Using a slow cooker to cook lamb shanks will leave the shank meat ready to melt in your mouth. Although lamb is defined as sheep meat under the age of one year, the shank requires long, slow, moist cooking to make it tender and juicy. Plan to prepare one shank for every person to be served. Use the juices left in the slow cooker as a base for gravy, if desired.
Heat 2 to 3 tbsp of cooking oil in a heavy skillet over medium high heat until the oil is shimmering but not smoking.
Place the lamb shanks in the oil with kitchen tongs and brown on all sides. This will give the shanks the appearance of being oven-roasted when cooked in the slow cooker and will also help develop flavour.
Place the lamb shanks in a single layer on the bottom of the slow cooker. Pour in 1/2 cup of water or broth. Add any seasonings you desire, such as crushed rosemary, garlic, thyme or simply salt and pepper.
Place the lid on the slow cooker and turn the heat setting to low.
Allow the shanks to cook for a minimum of eight hours. The shanks are ready to serve when the meat falls from the bone easily when the shank is lifted by tongs or a meat fork.
It is virtually impossible to overcook lamb shanks in a slow cooker. They can be left cooking for 10 to 12 hours and still be wonderfully tender and juicy. The USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service considers lamb a "red" meat. Red meats should always be cooked to the internal temperature standards developed by the USDA FSIS for safety. For a deep, rich taste, use a full-bodied red wine as the liquid in the slow cooker.