Austrian Braised Venison Shanks

4.96 from 21 votes
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Austrian braised venison shank recipe
Photo by Holly A. Heyser

Venison shanks with sauerkraut is not the fanciest, daintiest plate of food I’ve ever made. But it’s damn good, and is well worth your time to make if you have shanks from some large animal lying around.

Shanks, you should know, are some of the best-tasting cuts on any critter. They should never be cut up into sausage — too much connective tissue — and it’s true that there’s really very little you can do with shanks… except braise them. Or smoke them and then braise them, but that’s another post.

Why are venison shanks so good? Because of all that nasty connective tissue. Cooked slow and low in a moist environment, like a Dutch oven, all those tendons and sinews melt, releasing intensely flavorful meat (the more any muscle group works, the better its flavor, but the tougher it will be. It’s a kitchen conundrum.) coated with that melted goodness. Done right, braised shanks are downright silky.

I have a whole section on cooking venison shanks on this website, and this is my latest venture into the list. I got the idea for this dish from what I think is the finest book on Austrian cooking yet written, Neue Cuisine: The Elegant Tastes of Vienna: Recipes from Cafe Sabarsky, Wallse, and Blaue Gans, by Chef Kurt Gutenbrunner. What, you ask, is Austrian food, exactly? Mostly it’s like German, only with a whiff of Northern Italy and a strong aroma of Hungary tossed in.

Chef Gutenbrunner’s original recipe calls for pork shanks, and he cooks them differently. But the flavors of his dish and this one are very similar, and I will certainly be returning to his book for more inspiration soon.

The key revelation I got from this dish is the addition of shredded potatoes with the sauerkraut. As the shank cooks over time, the shredded potato dissolves in the beer and stock and makes a thicker, silkier sauce. It’s amazing. Gutenbrunner’s choice of beer is important, too: He uses a German hefeweizen, an acidic, bright wheat beer that provides all the tartness this dish needs. It’s not hard to find hefeweizen in the United States, so please try to find it if you can.

I also use squash seed oil here, too. It is a dark, thick oil that really adds a ton of flavor, and it is an Austrian specialty. You can buy it in fancy supermarkets or online, but if you can’t swing the cost or just don’t want to, a good sunflower oil or nut oil will work, too.

I really think you’re going to like this recipe. The flavors are lighter than your typical German dish, and it will be a perfect Sunday dinner just as the weather begins to warm.

braised venison shank recipe
4.96 from 21 votes

Austrian Braised Venison Shanks with Sauerkraut

]I cooked this dish with a large shank from a big Ohio whitetail buck that my friend Joe brought home. For whatever reason, his butcher sliced the shank bones -- maybe for ossobucco. I like the effect, because it looks cool on the platter and it opens up the bones to the marrow, which you can easily scoop out and add to the sauerkraut mixture (Yes, it's delicious. Trust me on this one). No venison shanks? Do this with pork shanks, even smoked pork shanks -- but if you do, skip the bacon and use lard or butter instead. Osso bucco cuts from beef or veal would work, too.
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: German
Servings: 4 people
Author: Hank Shaw
Prep Time: 1 hour
Cook Time: 3 hours
Total Time: 4 hours


  • 1 large elk shank, or up to 4 venison shanks
  • 2 tablespoons squash seed oil or sunflower oil
  • 1 tablespoon caraway seeds
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder, or 2 teaspoons minced fresh garlic
  • Salt
  • 4 slices bacon
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 cups sauerkraut, drained
  • 1 1/2 cups coarsely shredded potato
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 teaspoon caraway
  • 1 12- to 16-ounce bottle hefeweizen beer
  • 1 cup stock (any kind)
  • Black pepper and chopped chives for garnish


  • Massage the venison shanks with the squash seed oil, then with the caraway, garlic and enough salt to season the meat well. At the very least set this on the counter for 1 hour to come to room temperature, but the seasonings penetrate better if you leave this covered in the fridge overnight. Regardless, when you are ready to cook the shank, preheat the oven to a full 475°F and let the shank come to room temperature while the oven heats. Set the shank or shanks on a rack in a roasting pan and blast them in the oven until nicely browned, about 15 minutes. Remove and set aside for now.
  • While the oven is heating, cook the bacon in a large pot or Dutch oven (it needs to be able to fit the shank) over medium-low heat until it's crispy. Remove, chop ans set aside.
  • Add the onion to the pot and saute in the bacon fat over medium-high heat until it begins to brown on the edges, about 5 minutes. Add the sauerkraut and shredded potato and mix well. Saute this for a minute or two, then pour in the beer and stock. Mix in the reserved bacon, the bay leaf, thyme, caraway and a healthy pinch of salt. Bring this to a simmer.
  • When the venison is ready -- out of the hot oven -- nestle the shanks into the pot, cover it and cook until done. You can do this in two ways: On the stovetop over low heat, or in a 300°F oven. Either way it should take about 3 hours, or a little longer if you are dealing with an old deer.
  • You can serve this in one of two ways: As a centerpiece, where everyone pulls of pieces of shank at the table, or you can strip the meat from the bones and serve it on top of a bed of kraut. Don't forget the marrow in the bones! Scoop it out with a spoon and stir it into the kraut for extra flavor. Add black pepper and chives right before you serve.


Serve this with good bread, like a German pumpernickel or a Jewish rye. And even though this is a red-meat dish, I like an Austrian white wine here. German beer is another good alternative, such as a weizenbock or if the weather's a little warmer, the same hefeweizen you used in the pot.


Calories: 300kcal | Carbohydrates: 24g | Protein: 13g | Fat: 18g | Saturated Fat: 4g | Cholesterol: 24mg | Sodium: 656mg | Potassium: 757mg | Fiber: 5g | Sugar: 3g | Vitamin A: 13IU | Vitamin C: 30mg | Calcium: 62mg | Iron: 3mg

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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Recipe Rating


  1. My wife says this might be the single best dish I’ve ever made. Do yourself a favor and make this on a rainy day. The one place I went off-script is adding about 1 tablespoon of aged sherry vinegar right before serving to brighten things up.

  2. Here’s a twist that really fit. I used a fairly thick (3″) neck section and subbed Hank’s amazing German Bacon recipe for the bacon ingredient. I also used homemade fermented sauerkraut. Much better than store bought because it’s not vinegar cured or heat treated. Simple fermenting keeps all the good probiotics and just tastes better. Hank’s bacon and real sauerkraut made the neck roast exceptional, try it.

  3. I can’t believe I used to grind my shanks. Recipes like this show how easy it is to make an incredible tasting, fall apart dish. Awesome winter comfort food.

  4. Used to grind my shank meat until I saw this recipe. Tried it out and loved it. A shank will never see the grind pile again in this family.

  5. Have made this multiple times and share it with all my hunting buddies. We’ve even cooked it outdoors in Dutch Oven for Deer Camp. Downside: Made the mistake of feeding the Game Warden ….now he seems to stop by camp more often than necessary….. 😉

  6. I’ve used venison shanks for years, starting with a progressive dinner party where I shredded the meat afterword and made quesadillas with it; I’ve used soy sauce as the brazing liquid for what is referred to as “Red” cooking as it leaves a red ring like smoking does; I’ve used beers as well with much success. I served it Osso Bucco style over polenta and once with a mushroom risotto. The shanks are a very underappreciated cut that most just don’t know what to do with. Glad to know you are shedding light upon this secret that so many overlook.

  7. Hi Hank,
    Love your blog and since contributing to your kickstarter I have been happily cooking my due way through Buck Buck Moose.
    My husband got a big Yukon moose this year and we cut up some shanks.
    When packing the shanks I left the thick skin on the outside that formed . The moose was only hung for a few days. Should I remove this before cooking?

  8. I made this for our group on a Canadian fishing trip this month as a break from all that walleye . I used Syrian pumpkinseed oil, forgot the bay leaf so threw in more thyme, and couldn’t find a hefeweizen at the LCBO so used a wheat beer. I let it braise in the oven for a little over 3 hours. Served it with some homemade sauerkraut provided by one of our party. Served with a riesling. It was drop dead delicious. The sounds of people sucking the marrow out of the bones near the end of the meal was great.Thanks!

  9. Was clearing out the freezer and found a big pair of whitetail shanks from last season. Don’t know how they lasted so long, usually my favorite part of the deer. Anyway, tried this recipe tonight and it’s amazing! The kraut and shredded potatoes fit in so beautifully. Great one, thank you.

    I hope more people read your odes to shanks and keep them out of the grinding pail. I’d rather grind the back straps than the shanks. So delicious when cooked patiently.

  10. Hank, how do you decide when you will brown something you’re braising in the oven or in a pan on the stove? Does it matter much? I didn’t want to heat up the oven AND wanted to go to work today so I did everything in a cast iron skillet (brown meat, remove, then did all the rest), then transferred the entire thing to my crock pot for a low cook. I’m hoping it turns out deeeeelicious…we’ll see.

    Also, there seems to be some kind of magical chemistry that occurs when beer boils with bacon grease. It’s such a silky result!

    1. Liesel: Depends on the size of what I am browning, or the amount. If I am browning lots of duck legs for a braise, for example, I will roast them at 425 degrees (F) until they are browned, then I will remove the legs and deglaze the pan and use that liquid for the braise. But if I am just browning a few things, I’ll do it all in the pan.

  11. I have to say, I have done shanks and now have moved up to the whole front shoulder with the bone in. Hank is 100% correct on the melting of the connective tissue and tendons. I use a very similar recipe with the addition of juniper berries and porcini mushrooms. Great job, keep up the good eats.

  12. I will try the squash oil. But as you mentioned sunflower oil and wanted a nutty taste, may I suggest the *unrefined* version? It is a bit hard to find, maybe Whole Foods, certainly in a Russian store if you ask them for “*nerafinirovannoye* podsolnechnoye maslo” (about USD 5 for a Liter). Sadly, quality is a bit hit and miss. When good it tastes strong like sunflower seeds and is amazing with salad, over boiled potatoes etc. I read it is not the healthiest, especially if it gets old or used with high heat.

  13. This recipe would be excellent with goat shanks. Please don’t forget about us goat people. Many of your recipes for other wild beasts work very well with goat because it is so lean and requires great care in cooking for the best results.

  14. Hank, first time, long time… Love your show.

    Would lamb shanks work in this dish? I have some beautiful shanks I’ve been saving for the right recipe. Missed you in San Diego, so please make an attempt to come down when you have time. I can connect you with Chris at Wine Vault and Bistro for a chef’s dinner.

  15. Janet: Actually, there are no real pumpkins in Austria. The famous pumpkinseed oil actually does come from a winter squash that they just call a pumpkin; it’s a minor difference, but botanists care. 😉

    And while I LOVE that Austrian oil, it’s really expensive, even moreso than the American squash seed oil I use here. So if you have it, use it!

  16. Hi Hank, LOVE your blog. Having spent much time in Austrian and being a native German, I am quite sure that the squash seed oil was a poor translation of pumpkin seed oil. The Austrians are famous for their pumpkin seed oil and they use it in many dishes. If you have none, GO GET A BOTTLE and make a salad dressing with it. You will enjoy it, I’m sure. Even the French Company, La Tourangelle that sells oils in the lovely tins gets their pumpkin seed oil from Austria.
    I will make your Venison shanks next weekend with pumpkin seed oil. Thank you for the recipe.

  17. Hi Hank,

    Sadly, I’m not one who has much access to wild food, though not by choice. Would this work for a similarly connective-tissue-filled beef cut? Chuck perhaps? Or maybe there is a better cut you could recommend for me to use? This recipe looks fantastic, by the way. I’m an huge fan of kraut beyond the obvious sausage condiment.

    Thanks for being inspiring.