i'd love your favorite pot roast recipe. no charts, mark!

- linda 10-04-2016 4:50 pm

Beef, pork or lamb? Whole roast, or cubed? Flavors: Italian, French, Texan, Central American, Yankee?

I've done a braised pork shoulder that leans italian. Beef chuck would be fine. I haven't done traditional Yankee pot roast much. Cynthia lived and cooked in New England, so she probably has one.

For me, there are some key elements:

- Brown the meat.  "Brown" doesn't mean "a tannish color that is no longer pink". It means sepia or umber. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sepia_(color)  That means about 3 minutes per side on high heat in a heavy pan or . Ventilation is important.

- Stock. A home-made brown stock is the gold standard. Some meat shops will sell something called "bone broth". This is probably stock without the vegetable component. "Brown stock" is made with ingredients that were browned (sepia) by roasting or sauteing. Stock made with the cut up bones from beef shank give an awesome beefy taste. A couple times a year I make a few gallons of pork/chicken stock. Very tasty and versatile.

- Long cook time. Meat gets tougher as it cooks, then gets more tender over time. You want to be in the 180-190 range for hours to tenderize the meat, break down the connective tissue, render the fat.

- mark 10-04-2016 5:11 pm [add a comment]

I like to use wine and chicken or meat stock, also use some to deglaze the pot after browning the meat. Add shallots or onions, carrots, potatoes whatever. add peas at the end of cooking if you want. Smaller/softer vegetables go in later. Served with horseradish can is good.

- steve 10-04-2016 6:08 pm [add a comment]

what cut of beef is best? I prefer whole roast. yankee style or french. homemade stock is way too complicated. i am exhausted just thinking about the shopping and pots. 

- linda 10-04-2016 9:25 pm [add a comment]

and thank you for the tips!

- linda 10-04-2016 9:35 pm [add a comment]

The chuck is the best for pot roast. It's what they call the shoulder for beef. There are many different cuts that will work. Some are boneless, some are bone-in. Unless you're cubing it for chili or stew, bone-in is more better. Chuck has lots of flavor, but it's too tough for most cooking methods. The pot roast/braise method is good for chuck. 3-4 lbs is a good size.

For the liquid, store-bought stock is okay. Stock made by a butcher shop is definitely a step up. Adding some bold red wine is good. You want to be on the Cabernet, Zinfandel end of the scale. You want the liquid covering 1/2. One major role of the liquid is to control temperature. While the oven may be 350, the interior of the dutch oven is kept much lower due to the liquid.

The recipe of the interwebs is endorsed by Cynthia and me, with some mods.


- Use chuck, not round. Dredging is optional.

- Saute the onions, take them out, turn up heat and then brown the meat. Onions and a 4 lb hunk of beef have different browning requirements. A pan hot enough to give the beef a nice sear is going to burn the crap out of the onions.

- Add some bay leaf along side the thyme.

- You don't need to make gravy. You can just reduce the braising liquid to make a sauce. The onions will have fallen apart by then, and will give it some body.

- As Steve mentioned, there are other veggies that can work in this. There are different ways to handle the different cook times. This recipe calls for pulling veggies out of the pot when done. Some people cook the veggies in the liquid after the meat is done. Or, you can add veggies after the meat has been cooking for a while.

- mark 10-05-2016 1:45 am [add a comment]

Scared to get booed down for this, but this is what I do if I don't have beef stock. Sauté some onions and/or shallots in a dutch oven. I throw some butter in with the oil. Then add mushrooms (I think white button / crimini have the best flavor for the $). Cook until soft. Set aside. Then in same pot I add 1 to 1 1/2 lbs ground beef. Just as a big blob (like a huge meatball except maybe a little flattened out in one direction so more like a thick ground beef pancake.) Let this REALLY brown. You need some charred bits for flavor. Flip it over and let it brown on the other side. (You cook as a big blob because if you break it up you'll get so much fat rendering out that you won't be able to get good browning with all the liquid in the pot.) Then add a half bottle of red wine and equal amount of water. Chop up the mea with a spatula.. Liquid should cover, if not add more. Bring to a boil and then reduce to just under a simmer and cook for a couple hours. Pour it all through a strainer and press to get all the juices out. Return to stove and add salt and splashes of red wine vinegar and worcestershire sauce to try to spoof a little more complexity than is really in there. 

I think you can get something better (although, yes, different) than boxed beef broth this way and it's pretty quick / easy. You just need it to be beefy (+ umami from the mushrooms and worcestershire) because you can do aromatic things in the actual dish.

Yes I just throw away the ground beef. I know! Still, those boxes are expensive so it's not so so crazy. You have a dog so maybe could repurpose that way.

- jim 10-05-2016 10:14 am [add a comment]

- dave 10-05-2016 10:29 am [add a comment]

Dave I bet I have eaten more of those than you:>) I was also the Pot Pie king of 1971!!

- Skinny 10-05-2016 6:17 pm [add a comment]

im sure there are few things ive eaten more of than you.  we had few tv dinners. i probably got them more as a novelty. frozen pizza, steakums or even lean cuisines were more likely in the freezer. so i bow to you as king of pot pies. long may you reign.

- dave 10-06-2016 12:09 am [add a comment]

we ate a lot of tv dinners.  the five compartment versions included dessert and were most popular in our house.

- steve 10-06-2016 2:38 am [add a comment]

I also add worcestershire and bay and thyme and a tiny bit of anchovy paste, not enough to notice but for that umami.  Jim's burger trick sounds great. Something bright as a garnish/finish is good, like Jim's use of vinegar or the horseradish.  A little tomato sauce in the stock can also be really good.  When Anna Selma made it at Tony's she used tomato sauce and white wine and it was awesome. As Mark pointed out, there are many variations.

- steve 10-06-2016 2:49 am [add a comment]

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