Best cuts of beef for slow cooking
1. Gravy Beef
A great option for making beef casseroles and stews is gravy beef (also known as beef shin, or Osso Bucco when sold with the bone in), which comes from the cow's shin area. This cut is rich in sinewy tissue that becomes gelatinous during the slow cooking process, resulting in tender meat that falls apart at the touch of a fork.
2. Chuck steak
One of the most commonly used cuts for slow cookers is the chuck steak – usually used for making beef stew. The chuck is the shoulder and upper arm of the cow which makes it very tough, but trust us when we say that it becomes amazingly tender after it’s spent a few hours in your slow cooker. Best of all, it’s cheap as chips!
3. Beef short ribs
While you’ll usually see beef short ribs on the grill, it’s actually one of the best ‘slow cooker meats’ you can get! A slow cooker will help you get that pull-off-the-bone texture that you're looking for. Best of all, there's not much prep work needed; just marinate and chuck it in, bones and all.
4. Beef Cheeks
As the name suggests, beef cheeks come from the facial cheek of the cow. Unlike other secondary cuts of meat like chuck steak or gravy beef, beef cheeks take a long time to cook - anywhere between 8-12 hours. The end result, however, is totally worth the wait, which is why this once overlooked cut of meat is rising in popularity amongst chefs and home cooks alike.
5. Beef Brisket
In Australia, roast beef gets all the glory while beef brisket tends to fly under the radar. This cut of meat, which comes from the breast or lower chest of the cow, is perfect for slow cooking. This section is rich in connective tissues that render down and soften during the slow cooking process. But beware: beef brisket can be prone to drying out, so select a piece of meat that is visibly marbled throughout.
WATCH: Fast Ed prepares cowboy brisket with pumpkin and charred chillies
Best cuts of lamb for slow cooking
6. Lamb shanks
Lamb shanks are a bit more complicated to prepare compared to the other cuts but it’s so worth it! When it’s raw, it’s tough and gamey, but after being slow-cooked, it practically falls off the bone. Before cooking it, it’s important to remember to trim the meat so that the meat doesn’t shrink in on itself.
7. Lamb neck
When it comes to slow cooking, few cuts of meat hit the taste trifecta like lamb necks. Rich in fat and cartilage wrapped around the bone, this cut of meat will instantly add flavour and depth to any slow cooked meal.
On a road trip to Dorper Ewes, a farm in Amarula in northern New South Wales, Fast Ed explained his love of lamb neck, "You've got this perfect balance of connective tissue, which is where all the flavour comes from, just the right amount of fat and plenty of meat as well."
Unlike other cuts of meat typically used for slow cooking, lamb necks are also great for grilling on the barbecue.
WATCH: Fast Ed makes rich lamb stew with semolina pasta and olives using lamb neck
Best cuts of pork for slow cooking
8. Pork shoulder
Pork lovers, rejoice! This cut of meat can be very tough, especially since it usually comes with the skin, but transforms into soft, fork-tender pieces after cooking. If you’re a fan of crackling skin, rub some oil and salt on the skin and put it in the oven for around 40 to 50 minutes to get that crispy, golden brown colour before putting it in the slow cooker. If you don’t like the skin, simply remove before cooking.
9. Bacon bones
Want to take your stew or soup game to the next level? Try throwing bacon bones into the mix. Bacon bones are smoked and will add a rich, umami flavour to broths, casseroles and stews. They might be tasty, but bacon bones (also known as pork bones) don't have much meat on them and some cooks choose to fish them out of the dish before serving. Pair with another cut of meat for a complete and satisfying meal.
If you can't find bacon bones, ham hocks are a nice alternative.
Best cuts of chicken for slow cooking
10. Chicken thighs
One of the most flavourful parts of the chicken is the thigh. It doesn’t take a long time to cook chicken thighs, but after being in the slow cooker for an hour or so, it’ll turn soft, juicy, and will practically fall off the bone. While it’s not necessary, you can also opt to have your chicken thigh deboned before putting it in the slow cooker which will make it a lot easier to eat with cutlery.
WATCH: Fast Ed slow cooks chicken in milk on a road trip to the Riverina
Cooking meat before slow cooking
You may be asking yourself: “do I have to brown the meat before putting it in the slow cooker?” Well, you don’t have to but if you want an extra punch of flavour, then go ahead! Browning the meat will add more flavour to your dish and change its texture. Whether you decide to brown it or not, remember that thawing your meat in the fridge is an absolute necessity, because putting frozen meat in the slow cooker may increase the chances of bacteria contaminating your food.
A slow cooker is one of the best investments you can make when it comes to kitchen essentials. Not only is it easy to use, but you can also make delicious dishes without all the added fuss!