Pot roast, mashed potatoes and gravy, green beans, and buttery dinner rolls. If someone mentions going home to Mama’s for the weekend, your mind just might conjure up an image, and the delectable aroma, of a plate of this homemade goodness, complete with a helping of your favorite fruit cobbler. But even if you can’t always go back home, you can recreate those same tastes for your own family. Read on for a few tips and you will soon be cooking a pot roast that is just as tender and juicy as the one Mama serves.
Select the Meat
Simply put, a pot roast is a whole piece of meat cooked slowly by braising it in liquid. The cuts of meat used for pot roasts have less fat than steaks, and this low-and-slow method tenderizes the meat fibers and can turn a tough piece of meat into a fork-tender delicacy. You can choose from chuck, rump, bottom round, and even brisket. If you can’t decide which cut is best, ask the butcher in your grocery store for help. Remember that leftover pot roast is fabulous in sandwiches or stirred into soups, so don’t be afraid to buy a bigger cut of meat than you think you will need.
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Season and Brown the Meat
Many experienced cooks can fix a pot roast with their eyes closed - seasoning, browning, adding just the right amount of liquid without ever looking at a recipe. However, if you are trying to perfect your pot roast-making skills, it is best to follow a recipe, like this slow-cooker Beer Braised Pot Roast or this Zesty Pot Roast, which makes enough for three meals. Most recipes will tell you to season the meat first; you can use a simple blend of salt and pepper, or bump up the flavor by adding spices and aromatics. Your recipe may instruct you to sprinkle flour on both sides of the roast. Browning the meat is often the next step. The high heat used during browning will caramelize the sugars and proteins in the meat, resulting in a rich flavor. Again, if your recipe doesn’t tell you to do this, don’t worry about it.
WATCH: Make-Ahead Mashed Potatoes
Ready for the Pot
At this point (because you are following your recipe, right?) you know whether you are using a slow cooker, Dutch oven, or a heavy, deep skillet with lid on the stovetop. If using a slow cooker, you really can “fix it and forget it” and come home later in the day to a succulent, tender pot roast. If using a stovetop skillet, you need to pay a little more attention, making sure it doesn’t cook dry. Regardless of your method, now is the time to add your liquid. You can use anything from beef stock or broth, wine, strong coffee, tomato juice, Coca-Cola, even a packet of instant soup mix dissolved in hot water. If you are using a slow cooker, vegetables are usually added at this time. For an oven or stovetop pot roast, add vegetables, such as potatoes, carrots, and onions, about an hour before the meat is done to keep them from getting mushy.