All American Pot Roast
Pot roast, sometimes known as Yankee Pot Roast, is an All American classic that I never grew up with. My mom wasn’t a fan of slow cooking or crock pot cooking anything. I guess, for starters, since she and my dad worked full time, she just didn’t have the time to be slow cooking food. And secondly, my mom has always joked that 30 minute meals are nothing for her (i.e., she cooks everything quickly). So, I never had any clue what a pot roast was all about growing up. That whole realm of food was so unknown to me.
But now that I’ve grown up and moved out on my own, and then subsequently became a huge fan of The Food Network, my eyes have been opened up to this whole new realm of food. I’ve seen pot roasts made numerous times on various cooking shows and have always wanted to give it a try. It’s slow cooked beef with vegetables. How could that be bad? Well, ok, the vegetables part isn’t the most appealing to me, but the slow cooked beef part surely is.
I’ve attempted to make pot roast twice now. The first time was a bit of a mess. I followed a recipe that I thought would work since the ingredients were pretty basic. However, the meat didn’t turn out as tender as I had hoped, and the sauce that I was to make was too thick and had too much tomato sauce. It was more like I had made an Italian beef stew. My husband wasn’t impressed at all.
My second attempt at making pot roast turned out much, much better. I found a different recipe that was more basic, and the results were way better. When I informed my husband I was making pot roast again, he told me to have fun and that he’d take care of his own dinner. I don’t think he was confident in my pot roast making abilities after my first attempt. However, when he tasted my second attempt at pot roast, he said it was a million times better than my first attempt and that this was what pot roast should be like. I have to admit too that my second attempt at pot roast was way better than my first attempt. I liked my pot roast so much that I’ll definitely make this again.
Ok, so my pot roast ingredients included: boneless chuck roast, garlic cloves, celery stalks, carrots, onions, red wine, beef broth, rosemary, thyme, flour, olive oil, salt, and pepper.
Essentially, pot roast is a braised beef dish. Braising food is a way of cooking it with a combination of moisture and dry heat. Generally, the food is first seared at high temperature and then it is finished in a covered pot with cooking liquid. When using meat, braising is an ideal way of cooking cuts of meat that are generally tough as the heat, time and moisture help to break down the tough connective tissues in the meat. This process of cooking the meat low and slow tenderizes the meat, and allows the liquid to exchange flavors with that of the meat.
I started off with a 3 pound piece of boneless chuck roast. I guess the general rule of thumb is that you will need to slow cook the roast 1 hour for each pound of meat you use. 3 pounds of chuck roast means 3 hours in the oven. The roast needs to be seasoned before anything can be done to it. Use liberal amounts of salt and pepper on both sides of the roast. This is the only time salt and pepper, or any seasoning makes its way into this dish, so make sure to put enough seasoning on your roast.
I also take flour and cover both sides of the roast, and the sides with flour. The flour helps to create a crust on the roast when you sear the meat in your super hot cast iron pot.
Now, move on to the vegetables. I used onions, carrots, garlic and celery. With the onions, I lopped off the tops and bottoms of the onion, took off the outer layer of skin and chopped the onions in half. I cooked the onions in halves just like this. As they cook in the pot, the different layers of the onion will soften and fall apart naturally.
With the carrots and the celery, I sliced both of them on a bias into about 2-3 inch pieces. I also chopped up some garlic cloves which eventually found their way into the cooking liquid before the roast went in with the onions to help bring some flavor to the pot roast.
For my pot roast, I chose to use a 5.5 quart cast iron pot to both sear my vegetables and meat as well as cook the roast in the oven. Another option would be to use a heavy bottomed pan to sear everything and then to cook the actual roast low and slow in a crock pot. For the pot, I started with a couple of tablespoons of olive oil which I let heat up in the cast iron pot on high heat on the stove. When the oil is hot enough, basically smoking, the onions go into the pan cut-side down. Let the onions sit in the pan for a few minutes until they develop a nice crust on them. Then flip the onions over and get the same crusty char on the other side.
Next up is the carrots. You’ll want to do the same with the carrots; dump them into the scorching hot pan and let them sit for a minute or two until the carrots get a crusty char. Once they’ve developed a nice crust, turn the carrots over to the other side and do the same. Searing your vegetables before they cook in the cooking liquid really makes a difference in the taste of the vegetables when your roast is done cooking. The sear gives nice color to the vegetables and gives a nice grilled flavor to the vegetables as well.
Finally, sear the celery as well. Careful with the celery as it will cook a lot quicker than the onions or the carrots. You don’t want to burn your vegetables, just sear them with the heat of the pan. Once the veggies are all seared, remove them to a separate plate to chill for a few minutes while you brown your roast.
It’s now time to sear the chuck roast. If needed, you may have to add a little bit more olive oil to your pan. Make sure that pan gets good and hot. When the pan’s ready put your roast into the pan. Listen to the beef sizzle and crackle in the pan. Don’t touch the beef for a few minutes. Let it get good and brown on one side. The point isn’t to cook the beef all the way through now, it’s just to sear the outside of it. When, the one side is cooked, flip it over and cook the other side. Notice the nice crusty sear you’ve now gotten on the one side. The flour really helps to create the crust. When the roast is browned all around, remove it to a separate plate.
On the bottom of your hot pan, you’re now left with lots of crusty browned bits of meat and veggies. This is the good stuff that you don’t want to go to waste. This is the flavor left behind from everything you browned and seared. What you’ll need to do is de-glaze the bottom of the pan. The easiest way to do this is with a little bit of red wine. Generally, I don’t cook with alcohol at all. But I had some left over cooking red wine from a previous cooking project, so I decided to use it here. But, the red wine can easily be omitted if you don’t have it on hand or don’t want to use it. After the addition of some red wine, add some beef broth to the bottom of the pan as well. Now use a whisk and really use the liquid to help remove the crusties from the bottom of the pan.
It’s now time to put everything back into the pot. Add the roast back into pan. Follow that with your seared vegetables. Make sure to get the veggies into every nook and cranny not occupied by the roast. Throw the garlic into the pot as well. Now comes the fresh herbs (or dried herbs if that’s all you have). First, a couple of stems of rosemary. Bury the herbs into the cooking liquid.
Follow the rosemary with a couple of sprigs of thyme. Again, make sure to submerge the herbs into the cooking liquid. If you don’t like the herbs just floating in your pot, you could use kitchen twine and tie the bundles of herbs together so that it’s easy for you to fetch it out of the pot when you’re done cooking.
Before you’re ready to put your pot into the oven, make sure that you have enough beef broth added to the pot to cover at least half of the roast. If you need more beef broth, add it now. Remember, there’s no need to submerge the roast. As it cooks in the oven, the fat from the roast will naturally melt off and the natural juices from the meat will also add moisture to the roast.
Now you’re ready to cover the pot and put it into your pre-heated 275 degree oven. The roast will cook in the cast iron pot on low heat for a long period of time until it gets super tender. Remember, one hour of cooking time approximately for every pound of roast.
After 3 hours of cooking in the oven for my 3 pound roast, it was finally done! When it came out of the oven, it looked like a pot roast. You can tell that the vegetables are completely cooked. When I stuck a fork into the pot to retrieve the pot roast it was beyond fork tender. It shredded right out of the pot. The juices left in the pot smelled amazing and tasted incredibly flavorful.
When I pulled the pot roast out of the pan and onto the cutting board, I really didn’t even need to cut it at all. The roast was so incredibly tender that it was easy to just use my fork to pull the meat apart.
Dish the pot roast onto a plate, make sure to dish up some of the yummy veggies as well! And finally, don’t forget to spoon up some of the yummy sauce and ladle it over your meat and veggies. Serve it up along side some potatoes and you’ve got yourself an All American Pot Roast! Even my husband had to admit it was good.
And the best part, I had enough pot roast left over for lunch the next day at work. Throw the meat and veggies on a plate with some sauce, put it in the microwave for a few minutes and I had a really delicious lunch. Pot roast is the perfect meal on a cold fall day. I’ll definitely be making this dish again.