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Trim fat from meat. If necessary, cut meat to fit into a 3-1/2- to 6-quart slow cooker. In the cooker combine onions and bay leaf; add meat. In a medium bowl combine beer, chili sauce, brown sugar, garlic, thyme, salt, and pepper. Pour over meat.
Cover and cook on low-heat setting for 10 to 12 hours or high-heat setting for 5 to 6 hours.
Using a slotted spoon, transfer meat and onion to a serving platter. Slice meat across the grain; cover to keep warm. Discard bay leaf.
For gravy, pour enough of the cooking liquid into a 4-cup glass measuring cup to equal 2-1/2 cups; skim off fat. Discard the remaining cooking liquid. In a medium saucepan combine cornstarch and the cold water; stir in the 2-1/2 cups cooking liquid. Cook and stir over medium heat until thickened and bubbly. Cook and stir for 2 minutes more. Serve meat and onion with gravy.