Fall is in the air and around now is when I'll dig out the slow cooker. The best cuts for slow cooking are generally parts of the animal which work the hardest. They tend to be either very lean, such as the shanks, or very fatty parts such as the muscles of the derrière.
The brisket is from the lower chest part of the cow. This is one of the leanest ,cuts with the most connective tissue because of the animal's heavy use of this area. Extended cooking is needed to break down those connective tissues in the end, resulting in an extremely tender cut of meat, best sliced thin.
The shank is the area below the knee, or calf muscle. This cut of meat is most often cooked on the bone for extended periods to break down connective tissues much like the brisket. Shanks are most often served in stews and soups.
The shoulder is the same cut of meat on a pig or a cow and is more commonly called the chuck on a cow. This cut has a lot of connective tissue, collagen and fat than the leg muscles making it a great cut for long wet cooking. These cuts are most often used in pot roast, stews or pulled and used in sandwiches.