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The Ultimate Guide to the Best Cuts of Meat for Your Slow Cooker

The absolute best cuts of meat for your slow cooker

Slow cookers have become a favorite kitchen appliance for many home cooks. The convenience of preparing meals ahead of time and letting them simmer over low heat for hours is unmatched. One of the great benefits of slow cookers is their ability to transform tough cuts of meat into tender and flavorful dishes. If you’re looking to up your slow cooker game, here are the absolute best cuts of meat to consider:

Pork Butt

When it comes to slow cooking, pork butt takes the crown. Also known as Boston butt, this cut of meat comes from the shoulder area of the pig. It is marbled with fat and collagen, making it perfect for long, slow cooking. As the pork butt simmers in the slow cooker, the fat and collagen break down, resulting in incredibly tender and moist pulled pork. Whether you’re making pulled pork sandwiches or adding it to your favorite barbecue sauce, pork butt is a winning choice.

Lamb Shank

Lamb shanks are an excellent choice for slow cooking. These cuts of meat come from the shin of the sheep and are packed with connective tissue. When cooked at a low temperature for an extended period of time, such as in a slow cooker, the meat becomes incredibly tender and flavorful. The slow cooking process allows the lamb shank to reach a falling-off-the-bone tenderness while retaining moisture. For best results, sear the lamb shanks before placing in the slow cooker to enhance the flavor.

Beef Chuck Roast

Beef chuck roast, also known as pot roast, is a classic choice for slow cooking. This cut of meat comes from the shoulder of the cow and is full of flavor. The high amount of connective tissue in chuck roast requires a long cooking time to become tender. Slow cooking allows the meat to break down slowly, resulting in a melt-in-your-mouth texture and rich flavor. Searing the edges of the chuck roast before slow cooking further enhances the flavor.

Ground meat (any type)

Ground meat, whether it’s beef, turkey, or another variety, is incredibly versatile in slow cooker recipes. It is often used in stews, sauces, and chilies. The slow cooker provides a foolproof method for creating these dishes, as the flavors meld over hours of simmering. Whether you’re making a hearty beef stew or a savory turkey chili, ground beef is a fantastic option for your slow cooker creations.

Chicken Thighs

When it comes to chicken, thighs are the best cut for slow cooking. The higher fat content in the dark meat reduces the risk of overcooking and drying out. Chicken thighs are known for their flavorful and tender meat, making them ideal for slow cooking. Whether you’re making a chicken stew or a braised dish, chicken thighs provide moist and delicious results. Consider using bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs for added flavor and juiciness.

Beef Brisket

Brisket is often associated with smoking or grilling, but it is also an excellent choice for the slow cooker. This cut of meat comes from the lower part of the cow’s chest and contains a significant amount of connective tissue. Slow cooking allows the tough interior of the brisket to break down, resulting in tender and flavorful meat. You can infuse your brisket with barbecue flavors by using a slow cooker, creating a delicious and convenient alternative to traditional smoking methods.


Oxtails may seem unconventional, but they are a fantastic choice for slow cooking. By using every edible part of the animal, oxtails reduce waste and offer a unique and flavorful dining experience. Oxtails come from the tail of the cow and are packed with gelatinous connective tissue. When cooked slowly, oxtails become incredibly tender and develop a rich, savory flavor. Whether you’re making a hearty oxtail stew or a braised dish, oxtails will impress your taste buds.
Finally, when it comes to slow cooking, certain cuts of meat shine above the rest. Pork butt, lamb shank, beef chuck roast, ground beef, chicken thighs, beef brisket, and oxtail are the absolute best cuts of meat for your slow cooker. By using these cuts, you can create tender, flavorful, and delicious dishes that will impress your family and guests. So fire up your slow cooker, gather your ingredients, and enjoy the incredible flavors these cuts have to offer.


Slow cookers offer several advantages for cooking meat. They allow for long, slow cooking times that break down tough cuts of meat, resulting in tender, flavorful dishes. Slow cooking also helps retain moisture in the meat, preventing it from drying out. In addition, using a slow cooker is convenient because it requires minimal hands-on time and allows you to prepare meals in advance.

Can I use any kind of meat in a slow cooker?

While slow cookers can be used with a variety of meats, not all cuts are suitable. Tough, high collagen cuts such as pork butt, lamb shank and beef chuck roast are ideal for slow cooking. These cuts benefit from the long, slow cooking process that helps break down the collagen, resulting in tender meat. Ground beef, chicken thighs, beef brisket and oxtails are also excellent choices for the slow cooker.

Do I need to sear the meat before adding it to the slow cooker?

Searing the meat before placing it in the slow cooker is not required, but is highly recommended. Searing helps develop a flavorful crust on the meat and enhances the overall flavor. It also adds visual appeal to the final dish. While searing is not required, taking the extra step can significantly enhance the flavor profile of your slow cooked meat.

How long should I cook meat in a slow cooker?

The cooking time for meat in a slow cooker can vary depending on the cut and recipe. As a general guideline, most meats need 6 to 8 hours at low heat or 3 to 4 hours at high heat to be tender and fully cooked. However, it’s always best to consult specific recipes or follow the manufacturer’s instructions for your slow cooker to ensure optimal results.

Can I leave the slow cooker unattended while it’s cooking?

Slow cookers are designed to be left unattended while cooking. They are equipped with safety features such as temperature controls and timers to prevent overcooking or accidents. However, it’s always important to follow basic kitchen safety guidelines. Make sure the slow cooker is placed on a stable surface, away from flammable objects, and never leave it running unattended for long periods of time.

Can I customize slow cooker recipes for different cuts of meat?

Yes, Slow Cooker recipes can be adjusted for different cuts of meat. Keep in mind that cooking times may vary depending on the firmness and size of the cut. Tougher cuts will require longer cooking times to become tender, while leaner cuts may require less time. It’s always best to refer to specific recipes or cooking guidelines for the particular cut of meat you’re using to ensure proper cooking and desired results.

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