It’s that time of year…the weather’s turning cooler, the days are getting busier and your family dinners need to be simple and comforting. So today we are exploring the pot roast, one of America’s dinner traditions that fills our homes with savory aromas and warm family memories.
Pot roast is one of the simplest dishes you can prepare. Select a cut of beef, put it in a pot with aromatics, add liquid and simmer all day. This one cooking method offers an almost unlimited number of results. You just need a little bit of know-how and some creativity and you’re well on your way to a delicious one pot dinner.
Choosing Your Cut
When choosing the correct cut of meat, remember this one important rule: choose flavor. Tough, economy cuts from the extremities of the animal are most commonly used in slow-cooker recipes. But why choose cheaper cuts over expensive cuts of meat? The answer is surprisingly, flavor! As the animal lives out its life, walking and eating, all the muscles from the leg, shank, neck and chest get a workout. Since meat is muscle after all, the more developed the muscle becomes, the more developed the flavor becomes. There is a small sacrifice for all that flavor however. Although these muscles are flavorful, all that walking around all day does make the meat tough. If you were to cook these cuts medium-rare, you probably wouldn’t be happy with all the connective tissue and muscle fiber. Crock pot to the rescue! Thankfully, when you cook one of these not-so-tender cuts of meat over low heat in a moist environment, all that tough connective tissue turns into delicious, soft collagen. This leaves the meat falling apart and succulent, basting in its own juices.
So, what cut of meat is a good cut for a pot roast? That’s easy, ask your butcher! Every second of every day we evaluate and judge our beef, that’s what we do. A good butcher would love nothing more than to pass on his recommendations to the customer. Ask your butcher what cut of meat he would take home to cook for his family. Chances are he already has an answer to that question. Too many times as butchers we cut into a roast with our mouths watering thinking, “if this is still here at the end of the day, that’s my dinner!” We’re here to make your meal as amazing as possible, even if it means giving up our own!
Generally speaking there are quite a few cuts that would make for an acceptable pot roast, but only a handful that make the best slow-cooked-falling-apart-juicy cuts. Most of these come from the front, or chuck, of the animal. The chuck is a workhorse of a muscle group comprised of the shoulders, arms and neck. (Highlighted in yellowbelow) These are some of the most used muscles on the steer. Thankfully, they are also close enough to the vital organs to offer a good amount of “insulation” (that yummy fat and connective tissue that cooks down into rich flavor). Most notable in the chuck category are the chuck eye, arm roast, flat iron steak, brisket and shins.
For The Adventurous Foodie
There are other supremely excellent cuts for pot roasts on the rest of the steer as well – for the more adventurous foodies. If you master the basics then maybe, if you’re feeling brave, you could try short ribs, ox tails, cheek meat or beef knuckles. Yes, we said brave. There’s something adventurous about setting out to make braised beef cheeks.
So, come into our stores and ask us what we would recommend for an easy pot roast and you won’t wait very long for an answer. We already have our recommendation ready for you.
Here is a classic pot roast recipe, Sunday Pot Roast with Mashed Potatoes and Creamed Spinach.
Sunday Pot Roast
4 lbs beef chuck roast
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 sprigs fresh thyme
3 sprigs fresh rosemary
4 tablespoons olive oil
1 (8 ounce) can, whole, peeled tomatoes with juice
3 carrots, diced
1 large onion, diced
2 rib celery, diced
6 cloves garlic, peeled
1 cup of dry red wine
½ cup of store bought beef stock
Season the beef with Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper. In a heavy bottomed pan over medium high heat, heat the olive oil. Brown the beef on all sides until golden brown. Combine with tomatoes and their juice, carrots, onion and celery. Cook until vegetables are soft, about 15 minutes. Add the garlic, wine and beef broth, toss in rosemary and thyme sprigs and add enough water to cover roast. Bring to a simmer, cover pot partially. Cook for 3 to 4 hours or until very tender. When done, remove the meat from the liquid and set aside. Remove rosemary and thyme. Over medium heat reduce the liquid until thickened, season with salt and pepper. Slice beef and return it to the sauce to keep warm. This can be done a day in advance and reheated before serving.
5 lbs. Yukon gold potatoes, thoroughly cleaned and peeled
2 sticks of unsalted butter
Kosher salt to taste
Fresh ground black pepper
½ cup crème fraiche
½ cup milk
¼ cup coarsely chopped parsley leaves
¼ cup chopped chives
4 tablespoons of prepared horseradish
To prepare the mashed potatoes: place the potatoes in a pot and cover with cold water. Salt the water with 3 tablespoons of kosher salt. Bring to a boil and lower the heat to a simmer. Cook the potatoes until they are easily pierced with a knife. Drain the potatoes and place in a mixing bowl. Add the butter, salt, pepper, prepared horseradish, milk and crème fraiche. Mash together with a hand masher. Do not over-mix. Check for seasoning. Keep warm. Garnish with parsley and chives just before serving.
2 lbs. fresh spinach
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
1 onion, sliced
1 cup half and half
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
To prepare the spinach: put a medium sauce pan of salted water on the stove to boil. Prepare a bowl of ice water. Blanch the spinach in the boiling water for 30 seconds, or until just wilted, then plunge into the ice water. Drain and chop. In a saucepan over medium low heat, warm the oil and butter. Saute the onions until soft and fragrant. Add the cream, bring to a low simmer and reduce until it coats the back of a spoon, approximately 3 to 4 minutes. Toss in the spinach just to warm it. Season with salt and pepper and serve immediately.
What is your favorite pot roast recipe?