Pot Roast

As a cook — I suppose I can call myself a “cook” now — pot roast is another one of those foods that intimidate me. Even more so than ribs or a boston butt. At least with a butt and ribs, I have some kind of diagnostic instrumentation available.

Pot roast?

Beyond the initial prep and a brief interruption later in the cook to introduce some veggies, it is all about leaving the damned lid closed. It is a black box. A chewy, fatty, tough cut of beef goes in and, if all goes well, a fork tender cut of tasty delicious meat comes out.

Of course, my mother — if she reads this (which she occasionally does) — will likely laugh at me. Pot roast always seems to be something she’d just toss together at the last second and it would turn out perfect.

I decided to have a crack at a pot roast today and the results were excellent. Could be better, but excellent none-the-less. And damned easy.

I pretty much followed this recipe from the Simply Recipes site (cool site! subscribed!).

My modifications:

  • Started with about a 5lbs chunk of beef chuck pot roast, bone in. It was an odd cut. It was about an inch and half thick. Fatty. Tough, but all natural. Cheap at $2/lbs.
  • Browned the meat in canola oil, not olive or grapeseed. Since I was cooking in a seasoned, but not coated, cast iron dutch oven, I used a bit more oil than the recipe called for.
  • Tossed in a splash of bourbon.
  • Used red onions instead of yellow.
  • Smushed about 2 heads of garlic. Smashing the cloves makes ’em easy to peel and releases more flavor.
  • Added considerably more than 1/2 cup of red wine.
  • Diced some large carrots and halved small potatoes as the vegetable.
  • Cooked the meat over low heat — a simmer — for 2 hours. Added carrots and potatoes on top. Cooked for another hour and half.

It was delicious. Fork tender; no need for a knife to serve or eat. Everyone loved it, even my relatively picky son.

Next time, I’ll use less liquid and up the cooking time a bit. No risk of drying out given the very little amount of liquid loss observed. I’m also betting that the drippings could be made into a killer gravy, but I have not the remotest clue in the world as to how to pull that off!

6 Responses to “Pot Roast”

  1. Scott Kovatch says:

    You should check out Cook’s Illustrated, if you aren’t reading it already. An awesome cooking magazine, and they recently had a good article on making pot roast — which cut to buy, how to cook it, and so on. See http://cooksillustrated.com/ but the site requires a subscription for back articles. Their recipe doesn’t seem too far off from the one you found.

  2. rama says:

    For the gravy: degrease, deglaze (I like to use beer with beef, but a red wine would bring even more flavor), reduce. Add a bit of butter to finish if you need it thicker.

  3. Amie says:

    Did the red onions have enough acidity to make a statement? I find that yellows really do hold up better in long cooking. And did I read correctly that you used two full heads of garlic??

  4. bbum says:

    It would have been better with yellow onions, I believe.

    They were small heads of garlic. So, it was about the equivalent of 1.5 heads. Surprisingly mild in the end and had a wonderful flavor without overwhelming the subtle beef flavors.

    We really, really like garlic. My wife is italian and I enjoy intense flavors.

  5. plambert says:

    There was an article in the murky news a few years back that included a Q&A with a long time butcher. One of the most common questions he was asked was, “why can’t I make a pot roast as good as my mother made?”

    His answer was simple: “you can’t buy a pot roast as good as your mother bought.” She’d put on some salt and pepper and let it cook in its own fat. But the leanest meats available 30 years ago had more fat than the fattiest in stores today.

    Progress has surprising costs. *sigh*

  6. Amie says:

    @ plambert, I know what you mean about that loss of fat and the compromise on flavour as a result. A perfect example being making chili from turkey as opposed to a 70% lean beef chuck or sirloin. To get a comparable level of spiciness between the two, you need to use nearly twice the spice ratio, or add fat back into the mix for the turkey.

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