When I think of pot roast, I think of simple, hearty, family style home cookin'. But let's face it - pot roast isn't exactly attractive when it's cooked. You know what I mean. It's all sort of ... browwnn-looking. It's not easy trying to capture the true beauty of a pot roast on camera. The photo above was taken after everything was seared off and caramelized, right before putting it in the oven to do its magic for a few hours. It still looks all colorful and full of life at that point. When pot roast braises for a long period of time, all the ingredients in the pot meld together, dulling the sharpness and vibrancy of all the colors. When done right, the transformation of a lowly cut of tough meat into succulent, tender morsels melded with sweet luscious vegetables more than makes up for what it lacks in the pretty department.
Maybe throwing some fresh green thyme on top will help:
I've figured out a few useful tips over the years for making a pret-ty amazing pot roast, if I do say so myself (which is exactly what I'm doing, saying so muh-selff) and I want to pass these tips along to you. I'm not saying that you personally need these tips, but it's amazing how many dry/tough/bland/boring pot roasts are eaten across this country every weekend for Sunday family dinners, and I'm here to say, DOWN WITH BAD POT ROAST! Here are the tips I use to make a really delicious and tender pot roast every time:
- Choose the right roast. For pot roast, you don't want an expensive cut of meat. A less expensive, tougher cut is actually best for making pot roast since it's the break down of the collagen and connective bits during a slow braise that makes it tender. I've found the best cut for a pot roast is a nicely marbled boneless chuck roast.
- Keep it simple. You don't need a lot of ingredients to make this. Beef, veggies, seasonings/herbs, liquid. Boom.
- Sear the meat AND the veggies before the slow cooking begins. I think people might know to sear meat to add more flavor to a braised dish, but a lot of people don't think to also do that with the veggies to help caramelize the sugars and deepen the flavor in them.
- Braise the roast in the oven at a low temperature for a long period of time. This is key to a tender and moist roast. For me, pot roast always turns out best when cooked in the oven versus on the stove top, probably because it's a lot easier to maintain a consistent temperature. I also don't have much luck cooking a good pot roast in a slower cooker. You'd think it would turn out great, but not mine. Somehow the flavors seem more bland and overcooked when cooked in a slow cooker. I don't know why. Come to think of it, I kind of have that luck with everything I cook in a crock pot. Maybe I'm weird (maybe?!?). Anyways, I've had the best luck cooking it in a 250 degree oven. You could go up to 275 degrees if you're more comfortable with that, but I wouldn't go any higher. It'll take around 4 hours to cook, but it is so worth it. Low and slow is the way to go, Yo.
- Cook in a heavy (preferably cast iron) pot or dutch oven with a tight fitting lid. If the lid doesn't fit well, you won't have a good seal to create the moist cooking magic.
- Potatoes and pot roast are a match made in heaven, but you might have noticed I don't have any potatoes in this recipe. I think potatoes get all waterlogged and mushy when cooked with the pot roast, so instead of adding them right into the pot to cook with the roast, I will either cut the potatoes up into bite size pieces and roast them separately to have crispy little potato bites that are fluffy on the inside (way better!), or I'll make mashed potatoes instead. If you have to add potatoes into the pot to cook with the roast, throw them in an hour or so before the pot roast is finished so they don't die a horrible waterlogged death. You could do that with the carrots too if you don't want them to get too soft, but carrots usually fare better than potatoes in braising.
Mmm, mashed potatoes. My mother-in-law and I have a strong mutual love of the mashed.
This was the meal Jake requested for his last dinner at home for awhile before going off to college last weekend. If that doesn't confirm that a delicious and comforting home cooked meal does a soul good sometimes, I don't know what does.
It may not be the prettiest dish, but there's something about pot roast that makes me want to dive in with a ladle and a big hunk of bread.
Family Favorite Pot Roast
Adapted from Mom and tweaked over the years :)
3-4 Tablespoons olive oil
7-8 carrots, peeled and cut into 2 inch chunks (add more or less if you want)
2 yellow or white onions, skins removed, ends removed, and cut into quarters or eighths (add more or less if you want)
1 pound crimini or button mushrooms, halved or kept whole if small (add more or less if you want)
4-5 pound boneless chuck roast
1/2 cup all purpose flour (to dredge)
Kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper
1 cup red wine
2-3 cups beef stock
3 cloves garlic, crushed
3-4 sprigs fresh thyme, OR 1-2 tsp. dried thyme
2 sprigs fresh rosemary, OR 1-2 tsp. dried rosemary
Preheat oven to 250 degrees.
Heat a heavy dutch oven or large pot over medium-high heat on the stove. Add 2 T. of olive oil. Add carrots and brown well on all sides. The goal isn't to cook them all the way through, just get some good color/caramelization on them, just a couple minutes total. They'll finish cooking in the oven. Remove carrots from pot and add onions; brown well on all sides same as the carrots, couple minutes total. Remove onions from pot. Cook the mushrooms similarly, browning well, just a couple minutes total. Remove from pot.
Add another tablespoon or two of olive oil to the pan. Generously salt and pepper the chuck roast. Dredge the chuck roast in flour and add to the hot pot. You can skip the flour part if you don't want to use flour and it will still be great, but I do it because that's how my mother taught me. Supposedly it thickens the liquid slightly as it cooks. Sear the roast for about 1 minute on each side until nicely browned on all sides. Remove the roast onto a plate. Leave any oil and little toasty tidbits at the bottom of the pot in the pot.
Add red wine to the hot pot and deglaze the bottom of the pan by scraping it with a wooden spoon or whisk to incorporate the little bits of fond (the brown roasty bits at the bottom of the pan after searing stuff) into the liquid. Add roast back into the pot and add enough beef stock to bring the liquid level to about one third to half way up the side of the roast. We're not boiling trying to boil this to death, so don't put too much liquid. Add carrots, onions, mushrooms, crushed garlic, thyme, and rosemary to the pot.
Add tight fitting lid to the top of the pot and place in preheated oven for 4 hours (estimate cooking time to be about 1 hour per pound). Remove from oven. Remove herb stems if needed.
You can serve this pot roast right out of the oven as-is (maybe skim off the excess fat first), but if you want the liquid sauce a little thicker, remove the meat and vegetables carefully with a slotted spoon into another pot or bowl. Skim off the excess fat floating on top of the liquid and discard. Bring the liquid to a boil, uncovered, and reduce the liquid down to a thicker consistency. Whisk in a pat or two of butter if desired. Check for seasonings and add salt and pepper if needed. Add meat and vegetables back to the liquid and serve over mashed potatoes or with roasted potatoes.
Chic on a Shoestring Budget, I Should Be Mopping the Floor, A Pinch of Joy, Smart School House, Alderberry Hill