Good Question: What's the Best Pot Roast Recipe?

Christina wants to try a pot roast, but she's a little stuck. Can you help her?

I would love to find a worthwhile pot roast recipe! All the recipes I can find include things like "can of mushroom soup", "envelope of instant onion soup mix", or "can of Coke". And I can't take it! I trust the knowledge and judgement of thekitchn.com — can someone out there help me out?

Christina, sure! No problem! Pot roast is one of the easiest, no-recipe dishes that we know. A pot roast is a classic braise. It's just beef (usually a slightly fatty, inexpensive cut of meat) browned in hot oil, then cooked very slowly in a covered pot along with a little liquid. With that basic template you can make any kind of pot roast you like. Here are some tips on good cuts of meat to use:

Braising: Best Cuts of Beef for Braised Dishes
Food Science: Why Tougher Meats Make Good Braises

We usually make our pot roast with a chuck roast or a brisket. We like to cook the brisket longer and shred it in its juices (yum yum). A chuck roast, on the other hand, is usually sliced across the grain. We also really like to make smaller, individual-sized pot roasts, browning smaller chunks of meat and plating and serving a whole mini-pot roast for each person.

Individual Pot Roasts with Thyme-Glazed Carrots
Andy's Chipotle-Porter Pot Roast
Friday Night Slow-Cooked Brisket and Onions
Beef Cheeks Braised in Red Wine with Orange Zest (pictured above)

Just remember the basic formula:
• Brown a hunk of good beef in hot oil. Brown it deeply for best flavor.
• Remove the beef and cook some onions, carrots, celery, garlic, or other root vegetables in the oil until softened.
• Add liquid (beer, stock, wine) and bring to a light simmer.
• Add the beef back, cover the pot, and cook on very low heat for several hours.

I prefer to cook it in the oven; the all-over heat seems to do good things. The next best is the slow cooker, in my opinion.

One final note of advice: read up on braising, where you can get more details on this, but remember never to cook your pot roast at too high of a heat. It will interrupt that slow melting cooking process and make your roast tough and stringy. Never let it boil; just cook at a long, slow, low heat.

Related: All braising posts at The Kitchn

(Image: John Kernick for Gourmet)