Slow cooker French dip is an easy approach to a weeknight dinner made with flank steak and caramelized onions in a slow cooker or Crock Pot. Folks will be declaring it the best.
Sure, these slow cooker French dip sandwiches are easy to make. But they also make it easy for the cook to keep everyone at the dinner table happy. No small feat. Simply toss everything in the slow cooker in the morning. Then later that day say hello to tender shredded beef and silken caramelized onions that you heap on toasted rolls.
Because this simmers for so long, flank steak is substituted for roast beef, the traditional meat in a French dip, so a tougher cut of meat with an impressively robust taste turns surprisingly tender. Thanks to the old low-and-slow treatment. Crock-Pot, we sing your praises.–Angie Zoobkoff
Slow Cooker French Dip FAQs
A cut of meat from a cow’s abdomen, flank steak is muscular and has tough fibers. It’s a pretty lean cut of beef, but it’s flavorful and less expensive than some other cuts. It’s about a foot long and one inch thick, and often cooked whole rather than divided into smaller individual steaks. Flank steak can be identified by the visible direction of the meat’s cross-grain.
Our testers nearly all agreed that the best beer to go with was something mild and crisp, like a lager. Anything too hoppy or malty will likely stand out too much in this dish.
Cornstarch, like flour, will help to thicken the jus, giving it more body. But unlike flour, cornstarch is pure starch. This means that you only need half as much to get the same effect. And, on top of all that, cornstarch gives your jus a shiny finish, whereas a flour-thickened gravy can look a little cloudy.
Slow Cooker French Dip
- 5- to 6-quart slow cooker
- 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
- 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt plus more, to taste
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon paprika
- 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 3 garlic cloves grated (about 1 tablespoon)
- 2 pounds flank steak excess fat trimmed
- 2 onions cut into 1/8-inch (3-mm) slices
- One (12-oz) bottle beer
- 2 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
- 2 teaspoons cornstarch
- 1 teaspoon cold water
- 6 large or 8 small hoagie rolls white or whole wheat, split and toasted
- Pickled Red Onions for serving (optional)
- In a small bowl, stir together the olive oil, brown sugar, salt, cumin, paprika, pepper, and garlic until a paste forms. Rub the paste onto both sides of the steak, using all the mixture. Place the onion slices in a 5- to 6-quart slow cooker and top with the steak. It’ll probably be necessary to cut the steak into chunks to fit into the slow cooker. Pour in the beer and soy sauce and add the bay leaf and thyme. Cover and cook on LOW until the steak is tender, 7 to 8 hours. The steak will be sliceable around 7 hours and more falling apart around 8 hours.
- Heap the steak and onions on a platter, reserving the cooking liquid in the slow cooker. Cover the steak and onions with aluminum foil to keep warm.
- Strain the reserved cooking liquid into a large liquid measuring cup, discarding the solids. Note how much cooking liquid you have. Pour it into a medium saucepan over medium heat and bring to a simmer. If you have less than 2 cups of liquid, immediately remove the pan from the heat. If you have more than 2 cups of liquid, simmer until the liquid reduces to about 2 cups and then remove from the heat.
- Meanwhile, in a small bowl, stir together the cornstarch and water.
- Slowly whisk the cornstarch mixture into the saucepan off the heat and continue until blended. Return the pan to medium-high and simmer, stirring often, until the sauce thickens, about 1 minute. Taste and, if desired, adjust the salt and pepper accordingly.
- Using a couple of forks, shred the steak.
- Divvy the shredded steak and onions among the toasted rolls. If desired, top with pickled red onion. Pour the sauce, or jus, into dipping bowls and serve on the side with the sandwiches.
Recipe Testers’ Reviews
Slow cooker meals certainly can’t be easier and this one has made the top of my list for convenient and super tasty dinners! The onions caramelized and cooked down until they were meltingly jammy and the rich beefy sauce had such a wonderful umami flavor that infused the beef and onions so perfectly. I love the beefy flavor of flank steak but would never have guessed it could transform itself into having such a juicy and tender texture.
I cooked the steak on the low setting for 8 hours and the steak was falling apart into shreds. I only ended up with about 1 1/2 cups cooking liquid so I opted not to reduce the liquids down further, and just got the sauce to boil in a saucepan, added the cornstarch slurry, and let it simmer for a minute to thicken up. Done!
Then I buttered and toasted some deli hoagie rolls in a skillet and served the shredded beef, onions, and sauce on the rolls along with a side arugula salad with a bracing vinaigrette and dinner was fabulous.
This dinner will be making repeat performances. I’ll add 2 onions the next time because they cook down so much. You can never have enough silky caramelized onions on a juicy shredded beef sandwich. So good!
This was a delicious and easy meal, perfect for a day when there’s not much time for cooking. The slow cooker makes all this possible. It’s perfect for a cold winter evening meal or for a summer dinner on the deck.
On some of the sandwiches, I melted some provolone cheese on top—because everything is better with cheese!
For a midweek stress-free dinner, this is a good recipe. While it might not deliver on the same level of flavor and texture as a steak sandwich where the meat was seared and thinly sliced, it does make up for it with ease, juiciness, and a flavor reminiscent of braised beef or pulled pork. Cooking the meat with a lot of onions ensures that there is plenty of juice in the pan that has a lot of flavor to make the dipping “jus.” I also like that it can be one of those base, blank canvas recipes that can be adjusted with different flavors to make different dishes.
Definitely avoid anything too hoppy for cooking, like IPA or a pale ale. I used a lager from Sierra Nevada that was mild but had some toasty notes. It worked very well.
At the 7 hour mark, the meat was tender but not falling apart. It was more on the sliceable side than the pull-apart side, though. It was a little tricky to get the steak pulled with 2 forks but it worked. I thought the meat shreds were a little long, so I used a knife to cut them into about 2-inch lengths. Maybe it helps if the flank steak is cut to shorter lengths before cooking it too.
I do think the sandwiches benefit from sliced cheese and a handful of greens along with the meat. We all had seconds and in the second sandwich, I added sliced Muenster cheese and a handful of arugula. This really rounded out the flavor and made for an excellent sandwich.
A recipe simple enough for weeknight dinners is something I really like. It was easy to make the paste and, with a little help prepping the onions while I did the meat, we had everything ready to go in the slow cooker in about 15 minutes.
The house smelled divine when I came home 8 hours later and we couldn’t wait to have dinner. Thickening the sauce really only took a few minutes after straining as I shredded the meat, which was tender and very flavorful. We found the sauce to be just a little salty but not unpleasantly so. As I was putting things away after dinner, I realized I had used regular soy sauce and not low-sodium. I believe the reason it seemed a little salty was my mistake. I would suggest if the only soy sauce you have is regular and not low-sodium, the recipe is still doable, but I would cut the salt down to 1/4 to 1/2 tablespoon depending on your preference. A Winterfest lager was our choice of beer.
It’s easy enough to make for a weeknight dinner with a little planning and help in the kitchen.
These steak sandwiches were delicious! There’s little hands-on time, making it a great weeknight option. The meat was very shreddable. For extra au jus, I would suggest either adding more beer or stock to the crockpot.
These sandwiches were pretty simple to prepare and, with the slow cooking, come together incredibly tender and delicious. I added crisp pickled red onions when I served them and I found they added just enough tartness and crunch.
Locally brewed lager, Puppers by Stack Brewery, is a medium malty beer with honey and grain overtones. I think it worked very well with the spices and the whole wheat rolls, especially.
I cut the flank steak into a few smaller pieces as they seemed to fit in the slow cooker better this way. After 8 hours on low, the beef shredded easily and quickly with 2 forks. I did find that the sauce took longer to reduce than expected but I suspect I didn’t have it at a high enough boil.
The only rolls I could find were large, so I cut them in half and it made 8 servings. I served them with a few more cans of Puppers lager and kale slaw and the meal was thoroughly enjoyed.
Originally published February 22, 2019