Braised Venison Shanks with Garlic

4.88 from 40 votes
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venison shank recipe
Photo by Holly A. Heyser

Whenever I come home with a deer, one of the first things I eat are the shanks. Venison shanks are an eater’s cut: All that connective tissue is what is essentially the animal’s shin and calf melts into a slick, almost sticky gravy. Properly done, a braised shank feels like its loaded with fat, but isn’t. It’s alchemy.

The key to cooking any shank, wild or domestic, is to cook it slow, moist and low. Take your time, braise or stew the shanks over low heat. Once you figure that out, you’re golden.

Hunters out there, if you have never bothered with the shanks from your deer, you really ought to. Ever try to use one for sausage or burger? The same connective tissue that makes braised venison shanks so good will destroy your grinder — or make you homicidal as you try (unsuccessfully) to remove all of it beforehand. Better to go with what nature gives you.

To remove a shank from a deer or pig, you will often need a hacksaw, but if you cut all the tendons just right you can break the shank off by bending it backwards. Shanks from smaller deer, antelope or pigs should be cooked whole, like this recipe, while elk or moose shanks should be cut into cross sections like beef shanks.

Most braised shank recipes are heavy, loaded with dark, brooding ingredients like mushrooms, Port or beef stock. I like those flavors as much as the next guy, but it would not be right for this yearling antelope, whose meat is pale like lamb. So I went with a spring lamb feel for this dish.

I had a lot of garlic lying around the pantry, so I decided to go with a flavor reminiscent of Forty Clove Chicken.

Yes, there are something like 4 heads of garlic in this dish. Worry not: The garlic gets very mellow in the braising process, and if you follow this trick, peeling it all will take you less than a minute. Really.

venison shank recipe with garlic
Photos by Holly A. Heyser

The result is a smooth, silky, mellow (and yes, garlicky, but not offensively so) sauce poured over meat that’s so tender it falls off the bone. A little lemon zest and white wine provide some tartness, some rosemary for balance.

Serve this with mashed potatoes, polenta or something else to soak up the sauce, which is so good you will want to save any leftovers; it’s great as a pasta sauce the next day.

Try this recipe and you too may find yourself eating the shanks from your deer before you even think about the backstrap…

venison shank recipe
4.88 from 40 votes

Braised Venison Shanks with Garlic

As I designed this specifically for a young antelope, you will need something like it to really appreciate the dish. In the wild world, use this recipe for shanks from young animals, i.e., yearlings, young does or wild boar. If you make this with older animals, the flavors won't work as well -- use my recipe for Portuguese braised venison shanks instead. In the domesticated world, this recipe is absolutely ideal for lamb shanks.
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: American
Servings: 4 people
Author: Hank Shaw
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 2 hours 30 minutes
Total Time: 2 hours 40 minutes

Ingredients 

  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil or butter
  • 4 venison shanks (or lamb)
  • 4 heads of garlic, peeled
  • Salt
  • 3/4 cup white wine
  • 1/2 cup chicken or other light stock
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary, plus more for garnish
  • Zest of a lemon
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter

Instructions 

  • Take the shanks out of the fridge, coat them in a little oil and salt them well. Preheat the oven to 300°F.
  • Heat the vegetable oil or butter in a Dutch oven (or other ovenproof pan that will fit all the shanks) and brown the shanks on every side but the one with the "shin," where the bone shows clearly -- if you brown this part, the shank is more likely to fall apart before you want it to. Remove the shanks as they brown and set aside.
  • While the shanks are browning, peel the garlic. Think it's hard to peel 4 heads of garlic? Try this trick: Separate the cloves and put them in a metal bowl. Cover the bowl with one the same size and shake them vigorously for about 10 seconds. All the cloves will be peeled. Here is a video of the process.
  • Put the garlic in the pot and brown just a little. Pour in the white wine and scrape up any browned bits from the bottom of the pot with a wooden spoon. Bring this to a boil and add the chicken stock, thyme, rosemary and lemon zest. bring to a simmer and add salt to taste. Return the shanks to the pot and arrange "shin" side up with the garlic all around them. Cover the pot and cook in the oven until the meat wants to fall off the bone, anywhere from an hour to 2 hours.
  • Carefully remove the shanks and arrange on a baking sheet or small roasting pan. Turn the oven to 400°F. Remove about 12 of the nicest garlic cloves and set aside.
  • Puree the sauce in a blender, swirl in the unsalted butter and pour the sauce into a small pot to keep warm.
  • Paint the shanks with some of the sauce and put them in the oven. Paint every 5 minutes for 15 minutes, or until there is a nice glaze on the shanks. To serve, give everyone some mashed potatoes or polenta and a shank. Pour some sauce over everything and garnish with the roasted garlic cloves and rosemary.

Notes

I garnish this dish with my preserved garlic, but unless you've already made some, just remove some of the garlic cloves from the pot before you puree the sauce. 

Nutrition

Calories: 410kcal | Carbohydrates: 3g | Protein: 40g | Fat: 22g | Saturated Fat: 14g | Cholesterol: 142mg | Sodium: 158mg | Potassium: 507mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 1g | Vitamin A: 190IU | Vitamin C: 1mg | Calcium: 31mg | Iron: 4mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Tried this recipe? Tag me today!Mention @huntgathercook or tag #hankshaw!

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About Hank Shaw

Hey there. Welcome to Hunter Angler Gardener Cook, the internet’s largest source of recipes and know-how for wild foods. I am a chef, author, and yes, hunter, angler, gardener, forager and cook. Follow me on Instagram and on Facebook.

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68 Comments

  1. Oh my! Just discovered your site and I am so THRILLED….so many yummy things that I can’t wait to try! So I’m doing this one tonight and had a question….my hubby and son removed the shank from the bone…is the cooking time the same?

    1. Julie: Not sure, but I don’t think the cook time will be a lot shorter. Keep an eye on it after about 90 minutes or so.

  2. Made this last night, with antelope front shanks, and it was phenomenal. Ended up braising for 3 hours. Thanks!

  3. This recipe is fantastic. I made it and will make it again. Many of my friends cut up their own venison and leave the foreleg shanks. I collect them all now…..

  4. Made this recipe last night for dinner…it was fantastic! No more putting the shank meat into the hamburg/sausage pile!

  5. James C: I’ve made sausages with 100% venison before from deer like that: No pork fat at all. AWESOME. Test it by cutting a little off and putting it in a little frying pan with some water. Turn the burner on medium-high to let the fat render. Smell it: It should smell meaty and a little “deery,” but not off and stinky. If you like the smell, use the fat. If you don’t, toss it.

  6. For 40 years I’ve felt guilty about how to deal with shank meat until now….just killed an 8 point in Northern Wisconsin and will now steal all the shanks at deer camp….braised venison shank,BB King and bourbon , doesn’t get any better.

  7. Hi Hank, Love your site and book… I recently processed a real nice doe here in Ohio. I spent about 2 hours trimming all the fat off during the process and now I see your response to Erika that the bones and fat are edible? I knew the bones were good for cooking and making stock so I saved some for that (the shakes will go to this recipe sometime soon!) but what should we do with all the fat next time?

    On a side note this girl had so much fat I thought I saw the elusive Caul fat you discussed a couple months ago with Matilda, but was not sure if I was looking at the right thing or if Deer even have Caul fat?

  8. By shank do you mean the part between the “knee” and the hoof or the part between the hip and the “knee” (the thigh)?

    Thanks.

  9. Hank,
    As a footnote to your article, I saw three Roe Deer while walking my dog this morning in a forest near my home in North Yorkshire, England. We have a lot of Roe deer living in the forests in this area but there is very little deer-hunting here, even though there is a huge amount of ‘shooting’ i.e. upland bird hunting. The deer are very healthy looking and your article certainly tempts me to become a deer hunter. However, getting a suitable rifle is legally difficult and deer hunting is confined to private forests as our public forests are what it says on the tin, open to all of the public, and there is a general consensus here that hunting and the public should be kept strictly separate.

  10. Erika: Who told you that whitetail bones and fat are inedible? That is the craziest thing I have ever heard!! I’ve cooked whitetail shanks before and they were WONDERFUL.

  11. It’s too bad that whitetail deer bones and fat are inedible because I have a hunch that this recipe would suffer without the bones. But I will try it anyway with this year’s deer that hasn’t been shot yet so I’m totally jinxing myself.

    And that garlic peeling vid is worth the price of admission – thanks for posting that one, Hank!

  12. Hank,

    Speaking of peeling garlic, a Chef at Pebble Beach Beach & Tennis Club once showed me an awesome way to peel lots of garlic in a hurry. If you take two same sized metal bowls and then break up the garlic from the bottom root portion of the bulb and place in one bowl and then place the second bowl upside down over the top of the first (You should have two metal bowls meeting at lip with the bottoms facing opposite ways) and then shake the garlic vigorously between the two mated bowls the garlic will all be magically peeled in under a minute. After seeing this work, I have never peeled mass amounts of garlic any other way! Give it a try the next time you are peeling more than a few cloves and you will praise the results.

  13. Oh, man that sounds so good. We usually bone out that part of the deer, so I don’t have any shanks in my freezer- will it work with any other cut?

  14. I wish I had this three weeks ago. I love shank but as I sat there looking at the deer shank I couldn’t figure out how to make it work because I only know the cross cut shanks of beef. I want to cry now. Okay next year the shanks are mine!

  15. This looks divine! I’m putting it on the list for next week – we have loads of garlic from the garden this year!

    P.s. Loved the garlic video – shake ‘the dickins out of it.’ 🙂

  16. I’ve got a freezer full of shanks from two deer this year as well as a couple leftovers from last year. Can’t wait to try this.

  17. This looks so good, and I will definitely be trying it with lamb shanks, which we enjoy on a pretty regular basis.