Choosing the right cut of beef for a slow cooker roast means it comes out perfectly tender without costing you the earth. The right cut will also fit snugly inside the Crockpot – so what are the best cuts?
For a tender slow cooker roast use cheaper cuts of beef that are tough and have plenty of marbling running through them. These cuts include boneless chuck roast, brisket, and various types of round roast.
Keep reading to find out exactly what you should look for at the store for that perfect piece of beef for slow roasting. Drop those ideas about only buying the most expensive meat, I’ll show you why seeking out the cheaper cuts is the way to go.
Best Cuts For A Slow Cooker Roast And Why
Cheaper, tougher cuts of beef are the best ones to look for to roast in your slow cooker. Keep an eye out for meat with a good amount of fat and fibers running through it, usually referred to as marbling.
This is what breaks down over the long cooking time leaving meat that is juicy and tender. Here are some of my favorites to look out for:
Often regarded as the ultimate pot roast cut of beef, Chuck Roast is a popular choice for slow cooking due to its excellent marbling.
Coming from around the shoulder area at the front of the cow, this is a very tough piece of meat as it’s mainly composed of hard-working muscle.
This breaks down nicely during the cooking process and contributes to its fantastic tenderness when cooked low and slow in the crockpot. Another benefit of this cut is its lovely beefy flavor so make sure you use the rich leftover juices to make a sauce or gravy.
There are several types of Chuck Roast that work well in a slow cooker besides the popular boneless cut including the 7-Bone Chuck Roast, Cross Rib Roast, Chuck Eye Roast, Blade Chuck Roast, and Top Blade.
This cut from the chest of the cow is ideal for slow cooking as it contains a generous amount of connective tissue that breaks down over time, resulting in a wonderful fork-tender and moist roast.
Often just labeled as ‘Brisket’, this cut actually comes in two parts: the Point Half and Flat Half. A Brisket Flat Half is the leaner of the two, but they both work well in a crockpot.
Brisket can cost a bit more than a Chuck Roast, but it’s still much cheaper than expensive cuts like a Rib-Eye Roast. Look for one that has a good amount of fat so that your beef has lots of lovely juices to braise in.
Like a Chuck Roast, this tough cut is best cooked on low for a good few hours.
Coming from the hard-working rump area at the back of the cow, Round Roast cuts come in several types including:
- Bottom Round Roast (also known as Bottom Round Rump Roast)
- Top Round Roast (also known as Inside Round Roast and London Broil)
- Eye of Round Roast (also called a Round Eye Pot Roast)
Though leaner than Chuck Roast or Brisket, all the Round Roasts are still a suitable option for slow cooking as they are very tough but flavorful. The low-and-slow method gives the fibers plenty of time to break down so that the meat will just melt in the mouth.
What Size And Shape Roast Is Best In The Slow Cooker?
An oval-shaped roast that is around 4 inches thick will easily fit in the most popular 5 to 6 quart sized crockpots. Cuts that have been rolled or trimmed into a round shape also fit comfortably in slow cookers.
The actual size and shape that fits best will depend on your slow cooker as you can buy oval and round versions. But as a guide, a roast weighing approximately 3 to 4 pounds is ideal when shaped to fit in your particular model.
Round or oval-shaped roasts are well-suited for crockpots not only because of their shape but also because they allow for better heat distribution, with the more uniform shape cooking more evenly.
How To Prepare The Beef
Prepare a cut of beef for the slow cooker by trimming excess fat and season well before searing it on all sides to boost the flavor and color from the Maillard Reaction.
The following simple steps will make all the difference to how your meat turns out:
Trim Excess Fat
While some fat contributes to flavor, too much can make the roast greasy. Trim any thick layers of fat before you start cooking for the best results.
Tie The Roast
For irregularly shaped cuts like Brisket, tie the roast with butcher’s twine to hold its shape if it’s not been done by the butcher. This will help the meat cook evenly and still look like a nice piece of roast beef at the end of a long time in the slow cooker.
Before you brown your beef, make sure to let it sit at room temperature for 20 minutes or so and season it really well with your favorite ingredients.
Do You Need To Brown The Roast Before Slow Cooking?
Browning your roast before cooking will help improve the flavor and give it an appetizing brown exterior, but it’s not essential.
The reason many cooks will always take the time to do this is that searing the meat on all sides creates a rich, caramelized crust that boosts flavor and adds an extra depth of taste to the finished dish.
If you don’t brown it, the meat also will have a pale appearance which doesn’t look as good. The slow cooker doesn’t get hot enough to add much color.
However, if time is limited, you can skip this step without sacrificing how tender the meat turns out at the end.
How To Season The Slow Cooker Roast
Seasoning your slow cooker roast beef can be done simply with a generous grind of salt and pepper. You can also use ingredients like garlic powder and onion powder to add more flavor.
It’s important to season your crockpot roast well before you start cooking otherwise the taste can be bland by the time it’s ready. Here are some tricks to get the best results:
Use a Seasoning Rub
Use your own choice of seasoning mix or make up a simple combination of salt, pepper, garlic powder, and onion powder to create a dry rub. Apply it evenly over the roast, pressing gently to adhere before searing.
Make A Tasty Cooking Sauce
Pack in even more flavor by using a heavily seasoned sauce to cook the meat in. Use ingredients such as meat stock, soy sauce, mustard, red wine, and plenty of dried herbs like oregano and thyme for the best results.
How Long Should You Slow Cook The Roast?
Cook a typical 3-4 pound roast for 8 to 10 hours on the low setting to get the most tender beef. If you’re short on time, cook on high for 4 to 6 hours but be aware the meat may not come out as good.
Cooking times will vary depending on the size and cut of the roast of course, as well as the slow cooker model. For larger roasts, increase cooking time by approximately 2 hours per pound.
It’s useful to use a meat thermometer to ensure the roast reaches a minimum internal temperature of at least 145°F (63°C) before serving.
What Is A Good Substitute For Chuck Roast?
A good alternative for Chuck Roast is Brisket as it contains a similar amount of marbling and works really well in a slow cooker.
Brisket can be tied up to make it easier to fit into the slow cooker.
You can also look for one of the other cuts from the chuck area of the cow such as a Cross Rib Roast or Top Blade. Other options are Round Roasts such as Bottom Round Roast or Eye Of Round.
As with Chuck Roast, they will all become tender and flavorful as the slow cooking process allows the connective tissue to break down.
Hopefully, you now know all about the best cuts of beef to use in your slow cooker for a pot roast. The tougher cuts such as chuck roast, brisket, and round roast always come out on top when slow-cooked.
I hope you’ve found some inspiration to search out those lesser-known and cheaper cuts that become fabulously fork-tender once cooked on low for many hours.
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