Slow-Cooker Beef and Barley Soup

April 14, 2011

The season for hearty soups is quickly coming to an end, although I will probably manage a couple more in the next few weeks before it gets too warm! Since I changed jobs a few weeks ago and I’m working 8-5 again, I’m getting more use out of my slow cooker now than I was during the winter when I was working odd hours. This recipe, which is from the America’s Test Kitchen Family Cookbook, is a traditional slow cooker recipe that calls for more meat than I usually want to buy (3 pounds of good-quality chuck roast is expensive!), so I generally cut back on the amount of meat and add extra carrots and onions to make up the bulk. However, I wouldn’t recommend adding extra barley because it will make the soup too thick, almost like porridge. The meat and vegetables can be prepared separately the night before to save time in the morning, so this is a perfect light weeknight supper for cold, rainy early-spring evenings. There’s nothing better than arriving at home after a long day of work to savory aromas that permeate the entire house!

Beef and barley soup

To make the day ahead, prepare through step 2, but instead of adding the ingredients to the slow cooker, refrigerate the cooked meat and vegetable separately. In the morning, add them to the slow cooker along with the broths and other ingredients in step 3. The cooking time will be on the higher end of the time range.

Serves 6 to 8


  • 1  (3-pound) boneless beef chuck roast, trimmed and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2  tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2  onions, chopped medium
  • 2  carrots, peeled and chopped medium
  • 1/2  cup dry red wine
  • 1  (28-ounce) can diced tomatoes
  • 4  cups low-sodium beef broth
  • 4  cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1  tablespoon minced fresh thyme or 1 teaspoon dried
  • 2/3  cup pearl barley
  • 1/4  cup minced fresh parsley


  1. Dry the beef with paper towels, then season with salt and pepper. Heat 2 teaspoons of the oil in a 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat until just smoking. Brown half of the beef, about 10 minutes, then add to the slow cooker. Return the skillet to medium-high heat and repeat with 2 more teaspoons oil and the remaining beef.
  2. Add the remaining 2 teaspoon oil to the empty skillet and heat over medium heat until shimmering.  Add the onions, carrots, and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Cook until the vegetables are softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in the wine, scraping up any browned bits. Simmer until the wine has reduced by half, about 1 minute, then pour into the slow cooker.
  3. Add the tomatoes with their juice, the broths, thyme, and barley to the slow cooker. Cover and cook until the beef is tender, 6 to 7 hours on low or 4 to 5 hours on high. Before serving, stir in the parsley and season with salt and pepper to taste.

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