This is delicious! What’s your secret?! We won’t tell if you won’t. Learn all about the benefits of taking it slow. This one’s for those who love the finer pleasures of dining without all the fuss.
Who doesn’t love a home filled with the teasingly delicious smell of dinner without even rolling up your sleeves? Slow cooking brings together all the best elements of simple ingredients, flavor-to-taste style, leftover ready, large batches, and brag worthy tenderness without breaking the bank on prime cuts. Grab a fork and get ready to experience your new favorite way to stay well fed.
Prep Work. While you won’t need to plan your cook for a week in advance, it’s typical to start slow cooking in the morning, depending on when you’d like to circle around the table, of course. Whether your casserole, stew, roast, or soup requires some veggie chopping or even lightly browning your meat before you toss it all in, you’ll be pretty much “set it and forget it” after that. It’s worth noting that slow cookers work off a steady, consistent heat build up, so we recommend against lifting the lid to check it or catch a whiff of the aromas too often. Tempting as that may be. Recipes are easy enough to find, but this is where you can let your taste buds really spread their wings. Try not to modify recipes on things like water, broth, or oils to insure things are properly cooked and soaked through, but heavy flavor items like garlic, honey, BBQ sauces, and vinegars can be added or restricted for the perfect combination.
What’s the big difference? -- Truth is, slow cooking works for any meat because of the chemistry involved. Cooking meat typically removes the moisture all the way down to the cellular level and leaves much of the firm, well used tissues in place. Slow cooking uses the invasion of moisture to do the opposite, it breaks down the bonds in the collagen leaving any tissues, well used or not, softened and fall-apart textured. This is why it’s perfect for those fatty, less often used cuts of beef. What you put into that slow cooker and what comes out are fundamentally different in flavor retention and texture.
Cut Suggestions -- One of our favorite cuts for slow cooking is chuck. The heavily worked shoulder of the cow makes for an otherwise difficult cut to work with, but it’s practically made for your slow cooker with its fat content. Fat is one of the best sources of flavor from your beef, so take a little time to simmer this one out and you’ll be glad you did. Another one to consider is brisket. It’s versatile and comes from the stomach portion of the cattle making it, again, mixed as both tough and fatty. Flavorful on its own, its usefulness comes from how it crumbles apart with minimal pressing of a fork. The shredded strands go easily into tacos, sprinkled into pastas, or stuffed into any “brisket bake” you care to create. Our "mini-briskets" are also great for this, if you want that fall-apart tenderness in your next brisket tacos. Both options are included in our Quarter Box!
Whether you’re a by-the-book recipe follower or love to mix up the pot on your own, slow cooking is the perfect way to broaden your menu and keep the family leaving the table happy. You don’t have to tell them how easy your cooking adventure was. Just let them do the dishes and keep it your little secret.
Alicia Perry, PhD, Owner/Operator and all around Hay Maven (see my blog post on the time I fell off a haystack...). I share industry insights, tips & tricks on grilling great beef, and my personal journey into the ranching world.