Saturday, January 29, 2011

Osso Bucco - Veal or Beef?

Veal Osso Bucco
I talked about osso bucco in a prior posting and not long after one of my regular readers asked me if she could use beef instead of veal, because of the high cost of veal.  I did some quick searching of the other blogs and generally felt it wouldnt' be a good idea.  But when I was at the butcher shop recently I noticed they indeed had beef shanks on the shelf and, for the $4.00 (for the pair) that they were charging, I figured a test was in order.

Veal Shank Tied
Veal shanks are typically 1-2 pounds and cut relatively thick (about 3 inches.)  The beef shanks on the other hand were cut about 1 1/2 inches thick and were more than double the width of a typical veal shank.  I've only ever cooked veal shanks, but I understand from a German friend that pork shanks are also similarly prepared.

Since you are dealing with a larger piece of beef, it is better for them to be thinner, one inch or or just a bit more.  I used the same technique I use for veal shanks, but changed the cooking time and temperature.

As you can see in the photos at right, I tied the beef shanks, floured and browned them in oil.  After removing them from the skillet to my mothers old speckled roaster, I added the vegetables (carrot, celery and onion all cut in 1/2 inch pieces) and cooked those in the drippings for about eight minutes with a little salt to help them start cooking.  I then added about a cup of white wine and let that cook down until the volume was about half; another five minutes or so at a moderately high flame.  I then added two cloves of minced garlic and three cups of chicken broth.  Once this was heated through, I poured this over the braised beef shanks and tossed in a bouquet garni, which I made before I started cooking.  It contained a couple bay leaves, two whole cloves, a sprig each of fresh thyme and rosemary, wrapped in cheese cloth and tied closed for easy removal after cooking.  If you don't have fresh, you can substitute dry herbs.

I placed this in the oven at 300F and let it cook for three and a half hours.  I checked the pot hourly and added more chicken broth each time to ensure the liquid was more than half way up the sides of the meat.  I also stirred the sauce around a bit each time to mix the spices in well.  I removed the roaster from the oven and let the food set for another 30 minutes before serving.

To my surprise, the beef osso bucco came out relatively well.  It was tender and this could easily be seen when I removed the strings just before serving and the meat began falling off of the bone.  I spooned some of the vegetables on top and provided a side dish of roasted acorn squash.  Kevin quickly scooped out the marrow and proclaimed it to be 'delicious'. 

While I still prefer the veal, as it has a more delicate flavor, it is quite possible to have a good, inexpensive meal using beef shanks for osso bucco.


  1. Things changed with veal a long time ago. They are not tortured. Milk-fed veal is a thing of the past.

  2. I have made OSSO BUCCO using beef shanks for years. I cook them very low and slow ... sometimes in the oven .... sometimes in a crock pot... my family loves them.

    Recently I started using beef shanks in BONE BROTH DIET ( recipes on line) and they work good too.