Broccoli and Beef-the last in a series of Chinese food trials



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The other night I made the last of my attempts at Chinese takeout-Broccoli and Beef.  This is a crockpot recipe, which makes it a bit unusual.

I have to say, I don’t think it should be a crockpot recipe.  There is really not enough food here to even fill the crockpot a quarter of the way.  Crockpot cooking requires that you fill the pot half to three-quarters full with meat, vegetables and cooking liquid( think pot roast).   The only good think about it is that the beef gets a chance to tenderize by slow cooking.   Traditional broccoli beef utilizes the wok to do the same thing, so the jury is still out.  Plus, there is a technique used for velveting meat in Chinese recipes, which I have never tried.  Would that make a difference?  I may never know.

Here is the recipe, with my notes and tips in red.


  • 1.5 pounds flank steak, thinly sliced and chopped into 2 inch pieces
  • 1 cup beef broth  I doubled to two cups-see notes below
  • ⅔ cup low sodium soy sauce  If using tamari, reduce to 1/3 cup
  • ⅓ cup brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon sesame oil
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • ¼ teaspoon red chili flakes (optional)  I left this out
  • 4 cups broccoli florets   I used one head of broccoli and cut off the florets
  • 2 tablespoons corn starch + 4 tablespoons cold water

the sauce was incredibly salty ( I used gluten free tamari, which can be really salty-you  might want to cut the amount down to 1/3 cup) and unbalanced, plus there was not enough of it for the slow cooker.  I added an additional 1 cup of beef broth,  and also 1 tablespoon of rice wine vineger,  and 1 teaspoon of ground ginger.  


  1. Grease the inside of a slow cooker. Add steak, beef broth, soy sauce, brown sugar, sesame oil, garlic, and chili flakes. Cover and cook on high for 2-3 hours or low 4-5 hours.
  2. 20 minutes before serving, uncover the slow cooker. In a small bowl whisk cornstarch and water until dissolved. Add to slow cooker and stir. Cover and allow to cook another 20-25 minutes.  To thicken sauce using cornstarch, you normally use 1 tablespoon cornstarch whisked into 1 tablespoon water for each cup of liquid.  The amount called for in this recipe (two tablespoons cornstarch in four tablespoons of water) would have probably still resulted in thin sauce.  I used two tablespoons of cornstarch in two tablespoons of water, even with the increase in broth,  and the sauce was still thin-but that probably had to do with the temperature of the crockpot, not the cornstarch slurry.  

A note about thickening liquid in a crockpot; there is not enough heat generated in the crockpot, even on high setting, to thicken a sauce using cornstarch.   My sauce did not thicken, which is why I think it is a mistake to make this recipe in a crockpot.  

3.  Just before serving, place broccoli in a large Tupperware, fill with ½ inch of water and place the lid on in an offset manner so that the container can vent. Microwave on high for 3 minutes. Drain, stir broccoli into crockpot and serve.

This method is a good idea, however, theTupperware started to get to the melting point.  I would use a steamer instead here. 

The tweaking of the recipe with ginger and rice wine vinegar made a delicious, if thin sauce.  The beef was tender after cooking 5 hours, with the additional time of 20 minutes to “thicken” the sauce.

I would make this again, but in a skillet next time.  Thus ends my adventures in Chinese food.  The consensus is that it just doesn’t translate into gluten free, and that most “Chinese” recipes are written by people who have no idea what they are doing.  There are exceptions, of course, but they are few.

If you have tried to replicate Chinese food, please comment your experience.

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