Anyone who shops for meat knows that tender, juicy steaks are more expensive than tough, fibrous chuck roasts. Collagen, a fibrous connective tissue, is present in muscles subjected to intense movement. Tender meats contain less collagen than tougher meats. But if you cook the collagen the right way — low and slow with enough liquid to keep things moist — the tough connective tissue melts into the meat and makes it so tender that you can cut it with a fork.
The result of slow-cooking inexpensive, tough cuts of meat is budget-friendly, meaty meals. If you want to save a substantial amount of money, pull out your slow cooker, Dutch oven, or Instant Pot and try these inexpensive cuts.
Why slow cook?
Slow cooking ensures juiciness and tenderness, one of the most significant benefits of slow cooking beef. You can use tougher cuts of meat, which are naturally more robust because they come from the animal’s overworked muscles and will still be transformed into succulent morsels that fall off the fork.
Why? As a result of the nature of cooking at a low temperature for an extended period in liquid, connective tissues, including the protein collagen, are prone to breakdown. When meat is cooked quickly, collagen causes it to become challenging, but when it is simmered, collagen degrades into gelatin, resulting in a tender, juicy texture.
Fattier — and less expensive — beef cuts can also be suitable for slow cooking, as the fat prevents the meat from drying out and imparts additional flavor.
The benefits of slow cooking
In addition to the tender texture and robust flavor, slow cooking has many other advantages.
Perhaps one of the most compelling aspects of this cooking method is its simplicity and lack of hassle. Once the preparation is complete and all the ingredients are in the slow cooker, you can leave the dish to simmer for hours. You can decide when to prepare your meal — whether the first thing you do in the morning or the last thing you do the night before — and then continue with the rest of your day, knowing that dinner will be prepared.
Like to cook in bulk? Slow cooking is an excellent method for preparing large quantities of food that can be quickly frozen in individual portions for those late-night workdays, hectic weekends, and emergency backup meal situations.
In addition, the “one-pot wonder” method requires very few utensils, making slow cooking exceptionally easy to clean up. Moreover, the cuts best suited for slow cooking tend to be less expensive, which is excellent for the budget.
How to choose the best meat for slow cooker
Which cuts of beef, veal, lamb, pork, and chicken tenderize best in a slow cooker? Before you head to the grocery store, consult our guidelines to ensure you’re purchasing the best cut for your recipe.
Slow cooking is not only flavorful but also economical. More challenging (and therefore less expensive) cuts of meat are ideal for slow cooking, as they become juicy and tender over time. Moreover, while the cooking time is lengthy, preparation is typically brief; once all the ingredients are added to the pan, you can leave it to simmer while you attend to other matters.
Topside is excellent in dishes such as this delicious pot roast, while oyster, blade, skirt, round and chuck steak (especially in casseroles), and gravy beef work wonderfully in slow cooker recipes.
Chuck steak was practically made to be simmered. It comes from the cow’s shoulder and upper arm, so it’s done a lot of work over its lifetime. Due to its high collagen content, it’s the type of cut that becomes tough when grilled quickly but becomes tender and juicy as it cooks longer. This inexpensive cut contains substantial intramuscular fat, so it is full of flavor.
Prepare traditional Italian osso Buco or experiment with shoulder or shanks, such as in this incredible veal shank and vegetable soup.
This simple pulled pork recipe has a 15-minute preparation time and uses pantry staples. Serve on toasted buns with an abundance of crisp coleslaw.
Chuck Roast Beef
“Before adding the roast and vegetables to the slow cooker, it is well worth your time to sear the roast and caramelize the mushrooms and onions. The only modification I made was to use 2 cups of homemade, sodium-free chicken broth and 1/2 cup of dry red wine.”
Slowly simmered with fresh rosemary, garlic, tomatoes, and red wine are lamb shanks. Great served with polenta or my family’s favorite mashed potatoes with roasted garlic; the sauce needs something to soak up. The preparation work is completed at the outset, so this dish is perfect for entertaining.
Short Ribs of Beef
The short ribs are slowly braised with readily available dried porcini mushrooms (ask a snooty grocer, and they’ll find them for you!). Until they become fork-tender triumphs of deliciousness, I enjoy these short ribs with mashed potatoes, but the rich tomato-mushroom gravy is also delicious with soft polenta.
Want to elevate your stew or soup to a higher level? Consider adding bacon bones to the mixture. Smoked bacon bones impart a robust umami flavor to broths, casseroles, and stews. Bacon bones (also known as pork bones) may be tasty, but they do not contain much meat, so some chefs remove them from the dish before serving. Combine with another cut of meat to create a complete meal.
You can use any chicken cut in a slow cooker, but those with the bone work best. Thighs, drumsticks, and Marylands are inexpensive options. You can even try cooking an entire chicken in the slow cooker, as in this slow-cooked butter chicken and tomatoes recipe.
How to slow cook
You can still enjoy slow-cooked dishes even without an electric slow cooker. There are numerous methods for slow-cooking food, including simmering it in a cast-iron pot and baking it in a casserole dish. If you opt for an electric slow cooker, keep in mind these three golden rules for success:
- Do not overfill the pot, as very little steam will escape, resulting in more than liquid.
- Do not add excessive liquid. Unlike stovetop or oven cooking, there is little steam or liquid evaporation during microwave cooking, so it is easy to over-liquidize a dish.
- Cover the container. Slow cooking depends on maintaining a constant temperature and allowing the machine to do the work. If you remove the lid during cooking, the recipe’s timing will be thrown off, so keep it securely closed.
Five secrets to slow cooking success
Follow these five tips to get the best results when cooking beef in a slow cooker.
- First, brown the beef. If you’re not using a slow cooker, do this in the pot you’ll be cooking in (a flame-resistant cast-iron casserole dish with a tight-fitting lid is ideal) to ensure that all the juices are retained, and the flavor is maximized.
- When seasoning, start with a small amount and then, if necessary, adjust to taste before serving. As a result of the reduction of liquid during slow cooking, flavors can become highly concentrated.
- Avoid overfilling the pot. This prevents the escape of steam, which can cause an excess of liquid in the pot.
- Always maintain the lid. To cook meat and render it delectably tender, it must be cooked over a sustained period at low heat. The liquid should barely tremble in the center of the pot, not vigorously bubble.
- To achieve optimal flavor and tenderness, you should prepare the dish the day before you intend to consume it.
Best Meat For Slow Cooker – FAQs
Select the proper cut: With the moist, low heat of a slow cooker, fatty and tougher cuts of meat such as chuck roasts, short ribs, pork shoulders, and lamb shanks become meltingly tender. Leaner cuts, such as pork tenderloin, tend to become dry—similarly, dark chicken meat — thighs, drumsticks, etc.
The best beef cuts for slow cooking are typically from the front or forequarter of the animal. These beef cuts are more challenging and greasier than the more popular hind quarter cuts, but they are typically more flavorful and tenderized with slow, long cooking.
What is the best cut for slow cooking a pot roast? Chuck roast is the best option. Chuck roast is a particularly tough cut of meat, but after braising in a slow cooker for 8 to 10 hours, it becomes a beautiful, tender delight.
Even inexpensive cuts such as chuck and casserole steak may be utilized. The hours spent in the slow cooker break down the fibers, and fatty cuts become tender and flavorful, resulting in a melt-in-your-mouth texture.
Why is meat in the slow cooker still tough? Because you have not allowed the collagen to degrade. Extend the cooking time, ensure sufficient liquid, and monitor the dish closely.
Beef cheek, short rib, feather blade, and oxtail are beef cuts used for slow cooking. Browning the meat before slow cooking caramelizes and imparts flavor to the meat. In addition, they were marinating the meat before slow cooking will enhance the beef’s flavor even further.
The Chateaubriand beef tenderloin roast is regarded as the most tender beef roast cut. This cut of beef comes from the cow’s loin, which is located just below the spine, behind the ribs, and in front of the sirloin.
Yes, raw chicken can be cooked in a slow cooker! Slow cookers and Crock-Pots are intended for cooking uncooked meats. Slow cooking is safe because the direct heat from the pot, the extended cooking time, and the steam produced by the tightly covered container destroys bacteria. Even frozen chicken can be cooked in a slow cooker!
Since your slow cooker will have a tightly sealed lid, the liquid will not evaporate; therefore, when adapting a standard recipe, you should reduce the liquid by about a third. It should only include meat and vegetables.
Crock-Pot is a brand that was introduced to the market in the 1970s. It has a stoneware pot surrounded by a heating element, whereas a conventional slow cooker has a metal pot that sits on a heated surface. A slow cooker is not a brand name but a kitchen appliance.
Before adding ground beef to a slow cooker, it should always be browned and drained. Otherwise, it could form clumps and add fat to the dish.
Slow cookers are healthy because, unlike other cooking methods, they utilize low heat, reducing nutrient loss risk. Slow cooker recipes rely heavily on natural ingredients and broths, making slow cookers healthy.
Long, slow cooking is ideal for chuck (neck), shin (shank, Osso Bucco, or gravy beef), brisket (ribs and short ribs), flank, knuckle, cheek, ox tail, silverside, and topside. The meat of secondary cuts such as chuck and brisket are layered with fat, resulting in a tender and flavorful texture after cooking.
Tough cuts that did a great deal of work during the animal’s life become more tender as they cook until they become stringy and dry. Softer, leaner cuts will become more challenging as they cook longer because they do not require tenderization. Slow cooking meat improves with time, but only up to a certain point.
All these recipes taste even better the following day, and they also freeze well. In addition, you can stretch a small amount of meat far by serving it with an abundance of vegetables and starches such as potatoes, polenta, rice, and noodles. For added set-it-and-forget-it convenience, try converting stovetop or oven recipes to slow cooker dishes using these helpful tips.
Cheers to healthy eating and saving money!
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