Does Slow Cooked Meat Need To Be Browned?

We asked our Test Kitchen Director for the answer.

The beauty of slow cooking is that there is practically no prep work involved: you can dump everything into the crock, push a button, walk away, and return to a hot, homey meal ready to serve.

While this hands-off, low-effort method will produce delicious results, it is worth adding one additional (straightforward) step when you're slow-cooking beef. Before putting the meat in the slow cooker, brown it in a skillet for a few extra minutes.

Slow-Cooker Brisket Chili

Iain Bagwell; Prop Styling: Hector M. Sanchez

What Does Browning Your Meat Do?

According to Southern Living's Test Kitchen Director Robby Melvin, there are several reasons why browning is worth the effort. "Browning, or caramelizing, meat before putting it into a slow cooker isn't 100 percent necessary, but it is well worth the effort for the most flavorful and full-bodied end result," he says. "The caramelized surface of the meat will lend rich flavor and color to the finished dish."

If you are making a slow-cooked recipe that calls for ground beef, like chili, beef stew, or meat sauce, browning the meat beforehand makes a huge difference. Ground meat should always be browned in a skillet and drained before adding it to the slow cooker with the other ingredients. This process prevents it from clumping together as it cooks and cuts down on the amount of grease in the final dish.

Consider Adding Flour

Melvin also recommends dusting the meat in seasoned flour before browning it. The flour will add body to the dish and help thicken up the sauce that comes together while the ingredients cook low and slow. Also, be sure to brown the meat in batches and avoid overcrowding the pan so that the meat can brown evenly, not steam.

Slow Cooker Beef Recipes To Try

Looking for some slow-cooking beef recipes? Here are some of our favorites, but remember to brown the beef before adding it to your slow cooker for the best results.

01 of 04

Slow-Cooker Sloppy Joes

Slow-cooker Sloppy Joes
Southern Living

Recipe: Slow-Cooker Sloppy Joes

A perfect weeknight dinner. Kid-friendly and easy to make, slow-cooker sloppy Joes are great because you can throw this recipe together in about 15 minutes. Plus, leftovers freeze well.

02 of 04

Peppered Beef Soup

Peppered Beef Soup
Jennifer Davick

Recipe: Peppered Beef Soup

Make this soup and freeze your leftovers for up to three months. Beef roast makes this soup hearty enough to enjoy on its own for dinner or heat some on a winter's afternoon for some lunch. When reheating, try adding canned broth to create the desired consistency.

03 of 04

Beef Bourguignon

Beef Bourguignon
Hector Manuel Sanchez

Recipe: Beef Bourguignon

This classic dish gets an easy weekday makeover when using your slow cooker. The key is allowing the chuck roast enough time, at least eight hours, to simmer and tenderize. Sprinkle with cooked bacon and thyme for flavoring.

04 of 04

Beer-Braised Pot Roast

Beer-Braised Pot Roast
Hector Sanchez; Styling: Caroline M. Cunningham

Recipe: Beer-Braised Pot Roast

What makes this pot roast different than the rest is it's rubbed with coffee before simmering in beer and beef stock. Carrots and onions add more flavoring to this slow cooker recipe, which only has about 35 minutes of hands-on time. Garnish with fresh thyme or additional herbs if you prefer.

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