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Lamb Necks & Backs, Oxtail, Shanks, and Other Boney Animal Parts! (Instant Pot or Slow Cooker recipe)

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by Angela Gallardo in Instant Pot, Lunch & Dinner, Recipes

One of the *best* reasons to own an Instant Pot is the access it provides to less common cuts of meat. 

I know… most people think you should buy one to shorten cook times. Which is a thing SOMETIMES.  But by-and-large, the Instant Pot will often create a lot of longer cook times for you due to needing to come up to and then also decrease internal pressure levels.

Where it *does* save you cook time is when you choose to pressure cook really tough cuts of meat, like the ones we’ll be talking about today.

Tough cuts of meat get a bad rap because formerly, most home cooks had to resort to slow cooking, which can be hard to get just right.  You have to remember to get it going early in the day and then it often requires a bit of babysitting toward the end of the cook time. *thumbs down*

My absolute favorite less common parts to use in the Instant Pot are those boney parts of the animal.  Below are some details on my 4 favorites in order of preference, with the first 2 being a favorite mostly because of easier access and shorter cook times.

  • Necks – for poultry, you’ll generally find the neck fully intact. For lamb, you’ll most commonly get cross-sections, which will often give access to some marrow (yum!).  I do not see game or red meat necks (though if you do, please let me know!).  Necks will generally contain about 50% meat by weight, with some variation depending on the animal (lamb being a bit higher; it’s what is pictured here).
  • Backs – most commonly available sourced from poultry and are usually fully intact.  Generally less than 50% meat by volume.
  • Shanks – this refers to the upper leg portion of any animal.  Will include some marrow due to the thickness of the upper leg bone (again, yum!).  Most commonly you will find lamb. There’s a very high meat to bone ratio by volume, at least 75%, which makes this cut a great value.
    • Pork shank or turkey legs (not referred to as a shank bc usually a larger portion of the leg is sold) will be larger in overall size and can require greater cook times than what is listed below, depending on the weight.  See the notes on cook time adjustments in the instructions.
  • Oxtail – not as commonly sold but worth buying when you see it! Oxtail is a cross section from the tail of a cow, not an ox (which is how the term originated years ago).  You’ll get a good amount of marrow in the center!  And there’s a fairly high meat to bone ratio, usually around 75%.

There are more boney parts to address (like feet for bone broth but there’s not much meat on those to speak of).  I prefer these 4 listed because they *do* have a pretty good amount of meat on each, which helps me stretch my dollar further and also make good use of all the animal parts available to me.

I keep going back to lamb because the boney parts seem to be more readily available (at least in the two major cities I’ve lived in) and also because nearly 100% of all lamb is grass-fed.  Lamb does not adapt well to commercial feed and therefore must graze on grass to thrive.  If you are struggling to fit grass-fed meat into your budget, finding affordable lamb (I buy from Sprouts Farmers Market) can be very helpful.  And even better is that the boney parts are going to be the cheapest cuts per pound.

I will address the issue of flavor, because I know it’s a deal-breaker for people.  Not only does lamb have a unique taste that can take a bit of time to get used to, but the boney parts of an animal can often be a little off-putting due to the high level of fat (um, this is a great thing!) and connective tissue involved.

Pressure-cooking is great for breaking all that down to a manageable (read: edible) level, but if you’re still struggling with the flavor, I recommend dousing the meat in equal parts EVOO and red wine vinegar, as well as a good amount of flake salt, as I mention below.  If getting used to the flavor of lamb, it can also be really helpful to add some sauce to the meat when serving.  You can get a copy of my Sauce Like A Boss PDF over on the Free Resources page, where you’ll find a lot of really great sauces for putting on meat.  Anything with a heavy acid base is a good bet, like my Zesty Chimichurri or Red Pepper Romesco.


Get a printable PDF of the recipe

Animal Boney Parts

(if someone has a better recipe “name” than this, I am accepting submissions 😄)

  • 2 lb. necks, backs, shank, or oxtail*
  • All seasons salt
  • OR
  • Combo garlic salt & black pepper
  • High-heat cooking fat
  • 1/4 c. white wine
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1+ c. bone broth or stock
  • Optional for serving: extra-virgin olive oil & red wine vinegar, flake salt, and any sauce from the Sauce Like a Boss PDF

Directions:

  1. Pat the meat dry with paper towels and season on all sides with your chosen seasoning.
  2. Set the Instant Pot to “Sauté” and toggle to “More” heat.  Once the display says Hot, add a generous amount of high-heat cooking fat and the seasoned meat.  Cook until browned on all sides.
  3. Deglaze with the white wine and simmer for 2 minutes to cook off the alcohol.  Add the bay leaves and 1 cup of broth.
  4. Turn the IP off.  Cover and set to “Manual/Pressure” and toggle to “High Pressure.”
    1. Adjust the time to 40 minutes for necks or backs and 55 minutes for shank or oxtail.*
    2. Turn the vent to the sealing side.
  5. When the cook time is completed, use the Natural Steam Release or Quick Steam Release method by moving the vent to venting to release the pressure.
  6. Shred the meat and set the bones aside for bone broth.  The broth in the pot can be served with the meat or reserved for another use.  If using neck, oxtail or a shank, be sure to enjoy the bone marrow in the center!
  7. I really enjoy tossing the meat with a drizzle of equal parts extra-virgin olive oil and red wine vinegar, which can cut the gamey flavor some of these fatty boney parts have.  Top with flake salt and any sauce you like!

Note:

  • To use a slow cooker, use a large skillet over your stovetop to execute steps 1-3.  Then move everything into a minimum 4-quart slow cooker.  Add enough broth to cover the meat about halfway.  Cook on high heat for 4-6 hours for necks/back and 6-8 hours for shank/oxtail.  You know it’s ready when it shreds easy.  Once cooked, follow steps 6-7 as written.
  • Cook times can vary here, as these boney parts are not as uniform as other cuts of meat and can sometimes come in odd shapes and sizes.
  • Add about 10 minutes for each additional ½ lb. of meat used.

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