Originally, I imagined that any cheap cut of meat cooked with the sous vide method would emerge tender and juicy after many hours. This is simply not true. I have learned that sous vide cooked meat can emerge tender, flavourful, and even medium rare but bizarrely enough also dry. For this reason, the beef was somewhat underwhelming directly out of the sous vide bath.
I sought to improve the dish by changing the sauce, which worked, but I also think this method for beef may simply benefit a different style of dish. It would work very well for a ravioli or other stuffed pasta, where the lack of moisture would actually be a benefit. I am intending on trying this in a future post, so stay tuned. I am also planning on documenting several different iterations of temperatures and cooking times to see if the moisture level can be improved by changing these variables.
I compared this dish with two sauces, first was a simply sherry pan sauce (pictured above) and the second was a red wine reduction sauce. The red wine reduction was a far superior accompaniment to the beef, and also filled the gap that I felt was missing due to the slight dryness of the beef.
500g beef shank, bone removed
1 sprig thyme
1 garlic clove, halved lengthwise
8 whole peppercorns
1 tbsp olive oil
For the red wine reduction:
1/2 cup red wine
1 tbsp minced shallot
1 tbsp Dijon mustard
1 tbsp butter
1. Set sous vide bath to 75 degrees C and timer to 12 hours.
2. Lightly season the beef shank with salt, and place in the zip lock bag with the olive oil, thyme sprigs, and garlic clove. Remove air with the water bath method, seal tightly, and place in the sous vide bath for 12 hours.
3. Once the beef is done, remove from the sous vide bath and ziplock bag. Heat a pan to medium-high heat, add a glug of olive oil. When the oil just begins to smoke, add the beef and sear for 90 seconds a side, or until a nice caramelization develops. This will happen a lot faster than with raw beef, so monitor the beef closely when it is searing. Set the beef aside, and reduce the heat to medium.
4. Add the red wine and shallots to the hot pan and reduce by a half. Add the mustard and whisk to incorporate for about 30 seconds. Remove the pan from heat and add the butter while whisking continuously. Serve with the beef.
3 thoughts on “Simple Sous Vide Beef Shank”
I enjoy reading about your sous-vide preparations and look forward to more.
Over the last 4+ years I’ve done a lot of experiments with sous-vide and found that low temperatures are needed to prevent excess loss of moisture. For juiciness and succulence, the lower the better. However, if the meat has a lot of connective tissue a certain minimum temperature is needed for the connective tissue and other meat to be tender simultaneously. Otherwise you have to cook sous-vide for so long to get the connective tissue tender that the other meat is overcooked. (I hope this makes sense.) So 55 degrees is a good temperature in many cases, but for cuts with a lot of connective tissue you have to go up to 57 or sometimes 60 or 62.
I have not been able to get a good result with beef shank. With veal shank (osso buco) I have had good results with 72 hours at 57 degrees. Oxtail requires 100 hours at 60 degrees, that is the longest cook I’ve done so far.
Oh man, I’m looking forward to flipping through your blog to see the results of your experimentation. Looks like your blog will be a good resource when I set out to try a new sous-vide recipe.
How would you describe the veal shank and oxtail under those cooking times?
For the most part, I am attempting things for the first time and making my best guess towards times and temperatures.
To date I have elected for higher temps and lower cooking times, mainly because I am still using a ziplock bag and cannot achieve close to a real vacuum. I’ve read that a proper vacuum seal is preferred for the longer cooking times. I’ve been meaning to get one…maybe should just pull the trigger on one so that I can start playing around in that realm.
Thanks for all the comments, and looking forward to more discussion!
You should get a vacuum sealer. If you have the space and budget a chamber vacuum sealer is best as you can include liquids (for which otherwise you’d still have to use the ziplocks). But for the first two years or so of SV I did very well with a ‘clamp’ vacuum sealer.
The veal shank was just starting to fall apart but not completely and not dry. The oxtail was similar, but slightly more flaky and slightly less falling apart. The latter is also because that meat is held tightly by the bones.
With the long cook times at low temps, in my experience freshness of the meat is more important than a strong vacuum. SV brings out the flavor of the meat rather than masking it, so if there is any odour that will be brought out as well. I am still trying to figure out a way to prevent this completely. Certain cuts and certain animals from certain sources seem to be more prone to this problem than others. For instance neck of lamb is notorious, whereas I’ve never had this problem with lamb shanks (which are amazing by the way). A reader did however report this with lamb shank.
I’m also looking forward to more discussion and sharing experiences!