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There's nothing quite like a savory slow cooked meal on a cold winter day like these slow cooker beef shanks with garlic and herbs. Your house will smell amazing and the food will warm you from the inside!
I love my slow cooker for many reasons.
First, convenience. Prep the food that morning or the night before, and set the slow cooker to low before heading out the door. Dinner is ready to go when you get home! Or throw some bones and veggies in and the next day you will have lots of homemade stock to use later in the week or freeze for another time.
Second, minimal clean up! Even if you choose to sear the meat and sauté the veggies before adding them to your slow cooker, there is usually only one pan to wash.
Third, you can make tougher cuts of meat (which are usually cheaper), tender and delicious with low, slow cooking. These cheaper cuts are typically larger too, allowing you to have several meals from one day of prep!
Cheaper cuts of meat including shanks, short ribs, briskets, and chuck roasts contain more connective tissue and saturated fats than their more expensive counterparts like steaks and tenderloins.
Slow cooking breaks down the connective tissue (which contains important nutrients like choline, glycine, glucosamine, and chondroitin – important for healthy skin, nails, joints, and your gut!) and renders some of the fat, which leaves you with tender, juicy meat and a delicious and nutritious sauce or stock.
Because you have saved money by purchasing the cheaper cuts, you may be able to budget for higher quality, grass-fed and pastured meats.
Slow Cooker Beef Shanks with Garlic and Herbs
I'm a huge fan of beef shanks! This recipe for slow cooker beef shanks is going to quickly become one of your home's favorite meals.
I was first introduced to them by by mother-in-law. She made us melt-in-your-mouth beef shanks for dinner one evening and I knew I had to start making them too.
One of my favorite preparations is my Osso Bucco with Sun Dried Tomatoes and Capers. Although that recipe was prepared in a Dutch Oven and slow cooked in the oven, I have made it in the slow cooker as well and it's still a winner!
You will notice a couple of themes between the two recipes.
Homemade stock is used for the braising liquid. If you haven't jumped on the homemade stock bandwagon yet, do yourself a favor and do it!! You can freeze it to have on hand for dishes like this one and by using bones from other meals, you will be saving money too.
Another favorite addition is anchovies. Don't freak out, your meat will NOT taste fishy. Anchovies lend a beautiful, savory taste (umami) to your meal and no one will ever suspect it!
Finally, I like to brighten up slow cooked meals with some fresh herbs after plating – it gives a little extra flavor and a pretty green color!
I'd like to make two quick notes before we get to the recipe. I leave the garlic cloves whole so that they become very soft and buttery when ready to serve. I love to spread them over the shank like butter – so delicious!
Next, do not miss out on the bone marrow goodness from your slow cooker beef shanks! My husband and I eat it with spoons, but you can also scoop it out and mix it in with the gravy.
- Ghee, butter, or coconut oil for frying
- Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 5 pounds of beef shanks (about 5-6 shanks)
- 1 large sweet onion, diced
- 8-10 large garlic cloves, skins removed but left whole
- ½ teaspoon sea salt
- 2 cups of homemade stock
- 2 Tablespoons tomato paste
- 4-5 anchovies, minced
- 8 sprigs of fresh thyme
- 1 sprig of fresh rosemary
- Minced chives and parsley for garnishing, optional
- In a large frying pan over medium heat, melt enough of the fat of your choice to cover the bottom of the pan.
- Season the shanks on both sides with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.
- Place two to three of the shanks in the pan and brown them on both sides, about 4-5 minutes per side. Repeat with the remaining shanks, adding more fat to the pan if needed.
- Place the browned shanks into the slow cooker.
- In the same frying pan, add a little more fat if needed to cover the bottom of the pan and add the diced onion, garlic and ½ teaspoon sea salt, sautéing until the onions are translucent and the garlic cloves are slightly browned, about 5 minutes.
- Place the onions and garlic over the shanks in the slow cooker.
- Return the frying pan to the heat and add the stock, tomato paste, and anchovies, stirring with a wooded spoon to loosen up any browned bits from the bottom of the pan.
- Turn off the heat and add the stock mixture to the slow cooker.
- Tie the thyme and rosemary into a bundle with some kitchen twine and tuck it into the slow cooker, nestled under the stock.
- Turn your slow cooker to low and let the shanks cook for about 8 hours.
- Before serving, remove the herb bundle. The leaves will have fallen off the stems and will flavor the sauce.
- If serving right away, try to skim off some of the fat and season with additional salt and pepper if needed.
- Plate with the side of your choice. We love this dish with cauliflower puree and minced chives and parsley for garnishing.
- I like to prepare the shanks over the weekend and then place my slow cooker insert into the refrigerator. The fat will rise to the surface and harden, making it easier to remove. I then let the insert sit out for an hour or two before placing it in the slow cooker on warm for several hours before serving.