If you ever have problems motivating yourself to cook – read this. If you ever start a project (culinary or not) and hit a snag, then wonder if you can ever successfully complete it– read this. If you are perfect, always motivated to finish what you start, and never hit roadblocks or obstacles of any kind – don’t bother to read this and immediately tweet me all your secrets.
I was intrigued by the concept of slow cookers and bought one, but then hit a motivational brick wall. The slow cooker sat in my basement, unopened, for weeks. I read dozens of slow cooker recipes that arrived at my electronic doorstep, did endless Google searches for them, and even poured over several in “hardcopy” newspapers we still get delivered. But I never got farther than daydreaming about moving the box upstairs to the kitchen.
My husband got tired of bumping into the huge box. He kept asking when I was going to use the slow cooker. My response, “soon”, became increasingly untenable as the weeks passed. Clearly, I had a block going on – like writer’s block – only worse, because my husband doesn’t bump into my scraps of Word documents or unfinished blog posts. What to do?
Luckily, fate and friendship intervened. Saturday evening I ran into my pal Aviva, TheScramble maven. It turns out her slow cooker was still in the box too. Before the evening was over, we had set up a 2 woman “slow cooker support group” and determined that we would make slow cooker pot roast on Tuesday from a recipe that one of her readers sent Aviva. She shared the recipe, I bought the meat, and off we went.
First we tweeted, then we checked twitter for each other’s tweets, then we tweeted some more. The support group worked great. The recipe (below) was easy and required few ingredients besides a 3 pound piece of boneless beef chuck roast. But like much else in life, the seemingly straight path from initial success to the goal line had a detour. And yet there is a happy ending, so read on.
I opened the box (hooray!), unpacked the machine, read the directions and decided to use the fancy meat probe that came with my slow cooker. Our recipe said that the meat should cook for 10-12 hours on a low setting. However, the directions for my particular slow cooker said that if I inserted the probe in the meat and used the probe setting on the machine, a 3-pound roast should be done in about 3 hours. How to reconcile recipe and slow cooker cook times when they were at such an extreme variance? I decided to trust the probe and the directions that came with my machine.
Timing the meat to finish cooking at dinnertime, I proudly took it out when the buzzer rang, indicating that the probe gauged that the 3 pound piece of meat had reached the safe and properly cooked internal temperature. According to the recipe, I should have been able to shred it, but the meat wasn’t cooperating. I began slicing, against the grain of the meat, as you’re supposed to do. On one side, the pot roast seemed done, but not on the other. So much for the magic of the probe.
Slicing off the meat that looked done, I realized this was not a home run. The taste was good – tangy and a bit sour (from the vinegar) like sauerbraten. The meat was edible, but tough. I didn't have time to fix the problem or revise the dinner plan, so we ate the sandwiches. Luckily the homemade cole slaw was a winner and my husband is a good sport.
I put the rest (some already sliced) back in the slow cooker on low without the probe for another 3 ½ hours - a total cooking time of 6 ¾ hours. The result, tested both last night and again today, was much better – more tender and even tastier, as it had more time to soak up the taste of the sauce. In fact, my husband chose the leftovers over a freshly made soup for tonight's dinner.
Lesson learned – don’t give up. If you improvise when you see your meal or dish headed to disaster or even mediocrity, you may be able to save it. And maybe not every modern convenience is a winner. Although last night’s sandwiches were not divine, we’re looking forward to delicious leftovers tonight. I might try the probe again with a different meat recipe, but low tech methods, manual settings on gadgets, and being sensible when evaluating results aren't shabby starting points for meal preparation success.
Slow cooker Pot Roast Sandwiches from Jeanne Bragg’s Mom (annotated by MotherWouldKnow)
Serves 6-8 Cost - $26.34 total/$3.30 per sandwich for 8
- 3 pound boneless chuck roast (in one large piece)
- ½ cup white vinegar
- 1 large onion sliced (I used 2 small-med onions)
- 3 bay leaves
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon ground cloves
- ⅛ teaspoon garlic powder
- 4 ounces (1 small can) of chopped green chilies
- rolls or buns for sandwiches (tonight we'll substitute cooked carrots and potatoes)
- Slow cooker (with directions)
- Cutting board
- Can opener
- Liquid measuring cup
- Measuring spoons
- Large fork
- Large spoon (not pictured)
- If the piece of meat has fat (hard white part) on the outside, trim that off and throw it away.
- Peel the onion(s), cut in half and slice into half moon shaped thin slices.
- Pour the vinegar into the slow cooker.
- Add the onion slices, chilies, salt, cloves, garlic powder, and meat into the slow cooker, along with the vinegar. The original directions did not specify an order for the ingredients. I put the chilies in after the meat and mixed everything, moving some onions to the top of the meat before I turned the slow cooker on. I don't think that order or mixing are crucial, as long as the spices get into the vinegar.
- Set slow cooker on low setting and cook 7-12 hours. (Check after 6-7 hours.) The meat should be quite tender. Once it is done, gently lift the meat out of the slow cooker with the large fork. According to Jeanne, you should be able to shred it for sandwiches.. It’s fine to cut it into thin slices instead, though the meat should be tender enough that the slices won’t stay uniform.
|3 pound boneless chuck roast||$18.00||3 pounds @ $5.99 lb|
|½ cup white vinegar||$0.24||$0.99 for 16 oz bottle/.06 oz|
|1 large or 2 small-med onions||$0.79||$.79 each|
|3 bay leaves||$0.00||pantry|
|½ teaspoon salt||$0.00||pantry|
|¼ teaspoon ground cloves||$0.00||pantry|
|⅛ teaspoon garlic powder||$0.00||pantry|
|4 ounces (1 small can) of chopped green chilies||$1.79||4 oz can|
|rolls or sandwich buns||$5.52||8 rolls @$.69 each|