The best way to tenderize stew meats in a slow cooker

January 31, 2015

Discover how slow cooking techniques can transform tough meat cuts into tender, tasty recipes the whole family will love.

The best way to tenderize stew meats in a slow cooker

Tender meats make the best meals, but not all delicious, meaty meals start out that way.

  • Beef cuts like filet mignon and porterhouse get raves because they contain consistent marbling, which is the even distribution of small amounts of fat that helps make meat moist and flavorful.

Tough or tender

A number of things can make meat naturally tough.

  • Lack of marbling is one, but the age of the animal and the cut of the meat are important, too.
  • Meats are made up of muscle, and the more active muscles are usually the toughest.
  • That's why meat from a younger animal is more tender than meat from a more mature animal.
  • The beef chunk taken from the neck and shoulder of a steer is one of the toughest cuts on the market because the muscles in that area of the animal are used constantly.

Tender meats can be prepared quickly because it isn't necessary to modify their already soft muscle fibres.

  • This makes T-bone, strip and rib eye steaks excellent choices for grilling, and distinguishes a "frying" chicken from a "stewing" hen.

Buying tougher meats

Because tougher cuts require more prep, and have fewer preparation options, they are usually less in demand, which makes them a bargain at your local market.

Where tough cuts shine

Tough cuts are not necessarily a compromise.

  • Muscle meats may become tougher with age, but they also become more flavourful.
  • Even better, the connective tissue in tough meat is made up of collagen that's chewy when undercooked, but after a few hours at low heat, it melts into a natural, savoury gravy.

Low and slow

Although tough meat tissues can be tenderized chemically with acidic ingredients like vinegar and wine, using low heat over an extended period is one of the easiest ways to give cuts like chuck, shank and brisket the prep they deserve to make a masterful recipe.

  • Low heat tenderizes muscle tissues without the need to introduce strong, sometimes harsh ingredients, and the extended cooking time softens and liquefies connective tissues for a tender result that produces its own gravy and plenty of flavour.

Slow cookers

Slow cookers are designed to take advantage of prolonged, low-heat cooking, often using a one-pot meal strategy that saves energy compared to stove top preparations.

  • Many slow cooker recipes also save time on prep and cleanup by employing a "set it and forget it" approach in which all the ingredients are added to the slow cooker in one step.
  • This makes them a great option for cooking stews and pot roasts. With a little additional work, slow cookers can also prepare more sophisticated low and slow cooking classics like coq au vin (a chicken dish) and beef bourguignon.


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