Making anything with meat is delicious, especially when using a slow cooker. Slow cooker turns the meat into soft, chewy and flavorful. But sometimes, the meat can be tough for several reasons, making the dinner frustrating.
The meat can be transformed into tender, flavorful, and mouthwatering with proper technique and practice. All it requires is a combination of proper preparation, technique and a little patience.
Reasons Behind Tough Meat
Whatever you use to cook meat can be tough for several reasons. The most common reason is an inappropriate cut of the meat. The tenderness depends on different cuts of meat. Too big or too small a cut leads them to remain tough even if cooked for an extended period.
Another reason is the cooking temp. Overcooking meat at high temp makes it tough because excessive heat removes all the moisture and tenderness. Cooking time is another crucial factor.
Undercooked and overcooked meat can be tough, too. The collagen won’t break in lack of cooking time; also, excessive time can lead the meat into less tenderness.
Some cooking methods also turn the meat into toughness, such as a lack of marinating before grilling or roasting. Marinating and using enough liquid keeps the meat moist.
How to Fix Tough Meat
Fixing the tough meat in the slow cooker is not a big deal. You can easily do it following some tips such as,
Add Enough Water or Other Liquid
Slow cookers simmer the meat, and lack of liquid or water can make the meat dry and tough. When you find out the meat is tough, add water to the cooker until the meat is covered. The water should be at least 1/3 of the meat.
To keep the meat moist, you can add other liquids, such as broth, wine, and tomato sauce. The alcohol and flavor will break down the collagen and muscle fiber to soften it. Use the correct quantity of liquid. To add the liquid, strain the cooking liquid then remove the fat. Again, pour the liquid and cook it for an extra hour in low heat.
Marinate the Meat
Marinate the meat before starting to cook to prevent toughness. To increase the flavor, include olive oil, vinegar, onion, garlic, and other preferred herbs. Proper marination adds moisture to the meat and helps tenderize it.
Adding acidic products like lemon juice and vinegar helps to break down the muscle while cooking. However, don’t marinate the meat for too long, or the meat will become mushy.
Choose the Right Cut of Meat
The proper cut of the meat is mandatory in the slow cooker. The meat should be well-marbled and fatty. Chuck roast, stew beef, brisket, pork ribs, chicken thighs, etc., are ideal for slow cooking. If you need this meat, apply only the recommended cooking time.
Cook Low and Slow
Apply lower heat and take a long time to cook the meat. 6 to 9 hours of cooking time is best for tenderizing the tough meat. The muscle, connective tissue, and collagen will break down during that time, making the meat soft and juicy.
A low heat setting is crucial to prevent overcooking. You can also use a Dutch oven to cook the meat.
Don’t Open the Lid Instantly
When you put meat into the slow cooker and turn on the heat, it takes a couple of minutes to be heated inside, and keeping the lid close helps to retain the heat. Don’t open the lid instantly; the heat will escape and take longer to cook.
Wait at least 15 minutes to distribute the heat evenly. Use a glass lid to peep inside, and if the meat needs to stir, do it as fast as possible. Also, add enough liquid and keep an eye on the fluid level.
Use Dairy Product
Using dairy product help to tenderize the meat and add flavor. Use yoghurt, buttermilk, or kefir and marinate the meat for hours. The dairy enzyme breaks the meat’s muscle fiber and makes it soft and chewy.
Rest the Meat
After cooking, let the meat rest for 5 to 10 minutes so the juice can spread evenly. This can soften the meat.
How to Reuse Tough Meat
To reuse the tough meat, trim any excess fat, then season the meat with onion, garlic, herbs, etc.
Marinate the meat for hours or overnight, then sear the meat in a hot pan. Searing is not necessary.
After that, place the meat into the bottom of the slow cooker and add liquids and any vegetables you like.
Set the proper temp and time and check for doneness after a couple of hours.