I’ve been on a pot roast making jag for the last two months.
When my children were young I made pot roast regularly — the very quick way. I put a chuck roast in a Crock-Pot, sprinkled it with onion soup mix, added water, potatoes, and carrots and let it cook all day. It was good enough, but apparently not memorable. I know this because once my children moved out, I forgot all about pot roasts.
In January, I visited the newly opened Bare Bones Butcher in The Nations in Nashville. I told Wesley Adams, one of the owners, that I wanted meat for a pot roast. He gave me a list of cuts that would work, and we settled on the classic chuck roast, cut from the shoulder of a cow. The meat at Bare Bones comes from locally raised livestock who graze on grasses (“pasture-fed”) until a few months before slaughter when grains are added to their diet to bulk them up (“grain-finished”).
When I got home, I realized how much I didn’t know about cuts of meat. I found this video online that was produced by Bon Appétit. It helped me feel better informed.
I brought the meat home, browsed through my cookbooks, came up with a cooking plan, and made my first pot roast in perhaps five years, sans onion soup mix. It was delicious!
To write a reproducible and tasty recipe, I had to make a lot more pot roasts. I bought subsequent chuck roasts at a nearby Kroger. I asked the butcher to show me a nice looking chuck roast, and he picked this one.
Meats used for pot roasts are generally more fibrous than other cuts and need to cook slowly, with low heat, and in a moist environment, to break down the connective tissue between the muscles. Cooked in this way, the meat comes out well done, has beautiful flavor, and fall-apart tenderness.
Take a look at these vintage charts to see the meat cuts of a cow.
Yield: Serves 6
3 tablespoons olive oil
6-8 cloves garlic, smashed
1 large onion (12 ounces, about 2½ cups), rough chopped
3-4 pound chuck roast
salt and McCormick garlic pepper
1 cup dry red wine (omit for Whole30)
2 cups beef broth
5-8 stems thyme
3-5 stems rosemary
4-5 fragrant bay leaves
2½-pounds total of carrots, turnips, and gold potatoes
Add more salt to taste, if needed.
Preheat oven to 300º.
Wash the root vegetables. Peel the onion and roughly chop it. Take the garlic cloves, smash them with a meat mallet, and remove the skins.
Add olive oil to a heavy-bottomed, oven-proof pot. Warm the oil and add the onion and garlic. Sauté mixture for 10 minutes on medium heat until translucent and lightly browned. Add herbs, stir and sauté for one more minute. Use a slotted spoon to remove the onions, garlic, and herbs to a small bowl. Set aside.
While the onion is cooking, prep the meat. Rub approximately one teaspoon each of salt and garlic pepper on each side of the roast. If desired, tie the meat using four feet of cotton string. Set aside while you finish cooking the onion mixture.
Once you have removed the onion mixture from the pot, turn the heat up on the burner, put the exhaust fan on, and add the roast to the oil-coated pot. Brown the roast quickly on all sides for a total of about two minutes. Please note: in some of these pictures I tied the roast and in others I didn’t. Tying makes it easier to turn the roast over and to remove it from the pot.
Remove the roast from the pot, add wine, and deglaze the pan using a wooden spoon to dislodge the small pieces of meat and onion that may remain.
Add the beef broth and heat until liquids are hot. Add back the onion and herb mixture and the meat to the pot. Do not boil the meat in the broth. Cover the pot and cook in the oven for 2 hours.
Isn’t this beautiful?!
Meanwhile, prep the root vegetables.
If the vegetables are fresh, I wash and scrub them, without peeling. If the skin is thick, I peel them. Cut veggies into two-inch dice. The addition of unpeeled turnips bumps up the flavor. Set veggies aside.
When the roast has cooked for 2 hours, remove it from the oven. Turn it over (easier to do when it is tied) and add the root vegetables. Poke the vegetables into the liquid. Set timer for 1 hour.
After the roast has cooked for a total of 3 hours remove the pot from the oven. Taste the broth to see if it needs more salt. Let rest until ready to serve.
When ready to serve, remove meat to a cutting board. This next step is optional, but one I always do now that I’ve tried it: pour juice from the pot into a fat-separator and set aside while you trim and slice the roast.
I often trim and remove the visible chunks of fat before slicing.
Remove the herb stems from the vegetables in the pot.
Arrange the vegetables around the meat on the platter. Pour some of the defatted juice over the meat. Put the extra juice in a gravy bowl and serve on the side. The broth is good enough to sip!
Serve with a salad and cornbread, to sop up the lovely broth.
Other Good Options for Dinner:
Yummy Shepherd’s Pie
Judy’s Mom’s Meatloaf
Rachelle’s Italian Sausage, Onions, and Peppers
Chicken Cacciatore or Hunter’s Chicken
Brooks’s Pork Tenderloin with the Most Amazing Marinade
Lemony Grilled Chicken Breast
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