Master butcher Dave Lang celebrates the season with tender slow-cooked meat.
Q. What’s so great about slow cooking?
A. Slow cooking is a method where you put all the ingredients in together and cook on a low heat for several hours. Its beauty is that you are free to do other things once cooking is underway, and the cuts of meat are usually cheaper so you save money. There are many types of slow cookers on the market; choose one that suits you.
Q. Can I use this method of cooking if I don’t own a slow cooker?
A. Yes, you can slow cook in a conventional oven too. Using low heat over a long time allows the meat to tenderise and the full flavours to develop. A heavy casserole dish or Dutch oven with a lid will do the job perfectly. When the meat has finished cooking, use a meat thermometer to ensure that it has reached an internal temperature of at least 90˚C.
Q. What types of meat are best for slow cooking?
A. The great thing about slow cooking is that the cheaper cuts are used so it is very economical. Shin, neck, brisket, shoulder, beef cheeks and oxtail are all good cuts for slow cooking.
Q. What are the basic steps involved?
A. The meat, vegetables and flavouring are put into a liquid and braised for several hours. You get all the goodness of the meat, plus you can set your oven or slow cooker on a timer so it will be ready to eat when you arrive home.
Q. How can I add extra flavour?
A. You can make your own stock or buy it ready-made and use as a braising liquid. Making your own is the most economical, but it takes time. Ask for chicken carcasses or marrow bones from your butcher and make your own stock in a large batch. This can be frozen in smaller quantities for use when needed.
Q. Once I’ve made a big batch of food, how do I store it? Can it be frozen?
A. Divide it into individual portions and freeze for up to three months, labelling it with the date it was frozen. If left a little longer it will still be edible but may suffer from freezer burn, so it’s best to use within the time.
Q. I’d like to try an unusual cut of meat. What could you recommend that would work well when slow cooked?
A. Brisket pot roast is a beautiful dish and, when cooked slowly, has a beautiful flavour and is melt-in-the-mouth tender. Alternatively, pulled pork is the perfect slow cooked meal: moist, tender, full of flavour and very economical. Order your pork shoulder from your local butcher.