Pot Roast

Nothing warms me up on these cold winter days better than a good, old-fashioned pot roast. This king of comfort foods is easy to make and inexpensive to boot- what more could you want in a meal?

Pot roast refers to an inexpensive cut of beef that is cooked slowly in liquid. The best cuts of beef to use for pot roast are the various chuck cuts; try to stay away from the round cuts, except for the bottom round rump roast. If you choose one of these, you’ll notice it has a flat end and a pointy, tapered end. Pick one with a long point – that point contains some of the sirloin muscles and is the most tender part.

As for the chuck cuts, they all work well, so any of them will do. I bounce back and forth between the top blade chuck roast and the mock tenderloin. The top blade is slightly more tender, while the mock tenderloin slices more evenly for those great left-over roast beef sandwiches!

The pot used for the roast should be only slightly bigger than the cut of meat. It must have oven-safe handles and a tightly-fitting top. If the top is loose, the steam will escape, and with it some of the flavor and juices.

Pot roasts are cooked by a method called braising. This is where a cut of meat is browned in hot fat and then slowly cooked in a covered pot in a small amount of liquid. The key words here are slowly and a small amount of liquid. Where most people go wrong with pot roast is by using too much liquid and cooking the meat at too high temperature. When meat is cooked, the cells that make up the cut of meat expand. If they get too hot, they will burst and the juice inside transfers to the liquid in the pot. This makes a wonderful gravy, but makes the beef dry and stringy. Our goal is to cook it very slowly, so that the juice stays inside the cells, and we are left with a nice, tender and juicy cut of meat.

Now that we have a plan, let’s get started. Marinading the roast is optional; I usually don’t, except to let it sit for 2 or 3 minutes in a little Worcestershire sauce . You can season a pot roast with almost anything you like – I’m partial to garlic powder, minced onions, freshly ground black pepper. Don’t salt the roast, though. It will cause it to dry out. Leave the salt out until the last 15 minutes of cooking.
Place the pot on top of the stove and put about 2 tablespoons of fat in it – you can use shortening, oil, bacon grease, or butter, depending on taste. Turn on the burner to medium, and when the fat is hot, place the roast in the pan and brown it on all sides.

After the roast is nice and brown, put about 1 1/2 cups of liquid in with the roast. The liquid can be just about anything. Water works, but needs a little kick of Worcestershire sauce to flavor it. I usually prefer red wine – I keep a bottle of inexpensive red around just for cooking, sealed with a nifty little device called a Vac-U-Vin. This is a little rubber stopper that fits in the bottle and a pump that you use to pump the air out of the bottle. This lets the wine stay fresh for an incredible amount of time – over a year! And remember, the cooking process gets rid of the alcohol, so you don’t have to worry about anyone getting drunk off pot roast.

The secret to making the roast juicy is to cook it at very low heat for a long time. Ideally, you don’t want to see any bubbles in the cooking liquid as the roast cooks. Make sure if the liquid does bubble that it is at the lowest possible simmer. At this rate it will take between 1 1/2 and 2 1/2 hours to cook the roast, but I promise the results will be worth the wait. Check the roast after 1 1/2 hours with an instant-read thermometer. It should read 145 to 155 degrees at the center if you like it medium; for medium well 155 to 160.

Rick’s Pot Roast

  • 1-boneless beef pot roast, about 3 pounds
  • 4 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1 Tbsp. minced onion
  • 2 Tbsp. broiled steak seasoning
  • 2 Tbsp. oil or butter
  • 1 cup red wine
  • Freshly ground black pepper and salt to taste

Let roast soak in Worcestershire sauce for 2 minutes on each side, and reserve the Worcestershire sauce. Season with the onion, garlic powder, pepper and broiled steak seasoning. Brown on all sides in a 6-quart Dutch oven in the oil or butter over medium heat Add the wine and the reserved Worcestershire sauce and reduce heat until no bubbles are visible. Cook, turning every 30 minutes until meat thermometer registers internal temperature of 155 to 160 degrees.

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