Good news for carnivores on a budget: The best meat for slow cooking actually saves you money.

What Are the Best Meats for Slow Cooking?

Anyone who shops for meat knows tender juicy steaks are pricier than tough and gnarly chuck roasts. That toughness is due to fibrous connective tissue called collagen, found in muscles that get heavily used for moving around. Tender meats have less collagen and tougher meats have more. But when you cook all that gnarly collagen just the right way — I'm talking low and slow with enough liquid to keep things moist — that tough connective tissue melts down into the meat and turns it so tender, you can literally cut it with a fork.

It all adds up to this: When you slow-cook cheap, tough cuts of meat, you end up with meaty meals that go easy on your budget.

If you're ready to save some serious dough, pull out your slow cooker, Dutch oven, or Instant Pot and give these cheap cuts a try.

1. Pork Shoulder

This easy pulled pork recipe has a quick 15-minute prep using everyday pantry ingredients. Serve on toasted buns with plenty of snappy coleslaw on the side.

side view of a pulled pork sandwich on a plate with coleslaw and corn on the cob
Credit: psychedilemma

More pork shoulder recipes to try:

2. Beef Chuck Roast

"Definitely worth the time to give your roast a good sear along with prepping the mushroom and onion to a caramelized state prior to adding to slow cooker. Only minor change I made was to use 2 cups (homemade, no sodium) chicken broth and ½ cup dry red wine." —aputler

More beef chuck roast recipes to try:

3. Lamb Shanks

"Lamb shanks are slowly simmered with fresh rosemary, garlic, tomatoes, and red wine. Great served with polenta, or my family's favorite — roasted garlic mashed potatoes — as you need something to soak up the wonderful sauce. A fantastic dish for company, as all the prep work is done at the beginning, and then you just have to wait." —S. HODGE

More lamb shank recipes to try:

4. Beef Short Ribs

"The short ribs are slowly braised with easy-to-find dried porcini mushrooms (for real, ask someone at the fancy grocery store and they'll find them for you!) until they turn into a triumph of fork-tender goodness. I love these short ribs over mashed potatoes, but the rich tomato and mushroom gravy is fantastic over soft polenta as well." —Chef John

Mushrooms and Tomatoes
Credit: mauigirl

More short rib recipes to try:


All of these recipes just happen to taste even better the next day, and they freeze well. Plus, you can make a little meat go a lot further by serving it with plenty of vegetables and starches like potatoes, polenta, rice, and noodles. For extra set-it-and-forget-it convenience, try these great tips for converting stovetop or oven recipes to slow cooker dishes.

Here's to eating well and saving money.