Looking for an easy beef shoulder roast recipe? Try it out in the slow cooker! Shoulder roast benefits by a low and slow cooking method to transform into fork tender pot roast with an extra flavorful balsamic red wine sauce.
As a super late adopter to slow cooking, I still find myself jazzed every time a short amount of prep and 6-10 hours produces perfectly cooked meat, accompanying vegetables, and a flavorful sauce. All with minimal clean up, too.
If I had to pick a crock pot frequent flyer in my kitchen it would be slow cooker pulled pork, but it's not a run-away by any means. Slow cooker buffalo chicken has long been a family favorite, as has a nice pot roast.
Often made with chuck roast, beef shoulder roast is another excellent cut to use for pot roast. It has a few differences (benefits, in my opinion) when compared to chuck roast but yields a similarly tender and satisfyingly hearty result.
Reasons to Love This Recipe
- Slow cooking a shoulder roast is a really simple method. Simply add vegetables to the crock pot, top with the browned meat, then pour in the liquid.
- Beef shoulder roast is leaner than chuck roast so you won't have to contend with as much fat in the sauce. It also holds its shape in slices more effectively than a chuck roast, which often separates out into shreds.
- Slow cooking a leaner cut of beef ensures it will become nice and juicy and won't dry out.
- Balsamic vinegar and brown sugar complement the flavor of this red wine pot roast sauce in a bold yet balanced way.
- Shoulder Roast: From the same region as chuck roast (the shoulder), the shoulder roast is less fatty and holds up better to being sliced. Even being leaner, cooking it slow and low in liquid in the crock pot produces tender, pull-apart meat.
- Beef Broth: This provides the base for the sauce. I recommend reduced-sodium.
- Wine: Use a dry red, such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, or Merlot to bring that classic cozy pot roast flavor.
- Balsamic Vinegar: Adding sharpness, balsamic vinegar pairs really well with red wine in sauces (love it in the marinade for grilled flat iron steak).
- Worcestershire Sauce: A support ingredient, Worcestershire sauce amplifies the "beefiness" of the dish and rounds out the sauce.
- Brown Sugar: This balances the acidity of the balsamic vinegar.
- Vegetables: Carrots, celery, and onion cook immersed in sauce below the meat for an impossibly easy side pairing. Chopping them into larger pieces helps prevent them from breaking down and mushing up while this beef shoulder roast cooks.
- Herbs: Rosemary and thyme are classics for pot roast, but you can add other fresh or dried herbs as you like.
- Prep vegetables. Peel and chop the carrots, celery, and onion into large pieces and place evenly in the bottom of the slow cooker. Add minced garlic.
- Sear meat. Brown all sides of the beef shoulder roast in oil on the stovetop over medium-high heat. This will take around 2-3 minutes per side, or until nicely browned. Place it in the slow cooker on top of the vegetables.
- Prepare sauce. Whisk together the broth, wine, Worcestershire sauce, balsamic vinegar, brown sugar, and herbs, then pour it all over the roast into the slow cooker.
- Cook. Slow cook on low heat for 6 - 6 ½ hours, or until the internal temperature registers between 195-200°F. The meat will be tender and that nice fall-apart texture at this time.
- Thicken sauce. Let the roast rest while you thicken the sauce into a pot roast gravy. Strain the cooking liquid into a saucepan and whisk in a cornstarch slurry. Cook on medium heat, skimming off fat as you go, until it has thickened to your liking. Serve with the sliced meat and vegetables.
Recipe Tips and Tricks
- Crock Pot Size: This recipe is pictured in a 4.5-quart round slow cooker, but a larger size (such as a slow cooker with a 6-quart capacity) can be used.
- Thaw the Meat: Never add frozen meat to a slow cooker as it will remain in an unsafe temperature range where bacteria can grow for too long, risking food-borne illness.
- Mix Up the Vegetables: In place of the celery you can use potatoes. Yellow potatoes (Yukon gold) are good options as they are resistant to breaking down. Leave them in large chunks.
- Temperature: While the FDA minimum food safety temperature for beef roasts is 145°F, a pot roast cut cooked to that temperature would still be tough and chewy as connective tissues break down at temperatures greater than that. Aim for an internal temperature between 195-200°F to achieve tender meat.
They both come from the shoulder region, but a chuck roast is a fattier cut of meat. They often can be used interchangeably in recipes like pot roast. As they both benefit by longer cook times, oven braising or slow cooking are preferred cooking methods to allow the tougher connective tissues to break down and for the fat to render.
A larger roast will work fine, provided it fits along with the vegetables into your slow cooker. Increase the cook time up to 60 - 90 minutes, as needed. Use an instant-read thermometer to know most precisely when your roast is done (195-200°F).
A vegetable pairing will be taken care of with the carrots and celery, but I'm partial to serving this pot roast over a bed of mashed potatoes. To really take the flavor of this beef shoulder roast over the top, try serving it with roasted garlic mashed potatoes.
If you’ve enjoyed this recipe, I’d love for you to leave a star rating in the recipe card and/or a comment review below!
Slow Cooker Beef Shoulder Roast
- 3 large carrots cut into 1-½ inch pieces
- 3 large celery ribs cut into 2-inch pieces
- 1 medium onion chopped large
- 7 cloves garlic minced
- 2.25 pound (1kg) boneless beef shoulder roast (up to 3 pounds)
- Kosher salt
- Ground black pepper
- 1 ½ Tablespoons (23 ml) canola oil or other neutral-flavored high-heat oil
- 1 cup (240 ml) reduced-sodium beef broth
- ¾ cup (180 ml) dry red wine (see note for substitution)
- 1 ½ Tablespoons (23 ml) Worcestershire sauce
- 1 ½ Tablespoons (23 ml) balsamic vinegar
- 1 Tablespoon (13g) brown sugar
- 1 ½ teaspoons dried rosemary sprigs or fresh
- 1 ½ teaspoons dried thyme leaves
- 2 Tablespoons (16g) cornstarch
- 2 Tablespoons (30 ml) cool water
- Prep and cut the carrots, celery ribs, onion, and minced garlic and place them in the bottom of the slow cooker insert.
- Pat the shoulder roast dry and generously rub kosher salt and ground black pepper onto all sides of it. Heat canola oil (or oil of your choice) in a deep-sided pan on the stove over medium-high heat. Once well-heated, place the roast in the pan and sear for 2-3 minutes per side, until a deep golden-brown sear develops. Repeat for all sides, then place the seared roast into the slow cooker on top of the vegetables.
- Whisk together the beef broth, wine, Worcestershire sauce, balsamic vinegar, brown sugar, rosemary, and thyme until smooth. Pour it over top of the roast into the slow cooker.
- Place the lid on the slow cooker and cook on low heat for 6 to 6 ½ hours, or until the center of the roast reaches 195-200°F. Aim for the longer end of the range if you would like extra fall-apart meat.
- Once done, transfer meat to a separate bowl/plate/board to rest. Cover it to keep it warm when you prepare the gravy.
- Strain the remaining cooking liquid into a medium saucepan, then set the pan on the stove over medium heat. Skim off the fat that will accumulate on the top surface (as much as you like).
- In a separate, small bowl, whisk the cornstarch with cool water until smooth, then whisk it into the cooking liquid in the saucepan. Cook for 10 minutes, or until thickened to your liking to form a gravy.
- Slice the roast, then serve it with the carrots, celery, and onions drizzled with gravy.
Nutritional information is provided as an estimate. As it can vary due to many factors (brands used, quantities, etc.), we cannot guarantee its accuracy.Food Safety and Nutrition Disclaimer