First of all, what on earth are pork shanks? The pork shank is a cross section of the leg bone taken from below the knee: they’re kind of the short rib of the pastured pork world! I first came across this cut called “Pork Wings” at a restaurant which served them BBQ-style, with the bone still in. I always buy them bone in now, both for the flavor and for the economical price. Like a good short rib, pork shanks should be slow cooked until the meat is tender enough that the bone comes out all at once, with no meat still attached to it. I usually oven braise them, which always turns out delicious.
Two of my favorite pork shank / wing recipes are here on the site: Coconut Milk & Five Spice Pork Wings and Braised Pork Wings with Apple Onion Gravy. This weekend, though, it was way too hot to have the oven running for hours, so I came up with this great slow cooker pork shank recipe for you instead! If you look at those older pork shank recipes, you’ll see that they can vary in size a LOT – those pork shanks were about 10 oz each, whereas the ones I used here were only about 5 oz.
This recipe is one for the weekend because of how long it takes, but once the pork shanks have been browned and the onions softened, everything goes into the slow cooker for about 4 hours on high. I have made this recipe several times and always found that 4 hours on high followed by 30 – 60 minutes on low at the end turns out perfectly tender pork shanks. I am sure that you could also cook these entirely on low if you wanted, but have not tested that out myself because I so often forget to start the pork shanks early enough – please let me know if you do!
There is one extra step that I add at the end which I believe is well worth it: pureeing some of the vegetable mixture and meat juices together in a blender. I do this for a few reasons. I really enjoy a gravy or sauce along with the pork shanks instead of a more loose pot roast-style dish, but I really don’t want to mess around trying to reduce the braising liquid or adding thickeners. It also means that you don’t have to worry about trying to remove any excess fat which has cooked out of the pork in the slow cooker. By taking all of the cooking liquid, plus about half of the vegetables and blending them together, you emulsify the fats (removing any potential greasiness) AND create a lovely flavorful smooth sauce for the pork shanks to be smothered in. Win-win, if you ask me.
Once you have made your puree, pour it back into the slow cooker, stir everything together and then continue to cook on low for 30 – 60 minutes while you make sides and finish getting anything else you want ready to serve with the meal. I love to serve this over a fluffy mashed vegetable for extra comfort food points!
Slow Cooker Pork Shanks
Pork shanks are the short rib of the pastured pig world! Use your slow cooker to make the most of this deliciously tender bone-in cut with minimal effort.
- Prep Time: 30 mins
- Cook Time: 5 hours
- Total Time: 5 hours 30 mins
- 1 – 1 1/2 tbl avocado oil
- 3 lbs bone in pork shanks (about 9)
- 3 cups onion, diced (about 1 large onion)
- 2 cups carrot, diced
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 3 cups mushrooms, chopped
- 1 tbl fresh oregano leaves, minced
- 2 tsp fresh thyme leaves
- 2 tbl fresh basil leaves, chopped finely
- 1 tsp fine sea salt
- 2 lemons, zest and juice, divided
- 14 oz chopped tomatoes (substitute 1 cup pumpkin puree for AIP)
- 3/4 cup chicken or pork broth
- Pat the pork shanks dry with paper towel.
- Add 1/2 tbl of oil to a large skillet over medium heat. Brown half the pork shanks until golden brown, about 8 minutes per side. Set aside.
- Repeat with the other 1/2 tbl of oil and the remaining pork shanks. Set aside with the other pork shanks.
- Add the last 1/2 tbl oil to the skillet. Add the onion, carrot and garlic to the pan and soften, about 5 minutes.
- Add the onion mixture to the bottom of a large slow cooker. Nestle the pork shanks on top.
- Return the skillet to the stove over a low heat and use the juice of one lemon to deglaze the pan. Add the pan drippings to the slow cooker.
- Add the mushrooms, oregano, thyme, basil, salt and lemon zest to the slow cooker.
- Pour over both the chopped tomatoes and stock. Cook on high for 4 hours.
- Remove pork shanks and set them aside, covered to keep them warm.
- Remove all of the cooking liquid and half of the vegetables, adding them to a blender. Add the juice of the remaining lemon and puree until smooth. Check your seasoning here and add any extra salt if needed.
- Return the vegetable puree to the slow cooker, stirring the remaining vegetables through the sauce. Add the pork shanks and cook for a further 30 minutes – 1 hour on low.
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Beautiful! I have been wanting to do a recipe with pork hocks lately, which I think are essentially the same just a slight difference.
Oooh, I’d like to see that. I haven’t used or seen a pork hock in years, I used to use them in soup!
Pork hocks are much fattier than shanks. But where on earth do you find either that aren’t smoked?
I’ve never actually seen them other than smoked. But I’ve not asked my butcher about them either – I definitely should!
You can buy pork shanks at Shoprite. You may have to call in advance to order.
Do I need to remove all the fat before cooking if so is it easy to do?
Mine are always trimmed by my butcher.. there should be a little fat, but not a thick coating. You could cook them with the fat, but if you did, you would have to skim most of that from the top of the crockpot sauce before you blended it, or it would end up too greasy.
I bought mine from a fresh meat market, and the fat is a minimum in the crock pot emulsifies when you blend the mixture of the vegetables for a sauce for a wonderful taste. I used my blender and emulsified all the vegetables. If you don’t have a meat market ask at your local meat counter in the grocery store for non-smoked pig hocks or shanks, they are the same
Oh My Goodness….the sauce to this is AmAzInG and the Pork Shanks are Moist and Tender! Will be making this recipe again and again. Thanks for Sharing it with Us!
I’m so glad you enjoyed it, this recipe is one of my absolute favorites – thank you for stopping by to let me know! 🙂
Can I use short ribs instead???
I don’t see why not! You would have to adjust the cooking times, depending on the size and cut of the short ribs, though.
Re: your recipe: I don’t know where you get your meat from but 9 shanks?, that must total about 25lb of shank! I sourced mine from a fresh meat butcher, two at 3lb each. I followed the recipe diligently for a 3lb shank and there are far too many herbs and too much lemon in the recipe. Our sauce was of great consistency but it tasted very very dry and overly strong therefore not as flavourful as you expect, we had to spend time diluting and adding thickener to reduce the overpowering taste. Next time with the remaining shank, I’ll minimise the herbs and only use the lemon zest carefully, The meat was lovely moist and tender.
Pork shanks can be cut in a number of sizes, depending on how long the bone is, whether they incorporate one bone or two, and how large the animal was, which is why I specified the weight of meat (3 lbs total) and the number of shank pieces that made up (9). They were sourced from a butcher in Phoenix that cuts pieces with a single bone through the middle (rather than cut crossways through with two bones) as you can see in the photo. I’m honestly a little confused about your feedback – the meat was moist and tender, but the sauce was dry? Did you use the slow cooker method or adapt it to the oven? The level of seasoning in this is higher than a usual oven braised recipe, but that is because slow cooker recipes are always less flavorful than their oven based equivalents, but of course people’s tastes differ and it appears ours may in this case!
Thanks for your comments, I meant that the sauce was quite dry in taste not texture, and we felt the lemon caused this and impaired the flavour. We disposed of the remainder of the sauce. Noting your meat resource in Phoenix explains much as we are in the UK where cuts of meat tend to be different, our single shanks were with one large and one small bone. Also, our measurements are based more on weights rather than “cups” We used the slow cooker for the required time. In the UK we are told cheaper cuts of meat such as pork shanks are best suited to slow cooking because this enhances their flavour far better than oven cooking. Perhaps you’re right about peoples tastes, I’ll cook the remaining shank with a modified recipe and maybe let you know!
I personally always find that something cooked “low and slow” in the oven develops richer flavors than the slow cooker. A nice long braise in the oven can be done at lower temperatures for longer amounts of time with those kinds of cuts and they’ll turn out beautifully. I hear you on the measurements front, because I actually grew up in England and only moved to the US as an adult. So I had to adapt to cups (which still seem somewhat illogical to me, I admit!) and the different ways meat is presented or produce is called. This is one of my older recipes, where I used to only provide US measurements, but these days I provide both US and metric measurements. You’ve raised a good point for me, in that I really should go back over older recipes and give metric equivalents. Anyway, I hope you enjoyed your remaining pork shank — they’re one of my favorite cuts 🙂
I just purchased shanks from a local farmer. Should I trim off the skin?
If it’s just a thin layer of membrane and a little fat, similar to pork ribs (you can see a photo of what I mean here), then there’s no need to trim. I haven’t come across shanks with actual skin attached myself, but if I did, I would probably leave the skin attached so that it rendered a little extra fat and collagen into the gravy, then remove it once cooked. Hope that helps!
I should try this delish pork shanks. Thanks for the captivating post. Nice job!
Made this for dinner tonight and it was delicious! We had three very large pork shanks, and I put them in at 10 in the morning on low and cooked them tor 6 hours. Then I continued the recipe as written and after the purée, cooked for another hour on low and they turned out great!!! I omitted the mushrooms (family isn’t a fan) and the lemon zest. Outstanding recipe for pork shanks. Will definitely make again!! Thank you!!