Our nephew Donnie made over ten pounds of pulled beef for a family reunion dinner last week. We were in Wichita, Kansas, for the memorial service celebrating the life of Jerri’s twin brother, and the dinner was served on the campus of World Impact, an inner-city mission organization. Thus, it was appropriate that Donnie would make a big batch of meat in one of those large electric roasters one sees so often in church kitchens.
Served on buns with a choice of barbecue sauces, it was absolutely delicious. Donnie has made lots of great tasting foods for us over the the past twenty years or so, but I had never asked him for any of his recipes. The pulled beef finally made me do it.
It turns out that Donnie makes pulled beef regularly at home, so it was easy for him to give me his standard recipe, which uses about three pounds of beef roast that he cooks in a slow cooker.
3 lbs. inexpensive beef roast (chuck, rump, arm, round, etc.)
2 T liquid smoke
4 T soy sauce
2 T Worcestershire sauce
1/2 tsp. garlic salt
1/2 tsp. celery seed
1/4 tsp. black pepper
Water as needed
Cut the meat into three inch pieces discarding any bones or large pieces of fat. Put the pieces in a large plastic bag. Whisk the liquid and dry ingredients together in a small bowl and pour the mixture on the meat. Seal the bag and make sure all the pieces are covered with marinade.
Marinate the meat overnight or up to a day. Turn the bag a few times to make sure all the meat is covered with the marinade.
Put the meat and marinade in a slow cooker. Add a tablespoon or two of water. Turn the slow cooker on high until the pot is hot, then turn it to low and let the meat simmer at least eight hours. Use tongs or a slotted spoon to move the bottom pieces of meat to the top a couple of times if you are home, or just do it when you get home from work and let it simmer a bit longer while you relax.
Use a fork to check for tenderness. The meat should pull apart easily when it is done. Turn off the cooker and remove the pieces to a platter to cool for a few minutes, then use a sharp knife and fork to pull it apart. Return the meat to the cooker and turn the heat to low to hold it for serving.
Serve with sandwich buns and your a choice of barbecue sauces accompanied by cole slaw, baked beans and macaroni and cheese if you want to treat your guests to a real southern feast.
NOTES: You could add some hot sauce to the marinade if you want spicier meat, but the flavor is so good the way it is, I suggest that you do as folks in Kentucky and Tennessee do. They sprinkle (or pour!) hot sauce on the meat before they dig in. And it can taste pretty darn good that way with fewer carbs and calories.
Any inexpensive cut of beef works well with this recipe. In fact, tougher cuts are better. Watch for sales. Don’t be fooled into thinking that an expensive roast will make better pulled beef. It won’t, nor will it be as flavorful. The inexpensive cuts have more connective tissue which adds flavor to the meat. The marinade and slow simmer turn a tough old chuck roast into a delicious treat that falls apart on your plate.
Pulled beef holds well in the fridge for two or three days, and of course you can freeze it. Save the liquid separately and use it to moisten the meat when you reheat it. When you chill the liquid you’ll find that there is a lot of gelatin in it which helps give the meat its wonderful flavor.