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Recipe for slow cooker sweet and smoky beef {gluten-free}


Technically, summer won't arrive here in Rhode Island for a few more days, but the temperature and humidity settled in a couple of weeks in advance. Last winter I fell in love with brisket braised in apple cider, and this sweet and smoky beef spins off that flavor combination. The slow cooker, in constant use in my kitchen as the weather heats up, transforms a basic chuck roast into shredded beef that can fill sandwiches or tortillas or wraps, and tastes great on its own or with some quick and easy cole slaw on the side. Bring it on, summer -- we've got our slow cookers out, and we're ready for you.

Slow cooker (crockpot) sweet and smoky beef, perfect for sandwiches.

Slow cooker sweet and smoky beef

From the pantry, you'll need: chipotle pepper in adobo, onion, thyme, honey, kosher salt, fresh black pepper, cornstarch.

Serves 8.


3 lb beef chuck roast
1 medium onion, peeled, cut in half, and sliced into thin half-moons
12 oz can frozen unsweetened apple juice concentrate, defrosted
1/2 tsp dried thyme leaf, or 1 tsp fresh thyme leaves
1/2 Tbsp honey
1 large chipotle pepper in adobo, chopped, plus 1 Tbsp adobo sauce
Kosher salt
Fresh black pepper
1 Tbsp cornstarch or arrowroot


Trim the meat to remove as much surface fat as possible, by cutting along the natural separations in the meat. Trim as much visible fat as you can. You'll end up with several pieces, some larger and some smaller, a total of approximately 2-1/2 pounds. Season the meat with a sprinkling of salt and pepper.

Spread the sliced onions in the bottom of a 3-quart slow cooker.

Heat a large frying pan over medium-high heat. Place the meat into the frying pan, and sear all of the pieces on all sides. (You might need to do this in batches to avoid overcrowding the pan.) Set the browned meat on top of the onions.

Pour the apple juice into the frying pan, and deglaze the pan over high heat by scraping with a wooden spoon to loosen the browned bits on the bottom of the pan. When the apple juice is reduced by one third, pour it into the slow cooker. Add the thyme, chipotle pepper, adobo sauce and honey, along with 1/2 teaspoon of kosher salt and 1/4 teaspoon of fresh black pepper.

Cover the slow cooker, and turn to LOW. Cook for 7 hours. Turn the cooker off.

With a slotted spoon, remove the meat to a mixing bowl. Pour the liquid into a small saucepan, and set it on the stove over high heat to reduce by one-third. In a small measuring cup or glass, whisk the cornstarch with 2 tablespoons of water, and set aside.

While the liquid is reducing, shred the meat with two forks.

When the liquid has reduced by one-third, lower the heat to medium, and whisk in the cornstarch mixture. The liquid should begin to thicken, and when it has the consistency of a nice sauce, pour it into the bowl with the meat. Stir to coat the meat with the sauce.

The meat can be chilled, and stored in a container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days, or frozen.

[Printer-friendly recipe.]

More recipes in The Perfect Pantry:
Pakistani "old clothes" beef curry (nihari) in the slow cooker
Slow cooker Cuban-style ropa vieja
Slow cooker espresso-rubbed pot roast
Slow cooker Tex-Mex pot roast
Grandma's beef brisket in the slow cooker

Other recipes that use these pantry ingredients:
Slow-cooker pulled pork with chipotle BBQ sauce, from Andrea Meyers
Spicy shredded beef tacos, from Savory Reviews
Honey chipotle glazed chicken, from Annie's Eats
Grilled tofu kabobs, from This Mama Cooks! On a Diet
Slow cooker Asian shredded beef, from A Year of Slow Cooking

Disclosure: The Perfect Pantry earns a few pennies on purchases made through the Amazon.com links in this post. Thank you for supporting this site when you start your shopping here.


Mm looks lovely! We don't have apple juice concentrate here in Greece, could I just use apple juice or would it be too sweet? Thanks!

Elvonee, the concentrate here adds more sweetness, so you could use apple juice and either (a) boil it down a bit, or (b) add more honey. It will work, either way.

Mmm Lydia, you know that way to my heart! I love the fruity sweetness in meat dishes and I love chipotle peppers - in fact I have a bunch in the freezer I need to use up before we move so I may try this recipe. But no slow cooker.... stove top and Dutch oven? Fabulous recipe again!

Jamie, yes of course, stove top! You cannot let those chipotles go to waste, and anything that can be made in a slow cooker can be made on the stove top, or sometimes in the oven. Keep an eye on the liquid level, and when the meat shreds easily, it's done.

Frozen juice concentrate - now that is an oldie but a goodie I forgot about. Remember when that was practically the only choice in buying orange juice?!
A great recipe and I think would be delicious with pork too! thanks

Carol, now that they make juice concentrate without sugar, it's a great thing to keep on hand to make sauces for dishes like this one. Let us know if you try it with pork -- I'm not a pork eater, but many readers are.

Bookmarked! This sounds fantastic.

Kalyn, fantastic, and easy. And the sweet flavor goes so well with slaws and salads.

Yum, this looks really delicious - I bet it makes amazing tacos!! :)

Sara, it's great in tacos or burritos, especially with pickled jalapenos.

This recipe is awesome. I am not even a beef eater, but i LOVE this beef barbecue!

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