Smoked Lamb Shank is perfectly moist and tender, full of flavors, and just falls off the bone for a delicious bite. This is a great simple and easy way to prepare a great cut of lamb.
I fell in love with lamb shanks from our favorite greek restaurant. It seems every time I go there I order the same great dish. Braised Lamb Shank with orzo. This Smoked Lamb Shank recipe captures that beautiful tender lamb but adds my own delicious wrinkle by adding the smoky flavor and giving a little more texture to the lamb with a smoked bark.
What is a lamb shank?
The lamb shank is the lower part of the leg. The meat is attached to the bone with connective tissue and sinuous fibers that require a low and slow cooking approach to melt them away to allow the meat to just fall off the bone. If you haven't cooked lamb, this is a perfect start. It tends to be cheaper and less intimidating than some of the other popular cuts of lamb like a whole lamb leg, lamb chops, or a rack of lamb. The low and slow approach we take in this recipe combines smoking for some time to add flavor and then braising the lamb to finish breaking down the collagen while cooking it and keeping it all moist and tender.
How to prepare Lamb Shanks
The first step is relatively easy. Take a sharp knife and carefully remove some of the extra fat and silver skin from the shank. The goal is to make the meat exposed to be able to absorb that wonderful smoke.
If you want to take a little more time for a classy presentation, you can also french the bone. You can do this by running your knife around the thin end of the shank and carefully peeling and cutting the meat off that end to expose the bone. Similar to how you might french a rack of lamb. If this is your first time cooking lamb shank or you are just like me and going for a quick prep for a simple and rustic dinner, don't bother with frenching the bone.
Smoked Lamb Shank Recipe
Once the lamb shanks are prepared, liberally season them with kosher salt and black pepper. Then, in a preheated smoker, place lamb shanks directly on the grill grates. Close the lid and smoke at 225°F for about two hours or until the internal temperature reaches 160°F. Use a temperature probe to monitor the internal temp.
How to prepare the Braise Liquid
After the lamb has been smoking for about an hour, you can start to prepare your braising liquid. Gather your ingredients.
Braising Liquid Ingredients
- Beef or Lamb Broth
- Dry Red Wine
- Fresh Garlic
- Olive Oil
I like to use a cast iron dutch oven for braising. You can also use a thick-bottomed covered pot that is oven or smoker safe. (You don't want a handle melting)
Step One - Heat the pot over medium heat and add your olive oil. Once the oil is hot add your garlic and onions and saute over medium heat until they begin to soften and the onions become translucent. Then add the wine and broth. Bring to a gentle boil, then turn it down to simmer.
Step Two - Once the smoked lamb shanks reach 160°F, remove them from the smoker and place them into the dutch oven with the braising liquid.
The shanks do not need to be completely covered by the braising liquid. Place the lid onto the dutch oven and place it in the smoker. Close the lid to the smoker and braise the lamb for about another two hours at 300°F or until the internal temperature reaches 205°F. I will typically roll the shanks over in the braising liquid halfway through to give each side a chance to marinade as it braises.
You can also choose to finish the braising in your oven. Once the lamb is in a closed pot it will not absorb any more of the flavor from the smoke so the choice is up to you.
When the smoked lamb shanks finally reach 205°F, they are done. The meat will have shrunk as the collagen melts and will be very soft and tender. Carefully remove the braised lamb shanks from the pot. The meat will want to easily fall off the bone, so be careful if you are looking for a bone-in presentation.
Step Three: Remove the lamb from the braising pot and serve it atop Tomato Orzo or another flavorful side dish.
Add a Sauce - Adding a sauce is a great way to enhance the dish. Remove the smoked lamb shank from the braising liquid and let it rest under an aluminum foil tent. Then pour the braising liquid into a gravy separator to remove any fat from the liquid. Add the liquid and veggies from braising to a blender to thoroughly combine. Then pour this into a small saucepan and cook over low/medium heat and allow it to reduce until it is a nice thick sauce. Use salt and pepper to season to taste. You can then use this as a perfect sauce to serve your smoked lamb shank.
BBQ flavor - Use a simple dry rub mixture of garlic powder, smoked paprika, onion powder, salt, and pepper to coat the lamb shanks. Then substitute a malty beer in place of the wine in the braising liquid. This will give you a smokier bbq flavor lamb shank that serves well shredded on a toasted bun.
Classic Fresh Herbs - Depending on how you are serving the lamb shank, you can feel free to add some herbs like fresh rosemary or thyme to the presmoked rub and to the braising liquid for a little more of a classic lamb dish flavor.
What type of Wood or Pellets should I use to smoke Lamb Shanks?
Whether I am using a charcoal smoker or a pellet grill, I have come to love a combination of cherry and hickory when smoking lamb. But you can use apple, pecan, or whatever your favorite wood is. It is a relatively short time in the smoker before the braise, so don't get too hung up on the wood. But I personally have found that the cherry/hickory combo gives a perfect balance of flavor when smoking lamb.
What if I don't have a Smoker?
You can also use a gas grill to get that beautiful smoke flavor. The key here is indirect heat. As long as your grill has a tight-fitting lid, you can place the lamb shanks on the unheated side of the grill, while you place a smoker box over the heated side of the grill. Just be sure to monitor the grill temperature to keep it at around 225°F.
How Long Does it Take to Smoke Lamb Shanks?
The key to cooking meaty lamb shanks as well as many other cuts of meat that have lots of connective tissue is to cook them slowly to allow that connective tissue to break down so that the meat becomes fall-apart tender. With a smaller cut like these shanks, smoking them for half the time and then braising them for the other half gives enough time in the smoker to allow for a great smoky flavor, then the other half of the time in the braise allows the collagen to completely break down. The total time for this cooking process takes about four hours. Two hours of smoking to develop a nice bark and then two hours of braising.
What do I serve with lamb?
Love this recipe? Try Smoked Oxtail next! It is also fall off the bone delicious.
Smoked Lamb Shank
- Traeger Grill or other smoker
- 2 lb lamb shank (two 1lb shanks)
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon pepper
- 2 cup beef stock
- 1 cup red wine
- 1 onion peeled and halved
- 4 garlic peeled and halved
- Preheat the smoker to 225.
- Season the lamb shanks with oil, salt, and pepper.
- Smoked the lamb for two hours at 225°F or until the internal temperature reaches 160°F.
- In a large cast iron pot or dutch oven, sautee garlic and onions in olive oil. Cook until the onions are translucent and the garlic is tender.
- Add 2 cups of beef broth and 1 cup of red wine. Bring to a boil.
- Once the lamb shanks reach 160°F internal temperature, place them into the pot and submerge them in the braising liquid. They should be half submerged in the liquid.
- Cover the braising pot and cook on the smoker or in an oven. Cook for 2 hours at 300°F. Halfway through the two-hour braising time, flip the lamb shanks in the pot. The lamb shanks are done at the end of the two hours or when the internal temperature reaches 205°F.