When you’re short on time but hungry for a meal that tastes like it took all day in the kitchen, bring out the slow cooker. Beef that’s cooked low and slow has a rich, tender texture and intense savory flavor developed over hours of gentle heat that’s perfect for making delicious stews, tacos, barbeque, pot roasts, short ribs, casserole, or curry–with enough leftover meat for sandwiches.
Which Cuts of Beef are Best for Slow Cooking?
During slow cooking, the connective tissues, particularly the protein collagen, are given enough time to completely break down into tender gelatin, which gives slow-cooked beef its wonderful juiciness and fall-off-the-bone texture. Cooked quickly at high temperatures, over a grill for instance, collagen becomes tough and dry, giving otherwise tasty cuts of meat a sour reputation. But cooked low and slow, the rendered fat enhances the taste of the meat with its concentrated flavor developed over hours of simmering.
Since slow cooking success depends on breaking down connective tissue, this means that fattier cuts are often better. And guess what? They’re cheaper, too. Here are the best cuts of beef for slow cooking:
Found on the cow’s forequarter, this shoulder muscle is packed with collagen buildup from a lifetime of walking and grazing. Slow-cooked chuck roasts are perfect for Italian Beef sandwiches, tacos, or as pot roasts with roasted vegetables and mashed potatoes.
The lower leg, or shank, is a favorite for tender on-the-bone beef entrees. Osso Bucco is a popular Italian comfort food that pairs braised bone-in beef shanks with a savory tomato sauce that’s easy to make with only a few staple pantry ingredients.
From the belly of the cow, brisket comes out of the slow cooker juicy and fork-tender, making it perfect for pulled beef that can be used in tacos, with pasta, and in barbeque beef sandwiches.
Slow Cooking Tips
1. Plan Ahead
Slow cooking is a convenient way to prepare several pounds of meat for family meals, meal prepping, or to freeze. Many slow cooker dishes require little-to-no prep work so they can be made before work or school.
2. Bring the Heat
…at the start anyway. Searing your beef in a cast-iron or stainless-steel skillet before transferring to Dutch oven or slow cooker creates a mouthwatering crusty exterior that gives your cooking that extra special something. Check out our blog post about the Maillard Reaction to learn about chemical reaction caused by searing.
3. Keep a Lid On it
Stirring once every few hours to keep the veggies on the bottom from getting burnt is okay, but otherwise, keep your slow cooker lid closed. Opening your slow cooker allows precious heat and moisture to escape, which could make your meat tougher than you’d like.
4. Season as You Go
The flavors will intensify as the cooking liquid evaporates, making it difficult to find the “sweet spot” for seasoning right away. Add salt, spices, and herbs as you go (and taste test often) to find the perfect balanced flavor.
Slow cooker cuts are perfect for buying in bulk. Give us a call today at (330) 529-4017 to stock your freezer with shank, brisket, chuck roast, stew meat, and more.