One trend, three trailblazers

Three ways with: beef shin

A trio of chefs explain how they cook with beef shin, which is proving to be one of the most popular alternative meat cuts with consumers.

9 May 2019
chefsfood wastemeatrestaurantssustainability

The trend

  • Online searches for beef shin have risen by 59% in the last year, according to Waitrose data. The increase is thought to be due to consumers' renewed interest in slow cooking and a desire for more affordable meat cuts.
  • The discussion around nose-to-tail eating has seen more diners experimenting with less common animal parts, with MCA Insight highlighting the trend as part of a wider movement towards conscious consumption in 2018.
  • The average UK consumer eats over 18kg of beef and veal per year, according to a 2016 survey by the National Beef Association.

Culinary versatility, depth of flavour, value for money and a greater move towards a nose-to-tail ethos in kitchens – all reasons why beef shin is currently gaining legs on menus.

As l'Ortolan head chef Tom Clarke says, beef shin has been “under-rated, under-used and not given the same prominence as prime cuts on menus” in recent decades, but now its fortunes are changing.

Found on the lower part of a cow's front or rear legs, this cut (available on and off the bone) is a well-exercised muscle containing little fat but lots of connective tissue, meaning it requires slow cooking to break down and encourage its flavour to come through.

This long cooking time is what strengthens beef shin's appeal to chef Tommy Heaney, who features it in a croquette, served alongside a kohlrabi and brown shrimp salad, at his Cardiff restaurant Heaney's.

“It’s the perfect cut to braise in order to produce that natural gelatin created by the bone marrow required to bind the meat together for the croquettes,” he enthuses.

Richard Bainbridge, chef-patron of Benedicts in Norwich, is another fan. He is currently using slow-cooked beef shin as the base to his cottage pie and previously incorporated it in confit, terrines and ravioli.

While beef shin benefits from slow cooking, it is also aided by moisture and other flavourings from herbs and spices, which is why you'll find it at home in cuisines around the globe – from British, French and Italian, to Chinese, Thai and Mexican.

Indeed, a number of Italian restaurants in the UK, including restaurant groups Prezzo and Polpo, cook beef shin in red wine and herbs to produce a melt-in-the-mouth ragu.

Until just recently, Mexican restaurant group Wahaca served beef shin, subtly spiced with pasilla and ancho chilli mole, in tacos.

Beef shin can be used as a replacement for traditional veal shin in the classic northern Italian dish osso bucco, as shown by Andrea Scarpati, chef-patron at Sapori restaurant in Leicestershire.


The trailblazers

Nina Matsunaga, head chef at The Black Bull in Sedbergh, Yorkshire, uses beef shin in a beef and ale pie with oysters and stout-pickled vegetables: “Beef shin is nicer than braising beef because it's got a bit more structure and flavour to it. Here at The Black Bull we buy whole small cows and use every part of them, so we end up with quite a lot of slow-cooking cuts, one of them being shin. We currently have a pie with shin beef and oyster on the menu, which is inspired by the traditional Victorian beef and oyster pie, but ours is a kind of deconstructed version. We get the beef shin in large chunks and slice it up – not too finely so you still get the structure and integrity of the beef shin – and put it in a classic beef pie mix. This is cooked slowly with a dark stout and then served in rich shortcrust pastry. On the side we serve a classic parsley-crusted oyster glazed with some butter and some beer-pickled vegetables. That's it – beer, meat and oysters – it's a real classic pub dish.”


Pete Hall, chef-owner of Lorne, Victoria, makes ravioli of beef shin, served with a beef consommé, spring vegetables and horseradish oil: “We braise the beef shin in red wine, chicken stock and root vegetables for a long time on a low temperature until the meat falls off the bone. Then, we flake the meat and reduce the liquor until it's thick. The reduced liquor is then poured over the meat and added to a small brunoise of vegetables. We pipe the mixture onto rolled pasta sheets and then punch out into small ravioli. The consommé is made by taking beef bones, which have been roasted until golden, and leaving them to cook in water with some root vegetables until they create a nice flavoured stock. Then we roast beef trim until dark brown, add mushrooms, shallots and carrots deglazed with red wine, and place the whole lot in the stock before clarifying and passing through muslin. We add the pasta to the warm consommé and finish with fresh spears of asparagus, peas and gem lettuce. Finally, a drizzle of horseradish oil completes the dish. The beef is so robust it can take on any flavours that you want it to. In this case, the richness from the slow cook helps maximise the flavour of the beef and it works perfectly with the freshness from the vegetables and the pepperiness from the horseradish.”


Tom Clarke, head chef at L'Ortolan in Reading, describes his roast sirloin of beef, braised shin, smoked pomme purée and chargrilled asparagus: “I like to use two cuts of meat in most of my main dishes, a prime cut like sirloin and one lesser used cut like shin. In this dish, I create a type of shin croquette. I marinade the beef shin for four days in red wine with carrots, onion, leek, celery, garlic, thyme, rosemary and bay leaves, then I braise it for 18 hours at 80 degrees Celsius. I keep the braising juice to make a sauce but the meat you get is absolutely delicious. We flake it down and mix it with thyme, shallot, parsley and the sauce, then season with salt and sherry vinegar. Next, we set it in a mould and freeze the shin before cutting it into squares. We pane these squares (flour, egg and panko breadcrumbs) and deep fry them. The shin croquettes are almost gooey inside but with a crispy outside; they give a lovely contrast of texture to accompany the sirloin. The depth of flavour you get from the shin is nicely balanced with the fresh asparagus too. Smokey flavours go well with beef, so I like serving the beef with pomme puree, made using a clarified butter that we cold smoke over oak chips. When cooked properly, beef shin is utterly delicious and surpasses the prime cuts. It really enhances a dish and there is such flavour in these tougher cuts of meat.”

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