Originally a Chinese stir-fried dish, it has always intrigued me how pepper steak could be cooked in a slow cooker. Doesn’t it make you wonder too? Stir-frying requires extremely high cooking temperature and a short cooking time; slow cooking is about long cooking over a much cooler temperature where the ingredients are barely simmering in liquid. No two cooking techniques could be more different. “Slow cooker pepper steak” sounded like an oxymoron.
But you can’t be judgmental and say that it doesn’t work unless you’ve actually tried making pepper steak in the slow cooker with less than desirable results, right? So, I read over a dozen different slow cooker recipes for the same dish — pepper steak. Then, I experimented.
Yes, it is possible to approximate the texture of stir-fried pepper steak using the slow cooker.
But there flavors will vary. Because very little flavor escapes from the slow cooker, a tablespoon of ginger in a stir-fry will taste like two tablespoons of ginger in a slow cooked dish.
While stir-fries with meat almost always involve tender cuts of meat cut very thinly so that the meat is cooked to tenderness in a short time, cheaper cuts of meat (what I’d normally use for stews rather than stir-fries) can be substituted when porting a stir-fry recipe into a slow cooker recipe.
Slow Cooker Pepper Steak
- Cut the beef into one-fourth inch slices, then cut each slice into strips about half an inch thick. Make sure to cut the meat across the grain. Set aside.
- In the slow cooker, stir together the soy sauce, garlic, ginger, pepper, sesame seed oil, sugar and half a cup of broth. Add the beef strips and stir lightly.
- Set the slow cooker to LOW and cook the beef for three hours.
- In a small bowl, stir together the remaining broth, cornstarch and hoisin sauce. Pour into slow cooker and stir. Cover the slow cooker and continue cooking for another hour. Note that you will need to stir the contents of the slow cooker halfway through the last hour to make sure that the sauce thickens uniformly.
- Cut the bell peppers, scrape off the white pith and seeds, and discard. Slice the bell peppers into strips.
- Fifteen minutes before cooking time is up, taste the sauce and make all the adjustments needed. Too bland? Add more soy sauce. Balance between salty and sweet not quite right? Stir in more sugar. When the sauce is perfectly seasoned, add the bell pepper strips to the beef and stir. Cook for no longer 15 minutes so that the bell peppers are still lightly crisp.
- Serve your slow cooker pepper steak at once.