good beer to try cooking with.

Braised lamb shanks are simple to prepare and one of our favorite fall foods -- using our beer as the braising liquid made perfect sense.

First I seared the shanks until well browned to deepen the flavor. Carrots and onions were browned in the same pan, followed briefly by minced garlic and finely diced tomato.

Then I added the beer a little at a time, scraping up caramelized bits from the bottom of the pan. We added a little stock to bring up the liquid level and brought it to a boil, then we put the lid on and popped it in the oven for an hour to braise.

It came out beautifully. The lamb was perfectly cooked -- coming off of the bone easily, but still with some structure left and with that lovely stickiness that comes from collagen breaking down.

The sauce was a bright, burnished orange and had great flavor. The hint of bitterness from the hops in the beer added an intriguing note.

Here's the recipe. We used a modified version of recipes we found online.

Beer Braised Lamb Shanks

4 (3/4 pound) lamb shanks
salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
3 small onions, quartered
2 large carrots, peeled and chopped
1 large tomato, cored and finely diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 (22 ounce) bomber malty beer
Approx. 1 cup beef stock

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Heat oil over medium high in a large dutch oven. Season the lamb shanks with salt and pepper, then sear in the hot pan until well browned on all sides, 10-15 minutes total. Remove shanks from pan and set aside in a bowl.

Brown the onions and carrots in the same pan, stirring occasionally. When lightly browned (about 5 to 7 minutes), reduce heat to medium and add the tomato and garlic. Stir and cook about 2 minutes. Add one third of the beer then scrape the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon to incorporate any brown bits into the sauce. Add the remaining beer and bring to a boil.

Simmer the beer and vegetables for a couple minutes, then nestle the shanks into the pot, adding any juices from the bowl. Add enough beef stock to immerse about 3/4 of the shanks. Put the lid on the dutch oven and place in the preheated oven for an hour to an hour-and-a-half. The shanks are done when the meat pulls easily from the bone and is very tender. Remove shanks from the pot and skim excess fat from the sauce. Season to taste with salt and pepper, return the shanks to the beer broth and serve.


  1. Did you find that an hour and a half was enough for braising? I find that mine always takes at least 8 hours to make really tender...

  2. Yeah, the braise time for shanks in my experience is usually only about 90 minutes, but I check them at an hour. This particular batch was tender and pulling easily from the bone in just 60 minutes -- lucky us! Perhaps it's because in addition to removing all the fell (the pink, papery stuff), I also remove much of the silverskin (the tough silvery connective tissue along some muscles).

  3. Randomely found this recipe looking for beer braised lamb recipes. I make a similar dish, except instead of beef stock, would use Turkey stock. It compliments the lamb flavor with the overpowering beefiness.