To cook bone-in or not? That’s the question

Meat-on-the-bone also called bone-in meat which is meat that’s not yet filleted.

It includes cuts like…

  • T-bone steaks
  • chops
  • spare ribs
  • chicken leg portion
  • whole chicken
  • tails
  • lamb shanks
  • etc.

And we’ve all heard it said, cooking meat on the bone is better.

Gives you more flavour and cheaper to buy.

But is it?

I decided to spend a little time to research the facts behind this.


Sometimes when we think of bone-in, we think amazing rib of beef.

And that translates to expensive (yes, amazing!but a real treat)

However, there are loads of cuts like oxtail, neck of lamb, pork belly, lamb shanks etc that are not only cheaper but full of flavour.

But you’re not always going to find all of these cuts in your supermarket.

Which is why I always recommend supporting your local butcher, or an online butcher who supports local farmers and puts quality first. e.g.

That way you know exactly the source of your meat.

You know how the animals are treated.

And you will not only benefit from higher quality meat.

But also, will find a far greater choice of cuts to cook to fit any budget or occasion.

The benefits

Bone is mainly made up of calcium phosphate and collagen (gelatin once cooked).

And it’s this gelatin that adds that extra flavour.

When it comes to moisture and juiciness, a lot of people say it keeps the meat moister and juicier.

And this is partly due to the length of time it takes to cook.

Faster or slower?

It’s fair to say there is a lot of mixed messaging out there on whether bone-in is faster or slower.

So, the best way is to use a meat thermometer so you get it exactly as you want it.

But the argument for longer, is the bone slows the process down.

To be honest, I think it depends on what cut you’re trying to cook.

A leg of lamb (bone-in)will probably cook a little faster but not by a huge amount.

But lamb shanks are a slow cook.

So, what is important is to understand the cut of meat you have and what type of cooking it requires.

Cheaper or more unusual cuts will have the bone in them.

And they benefit massively from slow-cooking.

And as mentioned, this means the collagen slowly cooks into gelatin and gives that next level flavour.

It gives time for the meat, which is usually tougher, to tenderise and become melt-in-your-mouth.

So, think more traditional recipes and using unusual, cheaper cuts when worrying about bone-in.

Cooking meat on the bone

Here are a few ideas of recipes that bone-in is the only way…

Jacobs Ladder (Short ribs) – these are a family winner! And a perfect slow-cook.

Oxtail – cooked slowly with smoked beans. Oxtail is a secret weapon in your cooking for adding incredible depth of flavour.

Slowed cooked ribs – a different cut from Jacobs Ladder and epic hands-on eating with this Carolina-style sauce

Chicken stock for a stew – I can never emphasise enough how much flavour homemade stock can bring to the party.

Lamb shanks – braised with onions, thyme, red wine and carrots and served with the creamiest mash!