Cheap Cuts Of Beef For Slow Cooking

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Your search for cheap cuts of beef for slow cooking is over because I’ve compiled a list of my favorite, inexpensive beef cuts and slow cooker recipes to help you discover how to cook them.

While it may not have the best reputation for taste, the truth is that cheap cuts of beef can actually be some of the most tender and delicious steaks available. So grab your tongs, turn up the beat, and put on your favorite music…it’s time to cook!

Best Slow Cooking Beef – 7 Cheaper Cuts with Mouth Watering Flavor

When it comes to slow cooking beef, there are many choices you can choose from, but they will not all produce the same result.

So which cuts of beef are best for slow cooking? The best cuts of beef for slow cooking are usually taken from the fore quarter or front of the animal. These beef cuts tend to be tougher and more fatty than the more desired hind quarter cuts, but generally have much more flavor and become tender with long slow cooking.

The 7 best cuts of slow cooking beef are:

  • Beef Chuck
  • Shin of Beef
  • Beef Brisket
  • Top Blade Steak
  • Mock Tender
  • Beef Short Ribs
  • Ox Tail

We will now look at why the fore quarter cuts of beef are more suited to slow cooking, and will also give in depth information on the 7 cuts of beef listed.

When cooked right, these cuts of beef work really well with this method of cooking, and will produce tender mouthwatering dishes every time.

Why Using The Fore Quarter Cuts for Slow Cooking Beef is Best

The fore quarter of a cow consists of the hard working muscles of the animal such as the neck, shoulder and chest of the animal.

As you can imagine, these muscles get used a great deal by the animal as it constantly raises and lowers its big head all day to eat.

That constant use makes the muscles strong and tough, and also tend to have more fat marbling and connective tissue than other parts of the animal.

It is this marbling (white lines of fat within the flesh of the meat), that provides such a great flavor to these hard working muscles. Much of it will cook out of the meat during the slow cook process, and mixed with the broken down collagen, you get a rich thick gravy.

Due to the extra work involved with cooking these fore quarter cuts, they tend to be considerably cheaper than the prime cuts. However, learn to cook them right and you will be converted to using them more than any other cuts.

In reality, there is often less work required to cook these cuts if you have a good butcher who will trim the meat for you. Bought this way, you will literally just need to throw the meat into a slow cooker and let it do it’s thing.

When you think of homecooked hearty winter meals such as stews, pot roasts and braised steaks, the fore quarter is where the meat used in those dishes comes from.

Just to be clear, you can slow cook any cut of beef, however the more tender and leaner a cut is, the more likely it is to become dry or mushy if cooked over a longer period of time.

Many people choose to use cuts from the top, bottom and eye round of the hind quarter as it is leaner and tends to hold its shape better throughout cooking. Whilst these cuts can still work well with slow cooking, the abscence of marbelling means you do not get as rich a flavor as comes from fore quarter beef.

Now let’s look at what I consider to be the 7 best cuts of beef for slow cooking.

1. Beef Chuck

The chuck is the shoulder of the animal and lies between the prime rib at one end and the neck of the animal at the other.

The chuck is made up of a collection of muscles that have thick gristles, fat seams and connective tissues running through them.

This part of the animal has been used a lot and so tends to be tougher than other cuts, but breaks down well during slow cooking and produces a rich beefy flavor.

Some preparation is needed prior to cooking to remove the thickest gristles and largest fat seams, however, if you have bought your meat from a reputable butcher, they should have already trimmed the meat of these.

Beef chuck can be prepared by your butcher in several ways depending on the kind of dish you are wanting to serve.

Chuck Steak

Beef Chuck Steaks

Chuck steak is where the butcher has trimmed a large majority of the gristles and fat from the chuck and has sliced just the eye of the chuck in slices that are about 1 inch thick.

These slices of chuck are cooked best by braising in liquid on a lower heat for a period of time. The liquid used can be anything from stock, wine or gravy, depending on the recipe and flavor you are looking for.

Once cooked, the remaining fat and connective tissues will have cooked down and you will have a tender steak sized piece of meat to serve on the plate.

Diced Chuck

Diced Beef for Stews

This is when the butcher trims the chuck of most of the larger fat and gristles and then cuts the meat into small chunks, or bite size pieces.

Diced chuck is what would be used for making dishes in a slow cooker such as stews or beef curries etc.

The long slow process of cooking in the slow cooker allows the tough pieces of meat to break down and become tender. If cooked long enough, the chunks will break down further and almost flake into strands of beef.

The marbling within the meat will cook out to make a rich gravy.

Chuck Roast

Slow Cooking beef chuck
Beef Chuck Roast

For this cut, the butcher will have trimmed much of the excess fat and gristles from the large muscles. Instead of cutting the chuck into slices or chunks, it will be tied with twine to be cooked as a roasting joint.

The chuck roast can be cooked in the slow cooker or on a low setting in the oven. Moisture needs to be included in the roasting pan and covered with foil to keep the meat moist during cooking.

When the roast has had chance to cook down and become tender, you can remove the foil to allow the roast to brown.

After resting, the joint can be carved as you would a normal roast but you may find if falls to pieces if it is tender enough.

2. Shin / Shank of Beef

Beef Shank on the Bone

The shin or shank of beef is basically the leg of the animal as the name suggests.

This cut is probably one of the hardest worked muscle groups due to holding the weight of the animal and the walking, and therefore is a really tough cut.

However, with the right amount of cooking, it is probably one of the tastiest cuts you can get off the animal.

Much like the beef chuck, the shin of beef can be prepared in slices, diced or even sliced with bone connected.

The sliced and diced shin of beef would be cooked in much the same way as the beef chuck, however the cooking time will be longer as the muscles needs more time to break down and become tender.

The shin of beef has a great deal of connective tissues that break down during cooking to produce a wonderful, almost gelatinous stock for making a rich gravy.

When cut on the bone, the shin of beef is sometimes used as a cheaper version for making Osso Buco.

Traditionally, Osso Buco is made using veal shanks but obviously comes at a much higher cost.

3. Beef Brisket

Rolled Beef Brisket

This cut of beef comes from the chest of the animal and is very well marbled with fat as well as having a generous layer of fat on the outside.

The brisket requires quite a bit of trimming to rid it of the fat running through it and also an elastic type membrane that runs though it.

The fiborous muscle of the brisket breaks down during slow cooking and can be sliced or shredded once cooked.

The brisket is a very flavorful meat and is often used for making corned beef and pulled beef recipes.

The butcher will sometimes roll the brisket as a joint which can be used as a pot roast, or will sell it as a flat piece that can be slow roasted in the oven, or commonly smoked and slow cooked on a BBQ or smoker.

4. Blade Steak

Top Blade Steaks

This cut of meat is a muscle that lies on top the shoulder blade bone of the cow.

It is usually cut across the muscle into 1″ thick slices and slow cooked or braised.

There is a thick band of connective tissue that runs through the centre of the muscle and so each slice will have this band within it. However, this breaks down during the cooking process and produces a rich beefy flavor.

You may find it hard to buy this cut as it has since found popularity as a flat iron steak. This is where the muscle has been slices lengthways through the middle and the thick band of connective tissue removed. The remaining two flat cuts of meat are very tender and flavorful and can be cooked quickly like a steak.

Top Blade Cut As Flat Iron Steak

5. Mock / Chuck Tender

Chuck Tender Medallions

The chuck tender or mock tender is another muscle that runs across the top of the blade bone.

The cut gets it’s name due to it’s resemblence to the beef tenderloin and not because it is tender.

It is a solid lean muscle that once again has a thick band of collagen type tissue running through it and so need slow cooking for that to break down.

This cut is ideal for pot roasting in a piece or slicing into medallions to be braised in liquid.

Other names for this cut are:

Eye of the blade – Jews Fillet – Chuck Filet – Scotch Tender – Chuck Eye

WHAT ARE THE BEST CUTS OF BEEF FOR SLOW COOKING?

If you love the kind of rich, tasty beef that melts in your mouth and leaves you wanting more, slow cooking should be one of your favourite moves in the kitchen.

From simple casseroles and stews packed with flavour to more extravagant curries, a quick chilli, soups and so much more, cooking low and slow offers great versatility, convenience and superb depth of flavour every time.

Why slow cook?

One of the greatest things about slow cooking beef is that it guarantees juicy tenderness. You can use tougher cuts of beef, which are naturally more robust as they come from well-used muscles on the animal, and still find they’ll be transformed into juicy morsels that will literally fall off your fork.

Why? Because the nature of cooking on a low heat for an extended period of time in fluid encourages the breakdown of the connective tissues, including the protein collagen. Collagen makes meat tough when cooked quickly, but when slow-cooked, it breaks down into gelatin, giving you that juicy, tender mouthfeel.

Fattier — and cheaper — cuts of beef can also be good for slow cooking, because the fat helps to ensure the beef won’t dry out while adding extra flavour.

The benefits of slow cooking

Beyond the melt-in-your-mouth texture and hearty flavour, slow cooking offers many other benefits.

Perhaps one of the most compelling reasons people turn to this cooking method is because it’s so easy and hassle-free. Once the prep work is done and all the ingredients are in the slow cooker, you can safely leave it to simmer away for hours until it’s ready. You can choose to make your meal at a time that works for you — whether it’s the first thing you do that morning, or the last thing you do the night before — and get on with the rest of your day, secure in the knowledge that dinner is taking care of itself.

Like to cook in bulk? Slow cooking is a great way to prepare large batches that you can easily freeze in portions for later — for those late work days, busy weekends and emergency backup meal moments.

To add to that, the ‘one-pot wonder’ approach requires very few utensils, so slow cooking is wonderfully easy to clean up after, too.

Better yet, the cuts best suited for slow cooking generally tend to be cheaper, so it’s great for the budget.

The best cuts of beef for slow cooking

Chuck

Chuck steak was practically designed for slow cooking. It comes from the shoulder and upper arm of the cow, so it’s done a lot of work over the life of the animal — with its abundant collagen, it’s the type of cut that gets tough when grilled quickly, but becomes tender and juicier the longer you cook it. This affordable cut also has a good amount of intramuscular fat, so it’s full of flavour.

Skirt

A thin, long and versatile cut that tends to be reserved for slow cooking, skirt steak comes from the cow’s diaphragm muscles. It’s lean and tough, with intense, melt-in-your-mouth flavours that emerge when cooked slowly.

Shin

Also referred to as the shank, this is another inexpensive but flavoursome cut. Taken from the lower leg of the animal, it’s made up of lean muscle and connective tissue that needs to be cooked slowly to become tender and delicious. Shin can be cooked on or off the bone — osso bucco is a great bone-in shin dish, while gravy beef is a boneless favourite.

Silverside

The most common cut for making corned beef, silverside — also known as the bottom round — is cut from a cow’s hindquarters. These are the muscles the cow uses for walking, so they get a lot of exercise. It’s another tough, lean cut loaded with connective tissue that responds best to slow cooking, although it contains little to none of the fat, or marbling, that you’ll find in other cuts.

Brisket

Brisket comes from the belly of the cow, so unlike silverside, it can be fatty — but that just adds flavour. Brisket is great for shredding as it literally pulls apart once cooked — like this slow cooked pulled beef brisket recipe, which tastes great in tacos, rich pastas, brisket bowls and more.

Oxtail

A tough off-cut that comes from the tail of the animal (as you probably guessed from the name), oxtail is absolutely loaded with fat, cartilage and marrow that becomes incredibly flavoursome when given the slow cooked treatment.

5 top tips for slow cooking success

To get the best result with your beef in the slow cooker, follow these five tips for success:

  1. Brown the beef first. If you’re not using a slow cooker, do this in the pot you’ll be cooking in (a cast-iron flameproof casserole dish with a tight-fitting lid is best) to ensure you retain all the juices and achieve maximum flavour.
  2. When seasoning, add just a little at the start and then, if still required, adjust to your taste before serving. As slow cooking encourages the reduction of liquid, the flavours can become very concentrated.
  3. Don’t overfill the pot. This prevents steam escaping, which can lead to too much liquid in the pot.
  4. Keep the lid on at all times. Slow cooking times require the building up of a consistent heat to cook meat and make it deliciously tender. The liquid should just tremble at the centre of the pot — not bubble vigorously.
  5. For optimal results, you should make the dish the day before you plan to eat it to enhance the flavour and tenderness.

Cheaper Meat for Slow Cookers

Certain cuts of meat work better than others in a slow cooker. Find out which ones are best.

Cheaper Meat for Slow Cookers

Even if you know nothing about beef and what the various parts are called, you can pick the right ones. Just look at the price tags. There are many more cuts on a cow that require long, slow cooking than there are parts that are meant to be grilled, broiled, or roasted. Look at the cost of a tenderloin roast, then look at the cost of a brisket. Buy the brisket for the slow cooker.

Choosing Your Cuts

Price is a good guideline, but there are others. Anything that says “chuck,” “rump,” or “shank” is a good slow cooker choice. One of the best cuts of beef for the slow cooker is the short ribs, also called flanken in some parts of the country.

The shape of your slow cooker is one guide to what to buy. If your slow cooker is round, a rump roast is your best bet. If it’s oval, go with a chuck roast or a brisket.

Basics of Boning

Some cuts that look like the best buys frequently contain some bones. It’s a good idea to cut these away, because they slow down the cooking process. Save the bones for making stock.

The first step of boning is to cut away the bones. The second step is to decide how the remaining boneless meat should be cut. The rule is to cut across the grain rather than with the grain. If you’re not sure which way the grain runs, make a test slice. You should see the ends of fibers if you cut across the grain.

Long Leads to Luscious

You can’t rush a great pot roast. It takes hours of low heat for the fibers to tenderize in a large piece of beef. If you don’t have the 5 or 6 hours necessary, cut the meat into pieces and make a stew which will cook faster. Plan on about 10 to 12 hours on Low or 5 to 6 hours on High for most of these pot roast variations.

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