Elk shanks often get relegated to the burger pile. That’s a shame. While the shank portion of the leg, from the knee down to just above the hoof, does have a lot of connective tissue, meaning it can be pretty tough if not prepared correctly, it’s that very connective tissue that makes the meat so unctuous when slowly cooked until it melts.
What’s the best way to coax all that flavor out of a shank and leave it fork tender? A long, slow braise. Braising is a method that slow cooks meat or other ingredients in a flavorful liquid inside a covered container. The steam produced from the liquid helps break down any tough parts of whatever you are cooking.
Besides making things tender, the braising liquid is also an outstanding way to introduce flavor. For this recipe, we add 2 cups of freshly brewed Death Wish Coffee, along with stock, a few aromatic vegetables, and herbs. Once they’ve roasted, spoon those vegetables into a blender and process until they make a smooth sauce to serve over the elk meat.
To add some nice smoky flavor, we first cook the meat directly on our Traeger Grill. From there, it gets placed in an aluminum pan, along with the other ingredients, and returned to the grill at a lower temperature to slow cook until tender.
While an elk shank looks like a large piece of meat, it will shrink around the sizable bone as it cooks. I like to figure one shank for every two to three diners. To prepare the shank for cooking, separate it at the knee joint. I like to cut through the bone on the other end with a meat saw, exposing the marrow to the cooking process for extra flavor.
1 to 2 whole elk shanks
Canola or olive oil
2 tablespoons Traeger Big Game Rub
1 tablespoon kosher salt
2 cans fire-roasted chopped tomatoes
2 to 3 carrots, peeled and cut into thirds
2 celery ribs, cut into 3-inch pieces
2 yellow onions, quartered
4 garlic cloves
3 sprigs fresh rosemary
2 bay leaves
1 bunch fresh thyme, tied to hold it together during the cook
2 quarts beef or elk stock
2 cups brewed Death Wish Coffee
Salt and pepper to taste
Coat the shanks well with oil. Sprinkle on a liberal coating of Traeger Big Game Rub and kosher salt. Let the shanks sit at room temperature while you preheat your Traeger Grill to 350 to 400 degrees. Place the shank directly on the grill rack and cook for 45 minutes, flipping once after 25 minutes or so.
Remove the shank from the grill and place directly in a large aluminum baking pan. Add the tomatoes, carrots, celery, onions, garlic, rosemary, bay leaves, thyme, stock, and Death Wish Coffee.
Lower the heat on the Traeger to 325 degrees. Place the covered pan back on the grill for 5 to 6 hours, or until the elk meat shreds easily and falls from the bone.
We like to serve the braised shank over cheese grits. Puree the roasted vegetables and a bit of the stock to form a sauce to spoon over the meat. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
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