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My roommate put a hunk of beef roast in the slow-cooker for a good 6 hours. It's a fairly large sized slow-cooker, at least 8 quarts. The meat was cooked through but very chewy, and I never remember my mom having that issue with a slow-cooker.

My roommate tends to put only enough water to get halfway up the side of the roast, and always uses a slow-cooker 'bag' (another thing my mom never did).

What advice can I offer them to get a better outcome?

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up vote 2 down vote accepted

It doesn't matter if it is covered or not. The inside of the slow cooker will be warm enough to cook the meat. Braising (not submerged) and simmering (submerged) are two methods which both can lead to good results.

The "very chewy" result sounds like choosing the wrong type of meat for slow cooking. If it was a real roast, then this is the obvious problem. Roasts should be roasted, not slow cooked. If it was an actual slow cooking cut sold under a bad label (these things happen), then probably it was cheap meat from an animal grown up without movement and slaughtered too young. You have to choose tough meat with lots of fascia streaking for slow cooking.

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I guess I am not very good at telling the differences between marbling for roasts versus slow-cooking versus grilling...Is there a good visual resource for these differences? – David Wilkins Apr 9 '14 at 15:35
I don't know of such guides. I think it is more important to learn which cut is intended to be put to what use. Or just ask the butcher. Supermarket labels are less trustworthy, there you need the visual check to make sure that the meat you see in the package looks tough enough for slow cooking. Maybe it is worth a completely new question - how to recognize meat for slow cooking - but use the search to see if we don't already have a list of the appropriate cuts. – rumtscho Apr 9 '14 at 15:45
we do have an old question,…, but it is not as comprehensive, and actually the answers make a difference between quick and slow cooking. Maybe we can create a new one, asking for a list of all good cuts. – rumtscho Apr 9 '14 at 15:49
I'll compose a new question, thanks – David Wilkins Apr 9 '14 at 15:54
@DavidWilkins I composed one myself, mostly because I wanted to fine-tune the wording so it can become a canonical question. I don't care much about getting reputation out of it, if you want to, you can copy-paste my question and I will delete mine. – rumtscho Apr 9 '14 at 15:56

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