There are dozens of ways to enjoy your favorite roast, but a bang for your buck that you should try at least once in life is the classic pot roast. This method is nothing more than gathering and playing at first, with multiple flavors in one place, your pot :), then set it and forget it for a while, till all the colors that you’ll see have a new name for your senses: “mouth-watering”.
Of course, some of us may also say that pot roast has been for a long time a Sunday tradition within worldwide family dinners, and it’s easy to see the reason for that. The meat used for pot roast is much more affordable than most beef cuts. Therefore a lot of people find it reasonable, not to mention its good balance between versatility and the rich taste that can tickle an entire family’s tastes without cutting into one’s budget. Nevertheless, did you ever thought how and what could you pot roast at its best ?
Our guideline- your WHAT and HOW to pot roast
What beef cuts make the most of your pot roast?
At this point, we are going to detail firstly the selection of those beef cuts that are great value for a mouth-watering pot roast.
Secondly, we will point out different tips or details on the cooking process of a pot roast.
We bring together the old cooking way that our grandmas used to enjoy as much as we do, and the more modern way because life has another rhythm and busy schedules for some of us.
Which colors (veggies), if any, should you add in your pot?
We aim to see beyond a hunk of beef in a cooking liquid further placed in a pot (the rough image of a pot roast). The heart of the flavor doesn’t come from beef only, it could come from other vegies or cooking liquid like broth or stock which holds tons of flavor, texture, and nutritional value.
What is pot roast after all ?
The name “pot roast” will rather make a lot more sense if we visualize it as the low and slow cooking way, or as a meat dish, and not as some name for a beef roast that we mainly use in our cooking. So pot roast is an entire cooking method called actually braising, and not some fancier name for a meat cut. Although in most recipes, you will brown (or sear) the cut on the stovetop first, one thing to note here is the fact that the browning doesn’t have to happen all the time within the pot roasting process. “Browning the roast before adding liquid is an optional step to improve the flavors ” (according to Wikipedia source).
Behind the scenes, a low and slow cooking method tenderizes the tougher cuts. But the reasoning for using tougher beef cuts is related to their connective tissue which makes them ultra-flavorful to cook them like this. The connective tissue breaks down into gelatin when braised low and slow, making the meat juicy and giving at the same time extra cooking liquid.
However, the liquid (such as beef stock, broth, or water) has the final word, preventing the roast from drying out further. Of course… one can decide to add chopped-up potatoes or vegetables to the dish, this will empower even more the exchange of flavor between the liquid and meat cut.
A note for you, dear reader…
At this point, we want you to have a clear image of the difference between searing and browning a meat cut. In many articles, these two terms are easily interchangeable, but we actually think that they are successive steps of the Maillard reaction.
“Browning can occur at lower temperatures with longer cooking time” and the result is less intense because it slightly cooks the outside of the food.
The searing stage is one step further than the browning and it involves very high heat with less oil in the pan or cast iron (“the meat surface must exceed 150 °C (300 °F)”).
What beef cuts to choose for pot roast?
Well… technically speaking, you may choose from tougher cuts that have their special melting marbling and connective tissue (they would make the most sense of a pot roast) to leaner cuts that need a companion in terms of fat which can keep the juiciness and reduce considerably the risk of dryness (not very often used for pot roast because tender cuts usually don’t need additional tenderizing or flavor which is characteristic to pot roast). A pot roast can be truly magic for cheaper and tougher cuts that are not that great when simply roasting, searing, or only cooking in the oven.
The more affordable beef cuts
Beef Chuck Roast- the chuck area remains the most affordable star for us when it comes to pot roast. It has a wonderful combination of marbling and it becomes really tender and juicy when braised.
- Have into consideration also other steak names coming from the chuck part, such as chuck eye, blade roast, shoulder roast/steak, arm roast/steak, cross-rib roast, or seven-bone roast.
Bottom Round Roast– it could be a great choice if you enjoy a leaner beef cut but keep in mind that you may need to add some additional fat to prevent your pot roast from drying out.
- The cut can also have names like bottom round, rump roast, or London broil (when it is sliced as steaks).
The pricier beef cuts
Beef Brisket- we usually associate it with barbeque recipes but it can be very well blended within a pot roast as well, having some nice flavourful fat. However, the price tag is a bit higher than the one for chuck cuts.
- Other similar cuts from the brisket area cover the flat cut, beef brisket flat half, and beef brisket point half.
Coulotte roast– it comes from the sirloin cap area in the form of a larger, boneless, and leaner cut. It has a small layer of fat attached to it, which assures the optimal level of moisture necessary for a mouth-watering pot roast.
Last but not least, it would be worth trying out, some of the pricier stars with a deep beef flavor such as ribeye roast, New York strip steak, and veal (chuck/bottom round/arm area cuts). Although the price makes them less affordable especially for bigger families, we highly recommend them (at least for some special occasion) due to their indescribable marbling and tender texture after roasting.
How to cook a pot roast
As we’ve mentioned a bit before, the term “pot roast” identifies at heart most of the time with an entire cooking process called braising. More specifically, we refer here to a two-step cooking way that uses both:
- high-heat ( or dry heat ) for a short period (within the browning or searing contexts) and…
- low-heat ( or wet heat ) for a longer period of time (when we place the pot in the oven or we use a slow cooker)
People often interchange braising with pot roast as a way of naming it. Although we couldn’t find a clear answer related to the origins of this method, it seems that that braising was quite well known since the 19th century. At least, The Kitchen Encyclopedia (12th edition) defines this cooking way in more detail in the light of ” a method much used in France, a cross between boiling and baking “.
Let’s go behind the scenes when braising our tougher cut
A first step here (the high-heat one for a short period) refers to the browning (we can go a bit even further to the searing phase) the meat in olive oil, butter, or any other sort of fat, using high heat. Everything should about 3-4 minutes once the pan is hot. The juices left from the browning will be part of the pot roast liquid such as stock, water, etc (as a tip: one can use the same pot for browning as well as cooking slower further).
The second cooking step (the slow and low one) happens in a tightly covered pot that goes in:
- the oven set to 250-300 degrees (it take at least one hour and a half to two hours, depending on the thickness and size of the cut)
- in a slow cooker (it could last 6-10 hours depending on the recipe as well)
- or instant pot (around one hour at most as cooking time)
Nevertheless, the slow process is the essence behind any of these above ways for breaking down the connective tissue, tenderizing the meat and the lower heat comes to support this slow cooking as the braising liquid evaporates.
Make your pot roast more complete
You can adapt any pot roast recipe or make it even more complete by adding or pairing the braised cut with vegetables or a good red wine.
When you are halfway through the cooking time you could choose to add chopped vegetables to the dish not only for another touch of color but also to have some extra flavor beyond the slow cooking liquid. We see many possibilities here such as potatoes, celery, onions, carrots, parsley, a few sprigs of fresh thyme, grated ginger, garlic.
Everything should look like the most delicious painting that makes the most out of a cheaper, tougher beef cut (that’s the magic of a pot roast actually). Have fun and let us know what else would be important to know when it comes to a mouth-watering pot roast.