Monday, February 4, 2013

Use a slow cooker for almost-effortless barbecue beef

This is perhaps the best beef I've ever made in a slow cooker -- and it's definitely the easiest.

I came up with the recipe at the butcher counter when I spotted boneless arm roast on sale for $3.99 a pound. I'd never cooked that cut of meat before, so I asked the butcher what would happen if I rubbed the roast with spices and slow-cooked it on a bed of onions. His eyes lit up: "I think it would taste really, really good." His opinion was enough for me to give it a go.

I was planning to stir together my own seasoning rub, but when I got to the spice aisle I saw that the commercial rubs were on sale for $1 each. I picked up a slightly spicy, slightly smoky rub, but you can use whatever you prefer. Even a simple combination of salt and pepper would be tasty. You also can substitute wine or broth for the beer.

After the roast had slowly cooked to a perfect tenderness, I pulled it into strands and added a dollop of barbecue sauce. You can omit the barbecue sauce and use the plain defatted cooking liquid, or you can thicken the liquid and make gravy. You also can slice the roast or cut it into chunks instead of pulling the meat apart. The recipe is that simple, that versatile, and that good.

Yield: About 8 sandwiches

2 large onions, sliced
3/4 cup beer 
About 1 tablespoon mesquite barbecue spice rub
1 (2 1/2-pound) boneless beef arm roast
Barbecue sauce
Pretzel buns or other sandwich rolls

Place onions in the bottom of a 6-quart slow cooker. Add beer. Rub spices into beef roast. Place in the slow cooker. Cover and cook on low heat until tender, about 8 to 10 hours.

Remove beef from slow cooker. When cool enough to handle, use two forks to shred meat. If making ahead, cover and refrigerate.

Strain liquid; set onions aside. Let cooking liquid sit until the fat rises to the top, then skim off fat and discard. If making ahead, refrigerate onions and liquid separately. Discard fat from liquid after it rises to the top and hardens.

Return just enough liquid to moisten the beef to the slow cooker or place in a saucepan. When liquid is hot, add beef; heat gently. Stir in barbecue sauce to taste. Meanwhile, reheat onions in another pan.

Spoon beef onto buns, topping with onions if desired.

Note: I froze the leftover beef in a single layer in a plastic bag, which makes it easy to take out just what we need. I froze the leftover cooking liquid in 1/3-cup portions in a muffin tin, then popped out the frozen pucks and stored them in another freezer bag.

Story, recipe and photo copyright Judith Evans 2013. All rights reserved.

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