Whatever happened to pot roast? A perfect pot roast used to be one of America’s great Sunday suppers. Sadly pot roast has become a grandmotherly anachronism. My guess is people think that a perfect pot roast, the kind with meltingly tender meat served with flavorful veggies on the side, is just too hard to make. Which it just isn’t. It does take some time however. In our fast-paced world, that may equate with just too hard. Sometimes time is the hardest thing to make room for in our busy lives. But let’s change that at least long enough to make one perfect pot roast.
The idea of a perfect pot roast exists in many cuisines around the world. Though it’s basically the same in every culture. Italians call it stracotto, which means “overcooked,” The Germans have sauerbraten and New Englanders in this country make something they call a Yankee pot roast. Texans have cowboy pot roast. And it’s all perfect pot roast.
Lately, with nostalgia on the menu pot roast, and other comfort foods, are enjoying a well-deserved renaissance. As I said, a perfect pot roast is simple to accomplish, despite the hours it requires, because it needs little tending through most of the cooking process.
Tips for Perfect Pot Roast
- Choose the right meat: The first thing you need to do when you make pot roast is to choose the right meat. Don’t choose a lean cut of meat. I typically look for beef chuck weighing 3 to 5 pounds, which comes from the shoulder of the animal. This cut contains a lot of fatty connective tissue which sounds gross, but when cooked properly, becomes deliciously moist and tender.
- Sear the Meat: Contrary to what you’ve heard searing meat does not seal in juices. It does, however, vastly improve the taste and texture of almost any meat.
- Cook Low and Slow: Braising is not boiling, it’s not simmering either (we simmer without a lid). Braising is a long, low, moist, covered cooking method. The key to braising success is giving it enough time to break down that connective tissue I mentioned. The stuff released is what gives us a velvety sauce.
- Rest the Meat: Resting is the most important step in cooking a perfect pot roast. The heat of the oven, dries out the outer edges of the meat and forces all the juices into the center. If you were to cut the meat without resting it, those juices would just drizzle out. Resting the meat for at least 10 minutes, lightly tented with foil, allows the meat fibers to relax and redistribute the juices throughout so that they can better hold onto juices once cut.
- Think about the Veggies: A perfect pot roast is more than just meat. I’ll often cook the pot roast with plenty of vegetables in the braising liquid. However I don’t serve these veggies with the meat. I strain them out towards the end of cooking and then add veggies that I’ve roasted separately. It’s an extra step, but it assures beautiful vegetables on the side and a very flavorful sauce.