Pot roast is just a great dish. Comforting, satisfying on some visceral level, luscious and filling - IF its done correctly. Tender, succulent and juicy, served with perfectly braised vegetables and as much gravy as you can handle, it's flavorful and delicious. Or, alternately, it's the same consistency as a spare tire served with mushy veggies and overdone paste.
Let's do it correctly, shall we?
My favorite cut for this is a chuck roast. It's considered a tough cut of meat but that's easy enough to overcome in exchange for the terrific flavor it has. It doesn't have a great deal of fat, although it does have quite a bit of connective tissue. That's all right too - we'll get to that in a bit.
Often you'll see 'higher' quality cuts called for in a pot roast. They're good - but one of the cool things about pot roast is you can stick in the oven or slow cooker in the morning and not mess with it again until supper time. With something like a sirloin roast, you have a much tighter window. It takes somewhere around 2-3 hours - and the start time always seemed to be when I had something else going on. They can also run quite a bit higher dollar-wise, so I like the more budget friendly version that gives just as much flavor.
As a bonus, a chuck cut will generate just the perfect amount of jus with which to make gravy or a reduction, depending on where you go with your roast once its finished. In this case, we're going to stick with a basic, All-American Sunday Dinner Grandma Style Pot Roast.
These instructions seem long - but that's because I want to walk you through every step, and show you what things should look like. I also like to tell WHY things happen, so you'll know why some things are important to do. And you'll be able to apply technique to other dishes.
Check out the Basic Beef Roast as well. You'll get some good info, tips and techniques that work across the board. When ready to move on up, give this one a try!
What you'll need:
To start the roast:
- 1 3-4 pound beef chuck roast
- 2 tsp salt
- 2 tsp pepper
- 2 tsp garlic powder
- 2 tsp onion powder
- 2 medium yellow onions, cut into wedges
- 3 ribs of celery, chopped
- 4-5 medium russet potatoes, peeled and chopped
- 4-5 medium carrots, peeled and chopped
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tsp pepper
- 1 tsp garlic powder
- 1 tsp onion powder
These three are what I always use, no matter what time of year. You can also use parsnips, turnips, mushrooms - anything that can handle an hour or so of cooking time. You can cut them into any size you wish, but for this I like to keep the veggies rather big and chunky. I think of about two bites per piece - but whatever your own granny did is what will taste best to you. Just remember, the flavors from your vegetables will end up in the roast and in the gravy (the au jus) as well, so strongly flavored ones like turnips might need a careful hand. And make sure you don't use so many you can't get the lid on your pot again (yes that is from experience).
To finish the gravy:
- 2 Tbl butter
- 2 Tbl flour
- salt and pepper to taste
You'll need a large Dutch oven or a crock pot.
Season all sides of the roast well - it's big, and this seasoning will need to carry through both the roast and the jus - the juices that will cook out and which you'll use to make the gravy. Want the finished product to be bland? Skimp on the seasoning here, and it will be. So be nice and generous. If need be, use a little more than I called for above.
Preheat the oven to 200F. Yes, that's right. You want a slow, long cooking process. This will insure that the connective tissue in the meat are nicely done, which means the difference between tough and tender in this particular cut of meat. Set your slow cooker on low. Plop the roast in the there and in the oven. Close the door and walk away. For hours.
Seriously - hours. Don't mess with it for at least six and preferably eight hours. Don't lift the lid or open the oven. You'll add a MINIMUM of fifteen minutes to the total cooking time if you do - at that low a temperature it takes a long time to come back to 200F. Besides - you don't want the temperature fluctuation.
Something else - you 'll notice I added no liquid. You don't need it. The roast will produce it's own, and you don't want water or canned gunk interfering with the great flavor that will appear by magic in the pot if you don't mess with it. The food fairies bring it. Be grateful.
At this point - at the preferred minimum of eight hours, you'll want to add the veggies. You can add all kinds if you want - but honestly, try to stick with root vegetables. I love the classic combination of onion, celery, carrots and potatoes. Everybody loves those. Cut them in sizes that will be appealing - no one wants a Guinness record holding potato on their plate - at least not one they intend to eat with gravy and actually consume. If you wish to use rutabega, turnip or parsnips that works too. My mama didn't, and my granny didn't, so I don't. But maybe yours did and I'll allow that.
Throw them in the pot with the roast - right on top. Season the vegetables. Put the lid back on, back in the oven, put the temperature up to 250F and walk away again. Give it 1 1/2 hours. At that point turn the heat up to 350F, and let it have an additional 45 minutes.
Again - don't open the lid or the oven. You don't want to mess with the temperature or lose the steamy fabulous goodness out of the pot. And you will if you look. Pretend the Food Fairies are Santa - if you catch them, they won't leave you nice presents.
At the end of the forty five minutes - you're almost ready to go. Remove the pot from the oven (or crockpot), and place all the veggies on a large serving platter. Put the roast on - making sure to reserve every drop of the liquid.
Put a bit of foil over the platter to keep the heat on the meat and vegetables while you finish off the sauce. This is the only bit that moves with any speed - but I'm going to teach you an awesome trick for a silky smooth gravy or sauce.
First thing is to strain the liquid from the Dutch oven into a smaller saucepan. You'll have a much more clear liquid - although not completely transparent. If you have a fat separator, use it now. If not let the liquid sit a minute and skim as much of the fat off the top as possible.
Once you've removed the fat, you're ready to make gravy. Turn the heat in the saucepan to low. In a small bowl, put the 2 Tbl of butter - it really needs to be room temperature - and 2 Tbl of flour. Mash it together. This is called a buerre manie. I'm not sure of the exact translation. I know buerre means butter. Therefore manie must mean "all squashed with flour". LOL!
Seriously - buerre manie means 'kneaded butter' and it's a wonderful thing. If you add raw flour to a hot liquid you'll end up with a nasty lumpy mess. You're only option at this point is to wait for the liquid from the roast to get cool. Or to pull a magic trick. Choose the magic trick.
Once you're completely incorporated the butter and flour - you've surrounded all the little flour granules with the fat of the butter. This will protect the flour once you pop it into the hot liquid - and make it melt away into the liquid and make gravy. It happens because the individual flour bits can cook into the liquid without clumping together.
Bring the gravy to a simmer, taste and adjust for seasoning. That's it. You're done.
For more great foodie info, visit:
- The Thrillbilly Gourmet
Combining classic technique with everyday food for spectacular results!
Maddee on July 22, 2015:
I don't usually like to sign up and post comments, but I'm so very excited about finding this. I've been searching for the right way to cook a roast. I didn't want to follow any that had me adding liquid! It's crazy how hard that is to find. Most recipes want me to add beer or red wine. Neither my husband or I drink and we definitely don't cook with alcohol or have it just lying around so I didn't want to do that. I also didn't want to add stock. Thank you for showing people that you don't need to add extra liquid, and thank you for teaching me how to make sure I get enough of the meats juices! Aka Food Fairies!
I have cooked roast before, but I wanted to try it differently! I needed to know whether to brown it, how long etc. etc. So this was extremely helpful and very specific! I know it is a few years old, but I'm still very grateful and thought I'd let you know! :)
WillStarr from Phoenix, Arizona on December 14, 2011:
Sounds great! A trick that speeds up the process is to cut the roast into 2 inch cubes first.
But I prefer your long, slow method, and a whole roast!
jestone from America! on March 24, 2010:
Thanks for the buerre manie tip, forgot about that.
Jan Charles (author) from East Tennessee on February 25, 2010:
I'd love to see your version - and try it!
Sherri from Southeastern Pennsylvania on February 21, 2010:
OK. I'm hooked. This sounds so easy!
My pot roast is nothing like yours; in fact, it's a bit more of a sauerbraten in that it's cooked with apple cider vinegar and it's a rump roast. Long, slow cooking, the traditional vegetables, like yours, and it's got quite a tang.
Now I guess I've got to write up my recipe.