In this series, expert Josh Ozersky offers a guide to buying, cooking and eating meat, in particular those unusual and obscure cuts that are rarely seen in restaurants.
The Cut: Cross-cut beef shank (#117 foreshank in the National Association of Meat Producers guide). If they called it “shin” instead of “shank” it would make more sense. Because that’s what it is.
The Sell: Beef shank is good, and I eat it a lot, and I like it. It is in the beef “friend zone” though, for sure. Beef shank is familiar to most people as osso buco, at least in its immature form (osso buco is generally a veal shank). And I eat it more than might be expected, given my access to big, high-end steaks and roasts. For one thing, shanks are cheap—for the obvious reason that no one likes them—and secondly, they are available at C-Town supermarket, where they practically qualify as a top-shelf selection. Rather than getting the whole shin, which is the size of a fire extinguisher, I tend to get cross-cut shin steaks. Calling these “steaks” is horribly misleading: They are tough and lean, and if you tried to grill them up you would be disappointed. But the meat has an immense amount of dense muscle tissue, not to mention all that gnarly connective tissue, which is basically instant gelatin.