Canadian Beef: Slow Cooker Essentials
I haven't used my slow cooker much in the past. Do you have some tips for cooking beef in the slow cooker?
From both the Canadian Living and Beef Information Centre Kitchens, here's just what you need to keep in mind to cook beef best with a slow cooker.
- Best beef.
- Braising-type beef cuts, typically from the shoulder area, are our top picks. Look for cuts that have the words Pot Roast, Simmering or Stew in the name on pack. Some examples: Blade, Cross Rib, Brisket, Short Ribs and Stewing Beef Cubes. Trim beef of excess fat before browning.
- Brown is beautiful.
- Worth the extra effort, browning beef in a bit of oil before slow cooking brings out the best beefy flavour. Meat dredged in flour before cooking will add body to the sauce - always a good thing. Ground beef should always be browned and drained before slow cooking to prevent clumping. Go slow. High heat (even in a slow cooker) can make beef stringy and overcooked. It's best to go with the low setting.
- Done yet?
- Check for doneness by using the fork-tender test. Stick fork into cooked beef - if the meat yields or releases easily, it's done.
One-step inserts: Some slow cooker inserts are suitable for browning so you can actually brown your beef right in the insert on top of the stove before you begin to slow cook. With no separate pan for browning, there's less to clean up.
Shape advantage: Oval and rectangular slow cooker inserts allow more flexibility than round ones, especially when cooking larger beef pot roasts.
Transformers: Can't decide which size is best? Choose a slow cooker with various-size inserts - the small one is perfect to make a simmering steak dinner for 2, while the larger one suits chili for a crew.
Warm Up: A slow cooker with a warm cycle setting is great for holding meatballs on the sideboard buffet.
Transporters: For easy transit to the pot luck, look for a slow cooker that comes with a thermal cover (the slow cooker sleeping bag) and/or a lid fastener to safe-guard against spills.
Visit canadianliving.com for more information on the new cookbook: The Slow Cooker Collection, Random House 2009.