Pot Roast 101
There are so many “roasts” out there to be had; chuck roast, rib roast, round roast, bottom roast, loin roast….so what is it that makes one or all of these a “Pot Roast”? And is there a difference between a “pot roast” and an “oven roast”?
CHOOSE A ROAST WITH CONSISTENT MARBLING!
WHAT IS ROAST?
A roast is a cut of beef, thicker than two inches, that is suitable for cooking by dry heat on a rack in a shallow open pan in the oven or in a covered grill (indirect heat).
Premium oven roasts, including rib, ribeye, top loin and tenderloin are typically more costly, but ideal for holiday entertaining and other special occasions.
For everyday family meals, casual gatherings, and for the health-conscious, the round and bottom sirloin cuts are leaner and economical. Moderately priced roasts include tri-tip, round tip, rump, bottom round and eye round.
Theses also come from the fore- and hindquarters of the carcass. These muscles are more heavily exercised and contain more connective tissue, making them less tender. Moist-heat cooking takes more time, but the results are worth waiting for. The beef becomes fork-tender and develops a savory depth of flavor unique to slow-cooked beef.
Pot roasts from the chuck have more fat, and thus more flavor, than those from the round, but many beef chuck and round cuts can be used interchangeably in pot roast recipes, requiring only slight adjustments in cooking times. Take advantage of this fact when the cut specified in a recipe is not available, when certain cuts are on special or to accommodate family preferences.
HOW TO MAKE THE PERFECT POT ROAST
There’s nothing like a stockpot filled with beef in broth, wine or another liquid gently simmering on the stove to evoke the comforts of home. The final result of this slow cooking method is tender beef that melts in your mouth and warms you through and through. Both methods; braising and stewing, work best when you start out by browning the beef in a little bit of oil. Braising tends to be the method of choice for large cuts of beef such as a pot roast or brisket with a small amount of liquid, while stewing tends to use cubes of beef mixed with vegetables and other ingredients with a larger quantity of liquid.
Understand that “Pot Roast” means you will be cooking it in a pot or slow cooker with liquid. “Oven roasting is using the oven (dry heat). You can prepare your roast in the oven with liquid.
BRAISING THE ROAST
Braising means to cook in a small amount of liquid, after the meat has been browned. This is how you will actually be preparing the pot roast; through braising.
Let’s start with the initial browning of the meat.
- Remove beef from refrigerator (some chefs like to let their meats sit for at least 15 minutes before browning, this is up to you).
- Lightly coat with flour seasoned with salt and pepper (optional).
- Slowly brown beef on all sides in small amount of oil in heavy pan over medium heat. Pour off drippings. Season beef, if desired. (Omit dredging and browning for corned beef brisket.)
Now, let’s get cooking!
- Add liquid, such as broth, water, juice, beer and/or wine, to pan. Add herbs or seasonings, as desired. Bring to a boil; reduce heat.
- For pot roasts and other braised dishes, use small amount of liquid (1/2 to 2 cups).
- For stews and soups, use at least enough liquid to cover beef.
- Fresh brisket and corned beef brisket are cooked in liquid to cover beef.
- Cover tightly and simmer gently over low heat on top of the range, or in a preheated 325ºF oven, according to timetable or until beef is fork-tender. (It is not necessary to turn pot roast or steak over during cooking.) When the beef is done, it can be removed from the pan and kept warm while the cooking liquid may be thickened or reduced, as desired.
Time Tables for Beef
Chuck, pot roast (shoulder, arm or blade), boneless: 2 ½ to 4 lb.; cook 2-3 hours.
Bottom Round, rump roast, boneless: 3 to 4 lb.; cook 2 ½-3 ¼ hours.
Brisket: 2 ½ to 3 ½ lb.; cook 2 ½-3 hours.
Bag It or Not?
The most fool-proof way to ensure the perfect pot roast every time is the Cooking Bag! Yep, that’s right, the cooking bag. There is no shame in using a cooking bag. Chefs all over the world use this process, especially when dealing with very tough cuts of meat.
Herbs and Seasonings
There is no right or wrong herb or seasoning to use but there are a few things to remember.
Fresh celery works better than celery salt or dried celery.
If adding garlic, bay leaves and/or whole allspice (anything that you need to remove before serving); use cheesecloth and make a sachet. Put the ingredients onto a square of 3-layer cheesecloth, gather up all sides and tie tightly with kitchen twine. Drop the sachet into the liquid and you are ready to season!