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4 easy steps to great pot roast every time!

Updated on December 3, 2008

Fork tender pot roast

How to make great pot roast

Nothing beats the homey mouthwatering aromas of a pot roast percolating in the oven on a crisp day…permeating the house with the promise of a great, succulent and fall apart tender meal to come! Unfortunately, too many pot roasts end up disappointing with a watery sauce, dry overcooked meat, and a flavor that doesn't live up to the promise of that aroma.

Here are four secrets to great pot roast every time, regardless of the recipe you're using.

4 Secrets to great pot roast

1 choose the right cut of meat

For a pot roast--a truly great pot roast--you need to skip right over those expensive, lean and tender offerings at the butcher counter and head straight to the cheapest, gnarliest and scariest looking hunk of meat that you can find (which is great, as these cuts generally retail for next to nothing, and these are the cuts that really shine in a long slow pot roast braise)!

Firstly, these very well worked muscles tend to have the best meaty flavor, and secondly, because they are so full of collagen (the stuff that makes it very chewy if cooked quickly) they will make a rich and thickened sauce with no need for additional thickeners like flour or cornstarch.

Over long slow cooking collagen dissolves into gelatin, which is a natural thickener, and also very rich tasting. Lean meats without collagen tend to become very dry in a long braise, and also do little to thicken the sauce.

Try cuts from the upper shoulder (chuck) the brisket, the skirt area or the bottom round. If in doubt, look for lots of scary looking connective tissue, and look for the cheapest stuff on offer!

2 Brown it well

There is an enzymatic reaction called the maillard reaction that occurs when meat is cooked over a high temperature. You need to really pre fry that meat well to get a rich and deep brown all over before adding liquid, as once you add liquid the temperatures can never get high enough to brown the meat.

Take your time, and in your heaviest Dutch oven or cast iron, slowly sear that meat all over until browned in every corner and crevice. Making a pot roast is truly effortless hands-free cooking, and it really pays to spend 20 minutes or so taking your time with this step.

4 Don't add too much liquid

Whether using water, stock, beer or wine, this is not a stew it's a braise, and you don’t want to dilute the taste of the rich gravy with too much liquid. Start with about 1 cup or so, and you can always add more if needed later.

4 Cook it slow and cook it covered!

Nothing will dry out a pot roast faster than a heavy boil or a steady stream of steam escaping from the pot. You want to use a very heavy cooking pot, a Dutch oven or heavy ceramic works great for slow pulsing radiant heat and you should never have your oven set higher than 350, and lower than this is even better if you’re not in a rush!

The heavenly rich taste of a great pot roast occurs as a result of gentle steam rising to the lid, condensing and drip/basting back over the meat. You need to have a very tight fitting lid to get this effect, and if you have steam escaping, the flavor will disappoint, and you'll also dry out the meat (no basting!)

If you're lid isn't tight enough, use foil to crimp a good seal on before closing the lid.

Great pot roast every time!

Follow these four easy steps, and you will have a heavenly pot roast awaiting you every time!

making pot roast


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    • profile image 5 years ago

      how long do you need to cook it??

    • profile image

      Ornursemarcy 5 years ago

      Finally! Now I know what I have been doing wrong. Many thanks for these tips!

    • YourSmartKitchen profile image

      YourSmartKitchen 6 years ago from Reno, NV

      Truly nothing beats a pot roast cooked in a cast iron! It's one of my grandmother's secret tools to her fabulously delicious beef pot roast, too. A very useful hub.Voted up.

    • saif113sb profile image

      saif113sb 6 years ago

      Great information. useful hub. Thanks

    • John D Lee profile image

      John D Lee 7 years ago

      Hi Mama-B,

      yes, you brown the meat real well before hand, deglaze the pan and scrape up all the tasty bits that have stuck to the pan and then transfer the whole lot to your crockpot for slow cooking.

    • profile image

      Mama__B 7 years ago

      I still use the crockpot. But I do brown the meat first and deglaze the pan beforehand. Going to do that this weekend, as a matter of fact.

    • joaniemb profile image

      joaniemb 7 years ago from New York

      When I was young my Mom cooked a pot roast just like this and it sure was delicious, the aroma in the house made your mouth water. Today I resort to a crock pot but no more after reading this thanks for sharing. Off to buy a dutch oven thanks again.

    • profile image

      jlc 8 years ago

      What about using un-polished stoneware?

    • WriteAngled profile image

      WriteAngled 8 years ago from Abertawe, Cymru

      Thanks, JDL, I'll keep an eye open for one.

    • John D Lee profile image

      John D Lee 8 years ago

      Hi WriteAngled,

      Firstly, I love your pen-name, very witty!

      The most important thing is a tight fitting lid, and so provided you have a good cover, a stick pot should work fine. That being said, a heavier pot, like a cast iron, gives you a nice radiant heat as well...


      Bottom line - you're fine with the stock pot - but next time you see a good heavy enamel or cast iron lidded casserole dish on sale - think about picking one up!

    • WriteAngled profile image

      WriteAngled 8 years ago from Abertawe, Cymru

      I've always selected the leanest joints going, so that's one reason my pot roasts have been a disaster. What about using a stock pot, which is what I did? Is that a no no too?

    • John D Lee profile image

      John D Lee 9 years ago

      Good Luck!

      Let us know how it went

    • profile image

      Joan 9 years ago

      I am gonna try this today. I will let you know how it turns out. Wish me luck!

    • profile image

      Joan 9 years ago

      I am gonna try this today. I will let you know how it turns out. Wish me luck!

    • Blogger Mom profile image

      Blogger Mom 9 years ago from Northeast, US

      Sounds great, can't wait to try it!

    • Marye Audet profile image

      Marye Audet 10 years ago from Lancaster, Texas

      by the way..I did this last week and, altho I usually do make a great potroast, this one was superb. thanks!

    • John D Lee profile image

      John D Lee 10 years ago

      Yeah, when it tastes as good as it smells you've really got something amazing!

    • raymondphilippe profile image

      Raymond Philippe 10 years ago from The Netherlands

      Wow. That looks tasty!

    • John D Lee profile image

      John D Lee 10 years ago

      Cutting your own meat...I like it!!!

    • Marye Audet profile image

      Marye Audet 10 years ago from Lancaster, Texas

      YAY! I just got a 20 lb hunk of pot roast on sale for 1.49 a lb and planned on cutting it I will be sure to leave some nice size roasts and check this out..Thanks!