A slow roast of beef has always been my mom’s go-to for big family gatherings – it was effortless to prep and slide into the oven to leave undisturbed for 8 hours, and perfect for feeding big groups of people that included a range of kids – and appetites. But the finished product varied wildly depending on the cut of meat she started out with; it was either meltingly tender, able to be easily coaxed apart with a fork, or disappointingly dry and resurrected only by shaving into thin slices and dousing in barbecue sauce – a perfect demonstration of how important it is to choose the right cut of meat to begin with.
It can be a stressful thing, naviating the meat aisle without the aid of a knowledgable butcher. Fortunately, there’s an app for that – the new Roundup app released by Canadian Beef has all the information you could possibly need about different cuts of beef, their nutritional value and how to cook them – all at the ready in your back pocket. It’s well designed and easy to navigate, with interactive charts, nutritional info, and even the tenderness rule of thumb: the farther a cut is from the hoof, horn or hip, the more tender the meat. (Then again, less tender cuts often have more flavour – you just have to know what to do with them.)
The app goes through all the basics, explains the names you might see on store packaging, and introduces Canadian ranchers. Of course there’s a whole recipe section, should you require dinner inspiration in the grocery store. I often do – especially when I find a particular cut on sale.
I found this pulled beef poutine, which is essentially a pot roast, braised in stock, wine, barbecue sauce and Worcestershire, all of which creates a totally poutine-worthy gravy. You pull it apart and pile it over oven fries, or into soft buns, or directly into your mouth by the forkful. The cheese curds are a total bonus – and get slightly melty in the warm sauce. It can be made in the oven or slow cooker, and is perfect for a party – not only because it’s poutine, but because it’s low maintenance and will make enough to feed a crowd. And you can do it in advance!
I like to brown the meat first, before tossing it into the slow cooker – browning creates that layer of flavour that’s so deep and rich, it’s the basis for gravy. These are the sorts of tips you’ll find on the Roundup – and shortcuts, too.
This also makes a divine pulled beef sandwich – like pulled pork, served on soft buns, with creamy coleslaw if you like. It makes enough, in fact, to serve sandwiches one night, poutine on another.
You can download your own personal pocket butcher here. Happy beef shopping!
Pulled Beef Poutine
This works just as well in the slow cooker – brown it first if you like, or just toss it all in – and you can get away with cutting back on the stock by half or more.
canola or olive oil, for cooking
2-3 lb. beef pot roast, such as blade, cross rib or brisket
salt and pepper
1 onion, halved and thinly sliced
2-3 garlic cloves, crushed
1 cup beef stock
1/2 cup barbecue sauce
1/4 cup red wine (optional)
1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce
3-4 russet or Yukon gold potatoes, scrubbed and cut into thin wedges
1 cup cheese curds
green onions, chopped
Preheat the oven to 275F.
Set a heavy, ovenproof pot over medium-high heat and add a drizzle of oil. Pat the beef dry with paper towel and sprinkle with salt and pepper; brown the meat on all sides in the pot. Push it to the side (or remove it and set it aside) and add the onion to the pot; cook for a few minutes, until starting to turn golden. Add the garlic and cook for another minute.
Return the meat to the pan and add the stock, barbecue sauce, wine and Worcestershire. Cover and braise in the oven for 3 hours – or put everything into a slow cooker and cook on low for 7-8 hours.
When the meat is done, pull it apart with two forks right in the pot, and turn the oven up to 425F. Put the potatoes on a heavy baking sheet, drizzle generously with oil, toss with your hands to coat the wedges well and spread out in a single layer. Sprinkle with salt. Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until golden.
Top the fries with warm beef and sauce, cheese curds and green onion. Serve immediately.
Serves 4, with extra beef left over for more poutine or sandwiches.