Slow Cookers And Cheap Cuts

So I regularly use a slow cooker to cook cheaper cuts of meat - beef shin, chuck, tongue, tail, cheek, cheaper lamb cuts like breast, neck, scrag end etc. - I'm on a tight budget so I look to cut costs in any way I can.


I'll chuck the meat, and some chopped carrots, leeks, herbs, salt into the slow cooker before bed so it's ready for the next day for lunch and dinner, or I'll put it on in the morning before I go to work so it's ready for dinner. In both cases I'm cooking on low for about 10 hours - only adding butter once I serve it up with some steamed veg.


A few questions:


1 - I'm assuming cooking the meat and veg all fully submerged in water is more bulletproof that leaving some of it exposed to the air?

2 - If I do cook it all fully submerged, what kind of risk is there with oxidising fats?

3 - How does this method compare to the Upgraded Chef style of braising - for 10/20 minutes but having to use slightly more expensive and tender minced and diced meat and steaks?

5 - Is it worth shelling out a little bit more for more tender cuts and cooking them for less time (at least now and again)?

6 - If the 10 minutes braising method is better, are there any up-sides to longer slow cooking for tougher cuts - more gelatin, collagen, minerals etc?

7 - Anybody got any tips for optimising cooking in the slow cooker? Regardless of the outcome I'll still be doing at least some cooking in the slow cooker - it's just too convenient and tasty to give up all together!


  • jcg3jcg3 ✭✭✭

    I like to use my crock pot for tougher beef cuts - or I'll cut up a chuck roast and put it into a beef stew.


    I used to cook with water, but the most recent crock pot run that I did I put in no additional water - just veggies (carrots, celery - down first to be in contact with the cooking container that gets hot) and then a giant chuck roast resting on top. The veggies released some liquid, as did the chuck roast, and keeping the lid on prevents evaporation - I was surprised and worried that the roast might have dried out, but it was pretty similar to when I used water. Some of the onions got singed on the edges of the crock pot, but otherwise it turned out great. I've found the veggies get blanched out if I use water or a lot of seasonings - meaning they end up kind of bland.


    I do briefly brown the roast before putting it in the crock pot. I don't really burn it, but rather just get the outside of the meat lightly browned. That's supposed to help keep the meat from drying out.


    If you can get cuts that are more fatty, those are better. I've read comments that brisket is wonderful for it's collagen content. I'm not sure about particular cuts - I'm still building my skills when it comes to cooking. I have a giant beef tongue in the freezer that I need to figure out how to cook. :)


    I'd prefer to use cheaper cuts of grass fed meat from a reputable source rather than a filet from the other end of the quality spectrum. You just need to adjust your cooking techniques to fit the cut of meat.


    I've been surprised how inexpensive beef liver and beef heart are. I went directly to a farm, they charged me about half as much as the ground beef price ($4/pound vs $8/pound, if I remember correctly). The lady was surprised when I said, "oh, let's throw in some more liver then... say 4 pounds?"

  • jcg3jcg3 ✭✭✭

    Oh, and as for cooking time... I only ran the crock pot for 5 hours. It was a 3 pound grass fed chuck roast, and that was more than enough to make it tender.


    Oxidation happens when the proteins get burned (more or less), so a crock pot won't typically get up to that high of a temperature. You should be safe when cooking proteins slow and low like that. It's getting meat up to a high temperature that causes the damage.


    I'd say the main benefits of braising are convenience and taste. You can't put a nice cut of meat in a crock pot for 5 hours without having it fall apart. And it's a lot more convenient to be able to cook and eat within an hour vs. preparing 12 hours before. I think a crock pot is incredibly convenient (like you) but it's a different type of convenience - one of prep and wait.

  • Hi


    I read that braising covered in water is more bulletproof as it is gentler in terms of temperature/energy transfer to the meat - does this make sense or would the internal temperature of the slow cooker and the heat transfer be the same either way? If it's ok to use less water than that's fine by me, makes the flavour in the liquid stronger and more concentrated.


    As far as oxidation, I'm more worried about the fats with the long cooking than the proteins as like you say, the temperature is too low to do any real damage to the proteins.


    Same here on the liver and heart, I get them both at £4.38/kilo from the place I order from here in the UK, excellent value! Brisket is one of my favourites too.

  • DIY sous-vide, or if you want to shell out a lil cash for a real one, is the way to go with tough meats or any meat for that matter.  there is a thread about it on here

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