Chris Cooks

The Perfect, Traditional Pot Roast

December 17, 2014  —  Written by Chris 

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I think every home cook goes through a period of complexity. I partly blame Pinterest, but I’m sure there’s something deeper, too – superiority complex or need for change or something like that. I’ve gone through my own period of complexity, thinking that every dish needed to be new or different. And don’t get me wrong, I still enjoy trying new things and playing around with flavors. But lately, I’ve found myself aching for simplicity. Not just with my cooking, but life in general.

Long-time readers know that blogging is not “what we do.” It’s a side-gig. Jules focuses on being a mom (and rocks the house at it, I might add) while taking a few marketing and writing jobs on the side. I spend my days as a mild-mannered marketing guy for a home care research firm. The end of the year typically slows for me at work, but 2014 has proven to be different. Last week I found myself working from 7am until midnight several days in a row, trying to finish projects before members of my team head out of town to spend Christmas with their loved ones. We built a baby gate on Saturday, and while the gate itself was quick and simple, finding the right type of boards required a lot of driving between small Idaho towns and ate up most of my day. It was just one of those weeks where you feel like your time is spent fulfilling demands, and those weeks are exhausting. You know how that goes.

So Saturday night, after the girls were in bed and Jules was on her way there, I decided to go to the store and buy a few things to make a pot roast for Sunday dinner. I don’t know why pot roast specifically, though I’m sure it has to do with simplicity. A lot of recipes nowadays go too far in their quest for uniqueness, I feel. I honestly love the fact that, after a long and difficult week, my appetite was begging for simplicity. This recipe is exactly what I needed, and maybe it’ll be what you need at some point, too.

The Perfect, Traditional Pot Roast

This is enough for 6 people. Here’s what you need:
• 3lb Pot roast
– quick note on choosing a roast. it’s important you pick something with a lot of marbling. when you cook a pot roast, it cooks for a long time – well above the 165 “well done” point. if you use a lean roast, you’ll be serving jerky for dinner. the fat slowly melts as the roast cooks and keeps it moist and tender. my favorite cut for pot roast is the chuck (pictured above).
• 
12 red new potatoes
• 3 leafy celery stalks, finely chopped
– I like the inner stalks for pot roast because the stalk itself is slightly bitter, but the leafy parts have a more fresh flavor. the combination is perfect with a slow cooked beef roast.
• 2 large carrots, peeled and quartered into 2-3 inch lengths
• 1 onion (I used white), diced
• 2 sprigs of fresh rosemary (you can use dried, but it’ll be a lot better with fresh)
• 1 tsp dried fennel seed
• 1 tsp dried oregano
• 1/4 tsp dried thyme (careful with this – thyme can easily become “too much thyme”)
NOT PICTURED
• 2 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
• 1 quart beef stock
• 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
• 2 Tbsp tomato paste
• kosher salt & black pepper
• 2 Tbsp cooking oil

The first thing you do with any pot roast is sear it. You’ll hear people often say this is to “lock in the juices,” but that’s not correct. At least not for pot roast. Searing locks in juices when you’re using a dry heat cooking method like roasting. But a pot roast cooks in liquid, often past the point of 200 degrees. No amount of searing is going to lock juices in from that. As mentioned above, the key to a moist, tender pot roast is choosing the right cut of meat.

Why the searing, then? Flavor. Texture a little, too, but mostly flavor. You sear the meat in the pan first, then you cook your onions in the drippings from the beef, building flavors all over the place. A good sear sets your pot roast up for success.

Preheat your oven to 300. Then heat a decent sized pot (one with a lid – I prefer cast iron for pot roast because of how well it holds heat) on medium heat. Before searing, pat the roast down with a generous amount of salt and pepper. Not completely coated, of course. But for a 3lb roast, you’ll use 1-1.5 Tbsp of kosher salt. Once the pot is heated, add your cooking oil and sear the meat well on each side.

The Perfect, Traditional Pot Roast

Once seared, remove the roast and set aside. Kick the heat down to medium low and add the chopped onion to the oil. Add the dried spices and garlic, and sauté for 5 minutes or so, stirring things around frequently to prevent burning. Add the beef stock, balsamic vinegar and tomato paste and whisk together. Bring to a simmer and let it boil for another 5 minutes.

The next step is optional, but I recommend it. After the onions simmer in the stock for awhile, I use my immersion blender to blend it all together until smooth. The reason I do this is because I think it creates a more velvety sauce. But if you don’t have an immersion blender, you don’t have to do this. The flavor will be the same.

The Perfect, Traditional Pot Roast

Taste the sauce and add more salt and pepper if necessary. You’ll know it’s seasoned properly when it tastes like it could pass off as a soup. Next, add your chopped celery to the cooking liquid, then your beef roast, carrots, rosemary, and potatoes. Cover the pot with a lid and put it in the oven for 5 hours. Before going in the oven:

The Perfect, Traditional Pot Roast

After:

The Perfect, Traditional Pot Roast

The smell of rosemary will reach every corner of your house, in the best way imaginable. The potatoes are silky, the carrots tender, and the beef… well, it will take you home.

The Perfect, Traditional Pot Roast

As Jules can tell you, the way of taking care of people that I’m best at, is through food. I like cooking meals for people, and boosting their spirits. We all need it from time to time, and it just so happened that the person I needed to cook this for this weekend, was me. And though I can’t be there to cook for you and your family, I hope you’ll allow us to come to your home, through this recipe, so we can spend a meal together.

Happy Holidays, friends. And Merry Christmas.

Print Recipe
5 from 3 votes

The Perfect, Traditional Pot Roast

This is a classic, traditional pot roast. It's easy to make, but the flavors are deep and rich. This is not the dish you make when you want to show your friends and family what a good cook you are. This is the dish you make when you want to show your friends and family that you love them.
Prep Time15 mins
Cook Time5 hrs
Total Time5 hrs 15 mins
Servings: 6

Ingredients

  • 3 lb Chuck roast
  • 12 red new potatoes
  • 3 leafy celery stalks chopped
  • 2 large carrots peeled and quartered into 2-3in lengths
  • 1 white onion diced
  • 2 cloves of garlic chopped
  • 2 sprigs of fresh rosemary
  • 1 tsp dried fennel seed
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1/4 tsp dried thyme
  • 1 quart beef stock
  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 2 Tbsp tomato paste
  • 2 Tbsp cooking oil
  • kosher salt & black pepper

Instructions

  • Preheat the oven to 300. Heat a medium-sized cast iron pot (one that has a lid) over medium heat on the stove.
  • Sprinkle the roast generously with salt and pepper. Add the cooking oil to the heated pot and sear the meat on all sides. Remove from the roast from the pot and set aside and reduce the heat to medium-low.
  • Add the onions, fennel, oregano, thyme, and garlic to the pot and sauté for about 5 minutes.
  • Add the beef stock, vinegar and tomato paste to the pot. Bring to a simmer and cook for another 5 minutes.
  • Using an immersion blender, blend the liquid until smooth and silky.
  • Add the chopped celery to the liquid. Then add the roast, carrots, fresh rosemary, and potatoes.
  • Cover with a lid and place in the 300 degree oven for 5 hours, until the meat is fork tender and falls apart.

What do you think?

  1. Aish says:

    Thank you so much for this Chris. I love cooking for everyone but myself. I’ll try this out. Love you guys!

  2. Gigi says:

    5 stars
    Slow glad I caught the recipes round up. This was a complete winner with 4 kids and the hubs! I miss read the time commitment first time around so we actually had to refrigerate and eat it the next day but it was so goooooood!!!

  3. Jennifer says:

    5 stars
    Hands down, the best roast I have ever eaten. Thank you for sharing!!!

  4. Claire says:

    5 stars
    I read this recipe years ago but it was a silly detail like not having a proper casserole dish that stopped me from trying it. So last week I bought said pot (3years later…?!) and made it for my husband and youngest son today. They thought it was simply amazing, so a real winner from us. 50% of us are vegetarians and I’ve got to say I was so jealous watching them tuck in and make lots of appreciating sounds and comments whilst they ate. So thank you again 3 years late :-)

  5. George says:

    Good idea! I like make it at home.Thanks so much for the recipe.

  6. E says:

    I made this last weekend and it was awesome even though I had about 1/2 the ingredients/tools. Instead of celery I used turnips and potatoes. I didn’t have any tomato paste, but I added some ketchup. Only had fennel seeds and rosemary and no immersion blender. But I did whip out my Dutch oven which I’m proud to own haha! I think I messed up by adding some extra water because I didn’t think I had enough broth (thought the potatoes had to be completely immersed). And guess what: it was still delicious! You were right about the house smelling amazing the whole day! I’m excited to have left overs for the whole week. Thanks for the inspiration!! Def. gonna try this again.

    • Chris says:

      I love hearing about substitutions made on the fly. A lot of people ask me if one thing can be substituted for another. The answer is always “yes.” You can substitute anything for anything else. Will it taste the same? Definitely not, but it doesn’t HAVE to! You can still make a great meal with what you have.

      Way to think on your toes, and glad you enjoyed it. :)

  7. OMG this is the best and the most delicious POT ROAST . I will try to make it for my family.

  8. Deb D. says:

    Thank you for posting this wonderful recipe. I made this on Wed and served it on Thursday to my parents who were having dinner for the first time at our new (and first) house. We all loved it. I did add about 50% more balsamic vinegar, tomato paste and seasonings than you had listed above because I tend to like things a bit more robust. We had just a little leftover to snack on this morning and it was even better than it had been yesterday. Thanks for the tip about using an immersion blender. That’s genius. My mother asked for the recipe and we will definitely be making again. Thanks again and Merry Christmas!

  9. Liz says:

    I’ve got this in the oven right now. Thanks so much for the recipe.

  10. Lisa says:

    Prepping the ingredients to make this for my husband, who is an unabashed pot roast lover. Please keep the recipe posts coming. They are invariably delicious but also very approachable, which is not always an easy combination to find. Thanks!

  11. Look really delicious. I’m hungry now and when I saw your article, I got to find something to eat right after.

  12. Monika says:

    Perfect timing! I was shopping at Costco and got two hunks of chuck and made this yesterday. I must tell you that it was excellent! Ours is a house that doesn’t like pot roast much but the vinegar and fennel give this so much depth that, along with the home made bread, everyone was smacking their lips and sopping up the delicious, thick broth. Thank you for sharing! I’m making the second hunk of beef on Sunday, for the in-laws.

  13. Kathy M says:

    Thank you for this recipe. We are having one of those kinds of weeks as well. Many blessings to your family!!

  14. Alison says:

    Chris,
    I am glad your voice started appearing here. :) Merry Christmas to you.

  15. Heather says:

    A very much improved take on my stand-by pot roast recipe. I’ll be making this soon. This was a very thoughtful post – happy holidays to your family!

  16. Aimee says:

    This is so great and perfect timing. I am going to make this over the holidays! Have a special Christmas with your family and thanks for keeping up such a wonderful Blog.

  17. Nicole says:

    Thank you for explaining so well just why you love this recipe, Chris; I’m really looking forward to making it. Merry Christmas :)

  18. Brandilyn says:

    I don’t think we told you on Sunday night just how good this was–as we were driving home we were both like “Holy crap that was good roast. Did we tell Chris how amazing that was??” So thank you for sharing your amazing comfort food with us. It is so great for us to have friends (who aren’t students/leaving in the foreseeable future!) to share good food, laughs, and lucrative business opportunities with ;) We’ll cook for you next time!!

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