What is the secret to a great pot roast recipe?
Is it the meat? Is it the vegetables? Is it the cooking time? Well, yes, all those things are important, but the one thing that will put your pot roast over the top, all other things equal, is putting a good seared crust on the meat before you braise it.
Pot roast almost ready for the oven (just needs liquid)
This is a step that is skipped by most home cooks. Sure, you can still make a really good pot roast if you start with a nice big chuck roast and you have some fresh, aromatic vegetables like carrots, celery and onion in the pot, and you use fresh thyme and oregano instead of dried herbs. Using fresh chopped garlic and a rich, delicious beef stock for the liquid helps too. If you want an extra special pot roast however, the step that will put you over the edge is to liberally season your roast with salt and pepper, heat up a non-stick skillet over medium-high heat, add two tablespoons of canola oil and sear each side and edge of that roast until it's a crusty, dark brown caramelized color. The heat and browing process draws out the natural sugars from the meat. It's the sugars that cause the "browning". This adds an extra layer of richness that most pot roasts simply don't have.
Browning a pot roast
Something else you can do to improve your pot roast dinner is to deglaze your roast pan with some stock or red wine after browning the roast, reduce the water out, reduce the heat to medium, then melt two tablespoons of butter into the pan, add two tablespoons of flour, and stir occasionally until the mixture turns rich and medium brown. About 5 minutes. Save this "rue" to make a gravy with your pot roast juices after the roast is done and you'll have a great finish to your dinner. The gravy is great over any type of potato too. You can even add the potatoes into your roast pot, but make sure you add extra salt because potatoes will suck the salt right out of your roast liquid and make the whole pot taste bland otherwise.
Brown the pot roast edges
For me, the method to cooking a pot roast is to bring it up to a low simmer on the stove top, cover and cook it until it falls apart with a fork. For a big roast, that's simmering for 3 hours or longer. For a smaller roast, 2 1/2 hours should be long enough. You can also shove the pan with a lid in a 250 degree oven and leave it in all day long.
There's a million ways to vary your own pot roast recipes. You can add fresh, skinned and seeded tomatoes to the pot, mushrooms, sherry and/or fresh rosemary, or you can dump in a bunch of wine. The only real "rule" to pot roast is to not let the pot run out of liquid and to cook it long enough for the meat to become tender.
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