For rich, succulent beef that melts in the mouth, nothing quite beats a slow-cooked cut of beef. In fact, there is no better way to cook beef in our opinion!
But what are the best beef cuts for slow cookers? For slow-cooked beef, pick a joint that is evenly marbled with connective tissue and fat, such as brisket, oxtail, or chuck steak. Slow cooking will bring out the very best of these meats, creating an intense and rich flavor and perfectly tender, melt-in-the-mouth meat.
Cooking beef in the slow cooker is a great way to create intense flavors, from simple casseroles to flavor-packed curries and chili.
If you’re new to cooking beef in the slow cooker or want to try a different cut of beef, keep reading to find out the best cuts of beef to use!
Why Cook Beef In The Slow Cooker?
If you’ve got the knack of slow cooking a joint of beef, you will know that this is a sure-fire way to turn even the toughest, cheapest cut of beef into a succulent and delicious family dinner.
But why is cooking beef in the slow cooker so much better than roasting?
The reason for this is quite simple – when a tough cut of meat is roasted, it is almost impossible to keep the moisture inside the meat. When we use a casserole or slow cooker, the juices remain inside the dish, steaming through the meat.
Cooking beef for a long period of time on a low heat, combined with the hot steam sealed inside the slow cooker, does magical things to a tough cut of meat!
Cheaper cuts of beef tend to come from hardworking muscles on the animal and are notorious for being tough and chewy.
When a muscle is required to do a lot of work, it contains a lot of connective tissues – you will see this as sinews and fibrous strands within the meat.
This connective tissue contains collagen, which makes it incredibly strong, and very chewy when we try to eat it!
In the slow cooker this collagen within the connective tissues is broken down into gelatin, which makes the beef juicy, tender, and absolutely delicious.
Tougher cuts of beef also tend to be fattier, which adds to the incredible flavor of the beef as well as keeps it moist and succulent.
Cooking meat slowly in plenty of fluid is the only way to achieve this effect, and slow cookers are perfect for this role. But there are also some other great advantages to slow cooking beef!
Firstly, this is the ultimate hassle-free cooking. Pop all your ingredients in the pot in the morning, and your beef will be juicy and tender by dinner time.
Slow cooking is also incredibly cost-effective. These days we all need to think about conserving our energy use and powering a slow cooker for 6-8 hours is far cheaper than cooking a casserole in the oven or on the stovetop.
Add to this that the best cuts of beef for slow cooking are the cheaper joints, and you’ve got a great value family dinner with minimal effort and very little washing up. A definite win-win situation!
Bigger is always better when it comes to slow cooking beef, so this technique is ideal for batch cooking larger cuts of beef.
The excess can be stored in the freezer, perfect for when you want a quick and easy dinner option after a long day at work.
What Are The Best Recipes For Beef In The Slow Cooker?
Beef cuts and your slow cooker are best friends when it comes to versatility! There are so many great recipes that can transform a tough, low-budget cut of beef into something absolutely delectable.
Here are some of our top dishes for beef in the slow cooker:
- Slow Cooked Beef Pot Roast – forget having the oven on for hours, use your slow cooker for your next pot roast and you’ll never look back!
- Beef Stroganoff – a rich beef broth flavored with sour cream, mustard, and beautifully tender pieces of beef.
- Beef Goulash – pair your beef with paprika and vegetables for a rich and tender dinner.
- Chinese Beef & Ginger – slow-cooked beef with a rich ginger sauce is one of the finest Chinese dishes out there. Make it the day before for maximum flavor!
- Beef Curry – cooking a curry slowly over several hours really intensifies the taste, allowing those delicate spices to blend together and work their magic.
Top Tips For Cooking Beef In The Slow Cooker
If you’re new to cooking beef in a slow cooker, it can be a bit daunting at first. Nobody wants to end up with an insipid dish of grey beef in a watery sauce!
But if you stick to a few simple rules you are guaranteed to turn out amazing beef, each and every time.
To get the best results when slow cooking a cut of beef, follow these simple tips:
- Don’t overfill the pot. Most slow cookers have a maximum fill line, but if not then leave at least 2 inches above the liquid.
- Brown the beef first, either by using the “fry” function on a multicooker or in a separate skillet. Browning the beef seals the outer surface, locking in moisture and flavor. It also caramelizes the beef, creating deliciously rich gravy.
- Go steady on the seasoning! Remember that your juices will reduce down to a thick sauce, concentrating the flavor. Adding more seasoning at the end is far easier than trying to resolve the problem of an over-salted dish.
- Don’t be tempted to remove the lid from your slow cooker. Every time you do this, the cooking time needs to be extended by a further 30 minutes.
- If you can, make your slow cooker dinner the day before you need it. This gives the flavors time to enhance overnight, bringing out the very best in your cut of beef.
Best Beef Cuts To Cook In A Slow Cooker
So, now down to the big question of the day – what is the best cut of beef for a slow cooker? The good news is that you have plenty of options here, and each cut of beef has its own advantages that suit different cooking styles and recipes.
So, whether you’re looking for a cut of beef for the ultimate pot roast or want some diced beef for an Asian-inspired dinner, we’ve got all the best beef joints right here!
- Best For: Pot roast slow cooker beef
- Cooking Time: Allow around eight hours to cook a whole beef brisket in the slow cooker
The brisket is a boneless cut of meat that comes from the breast or lower chest of the cow.
This muscle supports over half the weight of the animal, meaning it has a lot of work to do! Beef brisket is very high in connective tissue and can be very tough if not cooked correctly.
This makes beef brisket one of the best cuts for the slow cooker, as the tough, chewy meat is transformed by this simple cooking technique.
Brisket can be cut in many different ways, so it pays to learn a little about the different brisket joints.
The brisket of a cow consists of two layers of muscle, the superficial and deep pectoral muscles, overlaid by a layer of fat. This large lump of meat is normally cut in half, giving two very different joints of meat.
The first of these is called the flat cut. It is a long, thin piece of meat with a layer of fat on top, perfect for keeping the meat moist while it cooks slowly.
The large surface area of a flat brisket cut means it is a great joint of meat for using marinades and rubs.
The second type of brisket cut you will see is the point cut. It is much thicker than the flat cut and more marbled with layers of fat and connective tissue.
The point cut can be diced for a delicious beef casserole or left whole and slow-cooked until the meat shreds easily with a fork.
Brisket can also be purchased as a trimmed and rolled joint, ideal for pot roasting.
- Best For: A versatile cut of meat that can be cooked whole or diced
- Cooking Time: Diced chuck steak will be cooked to perfection after four hours in the slow cooker
Don’t be misled by the word steak, as the chuck is not a good cut of meat for sizzling on the grill or barbeque!
Chuck steak comes from the shoulder and upper forearm of the cow and is an incredibly hardworking muscle. The high levels of collagen in chuck steak mean that if it was grilled quickly, it would be tough and inedible!
Like brisket, chuck steak can be cut in many different ways. The typical chuck steak is a rectangular joint of meat, around 1 inch thick. It will contain parts of the shoulder bones and may be referred to as 7-bone steak.
The thicker version of this is a 7-bone roast or chuck roast, which is normally cooked as a pot roast in the slow cooker. Leaving the bone in place adds flavor to the meat, although boneless chuck steak is a more versatile joint of meat.
Boneless chuck steak cuts include the chuck eye, chuck fillet, Denver cut, and shoulder roast.
Basically, this enormous muscle can be cut in a myriad of different ways! If you have the option, look for a chuck steak cut that includes the vertical line of fat that separates the two sections of chuck meat.
This will guarantee that rich, melt-in-the-mouth flavor that we all crave in slow-cooked beef.
- Best For: Pair with beans and vegetables for a flavor-packed slow-cooked dinner
- Cooking Time: Oxtail requires a minimum of six hours in the slow cooker to become tender and soft
When it comes to tough cuts of meat, you don’t get much tougher than oxtail! Most of us have only come across oxtail as part of oxtail soup, but this versatile beef cut has many advantages when it comes to slow-cooked meals.
Oxtail comes from the tail of the cow, and it is usually cut into shorter sections. Each section contains some of the tail bone, surrounded by meat and rings of connective tissue.
Inside the bone is a large amount of bone marrow, which adds that intense flavor that oxtail soup is so famous for.
Now, this is not a visually appealing cut of meat, and many people are put off oxtail for this reason. But if you can get past this, oxtail is one of the tastiest cuts of meat for slow cooking you will find!
The aim is to cook oxtail slowly for such a long period of time that the meat pulls away from the bone without any difficulty.
For this to happen, the connective tissue needs to melt away, which has the added bonus of intensifying the flavor of the dish.
- Best For: Diced shin beef is perfect for curries and other Asian-inspired dishes
- Cooking Time: Trimmed and diced beef shin can be cooked in just four hours in the slow cooker
Beef shin is a cut of meat taken from the lower leg of the cow. The meat is lean and muscular and marbled with connective tissues. Compared to the other cuts of beef on our list, beef shin is relatively low in fat.
Beef shin can be cooked on or off the bone. Cooking it on the bone adds depth of flavor, but the method does considerably extend the cooking time.
When cooked off the bone, beef shin is commonly diced. This makes it ideal for marinading, as well as for cooking Chinese or Indian beef dishes.
The low fat content of beef shin makes it a healthier choice than other cheap beef cuts, but this does mean it can be less flavorsome and more prone to drying out.
But with the right marinade and plenty of liquid, it can be transformed into a delectable cut of beef to rival the finest steak!
- Best For: The perfect slow roasting joint
- Cooking Time: Allow at least eight hours to cook a beef silverside joint to perfection in the slow cooker
With its plump, muscular meat, evenly marbled with connective tissue, the beef silverside joint is perfection when it comes to slow-cooked beef.
This cut of meat, also known as the bottom round, is one of the most well-known cuts of beef for slow cooking, and for good reason.
Beef silverside comes from the upper hind leg of the cow, so this muscle has a lot of work to do. Compared to many other beef cuts on our list, silverside has very little fat, so plenty of extra liquid is essential to prevent it from drying out.
Silverside is often thought of as a second-class roasting joint, but when cooked in the slow cooker it can rival a prime topside joint when it comes to flavor, texture, and juiciness.
- Best For: A full-flavored meat perfect for fajitas and Chinese dishes
- Cooking Time: This thinner beef cut can be cooked to perfection in the slow cooker in just four hours
Beef skirt is an odd-looking cut of meat that has fallen out of fashion in recent years. However, it is packed full of flavor that is only revealed after the meat has been slow-cooked to perfection!
Skirt steak comes from the diaphragm muscles of the cow – these are the hardworking muscles that lie in-between and over the ribs.
This thin cut of meat, full of connective tissue, becomes soft and tender when cooked in the slow cooker.
Once cooked, beef skirt is normally sliced into thin strips and added to fajitas or Chinese stir-fry dishes.