I have avoided pot roast my entire adult life. I have never ordered it in a restaurant and had never cooked it. In the grocery store, my eyes would slide past the proffered roasts without a conscious thought. It’s not so much that I was choosing against pot roast, but more like pot roast didn’t exist for me, my eyes incapable of seeing it, my brain unequipped to register its existence. But on a recent trip to the butcher case at BJs MegaMonsterMart, something changed. While shopping for over-sized flaps of beef to cut into steaks at home, my eyes chanced upon a lowly pot roast. They locked onto the small roast, nestled between mammoth clods of Cryovac’d beef loin like a cheap pendant wedged into a buxom décolletage.
Why? I wondered. Why had I never cooked and eaten this thing? And then it hit me. I’d been suffering from PRSD for the last 25 years! Of course! Post Roast Stress Disorder! It all came back to me then: the dried out gray lump emerging from the shiny silver pot with the matte black handle, the pale canned green beans with their metallic tang, and the boiled potatoes, soft and nude and speckled with dried parsley.
I snatched the roast from the beefy cleavage and lit out for home and my kitchen. I would beat this terrible disorder. Things would be different this time.
Applying techniques and seasonings that I’ve used on prime rib, steaks and stews, I set upon the roast. The first question I addressed was if I should salt the meat first, aka dry brining. This is something I always do with steaks and prime rib. I liberally season the meat with kosher salt, wrap the meat tightly in cling film, and let it sit in the fridge for 24-48 hours. This allows the salt to be drawn deep into the meat, both flavoring and tenderizing it. The problem was, it was about 3pm, and I wanted to eat the pot roast that very night. So I opted to omit the dry brining on the assumption that 4-5 hours braising in a salty broth would obtain the same result. I made two roasts, a few days apart. The first I didn’t dry brine, the second I did. I think either way works equally well with this dish, so I wouldn’t worry too much about salting the meat first. Without further yammering from me, I present the finest pot roast you’ve ever tasted (okay you may be wondering how I can make that claim, since these were the first two pot roast I’ve eaten since I was a child. If you don’t believe me, trust in all the others who ate the roast on these two occasions). Make it for yourself and see. (Printer-friendly recipe at the bottom of the post)
The Finest Pot Roast – aka The Roast With the Most Boast
- 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 3-5 pound chuck steak
- 2 sweet onions, roughly chopped or sliced
- 3 carrots, sliced into small disks, or diced if you have the time
- 2 parsnips, peeled and diced
- 3 celery stalks, diced
- very small handful (about 4 pieces) dried porcini mushrooms
- 1 cup hearty red wine
- 1 tablespoon dried rosemary
- 2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
- 1 teaspoon dried thyme
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1 teaspoon paprika
- 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1/4 teaspoon chipotle powder (optional)
- 3-4 bay leaves
- 2 Berkley & Jensen Beef Bouillon Cubes (these provide the salt for the dish, and some extra flavoring. They are quite good!)
Preheat oven to 275 degrees Fahrenheit.
Heat a cast iron pot or dutch oven over medium high heat. When hot, add the vegetable oil. When the oil just begins to smoke, add the roast and brown on all sides. Really brown it well, as those brown bits add a ton of flavor. Remove roast from pot and set aside on a plate. Add onions and cook for a couple of minutes. Add carrots, parsnips, celery and mushrooms and cook for a few minutes more. Adjust heat to medium if things are getting too hot. Onions should be caramelized and show some char here and there. Add red wine, deglaze the pot and allow most of the wine to boil off. Return roast to the pot and fill with water until the roast is about 3/4 submerged. Add spices and bouillon cubes.
When the bouillon has dissolved, taste the broth. It should be pretty salty. Add 1 or 2 teaspoons of salt if needed. If you dry brined the meat, adding more salt won’t be necessary. The saltiness of the cooking liquid will diminish a bit as the roast cooks and absorbs some of the salt. Don’t worry about the liquid being too salty – you’re not making a stew.
Cook, covered, for about 2 hours. Uncover and cook another 1 1/2 – 2 hours for a 3lb roast, 2 1/2 – 3 hours for a 4lb roast and 3 – 3 1/2 hours for a 5lb roast. Turn the meat at least once during the uncovered cooking, so the browned top gets submerged. The roast is done when it is very tender and just falling apart.
Strain the cooking liquid and serve the meat au jus. If you want a more robust flavor from the juice, reduce it in a small saucepan before serving.
The results are unbelievable. I never thought pot roast could be an exciting meal, but now my family wants it every week, and I have no problem justifying and accommodating that request. Furthermore, I’m happy to say that I no longer suffer from PRSD. Enjoy!