One Perfect Pot Roast for Sunday Supper

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perfect pot roast

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.

GREG

perfect pot roast

Perfect Pot Roast

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Sometimes I add extra vegetables like carrots and celery to the pot while the meats cooks. However I don’t serve these veggies with the meat. I strain them out towards the end of cooking (about the time I add the roasted vegetables). It’s an extra step and it’s not mandatory, but it assures beautiful vegetables on the side and a very flavorful sauce.

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1 beef chuck roast (about 5 pounds)
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt (plus more for seasoning vegetables)
  • ½ teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper (plus more for seasoning vegetables)
  • 2 cup beef stock (plus more as needed)
  • 1 cup red wine (optional)
  • 3 onions (peeled and quartered through root end)
  • 6 clove garlic (peeled and roughly chopped)
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 12 sprigs fresh thyme (divided)
  • 2 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1 pound potatoes (peeled and cut into 1 ½-inch chunks)
  • 1 pound carrots (cut into 1 ½-inch chunks)
  • 3 tablespoon olive oil

Directions

Arrange oven racks in the top and bottom positions; preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a large Dutch oven, heat oil over medium-high heat. Sprinkle roast all over with 1 teaspoon salt and ½ teaspoon pepper. Place in pan, and brown on all sides, about 10 minutes.

Turn meat fat side up. Add stock, wine (if using), onions, garlic, bay leaves, and ½ the thyme sprigs. Stir in tomato paste. Bring to a simmer, cover; put in the oven on the bottom rack to cook for about 3 hours. Turn the meat over two or three times during the entire cooking process. Checking occasionally to make sure there is always about 1-inch of liquid in the pot. If not add more stock or water.

Meanwhile, roast the vegetables about 1 hour before the roast is finished. Place the carrots and potatoes in a shallow sided baking dish, large enough to hold them in nearly a single layer. Top with remaining thyme sprigs, drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper; toss to coat.

Place vegetables on top rack in oven and roast for about 40 minutes, or until vegetables are tender and well browned. Remove them from the oven, discarding the thyme sprigs. About 20 minutes before the pot roast is fully cooked, add the roasted vegetables to the pot to finish cooking.

Transfer the roast, carrots, and potatoes to a platter. With a spoon, skim the fat off the surface of the cooking liquid. Cut the roast into slices, and serve with the vegetables. Pass the pan juices separately. If you have the time you can make this the day before. Slice as described, then return the slices to the cooking liquid to cool completely. The next day use two forks to coarsely shred the meat; reheat and serve. It’s even better this way.