This has been a LONG TIME COMING! I first stumbled on this a while back, and wrote about it. I accidentally left a pork-roast in the slow cooker all day without any of the normal water-adding ingredients to help it cook properly. I came home, smelled the smoke, and immediately realized what I had done. Fearing the worst, I looked in to my slow cooker to find a wonderful gift waiting for me! It turns out, I did leave something in the slow cooker to mitigate the direct heat on the pork roast: I left Beef Short Rib bones, which I had expected to add their valuable nutrition content to the stewing process. Instead, they crisped slowly, giving off a slow-burn of smoke and water vapor to “smoke” the pork roast. And it was amazing!
I inadvertently did it again a week ago when I left the kitchen to make a “quick update” to one of my posts while cooking. I had a handful of carrots underneath some steak, cooking on a low temperature. Well, my “quick update” ended up taking more than an hour, and I completely forgot about the food! I know, it’s embarrassing… But even Chefs make mistakes! Trust me when I say: we don’t get every recipe right every time. We just have the dedication, perseverance, and passion to keep trying after we mess something up! Well, when I finally got back to my food, the carrots were crisped, but the beef had a delicious smoked flavor – it was amazing!
But this time, I did it completely on purpose! Here’s what I did:
- 8 Beef Short Rib Bones
- 2 lb Beef Shank Steak (grass-fed, of course!)
- 1 inch Ginger, finely sliced
- 1 Apple, sliced
- 2 tablespoons coconut oil
- Black Pepper (thick coating)
I arranged the short-rib bones on the bottom of my crock-pot so there was a fairly even surface across the top. I wanted to ensure that as the shank steak started to cook, it wouldn’t sag down to the base of the crock, gaining direct access to the heat. I want as much of the heat as possible to go in to the bones, causing them to crisp and release their smokey water vapor to slow-cook the beef in.
On top of the bones, I spread the sliced ginger out, giving an even coverage. This is important. Ginger is an amazingly versatile spice, and can add some of the extra flavoring that you might normally expect from a smoked meat. It gives it some of that smokey flavor in the sharp spicy flavoring of the ginger. Also, it will help to retain some of the water content in the meat, so that it cooks off the water more slowly.
On top of the ginger, I spread out one layer of the apples. As you can see from the picture, I’m not terribly concerned with the bone portion of the shank steak – it’s the meat that I want to ensure proper moisture to. Hence, I read some meat slicer reviews to ensure that the meat was properly sliced to expose it evenly to the grill. In a smoke-house, this is done by adding water to the smoke, but in a crock-pot or slow-cooker, you don’t have the space to really play with the smoke. Or, at least, I don’t yet have the experience to design the cooking-process like that. Soon, though, I hope! Anyway, the apples helped a LOT!
I added the coconut oil in two discreet gobs on each steak. Location, in this, is essential! I carefully placed the coconut oil where it is so that as it melted, it would have a lot of surfaces to work with before draining off the side of the beef. As I said: location is key. The more work it has to do to drain off the beef, the longer it will be there adding it’s flavor and moisture back in to the beef during the cooking process. I’m not making jerky here – so I don’t want my final product to be all dried out. I want it cooked, but smoked! Finally, the spicing. Using a pepper grinder, I applied a thick layer of pepper over everything. That black-pepper flavor is one of the key ingredients in replicating a smoked meat!
I loved the final product. The beef was delicious, full of flavor, and moist enough to really enjoy! I haven’t decided yet if it was a good thing or a bad thing that it fell apart when I tried to take it out of the crock. I ended up pulling it mostly apart and serving it like a “Pulled Beef” dish. Perhaps the cut of beef is important here? But the flavor and texture were spot on, and it steamed away on my plate as I looked at it. There is definitely more work to be done. This, as much as I enjoyed both the process and the results, is definitely not a finished product. But I have succeeded in starting the process. And the final product, whenever I manage to get there, will be excellent!!
Here is what I’ve learned:
- There needs to be water in the process (somehow) for this to work.
- The success of this attempt notwithstanding, somehow I need to make something in the crock pot thoroughly crisp. And I have to select that something with care.
- I can’t wait to try again!!!
- Have any of you ever done anything like this?
- What are your results? Do you have suggestions on my process? How about flavoring?
- Which cuts of meat do you generally try to us? Does cut matter for the final product?
I look forward to your responses! And I hope all of you go ahead and try something similar to this – it was an experience worth the effort! And the final product was definitely tasty!