Slow Cooker Cranberry Chuck Roast

Moist, melt-in-your-mouth beef that’s been roasting for hours is culinary magnificence.

Vertical image of a white plate of shredded meat in sauce next to roasted root vegetables, with text on the top and bottom.
If the thought of tart, vibrant cranberry sauce makes you want to throw on a cardigan and watch the Macy’s Day Parade, I fully support your choice to skip the bird this year, and make this slow cooker pot roast the centerpiece of your Thanksgiving table.

You’ll have plenty of time to do whatever you like while the pot roast slowly cooks to perfection.

Making pot roast is about the method rather than a specific cut, and here we’re using boneless beef chuck roast – a portion that comes from the hard-working upper shoulder. This thick slab full of connective tissue benefits from cooking low and slow to reach its tender potential.

Vertical image of a large white platter with shredded beef in a sauce over root vegetables next to a gravy boat.

If you’ve ever tried to speed up the cooking process with a tough cut of beef rather than applying patience and gentle heat as you braise, stew, or roast, then you’re probably familiar with chewy results.

For this recipe, the slow cooker is the answer. We combine the chuck with a mixture of assorted ingredients and aromatics in this helpful appliance and gently cook everything for close to 10 hours.

Vertical image of two platefuls of shredded beef in sauce next to roasted root vegetables on tan placemats next to cranberry sauce.

Beef broth is common when braising a pot roast on the stove, but this autumn-inspired entree turns to cranberry sauce, tomatoes, and fresh thyme for its flavor personality.

After giving the meat a golden-brown crust, since a good sear locks in all the juices and develops an impressive color on the exterior, your only job is to dump, stir, and wait.

Vertical image of a white plate with shredded chuck in an herb sauce next to assorted root vegetables.

I like to pair this festive comfort food with roasted root veggies that are also in season when those frozen cranberries start popping up more prominently in the grocery store. Their simple, earthy flavor is a solid match for the sweet-tart cranberries and succulent meat.

Presented on a large platter at the dinner table surrounded by family and friends, everyone will cozy up to the love and warmth radiating from this dinner!

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Horizontal image of a large white platter with shredded meat in a red sauce over roasted vegetables.

Slow Cooker Cranberry Chuck Roast


  • Author: Fanny Slater
  • Total Time: 8 hours, 40 minutes
  • Yield: 6 servings 1x

Description

The epitome of comfort food, our slow cooker chuck roast swimming with tart cranberry sauce is a match made in heaven for a fall feast.


Ingredients

Scale
  • 4-pound boneless beef chuck roast
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons coarse salt, divided, plus more to taste
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper, divided
  • 3 tablespoons canola oil, divided
  • 1 cup chopped sweet onion (about 1/2 medium) 
  • 1 cup chopped celery (about 2 stalks)
  • 1 teaspoon dried mustard powder
  • 2 teaspoons tomato paste
  • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
  • 1 14.5-ounce can diced tomatoes
  • 1 14-ounce can whole berry cranberry sauce (or 2 cups homemade)
  • 4 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 1 dried bay leaf
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley, for garnish (optional)

Instructions

  1. Pat the chuck roast dry and season all over with 2 teaspoons salt and 1 teaspoon pepper, gently pressing so it adheres.
  2. If your slow cooker has a saute setting, add 2 tablespoons of oil into the insert and set to high. If your slow cooker doesn’t have that function, heat the oil in a heavy-bottomed skillet over medium-high heat on the stove.
  3. When the oil is shimmering, add the beef and sear on all sides until a golden-brown crust forms, about 1-2 minutes per side. Transfer the beef to a plate.
  4. Lower your slow cooker’s saute setting or your burner to medium heat. Add the remaining oil and let it heat up for 1-2 minutes. Saute the onion and celery until softened, about 2-3 minutes. Stir in the remaining salt and pepper, the dried mustard powder, and the tomato paste. Continue to cook for about 1 minute.
  5. Scraping the bottom of the insert or pan as you pour, stir in the apple cider vinegar, canned tomatoes, cranberry sauce, thyme, and bay leaf. If you’re working on the stove, transfer the mixture to your slow cooker insert.
  6. Transfer the seared beef and any juices that have collected on the plate to the slow cooker. Spoon about 1/2 cup of the tomato-cranberry mixture over the top of the beef so it’s well-moistened. 
  7. Cover and cook the roast on low for 8-10 hours. When it’s done, the beef will be extremely tender and beginning to fall apart,. and a thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the roast will register at least 145˚F. Transfer to a cutting board and let rest for 10-15 minutes. Discard the thyme sprigs and bay leaf. Season the sauce to taste with additional salt.
  8. Shred or slice the meat and arrange on a serving platter. Top with 1 cup sauce, garnish with the parsley, and serve with the remaining sauce on the side.
  • Prep Time: 10 minutes
  • Cook Time: 8 hours, 20 minutes
  • Category: Roast
  • Method: Slow Cooker
  • Cuisine: Beef

Keywords: slow cooker, beef, chuck, cranberry

Cooking By the Numbers…

Step 1 – Gather, Measure, and Prep Ingredients

Get out your slow cooker. You will need one that is at least 6 quarts in size for this recipe. I used the slow cooker function on my Instant Pot, but any brand will work here. Crock-Pot is an old classic.

Horizontal image of a large cut of seasoned raw beef on a white plate surrounded by other assorted measured ingredients.

Measure the oil, dried mustard powder, tomato paste, and apple cider vinegar.

If you’re using homemade cranberry sauce – and I highly recommend Foodal’s recipe for this – measure out 2 cups. If not, open your can of whole berry sauce and your diced tomatoes. About 2 cups of diced fresh tomatoes could also be used here, if you have them on hand.

Chop the onion and celery. Set aside 4 sprigs of fresh thyme and get out 1 dried bay leaf.

Wait to chop the parsley for garnish until just before you’re ready to serve. Since this recipe takes 8 to 10 hours to cook, it is best to keep the herbs as fresh as possible.

Measure your salt and pepper. You’ll use these to season the meat as well as the sauce.

Take your chuck roast out of the fridge and pat it dry with paper towels. The drier the meat is, the better the crust will be when you sear it.

Season the beef all over with 2 teaspoons of the salt and 1 teaspoon of the pepper, pressing to make sure it adheres.

Step 2 – Sear the Meat

I used my Instant Pot for this recipe, which also has a saute setting. If your kitchen appliance does not have that function, you can sear the beef on the stove by heating 2 tablespoons of the oil in a heavy-bottomed skillet over medium-high heat.

Horizontal image of searing a cut of beef in a pot.

If you’re working directly in your appliance, add the 2 tablespoons of canola oil to the insert and set it to high (or “more,” if using your Instant Pot) which is comparable to about medium-high heat.

When the oil begins to shimmer, carefully add the beef – it will spit!  Sear the meat on each side until a golden-brown crust forms, about for 1 to 2 minutes per side.

Set the beef aside on a rimmed plate to catch any juices that may seep out as it sits.

Step 3 – Add the Veggies, Cranberry Sauce, and Tomatoes

If you’re working on the stove, reduce the heat to medium. If you’re working in your slow cooker, lower the saute setting to medium (or “normal” if using an Instant Pot).

Horizontal image of cooking aromatics in a pot.

Add the remaining tablespoon of oil and give it a minute or two to heat up. Saute the onion and celery, stirring occasionally until softened, for about 2 to 3 minutes. Season with the remaining salt and pepper and the dried mustard powder. Add the tomato paste and stir to coat the vegetables. Cook for about 1 minute.

Scraping up any brown bits stuck to the bottom as you pour, stir in the apple cider vinegar, canned tomatoes, cranberry sauce, thyme, and bay leaf.

Horizontal image of assorted liquid ingredients and sprigs of thyme in a pot.

If you have been working with a pan on the stove, now is the time to transfer everything to the slow cooker insert before adding the beef.

Step 4 – Return the Beef to the Insert and Cook

Nestle the beef into the sauce and pour any juices that have collected on the plate into the slow cooker.

Horizontal image of a cut of meat covered by a thick and chunky red sauce in a pot.

The beef won’t be fully submerged in the liquid. To keep the top moist as it cooks, spoon about 1/2 cup of the tomato-cranberry mixture over the top.

Place the lid on the slow cooker and cook on low for 8 to 10 hours.

Horizontal image of a seared and stewed large cut of meat in a reduced red and chunky sauce in a pot.

If using your Instant Pot, be sure to select the slow cooker setting before setting your heat level and timer. This recipe is not cooked under pressure.

Step 5 – Finish and Serve

Check the beef 8 hours into the cooking time.

Horizontal image of slicing a browned chuck roast on a wooden cutting board.

You’ll know the beef is done when it’s extremely tender and falling apart, and when a meat thermometer registers 145˚F when stuck into the thickest portion. Continue cooking for another 1 to 2 hours as needed, checking again after each additional hour.

Transfer the whole roast to a large cutting board. Let it rest for 10 to 15 minutes before shredding the meat using two forks or slicing the meat against the grain.

While the meat is resting, chop the parsley on a separate clean cutting board.

Horizontal image of white plates and a platter with servings of sliced beef in a sauce next to roasted assorted vegetables.

Remove the thyme sprigs and bay leaf from the sauce and discard them. Season the sauce to taste with additional salt if necessary.

Arrange the meat on a serving platter, top with about 1 cup of the sauce, and garnish with the parsley. Serve with the remaining sauce on the side.

S.O.S. – Shred or Slice?

If the biggest decision you’re faced with at dinnertime is whether you should shred or slice your flawlessly tender cranberry chuck roast, I’d say you and your slow cooker had a pretty good day!

Horizontal image of a large white platter with shredded meat in a red sauce over roasted vegetables.

But to answer the above question – it’s simply up to personal preference.

I like luscious, flaky shreds of beef when I’m pairing my pot roast with a creamy side like mashed potatoes. With heartier pieces of roasted veggies, I choose classic slices for my chuck.

If you go for the latter, just don’t forget to peek at the muscle fibers – or the grain –in your meat, and cut perpendicular to the grain. Slicing against the grain reduces the length of the muscle fibers in each piece, which means you won’t be chewing for an hour.

Not that you would be with this recipe, anyway – steak or roast beef might be a different story, but this pot roast is sure to be tender!

Will you take two forks to your beef to achieve fall-apart shreds, or slice it for an elegant presentation topped with a ladleful of sauce? Share your serving suggestions in the comments below! And don’t forget to give this recipe a five-star rating if you loved it.

Craving more cranberries in your life? Try these recipes that feature the tart fruit next:

Photos by Fanny Slater, © Ask the Experts, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. See our TOS for more details. Originally published on September 13, 2014. Last updated on September 16, 2022.

Nutritional information derived from a database of known generic and branded foods and ingredients and was not compiled by a registered dietitian or submitted for lab testing. It should be viewed as an approximation.

About Fanny Slater

Fanny Slater is a home-taught food enthusiast based in Wilmington, North Carolina who won the “Rachael Ray Show” Great American Cookbook Competition in 2014, and published her cookbook “Orange, Lavender & Figs” in 2016. Fanny is a food and beverage writer, recipe developer, and social media influencer. She was a co-host on the Food Network series “Kitchen Sink,” was featured on Cooking Channel’s longtime popular series “The Best Thing I Ever Ate,” and continues to appear regularly on the “Rachael Ray Show.”

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