Imagine this: fluffy hamburger buns overflowing with tender, smoky BBQ beef that practically melts in your mouth. Craving satisfied? This dream becomes a reality with our incredibly easy Slow Cooker Pulled Beef Recipe featuring a unique, sweet-and-tangy, smoky BBQ sauce. Let your slow cooker do all the work while you enjoy the mouthwatering aroma filling your kitchen.

(Photo by Rick Souders)

Why This Slow Cooker Pulled Beef Sandwich Recipe is a Winner

This recipe, a gift from my excellent cook cousin Barb Keller, is a game-changer for BBQ lovers. Barb’s secret weapon? The slow cooker (or crock pot)! It transforms chuck roast into juicy, fall-apart perfection, bursting with flavor. The slow cooking coaxes out rich, deep notes that mingle beautifully with the tangy BBQ sauce. Every bite is a symphony of sweet, savory, and smoky deliciousness. 
 
Whether you’re hosting a backyard barbecue, feeding a hungry crowd at a holiday gathering, or simply meal prepping for future lunches, this great recipe has got you covered!

What is Pulled Beef

Pulled beef is a dish made with shredded beef that’s been slow-cooked until it’s incredibly tender and flavorful. It’s typically made with a tougher cut of beef, like chuck roast or brisket, which benefits from the long, slow cooking process. This allows the connective tissue to break down, resulting it incredibly tender meat that’s easy to shred with forks. 

Ingredients for Slow Cooker Pulled Beef Recipe

To create this amazing slow cooker pulled beef, you’ll need just a handful of key ingredients that work together like magic to produce a dish bursting with flavor and tenderness:

  • Boneless chuck or arm roast – well-marbled meat works best in a slow cooker to deliver a moist and tender result.
  • Kosher salt
  • Fresh ground black pepper
  • Neutral, high-smoke point oil (vegetable, canola, or avocado oil) – for searing the meat before slow cooking.
  • Beef broth (or water)
  • Worcestershire sauce – while an optional ingredient, it adds depth of flavor, and the acid in it helps to break down the muscle fibers in the beef, resulting in a fork-tender texture.
  • 4 cups Oklahoma BBQ Sauce – both sweet and tangy, this is the best BBQ sauce ever! It has just the right amount of spice from three different kinds of ground peppers, and it perfectly complements the pulled beef. 

How to Make Slow Cooker Pulled Beef

Here’s all you have to do to prepare this delicious pulled beef. I recommend starting the day before serving because the total cook time is anywhere from 8 to 16 hours:

  1. Prep roast.
    Rinse meat and pat dry with paper towel. Season all over with salt and pepper.
  2. Sear roast.
    Heat oil in a large skillet (preferably cast iron) over high heat. Sear meat on all sides until nicely browned.
  3. Put all ingredients in slow cooker; cook.
    Place the roast in the bottom of a slow cooker and add beef broth and Worcestershire sauce. Cover and cook on high for 4 to 5 hours, or on low for 8 to 10 hours. 
  4. Drain, shred.
    Take the roast out of the cooker and drain, reserving about 1/2 cup of the cooking liquid. Shred the meat with two forks.
  5. Cook shredded meat with sauce.
    Return shredded beef to slow cooker. Stir in 2 cups of barbeque sauce and reserved liquid. Cover and cook on low for 4 to 6 hours. 
  6. Adjust seasoning.
    Taste and stir in more sauce if desired. 

Tips for Achieving Tender and Flavorful Pulled Beef

Achieving tender and flavorful pulled beef requires attention to detail and a few key tips to ensure the best results:

  • Select the right cut of beef. Opt for a well-marbled cut like chuck roast, as the intramuscular fat will melt during cooking, keeping the meat moist and tender. 
  • Don’t skip the searing step. This caramelization not only adds flavor but also helps to lock in the meat’s natural juices. 
  • Be patient. Low and slow is the key to tender pulled beef. Resist the urge to rush the cooking time, as this can result in tough, chewy meat.
  • Pick the right BBQ sauce. If you opt for another homemade barbecue sauce (or purchased) instead of our recipe, choose a high-quality, tangy sauce that complements the richness of the beef and enhances its savory notes. Try to find one that has a touch of sweetness, too, to balance out the flavors.

Serving Suggestions and Side Dishes

My favorite way to serve this recipe is as BBQ beef sandwiches. Brioche buns, pretzel buns, or even ciabatta rolls are excellent choices that are sturdy enough to hold the meat. Whatever kind of bun you use, brush the insides with butter and lightly toast before filling. 
 
Here are some recommended side dishes that pair perfectly with these BBQ Beef Sandwiches for a delicious meal:

For more ideas on what to serve at a BBQ, check out my post 5 Menus for Your Next BBQ.

Variations and Substitutions for Slow Cooker Pulled Beef Recipe

While I think these BBQ Beef Sandwiches made with pulled beef are amazing as is, here are a few ways you can modify this recipe to make it your own:

  • Use beef brisket instead of chuck roast.
  • Go even further and use shredded pork shoulder, pork roast or pork butt for a BBQ pork sandwich!
  • Substitute apple cider vinegar for the Worcestershire sauce.
  • Simply use water to slow cook the beef instead of beef broth.
  • Use your own homemade BBQ Sauce or purchased.

And, here’s another way to serve this pulled beef: as a quesadilla. Sprinkle shredded gouda or pepper jack cheese inside a large flour tortilla. Fill with pulled beef. Top with more cheese, then a second tortilla. Place in a hot, large skillet sprayed with cooking spray and cook on one side until browned and cheese is melting. Flip over and cook until the cheese is fully melted and the second side is browned. 

Storing and Reheating Leftover Pulled Beef

If you make this pulled beef recipe ahead of time or have leftovers, allow it to cool to room temperature then place in an airtight container and refrigerate, It will last for up to 4 days. 
 
To reheat, place pulled beef in a saucepan with a splash of beef broth or water. Cover and heat over low heat, stirring occasionally, until the beef is warmed through. Alternatively, reheat the pulled beef in the microwave, using short intervals and stirring in between to ensure even heating. 

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BBQ Beef Sandwiches

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Imagine this: fluffy hamburger buns overflowing with tender, smoky BBQ beef that practically melts in your mouth. Craving satisfied? This dream becomes a reality with our incredibly easy Slow Cooker Pulled Beef Recipe featuring a unique, sweet-and-tangy BBQ sauce. Let your slow cooker do all the work while you enjoy the mouthwatering aroma filling your kitchen.

  • Prep Time: 5 minutes
  • Cook Time: 720 minutes
  • Total Time: 12 hours 5 minutes
  • Yield: 8 to 10 servings 1x

Ingredients

Scale
  • 4 pounds chuck or arm roast – can also use brisket
  • Kosher salt
  • Fresh ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons neutral, high smoke point oil
  • 2 cups beef broth – can use water instead
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce – can also use apple cider vinegar
  • 4 cups Oklahoma BBQ Sauce, divided use
  • 10 hamburger buns
  • 1/4 cup melted butter

Instructions

  1. Rinse meat under cold running water and pat dry with paper towel. Season all over with salt and pepper.
  2. Heat oil in a large skillet (preferably cast iron) over high heat. Sear meat on all sides until nicely browned.
  3. Place the roast in the bottom of a slow cooker and add beef broth and Worcestershire sauce. Cover and cook on high for 4 to 5 hours, or on low for 8 to 10 hours.
  4. Take the roast out of the cooker and drain, reserving about 1/2 cup of the cooking liquid.
  5. Shred the meat with two forks; return to slow cooker. Stir in 2 cups of barbeque sauce and reserved liquid. Cover and cook on low for 4 to 6 hours.
  6. Taste and stir in more sauce if desired.
  7. Brush the insides of the hamburger buns with butter and lightly toast. Pile BBQ beef on the bottom bun and then add top bun, serving the remaining BBQ sauce on the side. 

Notes

Make ahead: Pulled beef can be fully prepared up to 4 days ahead, placed in an airtight container, and refrigerated. Can also prepare through slow-cooking beef up to 24 hours ahead. Cool, place in an airtight container, and refrigerate (also refrigerate the reserved cooking liquid). Place beef, reserved liquid, and 2 cups BBQ sauce in the slow cooker, cover, and cook on low for 4 to 6 hours.

  • Author: From “Fresh Tastes” by Lee Clayton Roper
  • Category: main dish, BBQ, slow cooker, easy entertaining
  • Method: slow cooker
  • Cuisine: American

Note: this recipe was originally posted in June 2011 and then significantly updated with more information in June 2024.

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Comments

  1. Lee, do you have a favorite purchased BBQ sauce for this recipe? I’m into quick and easy these days.

    1. Tough question – I love our Oklahoma BBQ sauce so I don’t buy ready-made! I think any sauces from Traeger would be delicious. And, a few weeks ago a local fellow was handing out yummy samples of his BBQ sauce at the Cherry Creek farmer’s market. I’m always in favor of supporting local, too!

  2. We serve these every July 4th – with raves!! I always make them the day before, then serve in the crockpot with the buns on the side.






  3. I’m confused. Your recipe says after you’ve slow cooker cooked it all those hours then you have to cook it for 4-6 MORE hours with the sauce? Is that right? If the meat is falling apart enough to be shredded why would it need more cooking for so long?

    1. Hi Tracie,
      The second round of slow cooking is to infuse the BBQ sauce flavor into the beef. You could certainly reduce the cook time down to 1-2 hours if you want.

  4. These look fabulous…they’ll be coming to a cookout at our house soon, that’s for sure!

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About the author

Hi, I'm Lee.

I am inspired by my mother, Sally’s, love of cooking and entertaining to gather friends and family together over great meals and conversation. In fact, I held my first dinner party at the age of 16. Throughout the years, I’ve provided recipes, menu advice and cooking tips to friends seeking uncomplicated and delicious ideas for home entertaining.


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