Recipe Review

I Tried Alton Brown’s Nontraditional Pot Roast and It Surprised Me

published Apr 5, 2020
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alton brown's pot roast in foil covered pan
Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Food Styling: Brett Regot; Design: The Kitchn

Alton Brown, one of the most popular Food Network personalities of all time, is known for his unique, scientific approach to recipes. So while I expect his food to be somewhat out of the ordinary, nothing could have prepared me for his pot roast recipe.

Frankly, I’ve never seen any pot roast recipe like it. It involves cumin, tomato juice, cocktail olives, and raisins — and the whole thing is cooked in a giant foil pouch. Honestly, the ingredient list sounded more like what you’d find in a box on Chopped than in a classic all-American pot roast.

But hey — if Alton had discovered that these were the secrets to a superior pot roast, who was I to judge? I was skeptical, sure, but I couldn’t wait to try it out for myself.

Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Food Styling: Brett Regot; Design: The Kitchn

How to Make Alton Brown’s Pot Roast

You’ll begin by setting a large frying pan over high heat. While the pan heats up, rub a 2-pound chuck roast with salt and cumin. Sear the roast in the hot, dry pan until browned on both sides, then remove it from the pan. Next, add the vegetable oil, onions, and garlic and cook until the onion is softened. Add the tomato juice, vinegar, olives, and raisins, and bring everything to a boil before reducing the liquid by half. 

Next, you’ll create a large pouch with aluminum foil that the roast can fit into. Add some of the braising liquid, then the roast, followed by the remainder of the liquid. Seal the pouch and wrap in another layer of foil, then cook for 3 to 3 1/2 hours in a 200˚F oven until fork-tender. After resting the pouch for half an hour, drain the liquid into a measuring cup and add the remaining olives and raisins. Puree with an immersion blender until smooth. Slice the meat and serve with the sauce poured overtop.

Credit: Alexis de Boschnek

My Honest Review of Alton Brown’s Pot Roast

I’ll admit that I was ready to write this one off after looking at the ingredient list. But I’m happy to report that I could not have been more wrong! While this certainly didn’t taste like your typical pot roast, it was really good, toeing the line between sweet and spiced.

Though untraditional, the olives added brininess and texture, and the raisins added a little pop of sweetness. The acidity of the tomato juice helped offset the fattiness of the roast, while the balsamic lended an almost syrupy sweetness.

While most pot roast recipes are substantial on their own, I’d recommend making sides to go along with this one as the focus is really on the meat. The only real downside for me was the amount of aluminum foil needed to create the pouch for the roast to braise in. Next time I would scrap the pouch method and instead just place foil on top of the baking dish. 

Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Food Styling: Brett Regot

If You’re Making Alton Brown’s Pot Roast, a Few Tips

  1. Read through the recipe first. This is always good practice, but especially here — there aren’t many details in the way of timing, and reading through it first will help you know what’s coming next. 
  2. Prepare for some smoke. The roast gets seared in a dry pan (no fat is added), which smoked up my entire apartment. I’d recommend turning on your stovetop’s fan, and reducing the heat to medium as necessary.
  3. Add more acidity. Adding 1/2 cup more tomato juice will help cut the sweetness of the roast. Alternatively, finish the dish with a squeeze of lemon juice before serving.
  4. Cook the roast for longer. The recipe called for a 3 1/2 hour cook time, but it took me closer to 5 hours to get to a place where the beef was fork-tender. Even then, I wish I had braised it longer. 
  5. Add more braising liquid to the sauce. Try to add the majority of the braising liquid to the sauce to make it really smooth. Only a few spoonfuls will yield too chunky of a sauce. 

Overall Rating: 7/10