Easy, tasty, and economical, pulled beef makes a fun summer meal. Delicious served as a sandwich, on pasta, atop salad, and more!
Who needs a new summer recipe? Something easy like this tasty pulled beef! Made in a crockpot or Dutch Oven, I’ve even put my slow cooker outside when it’s too hot to cook!
Now, for me, summer is sandwich time. And my favorite way to eat pulled beef is as a sloppy-Joe-like sandwich. But this one is an all natural version of the childhood favorite, made with tomatoes and spices instead of a salty packaged mix!
My other mission when I created this was to use up some of the chuck roasts in my freezer. Every year I get a quarter of grass-fed beef that seems to have, umm, 47 chuck roasts. But happily, chuck is an economical cut of meat making this a budget conscious meal for all.
Why You’ll Love This!
Tasty. This has great flavor similar to a sloppy joe, in fact I first called it Sloppy Chuck! And how do you beat a down home classic that’s such a family pleaser!
All Natural. Flavored with tomatoes, onion and spices, there’s nothing in here you can’t pronounce. Want to take it up a notch? Use organic, grass-fed beef.
Economical. I use an economical chuck roast with home grown tomatoes, onion and some spices. Take that, inflation!
What You’ll Need
- Tomatoes. This adds flavor and forms the bulk of the sauce.
- Onion. This adds flavor to the sauce.
- Paprika, salt, pepper, brown sugar. These add flavor to the sauce.
- Vinegar. This helps tenderize the meat and balances the sauce flavor. Use a good vinegar like apple cider or red wine. I used my homemade red wine vinegar.
- Chuck roast. This is the meat. You can use a similar cut like a brisket.
- No special tools are required!
Step by Step Directions
Place roast in slow cooker or Dutch oven, then sprinkle with paprika, brown sugar, salt, pepper. (I used two small roasts here.)
Top with chopped onion, tomatoes (canned or fresh), and vinegar.
Cover and cook on high for 6 hours or low for 9 hours, until the roast is falling apart tender. In a Dutch Oven bake at 275 F for about 5-6 hours. Check periodically to make sure you don’t need to add additional liquid (this will depend on the tightness of your seal and whether you use canned or fresh/frozen tomatoes).
Remove roast to a separate platter. If your tomato mixture is not thick enough, pour the remaining sauce into a saucepan to heat and thicken or if in Dutch oven, you can heat in the pan on the stove until thickened.
Pull apart meat with two forks, discarding fat and bone, to make shredded beef. Check carefully for small pieces of bone.
Return shredded meat to the sauce and stir together smashing up any large pieces of tomato in the sauce.
Serve warm on toasted buns or see other serving suggestions below.
How to Serve
As you might have guessed, my favorite way to serve this is on buns for a very tasty sandwich. Light appetite or feeding the swim team? Consider using the smaller dinner rolls as a fun way to make Pulled Beef Sliders! Or for sandwich variety, mix it with some BBQ sauce– perhaps my all natural cherry BBQ sauce.
Pulled Beef is also delicious over noodles or with mashed potatoes. And consider slipping this into tacos or burritos, perhaps with a little hot sauce to spice up the flavor. And to really get healthy, top a salad. You can go with or without a Mexican flair there.
This has a fair amount of tomato in it but you’re going to want to serve at least one other vegetable on the side (unless you’re serving it as a salad). Cole slaw or veggies and dip are easy options. And some of my favorite sides for sandwiches include Thai Carrot Slaw, Carrot Raisin Salad, or Broccoli Bacon Salad.
Variations and Special Diets
If you have around 47 chuck roasts like me, I have a few other recipes that may help. Crockpot French Dip au Jus, makes a delicious sandwich with rich dipping juices.
Slow Cooker Beef Tips, a delicious entree with a touch of class, is normally made with beef tips, but can be made with a chuck roast in a pinch.
And finally Shredded Beef Barbacoa is perfect in tacos or lettuce wraps.
While it’s not possible to make this vegan or vegetarian, it will do well for a number of other special diets. It’s already dairy free. To go keto or low carb, watch how you serve it (salad is good, sandwich not so much) and consider using a brown sugar substitute (or a white sugar substitute with a tablespoon of molasses) in the preparation.
This makes a lot and it’s fun to have so many ways to serve leftovers. See How to Serve, above for ideas. Leftovers should stay good, refrigerated, for 3-4 days or can be frozen for longer storage.
Tips & FAQs
The latest time I made this, at the point where the meat was tender, it was swimming in juices. So after removing the meat, I reduced the liquid on the stovetop to an amount that would mix in well. The prior time it was a perfect consistency to mix right in.
Some reasons for the difference include using fresh tomatoes vs canned and using a cooking pan with a really tight lid. Since I can’t tell you what your experience is going to be, I include instructions for both scenarios in the recipe.
What kind of bun should I use for a pulled beef sandwich? You can use your favorite bun—and my husband even made a sandwich on sliced sourdough bread. Interestingly, I happened to have brioche buns and the sweetness in the bun turned out to be a great compliment to the sweetness in the tomato sauce.
What if it’s too hot to cook? In the summer, I sometimes put the slow cooker out on the deck and cook there. The kitchen stays cool and we get a hearty meal!
- 3-5 pound chuck roast
- 1 teaspoon paprika
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon pepper
- 1/4 cup brown sugar
- 1 onion chopped
- 1 quart tomatoes canned or fresh peeled (see note)
- 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar or red wine vinegar
- Place roast in slow cooker, then sprinkle with paprika, brown sugar, salt, pepper.
- Top with chopped onion, tomatoes, and vinegar.
- Cover and cook on high for 6 hours or low for 9 hours, until the roast is falling apart tender. In a Dutch Oven in your oven, cook at 275 F for about 5-6 hours. Check periodically to make sure you don’t need to add additional liquid (this will depend on the tightness of your seal.).
- Remove roast to a separate platter. If your tomato mixture is not thick enough, pour the remaining sauce into a saucepan to heat and thicken or if in Dutch oven, you can heat in the pan on the stove until thickened.
- Shred meat, discarding fat and bone. Check carefully for small pieces of bone.
- Return shredded meat to the sauce and stir together smashing up any large pieces of tomato in the sauce.
- Serve warm on toasted buns or see other serving suggestions below.
Updated from original, published on Jan 19, 2012
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