1–3 venison shanks (depending on the size of your animal)
1 and 1/2 tsp. salt, divided (or enough salt to liberally coat your shanks)
3–4 cups beef or venison stock
1 cup red wine
3 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar
3 Tbsp. tomato paste
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp. pepper
1 tsp. lemon zest
About 30 minutes prior to cooking, take the shanks out of the fridge and let them come closer to room temp.
Preheat the smoker to 225F. I use a pellet grill but any smoker that is able to hold consistent temperatures for periods of time is fine.
Sprinkle the shanks with the salt covering them liberally on all sides.
When the smoker is preheated, place the shanks directly on the smoker grates and smoke for 1 hour. This is just to flavor the meat so you don’t need to worry about the meat getting tender during this process. In fact, the shanks will look like they’ve formed a bit of a skin when you pull them after the hour is up, this is a part of the process.
While the shanks smoke directly, make the braising liquid. Mix together the stock, wine, balsamic vinegar, tomato paste, garlic cloves, pepper, lemon zest, and remaining 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Whisk this together well and pour into the bottom of a casserole dish large enough to hold all of the shanks. Foil pans are perfectly fine for this. Remember, this will be on your smoker so maybe don’t use your favorite white dish.
Bring the braising liquid in the dish/pan to your smoker and place the dish/pan right onto the smoker. Add the shanks to the dish/pan with the braising liquid. The liquid should cover the shanks about halfway. Cover the baking dish/pan with foil or a lid.
Raise the smoker temperature to 325F. This is important.
Allow the shanks to braise, basting the meat with the liquid about every hour, for 4-5+ hours (depends on the size of the animal and the amount of connective tissue present), or until it is falling off the bone. If you’re testing it and it’s just not falling apart, keep cooking it. You can drop the temp down to 300F if you feel it’s getting dry. But you must trust me and just keep cooking until it’s tender.
Serve with the braising liquid!
If your braising liquid start to reduce too much, just add some water to the pan! This is no big deal.