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Slow Roasting Meat

Slow Cooked Roast
Slow roasting meats is something I am asked about time and again. This can be done in a smoker, in an oven, or in a crock pot. Certain cuts of meats like Chuck Roast, Top Round, Rack of Ribs, Short Ribs, Brisket, and Lamb Leg Shanks have connective tissue that is tough unless cooked properly. Slow cooking breaks down this tissue, turning a normally tough cut of meat into one that is tender and flavorful, arguably some of the most flavorful.
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Braising, or searing the outside of the meat is a first step, usually done in a very hot, very lightly oiled iron skillet or dutch oven. It causes the meat to release drippings,which are called the “fond,” that caramelize in the bottom of the pan, and which create a unique flavor not afforded when placing the raw meat directly into an oven or crock pot.
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Next some cooking liquid needs to be added to the pot, unless you are smoking it. Start by using the drippings from the pan you seared the meat in, and add water or broth and seasonings of your choice. Wine is a really fun medium to use, diluted with water or broth, or used straight. Generally I use at least a cup of liquid, but more is certainly fine. If you want lots of gravy and drippings in the end be sure to use enough liquid to start. Keep in mind that the meat will give off wonderful juices of its own, though, so don’t add too much liquid.
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Season the meat itself, salt and pepper as a minimum (I usually just use a generous amount of my Rich and Savory Spice Blend with great results), and begin cooking in your oven, crock pot, or smoker. A rule of thumb for cooking temperature is 200 to 225 degrees and timing is about 1 1/2 hours per pound of meat. Many of the newer crock pots cook at 250 degrees on low, so this needs to be taken into consideration. You will know when cooking is complete by testing with a fork. I say the meat needs to be fork tender. That generally means that if you stick a fork in the meat and twist, the meat easily breaks apart. Overcooking can cause the meat to dry out, so if at first you don’t succeed, make notes for the next time about increasing or decreasing the cooking time.
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If barbecuing the meat a marinade or a rub helps to enhance the flavor. Different types of wood yield differences in the flavor of the finished meat. Wood from fruit trees gives a fruity flavor, pecan and hickory offer a more traditional flavor, and mesquite a sweeter flavor. I often just use a combination of all the above and am always happy with the result. Experiment to find what suites you best.
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Other cuts, while tender by nature, also can benefit from a slow cooking method, although the timing on these cuts is much shorter. These might include Standing Rib Roast, Rump Roast, Eye of Round Roast, Sirloin Tip Roast, and Boneless Leg of Lamb. When cooking these a thermometer is essential and the cooking should be stopped when the meat reaches a temperature of 125 to 130 degrees F.
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Hopefully this will help take some of the mystery out of cooking the perfect roast. I would love to hear about your successes, and failures, and any suggestions you might have. Bon appetit!

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