My birthday is in June and I can remember many parties where my mom would make us barbecued beef sandwiches to eat. My friends and I always loved them and ate every bite. To my mom they were one of the best sandwiches to serve to a crowd because both kids and adults like them, they can be made ahead, and they don’t require a lot of attention while they are cooking.
Of course “real” barbecued beef is smoked for a day over hardwood. But few of us have the equipment or time to do that. So to mimic the smokiness of barbecue, most recipes use Liquid Smoke, which is tasty, but my husband is allergic to it, so I recommend Smoked Paprika or Chipotle Powder (from dried, smoked jalapeno chiles). These give you a nice smoky flavor without fake ingredients.
The cut of beef that works best for this slow cooking method is chuck, the same piece used to make pot roast. When it is cooked quickly, it is tough, stringy, and chewy. But if you braise it (cook slowly with liquid) it comes out succulent, tender, and melts in your mouth. You can make this in a Dutch oven on top of the stove or you can use your Slow Cooker with very little adjustment. But as always, when using a slow cooker, take the effort to brown the meat ahead of time. This step radically improves the overall flavor. It is worth the time and effort.
Making your own barbecue sauce to cook the meat in is by far the best tasting option. But if you don’t have the time or ingredients on hand, you can always use a store-bought sauce. I prefer a less sweet sauce for this sandwich. I like the flavor of the beef to be predominant.
In addition to serving this meat on rolls or buns, you can use this meat to stuff tortillas, tamales, enchiladas, or in a Shepherd’s Pie. If you change out the seasonings, it can be Asian, French, Greek, or Cuban inspired. How would you change it? What seasonings would you use?
The beauty of barbecued beef is that you get all the flavor of the Chuck Wagon without the dust, dirt, and cows!
Jane’s Tips and Hints:
Creating a dry rub and using that on the meat before cooking adds a lot of flavor to the dish without using a lot of fat. You can add a hot chile powder or a hot sauce like Sriracha if you like spicy foods. But be careful, the heat will increase as it sits, so start with just a little and add more when ready to serve.
Kitchen Skill: Shredding Cooked Meats
Cook meats until extremely tender in a liquid. Remove from the pan and set into a shallow dish, like a 9×13-inch pan. Separate into large pieces, removing and discarding any large pieces of fat or gristle. Using two forks, pull the meat apart into strips. Make sure any crispy bits are cut into bite-sized pieces if necessary. Return meat to pan with cooking liquid and reheat. Store in liquid in the refrigerator.
- 2 tsp onion powder
- 1 tsp garlic powder
- 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
- 1 tsp ancho chile powder
- 1 to 2 tsp smoked paprika or chipotle powder (if you want it spicy)
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
- 4 tbsp olive oil; 2 tbsp for rub, 2 tbsp for browning beef
- 3 lb boneless chuck, sirloin, or top sirloin beef roast, rinsed and dried
- 2 large onions, sliced
- 2 cloves garlic, sliced
- 1/2 cup beef broth or water
- 2 cups ketchup
- 2 tbsp packed brown sugar
- 2 tbsp red wine vinegar
- 1 tbsp dry mustard
- 1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
- 1 tbsp soy sauce
- In a small bowl, combine onion powder, garlic powder, nutmeg, ancho, smoked paprika, salt, and pepper. Stir until thoroughly mixed. Add 2 tbsp oil and mix into a paste. Rub all over the beef and set aside while you cook the onions and garlic.
- In a large heavy Dutch oven, heat 2 tbsp oil over medium-high heat until just below the smoking point. Add the onions and cook 3 minutes until softened. Add the garlic and cook another minute. Using a slotted spoon, remove onions and garlic from pan and reserve.
- Add beef to pan and brown on all sides. Remove beef from pan and reserve.
- Add sauce ingredients to pan and simmer for 10 minutes to blend flavors. Return meat to pan, nestling it into the sauce. Top with cooked onions and garlic. Cover with a tight lid and cook on low for about 3 hours or until beef is very tender and falls apart. Stir occasionally during cooking. Add a little water if liquid gets too thick.
- Remove meat from pot and shred with two forks. If liquid is thin, cook, uncovered, over medium heat until thickened. Return shredded beef to pot and heat through. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve on toasted hamburger buns or Hoagie rolls.
- To cook in a Slow Cooker: Brown seasoned beef as directed and place in slow cooker. Top with onions, garlic, and sauce ingredients. Cover and cook on Low for 8 to 10 hours or until meat is tender. Remove meat and shred. Skim fat off cooking juices. Return meat to cooker and heat through.
- Yield: 8 to 10 servings; about 12 to 14 sandwiches