Red-Cooked Beef Shank
Recently, I published a post entitled Beef Shank: A Neglected Cut. In this post, I will be using a large section of shank and illustrating the Chinese technique of ‘Red-Cooking’ (紅燒), which involves simmering meat in a soy-sauce based medium along with various aromatic additions. The result can certainly be eaten as is for a ‘pot-roast’ sort of meal but this basic recipe is primarily intended to produce something that can be later used in a variety of other recipes. In the above picture, you can see some slices of previously Red-Cooked Beef Shank which have been re-heated and served with just a little splash of the simmering medium as a little appetizer.
This is the shank I will be using. I will actually be taking it apart into two pieces for the actual braising as this will make it fit the pot better and reduce the amount of water need to keep it covered during cooking.
The seasoning vegetables are shown in the above picture. There is no particular magic in the way the various items are cut but it is a good idea, once you have peeled your garlic, to give each clove a decent whack with the flat of your knife blade so as to help them release their flavor during cooking.
Those somewhat familiar with Chinese Red-Cooking will note the absence of some of the spices commonly used, such as Star Anise, Cinnamon, Sichuan Peppercorns, Galanga etc. You can certainly add these, but I am just using a little ginger in addition to garlic so as to make a simpler, more versatile end result.
One final deviation from the traditional sort of Red-cooking medium is, as you can see in the Ingredient List in the Recipe Card below, Western style White Wine. I have replaced some of the Rice Wine with this as the acidity and flavoring work well for a finished product that can just as easily be incorporated into a western meal as well as more traditional Chinese dishes.
The Basic Method for Red-Cooked Beef Shank
As usual in Red Cooking, the meats are first blanched in boiling salted water before braising in order to remove blood and other impurities and help keep the braising medium ‘clean’. For a cut of this size, the total blanching time is about 7 or 8 minutes but, in this case, I have pre-blanched the whole piece and then taken it out after 4 minutes to break it down into two separate pieces. You can see that I have taken the joint apart by separating one muscle group away from the other, which remains attached to the bone. Afterwards, I continued blanching for a few more minutes. Unlike vegetables, or small pieces of meat, it is not necessary to plunge the shank into cold water to stop cooking but you should wash the pieces well before continuing.
To braise, put the celery and some of the carrots onto the bottom of your pot and place the meat on top before adding the remaining vegetables. Pour over the soy sauce, rice wine and white wine, then add the peppercorns and sugar. Finally, pour over enough water so that the meat is completely submerged (about 8 cups or so).
Turn the heat to medium and bring the liquid in the pot to just below the boiling point. Immediately, turn the heat to very low and allow everything to simmer very, very gently for about four to four and one-half hours. Do not let the contents boil and top up with more water if needed. At the end of the cooking time, turn off the heat and let the meat cool in the braising liquid.
Here is the shank after being simmered in the Red-Cooking medium. As you can see from the first picture, the meat will be nicely cooked and the gelatinous tendon and sinews clearly visible. If you were to be using this immediately for a ‘Pot-Roast’ type meal, you could simply slice and serve as is, or, for later use, you may wish to trim of the fat and any muscle fascia. To refrigerate, I prefer to wrap the larger pieces in cling film, or the like.
Once the meat is removed you can strain the broth and either use it again to braise other meats, or else reduce it to use as a dipping sauce as I have done here. For top quality sauce, you will probably wish to filter it through cloth to remove any small ‘bits’.
Using Red-Cooked Beef Shank in Recipes
Your Recipe Card:
Red-Cooked Beef Shank
- 3 lb Beef Shank;
- 8 – 10 Garlic Cloves;
- 3 ” knob of Ginger sliced into several pieces;
- 2 medium Carrots sliced;
- 2 – 3 stalks Celery leaves included;
- 2 Scallions;
- ½ cup Soy Sauce;
- ½ cup Rice Wine;
- 1 cup White Wine;
- 1 Tbsp. White Peppercorns;
- 1 Tbsp. Sugar.
- Section the Shank, if desired, and blanche the meat in boiling salted water for 7 to 8 minutes. Drain and rinse well under cold running water.
- Put the celery and some of the carrot onto the bottom of your pot and place the meat on top of this before adding the remaining vegetables. Pour over the soy sauce, rice wine and white wine, add the peppercorns and sugar, the add sufficient water to cover the meat.
- Bring the contents almost to a boil, then immediately reduce heat and simmer gently for four to four and a half hours, skimming as needed, and adding sufficient water as required to keep the meat covered.
- Once the meat is fork tender, you may use it immediately, or else wrap in cling film and keep it chilled until needed.