Under Pressure – Lamb Shanks in Pressure Cooker

So maligned are pressure-cookers that it seems almost sacrilegious of a food blog like this, that likes to extol the virtues of fresh ingredients and traditional cooking methods, to even consider adding a recipe that calls for using one. Undaunted, here we are flaunting convention and defying the culinary thought-police once more with a recipe for red wine and herb braised lamb shanks made in our brand spanking new pressure-cooker. Of course, this is but an exaggeration. We’re perfectly happy to try almost any food and any cooking method, and since we’d got given a pressure-cooker for a wedding present, and yesterday was the first autumnal feeling day of the year, we thought, why not give it a try?

Pressure-cookers got their bad name originally for two principal reason. Firstly, they were fundamentally quite dangerous contraptions that were liable to explode and inflict either physical injury by launching scalding lumps of food at those in the kitchen, or enduring damage to your kitchen decor, or both. And secondly, because they tended to stew food, boil out it’s goodness and turn everything to mush. However, advances in design and therefore safety mean that modern pressure-cookers are regaining popularity for their astounding ability to cook dishes that normally take several hours, within forty minutes, while preserving the food’s goodness.

We were first put on to the beauty and convenience of the pressure-cooker by the humble, and vastly underrated, Jacques Pepin. On more than one episode of Fast Food, My Way, Monsieur Pepin gets out his trusty pressure cooker and makes a delicious braised dish (beef, mushrooms and pearl onions, from memory) in about half an hour, while describing how he was inspired by his mother who used to use her pressure cooker on weekday evenings to create a hearty family meal in under an hour. Apparently, Maman Pepin would chop the vegetables and meat while still in her coat, and then slap the lid on the pressure-cooker, while she did various other household chores, and while we used our pressure-cooker for the first time last night (a Sunday) we can definitely see how using it on a weekday meal in the winter would work extremely well.

Here’s the recipe for the dish we made, but there are probably hundreds of different things you could make, all of them inside forty minutes. Next time, we’re going to make lamb rogan josh curry.

Check out some of our other pressure-cooker recipes: Lemongrass Beef Shortribs, Korean Style Pork Ribs and Lebanese Fatteh Blahmeh.

Wine-Braised Lamb Shanks with Rosemary and Thyme in the Pressure-Cooker

1 1/2 – 2lbs lamb shanks (probably 2 shanks)
1 spanish onion, roughly diced
3-6 large garlic cloves, roughly chopped
1 large carrot, roughly diced
1/2 lb mushrooms (whichever kind you like) quartered, halved or whole depending on size
3 sprigs fresh rosemary
7-10 sprigs fresh thyme
1/4 bottle red wine (whatever you like drinking)
1pt chicken or vegetable stock
3 tbsp olive oil
4 tbsp flour
kosher salt
fresh ground black pepper

1. add a couple of good pinches of salt and pepper to the flour in a bowl and dredge lamb shanks until lightly coated.
2. add half the oil to pressure cooker at medium-high heat and brown lamb until colored well on all sides. Remove and set aside.
3. reduce heat to medium and add onion, carrot and mushrooms to pot and remaining oil. sautee until onions go opaque and carrots soften a bit and get sugary. add garlic and sautee for three more minutes.
4. add herbs and the lamb shanks back to the pot. turn heat back to high and add wine and about 3/4 of the stock.
5. bring liquid to a boil then place lid on pressure cooker. keep heat turned to high until pressure monitor shows maximum pressure has been reached, then follow manufacturer’s directions for keeping pressure at the right level for the right amount of time. On our model, I turned the heat to medium, and cooked it for 35 minutes.
6. release pressure and stand back until steam clears.
7. season to taste before plating, but be careful! I burned the sh!t out of my mouth tasting the sauce
8. Enjoy.

I served the lamb with a smoked provolone, cream and parsley polenta and wilted broccoli di rape, and it worked very well indeed. It’s worth noting that the whole thing tasted much better the following day, as is often the case with sauces – they improve until finally they go off.

Do any of you have good pressure-cooker recipes? And, if so, are you brave enough to come out and say that you too appreciate the noble pressure-cooker for what it is – a much-maligned invention of genius? Well, come on then, let’s have them!

18 thoughts on “Under Pressure – Lamb Shanks in Pressure Cooker

  1. Epicurious has a recipe for Beef Short Ribs with Asian Flavors…have made it 4 or 5 times now…it is excellent…*calls for prunes and I omit them* but I do love my pressure cooker, a Presto from back in the day, 1978, but still cooks like a champ. Looking forward to seeing some more p.c. recipes here. Thanks!


    FROM jeff


    We are in New Zealand. With so much lamb here and having had braised lamb several times we decided to try ourselves. Being boaters, we love using the pressure cooker.

    BTW, Lamb shanks here are called lamb knuckles.

    We followed you recipe, more or less (actually doubled it for left overs).

    We let stand for 30 minutes then left in the cooker for another 15 minutes and the result was amazing.

    Thank you so much. BTW, your recipe calls for using 3/4 stock but says nothing about the remaining 1/4. We just used it all.

    Thanks again.

    Jeff and Gayle

  3. Another wonderful use for a pressure cooker is for Artichokes. I carefully cut the thistle off with a pair of scissors, slice the upper 1/4 portion with a sharp knife and cut off the stem. I then carefully separate the center with my thumbs and take a teaspoon and dig down to the choke (feathery part) and remove that and any purple leaves or white leaves. I put about 1 tsp of olive oil and sprinkle in some garlic powder (granules). Put about 1/2 inch of water in the pc and a wire rack that fits. Set artichokes in pc with stem side down. Pressure on high for about 13 to 15 minutes. Now they are tender and you can eat clear up the leaf, almost to where you are holding it with your fingers. Some people like to dip the leaves in mayo or melted butter. Enjoy – Ric

  4. you know how much i love the pressure cooker! it’s my fave kitchen tool. so much that i was devasted two weeks ago when i did a very unthinkable thing and burned the sealing ring of my favorite cooker. my mom, being the best in the world, sent me one but it was the wrong model. so i went online and found it at ACE hardware. i finally went over there the other day and bought it. I was so so relieved. Girl, you know I do most of my cooking in that thing. Tho, interestingly enuf, I’ve not done lamb in there.

    And, i need to get a modern one. I have 3 vintage ones.

  5. Hmm – I guess I’m a food philistine. I wasn’t aware that pressure cookers were looked down upon! If I had to choose between my pressure cooker and my micro-wave oven, the oven would be out the door in an instant. I’ve used one for over 40 years – never had a problem with any of the three I own. They’re ony dangerous if you don’t use them properly.
    My favorite recipes include jambalaya, corned beef, and beef stew. Brown rice is a quick 20 min in the pressure cooker, instead of 40-60 min on the stove. Forgot to take out meat to thaw? Do it in the pressure cooker, just add a little time. There are hundreds of fabulous pressure cooker recipes. Don’t fear the pressure cooker – either mechanically or esthetically!

  6. This tasted absolutely delicious! Even with the amounts skewed as I had them. Wonderful. Guess what? Didn’t even get to eat it! Various reasons, blah, blah, blah. BUT, since you said the sauce gets better with age, we look forward to eating it for dinner tomorrow over mashed taters, with a fig and blue cheese salad to start. Sigh. Sweet dreams!

  7. I use the pressure cooker constantly, relying mostly on Tom Calamita’s ULTIMATE PRESSURE COOKER COOKBOOK (1997) when adapting recipes from other sources. Calamita does not have a recipe for lamb shanks so I will probably combine your recipe with one for lamb with olives and celeriac from 12.10.10 NYT for Christmas, though I’m tempted by your beautiful photo to ditch the NYT! Thanks!

  8. Cooked your recipe tonight and it worked a treat! Result: two falling-off-the-bone tender Lamb Shanks. Our pressure cooker comes with no negative connotations and I was specifically looking for a pressure-cooked recipe for tonight’s lamb shanks. Under the influence of the NYT Cookbook, I added an equal amount of chopped celery along with the onion and carrot and (since I happened to have one to hand) I used a Knorr shitake mushroom stock cube to make the stock. The wine I used was a robust Italian vino di tavola. In short, this recipe makes lamb shanks just the way I like to eat them and my OH agrees!

  9. Love my pressure cooker and couldn’t be without it, especially for pulses and yummy lamb shanks (your recipe works a treat). I have 2 books I use – both Australian but you should be able to get from Booktopia or Amazon. Have made just about everything in both. PC’s are terrific, especially camping and caravanning – best kangaroo tail soup ever!!!
    Pressure Cooker – Rachael Lane – Penguin
    Pressure Cooking – Australian Woman’s Weekly – ACP Books

    1. @Cherry: thanks for visiting and for the book recommendations. the pressure cooker really is the forgotten-man/woman of the kitchen. A lot of people are intimidated by it, but providing you can follow some very basic instructions, it’s almost fool-proof. At some point. we’ll post some better pics on this recipe! How you return and check out some more of our recipes.

  10. Thanks!
    I’ve bought lamb shanks for tonight and I’m looking forward to using my pressure cooker with them, I’m off eating tomatoes at the moment and my usual recipe calls for them, so yours fits the bill exactly! I have an electric one (Tefal) I bought about 2 years ago, I use it winter and summer (Quinoa salad in a jiffy!) brilliant object but I was too scared to buy a regular one as my mother would never allow us in the kitchen when she was using hers!!

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