Succulent, moist smoked beef shank makes for an excellent taco filling.
Even though a long cooking time is required, I can tell you the results are well worth the wait. There’s just something about biting into a perfectly smoked piece of beef, crunching through that bark and down into moist, tender meat.
What is beef shank?
Smoked beef shank is something quite unique and very different from what most people would consider using for pulled beef. It gives you some great surface area where you form that delicious bark that we all know and love.
The shank comes from the lower leg portion of a steer. As you would imagine this muscle gets constant use, resulting in a lean, tough texture.
Unless you know how to cook it correctly that is.
Shank is often cut and sold in cross-sections called shank cross-cuts for dishes like Osso Buco.
What you will need for smoked beef shank
Be sure to plan your cook in advance as you might need to place a special order with your local butcher for the beef shank.
Aim for a shank around 9lb and what you will want is one with some good marbling throughout those muscles.
You can always pay more, as I did, and get a Wagyu Beef Shank, which is what I used today.
Items that will help for this cook:
- a Smoker, I used the Gateway Drum Smoker
- lump charcoal although briquettes will also work fine
- an Instant read thermometer
- a boning or trimming knife
- a cutting board
- a drill
- a hanging rack and 2 hooks (optional)
- two of your favorite beef dry rubs or try a homemade rub
- gloves for breaking up hot meat
Setting up the smoker
Set your smoker to cook at 300F°. I am setting my Gateway Drum smoker for a minion method using lump charcoal along with a mixture of Pecan and Cherry wood, however you can choose your preferred combo of smoking woods.
Prepping your smoked beef shank
Trim off any excess silver skin and hard fat that may still be on the beef shank to expose the muscles.
I’ll give you instructions below if you want to hang the shank during the cook like I did. You can also place it on your smoker grates and get good results.
Using a drill, make a hole at the top of the bone around ¾ inch down, large enough to take the stainless steel hooks. Make sure you wash the area that you just drilled so as to not get any bone pieces in the meat at service.
Thread a hook into each side of the hole ready for hanging.
Cooking your smoked beef shank
Once the smoker has been sitting steady at 300F° for around 15minutes you can hang the beef shank from the hanging rack.
When cooking in the gateway smoker I find it very rare that I need to spritz the meat throughout the cook due to its design, however if you are using a different BBQ it may pay to check every couple of hours and spritz as required.
As a rough guideline the finished internal temp we are aiming for is generally between 205F° to 218F°, however what we are really looking for is for our probe to slide in and out of the beef shank like a hot knife going through butter with no resistance on the way in or on the way out which is also known as ‘probing like butter’.
Once you have reached this target temperature and feel the texture is right, remove the meat from the smoker and wrap tightly in thick foil.
Then wrap the foil package in a towel and place it into a cooler with one towel on the bottom and another towel on top then place the lid back on.
You want the beef shank to rest for a minimum of one hour, however it can stay in the cooler like this for up to four hours.
Once the Beef Shank has rested long enough, remove from the cooler and carefully open up the foil.
When pulling apart any large protein for pulled meat I like to put on some cotton gloves then nitrile gloves over the top, this way it protects you from the heat and you can feel for any bones or gristle that you need to remove. Pull the beef shank apart into chunks making sure to remove those tendons and gristle.
Making beef shank tacos
To make beef shank tacos tacos that really wow, I like to add in a few components.
Firstly, a vibrant mango salsa. This adds sweet, spicy flavors and also a freshness to cut through the richness of the smoked beef shank.
Then a good drizzle of Alabama white BBQ sauce, which has the perfect hit of vinegar, the sour, and is a personal favorite of mine.
To construct your tacos, lay down a good portion of pulled beef on top of a flour tortilla, then top with the fresh made mango salsa followed by a good drizzle of Alabama white BBQ sauce.
Serving your smoked beef shank
- Mango Salsa
- Alabama white sauce
- Jalapeno Cornbread – while the beef shank is resting maximize those hot coals and throw some cornbread on the smoker
- Charred corn cobs
- Southern Style Coleslaw
More smoked beef recipes to try
Smoked Beef Shank Tacos
- 9 lb Beef shank well marbled
- BBQ rub I used 2 different types
- 8 flour tortillas
- Mango salsa
- Alabama white sauce
- Set up your smoker for 300°F.
- Add a few chunks of smoke wood, I used a mixture of Pecan and Cherry.
- Prep your shank by removing and excess silver skin or hard fat.
- Drill a hole at the top of the bone, around ¾ inch down from the top. Insert the two hooks.
- Apply a good even coat of the BBQ rub all over the shank.
- Make sure your smoker is sitting at steady 300°F to 320°F. Hang the beef shank on the rack over the coals.
- Your beef shank will be cooked at when an internal temperature hits around 205°F, this will take around 5-6 hours, but I would suggest checking the internal temperature around 4 hours. The ultimate test for doneness will be when you can insert a skewer into the shank and it slides in with no resistance "like butter".
- Once your shank is done, remove it from the smoker and wrap tightly in heavy duty foil. Then wrap it in a towel and place it into a cooler. You can layer a towel underneath and on top for better insulation.
- You want your shank to rest for a minimum of one hour, however it can stay like this in the cooler for up to 4 hours.
- Once rested, carefully open the foil and start pulling the beef shank into chunks making sure to remove any tendons and gristle.
- Construct your tacos by heating the tortilla, adding a good portion of pulled smoked beef shank, some mango salsa and a good drizzle of Alabama white sauce.