Using a slow cooker is probably as close as I will ever get to having a personal chef. Arriving home to the delicious aroma of dinner ready to eat is a luxury I could get used to (and I am guessing I am not the only one). There are a few things to keep in mind when selecting meat for a slow cooker. Understanding why certain cuts of meat are best for many hours of low-heat cooking can make your slow cooker recipes taste more like a personal chef made dinner, too.
The best meats for slow cooking also tend to have a lower price per pound (bonus!). There is a specific type of protein found in meat called collagen. Collagen is found in greater quantities in weight-bearing, frequently used muscles (think legs and shoulders). This protein can make for a tough and chewy piece of meat, which is one of the reasons the price is lower. There is a secret to this protein though, and your slow cooker is one of the best keys to unlock it. Cooking meat that has a lot of collagen for a long time with low, moist heat (like in a slow cooker) transforms the once tough protein into tender gelatin and thus, tender meat.
Alright, enough on the why and the how, let’s talk about what to look for at the grocery store. Below are the names you might see on the labels in the meat department to clue you in to which cuts to buy for slow cooker success.
Slow Cooker Pot Roast
- Chuck or shoulder (this could include pot roast, blade roast or short ribs)
Barbecue Pork Loin Ribs
- Shoulder (Boston butt)
- Shank (leg)
- Rib Roast
Poultry (keep the skin-on to help retain the shape and moisture):
Mandarin Orange Chicken
Now that you are armed with knowledge to make the best choices at the store, you will have tasty results in the kitchen. Get inspired and find your next dinner in our Slow Cooker Entrée recipe collection. For additional tips on using your slow cooker check out Kim’s article Slow-Cookers: Your Personal Freedom Machine.