From casseroles and soups to curries and goulash, beef is one of the most versatile meats for slow cooking. And the best thing? You don’t need to buy premium cuts of beef to end up with a gourmet meal – in fact, it’s often the more economical cuts of beef that work best.
This is because the locomotor muscles (those that do a lot of the supporting and movement work of the animal) naturally have stronger connective tissue between the muscle fibres.
This tissue breaks down slowly in the slow cooking process, which provides an end result that is tender and has great texture. Prime cuts of beef are not suited to slow cooking, and should be reserved for grilling.
The best cuts for slow cooking
According to Delicious Magazine:
Shin have a lot of thick connective tissue that needs long and slow cooking to become tender, but are worth it thanks to their great flavor. Shin can be bought on or off the bone, whole, sliced or diced – all work well for slow cooking.
Osso Bucco is a great example of a slow cooked bone-in shin dish.
- Chuck and Blade
The chuck and the blade are two of the most common braising cuts thanks to their great taste, texture and abundant collagen.
When cooked low and slow for at least 4 hours, slow cooked ribs are fall-off-the-bone tender, velvet textured and full of flavor.
Brisket can be fatty… which is what makes it perfect for slow cooking. The fat will add rich flavor to soups, stocks and casseroles.
Slow cooked brisket is great for pulled beef dishes.
This flavorsome cut is usually reserved for slow cooking and has great versatility.
This is a neat and cylindrical joint that suits braising or pot roasting. Silverside is the most common cut for making corned beef.
Oxtail requires long, slow cooking to become tender. This cut comes with a bit of fat, cartilage and marrow, but it contains incredible flavor. This cut is used to great effect in winter stews.
Benefits of Slow Cooking
- Fuss free – meat can be left to cook slowly for hours, leaving you free to do other things with your time while dinner takes care of itself.
- Very easy clean up – one pot wonder.
- Cook in bulk – slow cooked meals are perfect for making in large batches, freezing in individual portions, and whipping out when you need a quick lunch or dinner.
Tips for slow cooking success
- Brown the beef first. This caramelises the meat and adds extra flavor. If you’re not cooking with a slow cooker, brown the beef in the pot you plan to cook in (ideally a cast-iron flame proof casserole dish with a tight-fitting lid).
- Don’t overfill the pot – very little steam escapes.
- Keep the lid on – slow cooking times are dependent on building up a consistent heat. If you remove the lid, heat will escape and the cooking time will be interrupted.
- Cook the dish, and store it in the fridge, the day before you plan to eat it. This will enhance the flavor and tenderness immensely.