Top Tips From Home Cooks: How to Make the Best Pot Roast
Making a simple, old-fashioned pot roast is an accomplishment any cook can achieve. With just the right techniques, you can turn a cheap, tough piece of meat into meltingly tender comfort food you'd be proud to serve for family meals and dinner parties alike.
Even though the prep time is relatively quick, the hands-off cook time can take hours (depending on your cooking method). And if you make a big batch, you can eat it all week or freeze portions to heat and serve later. In fact, many cooks swear pot roast is even better the second day after all the flavors have time to mix and mingle.
I'll share tips for making the best pot roasts, plus recipes to try using several different cooking methods: Stovetop, oven, slow cooker, and pressure cooker (like an Instant Pot).
VIDEO: You might like to take a look to see how Julia makes her pot roast:
Tips from Home Cooks: How to Make the Best Pot Roast
1. Choose the Right Roast
It might surprise you, but the best pot roasts starts with the toughest cuts of meat.
- Chuck roast: Look for boneless chuck roast, chuck shoulder, blade roast, shoulder steak, chuck eye, or seven-bone roast.
- Round: Look for rump roast or bottom round.
- Brisket: Look for flat cut, flat half, and point half.
2. Pat-Dry the Meat
Use paper towels to remove surface moisture before you move on to seasoning and searing the meat. Drying the meat results in a better sear. Home cook Diane Vogel agrees, saying, "Only thing I'd suggest is patting the meat dry, a la Julia Childs before searing."
3. Season Before Searing
Even if your recipe doesn't call for it, rubbing the roast with salt and pepper (and other optional dried herbs and spices) before searing it adds extra flavor to the meat as well as to the finished dish.
"I made a rub of lemon pepper, garlic salt, pepper and paprika. I rubbed the seasonings on all sides of the roast. I also stuck 5 cloves of garlic in slits in the roast." — Jeri Davini
4. Give It a Serious Sear
You might be tempted to simply dump the roast in the pot and walk away, but searing the meat first will caramelize the natural sugars in the meat and brown the protein, resulting in the depth of flavor you want in a mouthwatering pot roast.
To sear meats, heat a small amount vegetable oil in the pot until it is shimmering. Add the pot roast and let it cook for several minutes without moving. When the meat lifts easily and has developed a deep brown crust, you can turn the roast to sear the other side. If your roast is thick, you can use tongs to hold it up while you sear the sides, too.
ECHO1272 says, "The more color you get on the sear, the more flavor your roast will have. A cast iron will get you a sear that no other pan can."
Heidi agrees: "Do NOT take shortcuts when searing the meat."
5. Sauté the Vegetables
Pot roast recipes often include chopped or diced onions, carrots, and celery that cook along with the roast to make a flavorful sauce. After searing the meat, remove it from the pot and add the vegetables. You might have to add a little oil if the pot is too dry. Sauté the vegetables, stirring occasionally, for 5 to 10 minutes to intensify their flavor.
6. No Dutch Oven? No Problem
Here's what worked for homecook MOLLE88: "I don't have a Dutch oven, so I just seared this on all sides in a frying pan, then put the roast in an 8x8 glass baking dish, covering very tightly. I think that baking this in a dish that the roast fits snugly into is another key component to keeping this roast moist."
"Make sure your roaster/Dutch oven has a tight fitting lid AND is sized for the roast. If the lid is loose or you use a roaster that holds a 25 lb turkey, the pot roast will turn out dry." — MuscleMan
7. Add Liquid...or Not
Some recipes deglaze the pot with liquid such as broth, wine, beer, tomato sauce, etc., and then add more liquid around the roast to create a braise. And some recipes don't add any extra liquid, preferring instead to let the roast create its own liquid. Either method makes for a tender pot roast; experiment with both and see what works for you. In either case, it's important to use a pot that has a tight-fitting lid so moisture does not escape during cooking.
Try these braised pot roasts made with added liquid:
Try these pot roasts made without added liquid:
8. Low and Slow is the Way to Go
Whether you cook your pot roast using a stovetop, oven, slow cooker, or pressure cooker method, you'll always get the most tender and flavorful results if you use low temperatures over a long period of time. That's what it takes to melt down the tough connective tissue in the meat until you can cut it with a fork.
"I've been making lousy pot roast for along time. I could never get it just right. Now I succeeded. Cooking time and temperature was my problem." — Oldguy
Try these different cooking methods:
9. Add Extra Herbs at the End
If you're adding a delicate leafy herb like parsley to your pot roast, stir it in when the pot roast has finished cooking, or simply top each serving with a sprinkle of freshly minced parsley.
What to Serve With Pot Roast
A classic comfort food like pot roast is best served over something that'll take up all that lovely sauce. If your pot roast recipe includes carrots and potatoes, you're pretty well set. But if you're looking for other options, here are a few favorites: