The beef shank is a hot commodity lately because of the awesome presentation both raw and cooked in which this tough cut of beef looks like huge mallet or hammer. Dubbed the Meat Hammer or Thor’s Hammer or Beef Hammer, all of which I will use interchangeably in this recipe, just adds to the mystique. It is all over social media. The beef hammer is not an easy cut of meat to cook. Luckily, this recipe will go through all the ins and outs on how smoke a shank properly. Scroll down to see step by step, picture by picture, foolproof grilling instructions on how to make a Smoked Beef Shank AKA Meat Hammer, including the keys to make this cut into something tender and juicy.
Smoked Beef Shank AKA Meat Hammer Ingredients
- 1 tied off beef shank, aka the beef hammer, approximately 5-6 lbs
- 2 cans of stout beer
- 2 tablespoons of salt
- Your favorite BBQ rub, preferably a beef seasoning
Other gear needed for this recipe
- 1 gallon resealable bag (and a rubber band)
- 2 disposable aluminum pans
- 1 food safe squirt bottles
- Aluminum foil
To begin, we need to answer some questions.
What cut of meat is Thor’s Hammer?
Thor’s Hammer is the beef shank of the cow. The cut comes from the shin of the animal and is a heavily used muscle which means it is a very tough cut of beef. Generally speaking, the closer to the ground the cut is on the animal, the tougher it is. That’s why they say people who are well off financially are living high on the hog, because the meat that is high up on the pig (and the cow) is more tender than those down low. The tops of both animals yield the tenderloins and loins, which on the cow is where all those expensive steaks come from. Lower down we have the harder working muscles which make them tough. Luckily, we have the great equalizer for tough cuts of meat in that the low heat over a long period of time will allow us to make that meat tender and keep it juicy.
My butcher, the fine folks at Beast Butcher & Block in St. Louis, trimmed this up for me and tied it off just like in the pic above to keep all that meat together during the long cooking process. They do an absolute phenomenal job.
How to Prepare Smoked Beef Shank AKA Meat Hammer
We will be brining this meat to begin the tenderizing process (and add a lot of flavor). So open that resealable plastic bag and place the meat hammer in the bag. Then pour in the salt and the stout:
If you are turned off by the stout in this recipe, check out my friend Irene’s recipe for a beef hammer.
Due to the height of this bone, we need use a rubber band to keep the bag closed. Luckily the wide, flat bottom of the beef shank will allow it to stand and thus no beer leaked out which would be a crime. You might want to slosh the bag a little to get the salt to dissolve:
Then place the brining beef shank in the fridge for 4-12 hours:
I brined for 12 hours and then smoked the meat hammer the next day on my Green Mountain Grills pellet grill. Fill the hopper with pellets and set the temp at 225F. While the pellet smoker comes up to temp, remove the meat hammer from the resealable bag, placing it in the disposable aluminum pans and pour the brine into a large vessel with a spout:
Then season Thor’s Hammer with the beef seasoning, in this case we used the DB180 All Purpose Rub:
No extra salt needed. The brine had plenty of salt.
And this is why it’s called a beef hammer:
When the grill is up to temp, place the shank in the doubled up aluminum pans (trust me here, a single pan will collapse easily) and into the pellet cooker:
Once in the cooker, pour some of the stout brine in the pan, reserving some for the spray bottle:
This is why I suggested pouring the stout into a vessel with a spout. Pour the rest of the brine into a spray bottle:
Then place a remote probe thermometer in the thick side of the hammer, but make sure it’s not touching the bone. Luckily, my Green Mountain Grills pellet cooker has a couple of probe thermometers built into the unit:
Before we go any further, let’s sum up the smoking process.
How to Smoke a Beef Hammer on a Pellet Grill
Set the pellet cooker for 225F. Place the seasoned meat hammer in a double layer of disposable aluminum pans and set it in the smoker. Pour some of the stout brine in the bottom and close the lid. Pour the rest of the brine into a spray bottle. Wait many hours until the shank hits between 150F and 160F, spritzing every 30 minutes with the stout brine. This is going to take 3-5 hours depending on the size of the shank, heat of the fire, outside weather conditions, etc. Then cover the pan with foil so the shank steams in that stout brine and it’s own juices until the beef hammer reaches 203F-206F. Remove the hammer from the smoker and discard the aluminum pans and stout. Wrap the shank tight in foil and place a towel around it and put it in a microwave for a couple hours to rest.
How to Smoke a Beef Hammer on a Standard Grill
Follow all the steps above, but set up the grill for two zone or indirect grilling. That means we put coals on one side of the grill and have nothing on the other. Thor’s Hammer goes on the side of the grill with no coals and smoke wood goes on the coals. If you are unsure of what smoke wood goes well with beef, we have a thorough list of smoke woods and what they pair with right here.
Back to the beef shank recipe.
Every 30 minutes spritz with that stout beer in the spray bottle:
Keep the lid closed between spray sessions:
At about 150F my grill alerts me it’s time to foil:
One more spritz:
Now time to foil:
Wait, I have a little of the brine in the vessel. I have a use for that:
And back on the pellet grill:
If you want to turn the grill up at this point, you can without risk of darkening the outside too much (remember, the beer has lots of sugar in it). I turned up the pellet smoker to 300F to speed things up a bit:
Thor’s Hammer is sitting at 203F so we are ready to pull it from the grill:
Look at the pull back on that meat where the bone looks clean and white while the rest of the bone has darkened from hours in the smoke:
Had to ham it up (even tho it’s beef):
Next up, discard the disposable aluminum pans and wrap the hammer tight in foil and then an old beach towel and set it in the microwave for a couple hours. This step is vital to making sure the meat is tender. It’s not about keeping the juices in. It’s about making sure the connective tissues are broken down so this tough cut of meat is tender. Since nobody wants to see my old beach towels, I’ll just skip ahead to plating:
Now pull that bone clean:
Yes, after 2 hours in the foil and the towel we still have steam!
Smoked Beef Shank AKA Meat Hammer Summary
After many hours of smoking and resting, what is it like? It reminds me of smoky pot roast with a little stout sweetness. It also looks and smells amazing so the presentation is absolutely magnificent and could easily be the centerpiece of a holiday feast/Christmas dinner. The most important thing here is to take your time. Don’t try to rush things unless the foil has been applied. Also, when cooking a roast, the outside has a ton of flavor because of the seasoning and bark, but the inside can be bland. Give that pile of meat a little sprinkle of the rub right before serving. It goes a LONG way.
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Smoked Beef Shank AKA Meat Hammer
- 1 Resealable plastic bag and probably a rubber band
- aluminum foil
- 1 Beef shank AKA meat hammer
- 2 cans Stout beer
- 2 tablepsoons Salt
- Your favorite BBQ rub Preferably beef seasoning
- Place beef shank into resealable bag
- Pour the salt in the bag
- Pour stout into the bag
- Use the rubber band to seal off the plastic bag
- Slosh the beer in the bag to dissolve the salt
- Place the brine bag in the fridge for 4-12 hours
- Set the smoker to 225F
- Remove the meat hammer from the bag place in doubled up aluminum pans
- Pour the brine into a vessel with a spout
- Season Thor's Hammer the beef seasoning
- Place the aluminum pans with the beef hammer in the smoker
- Pour some of the brine in the pans around the beef shank
- Pour the rest of the brine into the food grade spray bottle
- Close the lid on the smoker and let the heat and smoke do their thing
- Spritz with the stout brine every 30 minutes
- After many hours, the beef shank is sitting between 150F-160F. Wrap the pans and the shank with foil
- You may turn up the heat on the smoker to 300F now that the foil is on
- Once the meat hammer hits 203F remove it from the grill, discarding the aluminum pans. Wrap the shank tightly in foil and an old beach towel
- Put the wrapped beef hammer in a microwave for 2 hours
- Remove from the microwave, towel and foil and place the shank on a platter
- Pull the meat clean off the bone
- Give the plattered meat a sprinkle of the seasoning and serve
More pics from this cook:
Walter B Rees
This is a definite! My daughter and son in law have a brand new smoker and grill and this will be our go to recipe while visiting their new son and our grandson!