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Pork shank is a cut of meat taken from the lower part of a pig’s leg. Generally, because of the area the cut is taken from, it tends to be lean but tough. People use specialized cooking methods to tenderize the shank and bring out its hearty flavor.
All pork sold commercially comes from domestic pigs raised specifically for consumption. The domesticated pig has been around for a very long time, and there is evidence that people might have raised pigs for slaughter as early as the 6th century BC. Worldwide, pork is an extremely popular meat, although certain cultures consider it taboo. For instance, both Jewish and Islamic dietary laws forbid the consumption of pork and pork products.
Cuts taken from different areas of the pig have varying flavors and textures. Due to the fact that the pork shank is taken from the lower portion of the leg, it has both a shank bone and part of the femur bone. As a result, it also has a lot of muscle and connective tissue, which can make the meat tough when cooked. While it does have a layer of fatty skin, pork shank is generally leaner than other cuts because the lower leg contains more muscle than fat.
For the most part, pork shank tends to be a relatively inexpensive cut of meat. Butchers and other commercial retailers sell them either whole or cut into portions. Considering the size of a pig, a whole shank, especially if it has the foot attached, can be quite large and difficult to cook because of its size. In that instance, chefs often cut the shank into smaller, more manageable portions prior to cooking.
When cooking pork shank, chefs often use slow-cooking methods to break down the connective tissue and thus make the meat more tender. One of the most popular methods used in this regard is braising. Braising is a style of cooking in which the meat is pan seared then placed in a deep, covered pot with some amount of liquid. It is then slow cooked on the stove top for several hours. A countertop slow cooker, such as a Crock Pot®, can also be used for this method.
Cooks often add different vegetables and spices during the slow-cooking process so that the meat becomes infused with a variety of delectable flavors. They might also might use beef or chicken broth instead of water to give the meat a unique flavor. People can either cook the pork shank as one large portion or cut it into single-serving slices. Shank that is sliced into smaller portions prior to cooking will require less time to become tender. Many people serve the dish with a light gravy made from the liquid remaining in the pot once the pork is done.