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The best beef for slow cookers

We describe the best cuts of beef for using in slow cooker recipes. Supermarket names for different cuts of meat are explained and what to ask for from your butcher.

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BEEF FROM SUPERMARKETS

Supermarkets have cleverly renamed beef over the years to the point where sometimes it's impossible to know where a piece of beef has come from. Take braising steak for instance, traditionally this would be blade or chuck which come high up just behind the neck. So if you visited your butcher and asked for chuck beef or blade beef you would know what you were being sold. But braising steak from a supermarket is just that, beef which they believe is suitable for braising, no clue as to where it originates from.

BRAISING STEAK
This is the best quality supermarket type beef which is suitable for slow cooking. It should come as a single piece of beef but can then be cut into chunks if you want. Typically it is cooked in your slow cooker as a large slice of beef. The most expensive of the slow cooker cuts of beef. If true to type it would be blade or chuck.

STEWING BEEF
This is a cheaper cut of beef compared to braising steak and is normally cut into cubes for recipes like beef Provencal or steak and kidney pie. One of the lean cuts of beef it would normally be clod or neck, slightly tougher than braising steak and generally cheaper.

BRISKET
One of the few cuts of supermarket meat which indicates where the beef has come from. Brisket comes from the lower part and is a tough cut which is sold as a solid piece of meat. If slow cooked it can be turned into an excellent piece of meat. Salted beef brisket is far more expensive and not really suitable for slow cookers.

BEEF FROM YOUR BUTCHER

Your butcher will most likely sell named parts of beef as well as generically named stewing and braising steak. The most suitable cuts for slow cooking are blade / chuck, brisket, clod and neck, silverside and skirt / flank. One other cut which can be used for slow cooking is leg and shin which is normally served on the bone. A coarse cut which requires extra long cooking, something of an acquired taste.

BROWNING BEEF

There is no need to brown beef before slow cooking it. The liquid ingredients in the slow cooker will naturally impart a brown colour to the beef. The myth of "sealing" beef before slow cooking it is just that, a myth. In fact, the opposite is true. Slow cooked beef should have an open (not sealed) texture to allow all the flavour in the liquid to gently seep into the texture of the beef.

The final factor in browning beef is that it is said to impart flavour which simple slow cooking does not do. This is true in theory because beef fried at a high heat for a short period of time does develop a slight crust which has added flavour. Our opinion however is that this is not detectable after slow cooking for 6 to 10 hours. Do a test for yourself and see if you agree.

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Copyright 2006 - 17 David Marks. All rights reserved.