Fall apart melt and your mouth meat
February 14, 2017 10:53 AM   Subscribe

What cuts of meat do I buy for slow cooking and pressure cooking?

I'm not looking so much for recipes then I am what-I-should-be-buying-in-the-store advice.

I want meats that when slow cooked or pressure cooked turn into melt in your mouth and fall apart? Looking for both beef and pork cuts.

Related: Is flank steak and brisket the same cut?
posted by INFJ to Food & Drink (24 answers total) 46 users marked this as a favorite
You want a cut with a lot of connective tissue, which will basically "melt" into your meat if given enough time and low heat. I love chuck roasts (beef) and Boston butts (pork) for all of my velvety, fall-apart meaty goodness.
posted by DingoMutt at 10:55 AM on February 14, 2017 [4 favorites]

You want stuff with a lot of connective tissue that will melt in to collagen over a long cooking time. For pork, I'd go with shoulder/butt, shanks or knuckle, or even ribs. For beef, go with shanks, oxtail, short ribs. Brisket will also work (but is definitely not the same thing as flank steak).
posted by backseatpilot at 10:56 AM on February 14, 2017

Oh, yeah, beef chuck comes from the same general area of the animal as pork shoulder so will act similarly when subjected to a long slow cook.
posted by backseatpilot at 10:58 AM on February 14, 2017

Pressure cooker carnitas (pork shoulder) are A++.
posted by Maecenas at 11:00 AM on February 14, 2017 [1 favorite]

Short ribs (beef)
Pork butt / shoulder (pork)
posted by bondcliff at 11:01 AM on February 14, 2017

Along with what's already been said, I often get "pork country ribs" on sale and they work well.
posted by beyond_pink at 11:48 AM on February 14, 2017 [3 favorites]

Brisket vs. flank: Both come from the underside of the cow; the brisket comes from the breast portion while the flank portion is closer to the belly. Brisket is good for "low and slow" cooking. For flank steak the best bet is a long marinade (to start breaking down the connective tissue) then cook on high heat - grill or broiler.

Also nthing pork shoulder/butt (and I highly recommend pernil!)
posted by Greg_Ace at 11:52 AM on February 14, 2017 [4 favorites]

The idea behind slow cooking is to get the cheap meats that aren't much use for other styles of cooking. You can slow cook just about anything but why would you do that to good cuts when you can do it to cheap cuts for the same result?

Generally my approach is to get a big hunk of whatever is currently the cheapest.
posted by srboisvert at 11:53 AM on February 14, 2017 [2 favorites]

Stewing chickens. Birds that are over 10 months old, usually egg layers that have stopped producing eggs. I've seen them in stores occasionally, but butcher shops or farmers markets are a better bet.
posted by Marky at 12:02 PM on February 14, 2017 [1 favorite]

Ox tails
posted by ananci at 12:05 PM on February 14, 2017 [1 favorite]

Just look at what's cheapest per pound in the grocery store, and that's what you want to slow cook.
posted by gregr at 12:14 PM on February 14, 2017

One tip I've learned over cooking many a butt and shoulder: if you follow a recipe's timing and find that your meat is still chewy when you try it, KEEP GOING. I used to be afraid that maybe I had overcooked my meat and caused it be tough, but actually the opposite was true - it just needed more time. It can be a little daunting the first time, but trust in the meat and let it keep cooking; so long as you've got a cut with lots of connective tissue and are cooking it low and slow, sometimes another hour is all that stands between you and butter-soft meaty bliss.
posted by DingoMutt at 12:29 PM on February 14, 2017 [9 favorites]

Ham hocks and ham shanks. Hocks are really more the domain of stewing, and add flavor to beans and collard greens most typically. A hock is a pig's ankle, and it's mostly gristle and weird little bones, but also contains a nugget of amazing meat inside.

The shank is the hock plus a length of the lower leg containing the tibia and fibula; the leg is tremendously meaty.

Both cuts are smoked before they're in your butchershop. Both add flavor, but shanks add a lot of smoked meat to whatever. Both should be cooked in a wet environment, unless there's some new thinking I'm not aware of.
posted by Sunburnt at 12:30 PM on February 14, 2017

if you follow a recipe's timing and find that your meat is still chewy when you try it, KEEP GOING

On the other hand, don't overcook it. Chewy = undercooked; dry and crumbly = overcooked
posted by supercres at 12:35 PM on February 14, 2017 [1 favorite]

I recently got a pressure cooker myself, and cooked a brisket in it the other day, even cooking it longer than the recipes I found (60 min vs 40 min). It turned out quite tasty, but still a little on the tough side. Definitely not falling apart. Doesn't mean I won't do it again.

I also did chicken legs and thighs in it and they turned out great.
posted by adamrice at 12:36 PM on February 14, 2017

Its already been covered here that Flank and Brisket are similar but not the same, however you should now that brisket itself consists of two muscles (the point and flat) attached to one another. In a foodservice context you would see "whole briskets" meaning the two pieces together, although it is sometimes surprisingly difficult to buy them together in retail grocery stores. Most of what I have tended to see is the leaner flat piece sold separately. IMO this is not an ideal slow cooking cut because it is not all that fatty and can get stringy when cooked too far. If you can get just the point - sometimes called the deckle - you'll have better luck.

Also, I know you asked for beef and pork, but don't sleep on chicken thighs. Made this amazing green chili pressure cooker recipe this week and it pretty much couldn't have turned out easier considering it was a basic chop, dump, blend, eat situation.
posted by Exceptional_Hubris at 12:40 PM on February 14, 2017 [4 favorites]

don't sleep on chicken thighs

Sounds painful.

if you follow a recipe's timing and find that your meat is still chewy when you try it, KEEP GOING

I've had consistent success using the Texas crutch method when oven cooking (including non-smoked meat) to speed up the process and keep the meat moist.
posted by Greg_Ace at 1:32 PM on February 14, 2017

When you say slow cook do you mean in a slow cooker (Crock Pot) or low and slow (barbecue)? I wouldn't try to cook a brisket in a slow cooker because a packer won't fit (and if you're not doing a packer I question your commitment to brisket). I've seen recipes for pork ribs in a slow cooker (or sous vide) but for me they're BBQ only for bark purposes. For that matter you can do crazy oven things with ribs involving paper bags, but I'm a purist. If I want barbecue I do it outside and if I want to use the oven I pick a different sort of recipe.

Brisket is ne plus ultra of low and slow over wood. Beef short ribs are delicious when braised, which is a slow cooking method you can do in the oven or in a slow cooker. They also transform into something unusual when cooked sous vide for 24 hours or more. The traditional beef slow roast would be a pot roast, which could be one of a number of cuts; buy whatever your butcher says is good and cheap. If you want to get super fancy: rib roast (AKA prime rib) is the whole primal cut they make ribeye steaks from. One bone is just a steak, but quality butcher will cut a 2-4 bone roast for you if you ask. Prime rib works well in the oven, but is best if you use a meat thermometer to avoid overcooking it. And you can do it outside if your grill supports indirect cooking (I like the Serious Eats method where you start it over indirect heat and only finish it directly over coals right before serving).

For pork, to BBQ it I'd do baby back (AKA loin back) ribs, but not St. Louis cut or country style ribs (baby back and St. Louis cut are both cut from the same primal cut, just in different ways; country style ribs are a different primal cut, cheaper and fattier). Compared to St. Louis ribs, baby backs are easier to cook evenly because they're so evenly cut, and easier to eat because the part with all the connective tissue is removed so you're not gnawing around it all. I'd also do butt for smoky flavor and bark, but by the time you pull it you do lose a bit of the bark's texture. You can also do pulled pork (butt or shoulder) in a slow cooker, but it won't get the smoky flavor it gets from wood. It does still make really delicious sandwiches, though. For slow roasting in an oven: shoulder.
posted by fedward at 2:29 PM on February 14, 2017

I always use beef shin in slow-cooker beef stews. A very cheap cut and lots of connective tissue which makes the sauce nice and rich.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 3:54 PM on February 14, 2017 [1 favorite]

Dug legs (drumstick+thigh, one piece) are wonderful. Especially confit (low and slow while submerged in rendered duck fat - it can be reused several times; for long term storage, one leg and a tablespoon of fat in a ziplock bag. Submerge in water (to get the air out) and seal. Freeze. My sister had two in her freezer accidentally for 18 months and it was jus fine).

They're done when the skin/cartilage pulls back from the drumstick knob.
posted by porpoise at 4:28 PM on February 14, 2017

Beef cheeks is what you are looking for. ★★★★★ every time. Get your butcher to trim them for you if you're not confident because it's a bit fiddly.
posted by unliteral at 4:58 PM on February 14, 2017

There was an article in the NY Times recently where the Dining reviewers took several models of electric Instant Pots for a spin. Besides the yogurt and rice options, the reviewer recommended:

--Pork shoulder, short ribs, spare ribs
--Lamb shanks
--Beef bone broth
--Skinless chicken breasts

"The key to pressure cooker happiness is choosing recipes in which softness and succulence is the goal, and which traditionally take hours to get there.

For example, I’ll never go back to a Dutch oven for chili, which I made in the electric pressure cooker in an hour starting from dried beans."

posted by The Pluto Gangsta at 6:17 PM on February 14, 2017

Lamb shanks. 7-bone roast.
posted by yarly at 1:40 PM on February 15, 2017

Beef cheeks is what you are looking for. ★★★★★ every time. Get your butcher to trim them for you if you're not confident because it's a bit fiddly.

This. Brown them quickly and an hour in the pressure cooker and they're heavenly.
posted by the duck by the oboe at 8:14 PM on February 16, 2017

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