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Best beef cuts for slow cooking

So I'm asking this question on behalf of my boss. He likes to do roasts in his crock pot, but hasn't been able to get the texture he likes with beef. He's wondering if he is using the wrong cuts. He did a pork shoulder, and liked how well that "pulled", but he prefers the taste of beef. I've never used a crock pot and have never roasted whole roasts of beef (other than tenderloin) or pork, so I have no idea.

So, what are the best cuts for doing in the crock pot to get a nice "pulled" result?

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  1. Beef chuck is pretty good for a slow cooker pot roast.

    If he wants a cut of beef that will shred, I suggest a 7-bone pot roast which is from the chuck. Rump/bottom round roast will shred too.

    Brisket is an option, but I personally think briskets dry out too quickly if you don't eat it fresh.

    First choice would be chuck.

    1. Any chuck or round will work best for slow cooking.

      The big question for your boss is: How long did he cook his roasts before... This would make all the difference. :-)

      6 Replies
      1. re: madcookist

        I agree with this and I have the same problem as your boss. Beef takes forever. When you think it's been in for so long that it can't possibly cook any more it probably needs a couple more hours. You have to get out of the mindset that you're cooking meat. You're not. The meat is already cooked way past well done. You're cooking connective tissue.

        1. re: nokitchen

          This is a very good point, I'll have to ask him how long he does it for.

          1. re: juliejulez

            How long is the wrong question. Ask someone who does barbecue, and they'll tell you "it's done when it's done." Personally, I use a remote thermometer. Tough beef cuts are "done" (sliceable) at about 195 degrees, and "pullable" at about 205-210 degrees.

            1. re: sbp

              Keyword is "Slow Cooking"... :-)

              So, how long is actually an important variable in the equation, maybe much more than temperature, since she mentioned Crock Pot. A Slow Cooker doesn't have much options in controlling heat very well.

              Pulling meat is due to connective tissues, "disconnecting", which is a process done from slow and low temperature cooking.

              In cooking, "How Long" is as important as "How Hot", one doesn't go without the other.

              1. re: madcookist

                Well, yes and no. I assumed low and slow. At that point, final temp is what you need to look for. Hot enough for collagen to melt, not so hot it dries out. You can't give an accurate time based estimate on "done." The same sized pork shoulder may take 9 hours one time, 12 hours the next. Sometimes the meat is denser, some time there is more fat content, etc.... But a low and slow "tough cut" roast will be ready at 200 degrees.

                1. re: sbp

                  True enough. But if his problem is texture as opposed to moisture I guarantee the answer is "longer." How much longer? I can't tell that. But longer.

      2. Chuck, short rib, brisket, shanks.

        3 Replies
          1. re: gordeaux

            I like a chuck roast, choice if I can get it, throw in some short ribs, a little red wine plus veggies all in the crock pot. Yum.

            1. re: gordeaux

              Seems a shame to waste a perfectly good brisket in a crock pot.

            2. Short ribs
              Chuck roasts

              1. Beef shank gives a good result, if you do it for long enough. And long enough is a lot longer than you might think.

                1. So I filled my boss in on y'alls responses. He said he did the beef for 8 hours in the crockpot and wasn't pleased. I told him to do it longer.... he looked at me like I was nuts but I told him to just try it. I also told him to try a 7-bone pot roast as per dave_c's suggestion, which he has never heard of (but I know they sell them at the local grocery store). We'll see if he goes for it.

                  Thanks Chowhounders, I knew I could get some great answers/explanations here :)

                  5 Replies
                  1. re: juliejulez

                    Wasn't pleased how? Was it too dry?
                    What cut of meat did he use? Was there a good marbling of fat throughout? If the cut was too lean - not good for crock potting.

                    My crock pot ran too hot. 8 hours, even on low, would have made a beef roast fall apart, but it would also have a dryness to it. Not good. I gave it away. Today's crock pots are hotter than vintage models because of health and safety precautions.

                    I have had much better success using a covered casserole in a very low oven instead.

                    But anyway, I digress. I'm sure your boss isn't looking for me to convert him to slow cooking in the oven.

                    You asked about cuts? I like beef cheeks and ox tail, for the distribution of fat and collagen.

                    I also had a lot of success with lamb shanks in the slow cooker. If he likes lamb, he should give lamb shanks a go. Throw them in, dump a bottle of bbq pizza sauce over it - always turned out wonderfully for me :)

                    Edited to add: also cuts with bone in seem to be more forgiving. I'm sure there is a science behind it but am not sure what.

                      1. re: chileheadmike

                        Sounds awful but it works wonderfully, honest!
                        I'm in Australia. Maybe bbq pizza sauce is just peculiar to us?

                    1. re: juliejulez

                      Nooooooooooooooo!!! Don't cook it for more than 8 hours. We asked how long he cooked it last time to see if it was a factor, and depending on the answer we can then tailor the course of action. 6-8 hours on low setting will be fine most likely, but 8+ hours will push it.
                      Cooking is like forensic science: Lots of deductions based on a multitude of variables. It sounds like we may need to recommend more than just the type of meat.

                      Let's play detective. He did it in the past, but was not getting the expected broken down texture he wanted or he had seen when he used pork. 4 possibilities: 1) Not enough heat, 2) Not enough time, 3) Wrong cut of meat, 4) Not enough liquids to simmer in.
                      Using a crock pot, we could probably rule out 1) as culprit. It will eventually reach the correct temp (But we never know). We now know 8hours was used, so let's rule out #2.
                      3 and 4 are easy. Follow advice for cut of meat (If the cut is too big, you can help by cutting into smaller pieces if needed). Make sure he uses enough liquid, but not too much. With the right cut of meat, just add enough liquid to cover the vegetables, place the roast on top vegetables and cover with more liquid (like a beef stock) up to about half of the meat. The meat should generate enough of its own liquid to not need to fully submerge with liquid. It will give a nice and thicker meaty sause at the end.

                      1. re: juliejulez

                        I don't do roasts in the slow cooker much, unless it's a "have to" sort of deal. The heat, as some may have pointed out, in newer models is just too high. Despite being braised in a liquid, the meat tends to be dry. If I do something in the slow cooker, I make sure it's a cut with lots of fat.
                        I don't think it's about the timing, it is the cut. I find that the tastier roasts are those with lots of fat.