Osso Buco Revisited

April 2, 2006 12 Comments

Osso Buco Revisited

Osso Buco with Beef Shanks

I love classic osso buco (AW-soh BOO-koh) made with veal shanks that are braised in wine, stock and a whole bunch of vegetable ingredients. Some home cooks are not thrilled with using veal as an ingredient, others may find veal shanks too expensive so I thought I would give beef shanks a try and see if it made a difference.

Bottom line – it did. The meal was good, not great.

I made some changes to my Osso Buco recipe on my web site. Besides substituting beef for veal, I took some short cuts to make the recipe faster to prep and easier to make at home but I don’t think that’s what affected the final outcome of the dish.

The beef shanks are just not as flavorful or tender as the veal shanks. Now maybe I didn’t cook the beef shanks as long as they needed to be cooked, but after two hours, they were a little dry and didn’t fall off the bone like veal shanks do.

The sauce resulting from braising the meat in the wine and stock with all those vegetables is still incredible. I can’t wait to serve the leftovers on some wide pasta noodles with all that wonderful sauce.

We served the osso buco with delicious baby Yukon Gold mashed potatoes my wife expertly prepared and a spring mix salad with her favorite commercial dressing.

Some of the changes I made for this recipe work perfectly well with the classic veal shank osso buco. For example, I think substituting beef/brown stock for chicken stock gives the dish a richer flavor. I also don’t have any problem with using canned diced tomatoes for the fresh tomato pulp.

The original recipe calls for 6 veal shanks but the package of beef shanks contained only 4 and were so much bigger than veal shanks that I thought it would be enough. If you are cooking this for a dinner party, the number you use depends on the number of your guests. You want to serve one per person for the presentation.

Osso Buco Revisited

Prep Time: 1 hour

Cook Time: 2 hours, 30 minutes

Total Time: 3 hours, 30 minutes

Yield: 4-6 servings

Osso Buco Revisited


¼ cup unsalted butter

1-tablespoon olive oil (more as needed)

4 - 6 beef shanks

½ cup all-purpose flour

2 medium sized onions

2 carrots

2 celery sticks

2 garlic cloves

3 anchovy fillets or 3 teaspoons anchovy paste

1 cup of red wine

2 cups of beef stock

1 14 oz can of diced tomatoes

Bouquet Garni consisting of the peel of 1 lemon, 3 parsley sprigs, 2 sprigs fresh thyme, 1 bay leaf

Gremolada (condiment to serve with)

½ cup fresh parsley zest of 1 lemon 2 garlic cloves

How To Prepare At Home


There's a lot of prep work involved but once it's done the rest is easy.

Chop up the vegetables. The onion, carrot and celery should be finely chopped and the garlic should be minced.

Put together the Bouquet Garni by adding all the ingredients to a piece of cheesecloth and then tying it up like a little satchel with a piece of string.

Prep the beef shanks by tying kitchen string around the perimeter of each shank. This keeps them from falling apart while braising. This is more important when braising veal shanks that are more tender and fall apart more easily.

Preheat the oven to 325°F.

How to Make at Home

Start the cooking process by heating the butter and oil in a large pan that you can put in the oven over medium high heat. A large Dutch Oven works great for this recipe but I have also made it in a large fry pan.

I have a large 5 qt. French Oven by Le Creuset that I use for most of my braising recipes like this one and it is one of my favorite pieces of cookware. Yes, Le Creuset is expensive but it is the type of pan I will have for the rest of my life and will probably be in one of my kids lives for a generation or two.

While the butter and oil are heating up, dredge the veal shanks in flour, shake off any excess, and then add them to the pan. Brown both sides and the edges.

If your beef shanks are as large as the ones I purchased, you may be only able to cook 2 at a time. When the browning is done, remove and set aside on a separate plate and continue browning the rest.

When all the shanks are browned and reserved on a plate, lower the heat to medium and add the onion, carrots and celery. Sauté these ingredients until the onion starts to caramelize. I found I need to add a little more olive oil at this point because the pan was too dry. Add the garlic and anchovy and continue to sauté until you can smell the garlic cooking but be careful not to let it burn.

Add the wine to deglaze the pan and continue cooking it down until there is just a trace of wine left. Add the stock and tomato to the pan. This is a good time to add the Bouquet Garni and the beef shanks.

Bring the stock to a boil, cover and put into the oven. If you don't have a large Dutch or French Oven and your fry pan is not large enough to hold all the shanks, you will have to transfer them to a large casserole pan with tight fitting cover.

I cooked the shanks for a total of 2 hours, turning the shanks over after the first hour. I also basted them every 30 minutes or so checking to make sure the stock was not boiling. If it was, I turned down the oven temp a bit.

After two hours with veal shanks, the meat is falling off the bone. With the beef shanks, this wasn't the case. The meat was tender but not as tender as I would like it to be. I'm still not sure if it's the meat or I needed to cook them longer. In any case and in my opinion, the veal shanks are generally more tender and have more flavor.

When the shanks are done cooking, remove them and place them on a large serving plate, remove the string and keep warm. Find the bouquet garni, remove it and throw it out. Now it's time to process the wonderful sauce.

I use a hand blender to process the sauce right in the pan but you can also use a regular blender, a food processor or a food mill if you have one. Once you process the sauce, taste and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper.

On a warmed plate, add your mashed potatoes, risotto, pasta or whatever you decide to serve this with, add one shank and top with a little of the gremolada. I like to have a small bowl of the extra gremolada at the table if anyone wants more.


This is an incredibly doable recipe for any home cook with just a little experience and the results are fantastic. I do recommend using veal shanks but if you do not eat veal, give the beef shanks a try but try cooking them a bit longer and see if that makes a difference.

If any of you have had a different experience with beef shanks or have suggestions on making them more tender, please let me know.

Last modified on Tue 15 July 2014 10:23 am

Filed in: Veal Recipes

Comments (12)

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  1. Bob says:

    This looks like a good recipe. I’ll try it. I’ve had pretty good luck with Osso Bucco with both veal and beef shanks. Veal is much better. Thanks for the the tip on tying them. I don’t know why I never thought of that. DUH….;) I have never tried basting the shanks. If I use Le Creuset I place a large sheet of heavy duty tin foil over the top. I punch it down to make it concave. I seal it tight and put on the lid. When the braising liquid condenses it drips down over the meat instead of down the sides of the French oven. Much less expensive is the “old Fasioned” cast iron Dutch oven. On some of the lids (I don’t know which brands..maybe Lodge.) the under side has been cast with “cones” projecting down to the meat. This causes constant basting. I haven’t tried the Dutch oven for Osso Bucco. I don’t know if it’s too much basting. I’ve used it for tougher cuts; ie, chuck roasts and they turned out good. I guess it’s a matter of experimentation. Anyway, thanks for your great web site.

  2. Karen says:

    My husband had a hankering for Osso Buco – even though he didn’t know what it was. He was reading a poem titled “Osso Buco” by Billy Collins and decided that he would make it for me. We found this recipe and it was so well written that my husband who has NO COOKING experience found it easy to make. It was extremely tasty. He did not alter a thing. Excellent! Thank you! It was nice to have him cook for me for once 🙂 !

  3. Karen says:

    P.S. He used the beef shanks and it worked just fine!

  4. kelly says:

    i use beef shanks alot as they are easy to get and very economical here in Argentina and have never had the problem of them being dry or not falling off the bone.. i braise them until they fall off the bone and the timing varies on the beef. I agree veal is better, but if you are patient this can be very good as well

  5. Michael says:

    I’ve used both beef and veal shanks.
    I much prefer the veal. Much more tender and do not seem to get tough from prolonged cooking. I braise in a 250 degrees F oven for at least 2 1/2 to 3 hours. Be sure to have enough braising liquid.

    Hi Michael, I agree I prefer veal over beef shanks but the beef is a great economical substitute. – RG

  6. Randal says:

    Thanks big time amigo, wife only likes lamb as french cut chops, yet I love Osso bucco. Tried the recipe with two lamb and a beef, yes all in one pot!. All were happy! You da man!!!

    Hey Randal, glad it worked out – RG

  7. Anthony Murdocca says:

    I had Osso Buco alla Fiorentina in Florence less than a month ago, and it was made with beef. It was tender and tasty. Unless I missed something (too long a commentary), I see a few reasons for the beef not being so tender as you wanted it to:
    1. For four shanks you used half the amount of wine and you reduced it to almost nothing, thus taking away the acidity that would act as a tenderizer.
    2. You may not have had enough liquid. The stock, wine, water, and tomatoes should be almost even with the top of the shank.
    3. You did not keep it in the oven long enough. I would bake it for at least 2 1/2 to 3 hours — longer if necessary, as well add more liquid if too much has evaporated. Don’t be tied to a timer.

    Personally, I prefer beef over veal. To me veal, although somewhat more tender, has a weaker taste. Unless you are a lover of anchovies, they are a “no-no”. Osso buco recipes do not call for anchovies, but I do concede that it is a matter of personal taste.

    Hi Anthony and thank you for your comments. I would be very interested in checking out your recipe for this dish and give it a try. Sounds like you have one that works better than mine. I was trying to use my veal osso bucco recipe from Cuisine Magazine and it may not have substituted very well.

    I agree I may not have cooked it long enough but I don’t agree the liquid should be “even with the top of the shank.” I want to braise not stew the meat. As for anchovies, I agree, it is a matter of personal taste and I have seen many osso bucco recipes with and without. Some even have the anchovies in the gremolata served with the shanks.

    So please send me your recipe via email and where it is from and I will give it a try. – RG

  8. Kaeden says:

    Posts like this brighten up my day. Thanks for taking the time.

  9. Jack Kelly says:

    Sorry to correct your pronunciation but…do not say aw-soh unless you are British. In Italian an O is always ‘oh’ so it is oh-so boo-koh. ; )

  10. Babushka says:

    This recipe is brilliant! I learned to cook ossobucco when I was living in Firenze from Medici Cooking School. It is one of my favorite dishes but, I lost my text book and cannot remember the recipe. I have battled to find a recipe that used anchovies because that is the way we learned it there. I went the beef route and took the advice of Mr Murdocca as I prefer it a bit stewy.
    I used beef shin bone which is a thinner cut, therefore I actually snipped the outer rind a few times to prevent the meat fom curling up as it browned. I tossed the meat in flour mixed with seasoning. I used half a bottle of red wine and 500 ml of stock. Cooking time came to 3.5 hours and temperature ranging between 150 and 170 centigrade. The meat was deliciously tender and the bones were clean as I picked them out.
    Thank you RG for sharing this, I really enjoyed making it and it was scummy! Will definitely make again.

  11. Christa says:

    I live in Ecuador and veal shanks are not readily available here. Pork and beef shanks are, and I tried this recipe with both types of meat. I prefer the pork here, because it seems more tender, but prefer the flavor of the beef. Either way, it’s the sauce and the marrow that matter most! Your recipe had all the right ingredients for a succulent dining experience. Thank you for sharing.

  12. Mary Ann Matzer says:

    I would like to try the beef & pork together. Maybe even mushrooms added to your recipe for the osso-buco revisited.

    Any suggestions? I LOVE the combo of beef roast & pork roast with onion chopped fine, Bet the osso-buco- would be awesome like that..

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