Slow-cooking is perfect for beef cheeks. It turns the tough meat into a wonderfully melt-in-your-mouth, rich and tender delicacy.
It's a truly effortless dish, where your slow cooker does all the work. And as is usually the case with slow-cooked meats, leftovers are absolutely wonderful.
I've been making this slow-cooker recipe often this winter. It is rich, tasty and comforting, and it's truly easy - a classic hands-off recipe. I think it's even better than a pot roast. Which says a lot, because I LOVE pot roast. But this meat comes out juicier and more flavorful.
Beef cheeks are a tough cut of meat. This is not the cut you'd want to quickly sear. But when properly cooked, which means slow-cooked, they are incredible. The meat becomes tender and very flavorful. It's a super-satisfying entree.
The list of ingredients needed to make this recipe is delightfully short. The exact measurements are included in the recipe card below. Here's an overview of what you'll need:
Two large beef cheeks: I usually order them online at grasslandbeef.com.
Kosher salt and black pepper: If using fine salt, you might want to reduce the amount you use, or the dish could turn out too salty.
Spices: I like to use onion powder, garlic powder, smoked paprika, and ground cumin.
The challenge when cooking cheeks is that they are wonderfully flavorful, but they are also fairly lean and very tough. All that chewing the cow does develops some tough muscle tissue!
The only way to make them edible - and delicious - is to cook them low and slow and use moist heat.
You can't, for example, simply roast them or pan-fry them. But the process of slow cooking turns their tough meat into a wonderfully melt-in-your-mouth, rich and flavorful dish.
The detailed instructions for making this recipe are listed in the recipe card below. Here are the basic steps:
Place the meat in your slow cooker.
Mix the salt and spices in a small bowl and sprinkle the mixture all over the meat.
Cover and cook on LOW for 8 hours.
Serve with the strained cooking liquids for dipping. You can boil the cooking liquids and reduce them into a gravy, but I rarely bother.
As you can see, I don't add any liquid to the slow cooker pan before cooking. The meat releases liquid as it cooks. Adding liquid before cooking would result in the meat basically boiling inside the slow cooker. That's not what you want.
Having said that, if you're worried about sticking, there's no harm in adding a small amount of beef broth to the slow cooker pan - no more than ½ cup.
Frequently asked questions
They are literally the cheek muscle of the cow. When you buy them, you get two big chunks of meat. This meat is very tough, after all this is a muscle that the cow uses continually to chew. The only proper way to cook it is low and slow, and then it becomes wonderfully rich and tender.
Perhaps you didn't cook them long enough, or perhaps you tried to use a dry cooking method such as roasting. The only way to make them reliably tender is to cook them low and slow using a moist cooking method such as braising.
Recommended side dishes
Leftovers keep well in the fridge, in an airtight container, for 3-4 days. I reheat them, covered, in the microwave on 50% power.
Sometimes I shred the leftover meat and use it to top my lunch salad the next day. Or I add it to a sandwich wrap.
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Tender Slow-Cooked Beef Cheeks
- 2 large beef cheeks around 2 lb. raw weight
- 1 teaspoon Diamond Crystal kosher salt
- ½ teaspoon black pepper
- ½ teaspoon onion powder
- ½ teaspoon garlic powder
- ½ teaspoon smoked paprika
- ½ teaspoon ground cumin
- Place the beef cheeks in your slow cooker. Mix the salt and spices in a small bowl and sprinkle the mixture all over the meat. There’s no need to add liquids. The meat will release liquids as it cooks.
- Cover and cook on low for 8 hours. When done, the meat will smell amazing and become very tender.
- Serve the meat with the strained cooking liquids for dipping.
Optional: Make gravy
- When done, transfer the meat to a baking dish, cover it with foil, and place the pan in a warm (150 degrees F) oven. Strain the cooking liquids into a glass measuring cup. Use a spoon to skim off the fat layer that floats to the top.
- Pour the cooking liquids into a medium saucepan. Bring them to a gentle boil, then lower the heat and simmer, whisking occasionally, until reduced into a rich sauce, about 10 minutes. Spoon the gravy over the beef cheeks and serve.