Basic Pot Roast – A cold winter night favorite

Pot Roast Braise

A basic pot roast should be part of every home cook’s repertoire. Pot roast is made from inexpensive cuts of beef, and is cooked for a long period until it becomes tender and falls apart. There is no real timing to it because it is not roasted to taste like medium or rare, so it is almost foolproof. A good pot roast isn’t really about the recipe — it’s about the cooking method.

Basic pot roast is a “braise” that cooks in the oven or a slow cooker for a long, long time to achieve the right tenderness. Where most cooks make a mistake is not seasoning and then searing the beef on all sides before adding it to the pot for a long cook.

Choosing the right cut of beef

Chuck Roast

The butcher counter at the grocery store can be really intimidating if you don’t know which beef cut to choose. I would always gravitate to the most expensive cut or the cut with absolutely not fat on display. That is a costly mistake because taking a lean cut and braising it can make it dry and tough. In this case the tougher cuts of beef are best suited to braising and lucky for you, these are usually cheaper as well. You want cuts of meat that are NOT marbled with fat, but ones that show high dense connective fat tissues like chuck roasts and brisket. You can also make pot roasts with an inexpensive rump roast or round roast, but in my opinion, the chuck is king. These are the working cuts of the cow.

Basic Braising

I like to use my slow cooker for pot roast, but before the crock pot women used a roasting pan and cooked this 2 to 3 pound roast for several hours. The perfect braise brings a liquid up almost half way on the beef roast. You can braise in water, stocks, wine, basically any liquid, but be creative. The more flavor that is in your braising liquid, the more flavor will be infused into your pot roast.

Grandma’s Basic Pot Roast

  • Use a 2 to 3 pound chuck roast — whatever fits into your pan. Be sure the pan you choose is large enough to hold the roast and at least 2 cups of additional liquid. (I did once cook this roast in a pan that barely accommodated the roast and all the liquids overflowed in my oven.) In this case, larger is better.
  • Sprinkle liberally with a basic seasoning. My Grandma mixed 2 tablespoons of kosher salt with 1 tablespoon cracked black pepper. Sear all sides of the roast in a heavy pan.
  • Preheat your oven to 250 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Lay the seared beef into the pan.
  • In a sauce pan melt 2 tablespoons of butter and 1 tablespoon vegetable oil. Stir in 3 tablespoons of flour to make a rue. Cook for 1 minute or until it forms a paste. Add 1 cup of beef stock and 1/2 cup of red wine and mix until the flour mix is fully dissolved. Add 4 cloves of chopped garlic, 1/2 teaspoon of dried thyme, 1/2 teaspoon drived oregano. Simmer for 3 minutes before adding 1 cup of mushrooms and 1/4 cup of raisins (yup raisins add a little hidden sweetness to the final sauce blend).
  • To your roasting pan add 2 medium chopped onions, 4 medium carrots chopped into 1/2 inch pieces, 2 stalks of celery cut into 1/2 inch pieces, and 2 large potatoes cut into 1 inch pieces. (I’ve been eating Keto for a year so I would swap the potato with rutabaga or parsnip.) All vegetables scattered around the roast evenly.
  • Poor the liquids over the roast and vegetables. Cover the entire pan with aluminum foil and place it in the oven to braise/cook for 5 hours at 250 degrees.

You can buy pot roast seasoning mixes, but why would you? It just isn’t that hard to do. If you want to add a little kick to your blend (more spiciness) you can add a 1/4 teaspoon of a smoked pepper like chipolte or an ancho pepper. Cayanne tends to be just a little too much heat for my taste.

At the 4 hour mark test the temperature of the roast at it’s thickest point. Pot roast should reach 145 degrees. You can also test it with a skewer or fork and see if the meat is tender.

Remove the pot roast to a slicing board and cover with foil for 15 minutes to let the meat relax. Use a serrated knife to slice against the grain into pieces. Spoon the now cooked vegetables around the roast or into a vegetable bowl. Use an immersion blender to mix the gravy (garlic, beef and wine) into a velvet sauce to serve on the side. Reduce the sauce to your preferred thickness.

Leftovers? Grandma’s pot roast makes exceptional open faced roast beef sandwiches later in the week if there is any left over.

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