You can't rush a pot roast, but the tender, savory meat is well worth the wait. It's best to only plan to make a roast when you'll be home all day to babysit it, and leave extra time if you're inviting company because your roast will be ready when it tells you it's ready rather than when you tell it to be ready. On the bright side, the slow-cooking roast will make your home smell heavenly, and if you cook it in the oven, it will make your home warm and cozy in the dead of winter.
Cook a pot roast for three to five hours. It will be ready when it's absolutely tender and falling apart.
What Is a Pot Roast?
A pot roast is a braised beef dish that simmers while covered for hours. Beef chuck roast is an ideal cut of meat for pot roast because it is made up of tough muscle that breaks down into soft and succulent meat through the long, slow cooking process. The extended cooking time also allows the cut to absorb a tremendous amount of flavor from the cooking liquid, and it returns a world of flavor to the stew juice.
You can cook a pot roast on low heat on the stove top. Alternately, you can cook pot roast in the oven, but you'll still need to start it by searing the meat on the stove top. Either way, it should be covered to keep precious moisture from escaping and also to hold in the heat so the meat can cook from both the top and the bottom even if it isn't fully submerged.
Easy Pot Roast Recipe
Heat a heat-tolerant vegetable oil in a sturdy pan such as a Dutch oven and then sear the meat by cooking it for a few minutes, turning it often until it browns on all sides. Sprinkle it with salt and pepper as you sear it. Remove the meat from the pan, add a little more oil and then saute a diced onion and some root vegetables. Carrots, parsnips, potato and celeriac work especially well because they are hearty vegetables that stand up to long, slow cooking.
Lower the heat and deglaze the pan by adding about a cup of wine. This will loosen the caramelized meat bit from the bottom of the pan, which will add deep and complex flavor to your pot roast. Add cooking liquid until the meat is almost submerged. Stock works especially well, but water will do the trick too, especially if you flavor it with herbs such as rosemary, thyme and bay leaf along with some tomato if desired.
Bring the mixture to a gentle boil and then lower the heat and cover the pan. You can simmer it on the stove top or cook it in the oven at 300 degrees Fahrenheit. Either way, it will take about three hours for a 3-pound chunk of meat to soften and close to five hours for a 5-pound piece of meat. After about two hours, the meat may be soft enough to cut into smaller pieces, which will reduce the cooking time by increasing the surface area in direct contact with the heat.
Pot Roast Side Dishes
Rice is the ideal side dish for pot roast because it soaks up the savory liquid. Other grains such as barley also work well. Potatoes are a natural complement for meat, although you should avoid using them if you've included potatoes in your pot roast because this would be redundant. You also can't go wrong with a fresh loaf of hard-crusted bread, which is the perfect vehicle for sopping up every drop of sauce on your plate.
Devra Gartenstein is a self-taught professional cook who has authored two cookbooks: "The Accidental Vegan", and "Local Bounty: Seasonal Vegan Recipes". She founded Patty Pan Cooperative, Seattle's oldest farmers market concession, and teaches regular cooking classes.