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I am a wife, mother and grandma who enjoys the many aspects of homemaking. A variety of interests and hobbies combined with travel keep me active. They reflect the importance of family, friends, home and good food.
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Sunday, January 13, 2013

Pot Roast

There is nothing better than enjoying a pot roast on a cold winter's day.  The beauty of a pot roast is a whole meal is made with very little effort.  The roast itself need not be thawed either depending on your cooking method.  Not only is there minimal prep, the house smells tantalizing as the roast cooks filling the air with mouth watering aromas.  A pot roast is a win, win regardless of how you cook it.

pot roast
Pot roast is a braised beef dish are generally the less tender cuts of beef like rump or chuck roast.  The slower cooking combined with liquid and vegetables help tenderize the meat.  The thing is a pot roast is about as old of the hills, appearing on our ancestors' tables eons ago and pot roast is still about one of the most frugal winter meals you can make.

There are several ways to cook a pot roast but first things first.  There are the basic ingredients you will need in addition to the roast.

  • meat - Choose a nice cut of beef, trimmed of excess fat.  This is one time you do want to trim the fat because you likely won't be defatting the gravy before serving.
  • vegetables - The most common additions for a pot roast are potatoes, onions and carrots.  Parsnips and mushrooms are good additions as is cabbage wedges.  There is no reason why you cannot add whole kernel corn, small pieces of corn on the cob or even rutabaga or squash.  If adding tender vegetables like sweet peas or broccoli, add them very close to the end of cooking or cook them separately to serve as a side dish.
  • liquid - The most common liquid used for a pot roast is water but you get better results using beef stock, tomato stock (tenderizer, flavour boost), red wine or beer.  
  • thickeners - The most common thickener is a cornstarch slurry however, you can use tapioca, wheat or arrowroot flour.  You can also choose to not thicken the gravy.
  • seasonings -  In general, you don't need a lot of seasonings to make a good pot roast.  I usually add garlic pepper or Canadian steak spice, a bay leaf, Worcestershire sauce and quite often browning sauce.
Next up is cooking methods.  Remember you are braising which means using some type of liquid.  That means you have a few pieces of kitchen equipment to work with.  At your disposal are: roasting pan in oven or outdoor grill, countertop oven, slow cooker and pressure cooker.  You can even use an aluminium foil packet on the grill.  All can give very good results.  By far, the pressure cooker is the quickest way to get a tender pot roast on the table but busy home-makers may prefer the slow cooker.
  • pressure cooker - A pressure cooker operates at 8 lb pressure (low) or 15 lb pressure (high) so food cooks fast and the pressure tenderizes tougher cuts of meat.  In general, a tender and juicy pot roast takes a total of 56 minutes on low or 30 minutes on high.  Browning the roast in the bottom of the pressure cooker before cooking will add both flavour and colour.  The roast need not be thawed just increase the cooking time.
  • roasting pan - The traditional roaster is the way most folks cook pot roasts in the oven or on the grill.  It is low cost, effective with good results but takes a longer cooking time.  The roast need not be thawed but if starting from frozen, you will need to increase the cooking time.  Start the prepared roast at 275°F in covered roasting pan adding root vegetables and mushrooms mid-way through cooking, add thickening slurry after removing vegetables and meat for serving.  Strain the gravy.
  • clay baker - I really love doing a small pot roast in the clay baker.  While it works pretty much the same as a roasting pan, it gives moister results.  The reason being is a clay baker is always soaked before using so moisture is high during the cooking process.
  • countertop roaster -  A countertop roaster is a bit more energy efficient and doesn't heat the kitchen like the oven does.  It does cook faster and at a lower temperature because there is a reduced volume.  Start cooking the prepared roast at 225°.  The roast need not be thawed. After the half-way mark for cooking add root vegetables and treat as you would using a roasting pan.  
  • Dutch oven - Traditionally a pot roast was cooked in a cast iron Dutch oven hung over the fire in the fireplace.  When we heated with wood and when camping, I cooked many a pot roast using a Dutch oven.  A cast iron Dutch oven gives wonderful results when cooking a pot roast.  It is used much like a roaster but cooked over wood fired heat.
  • slow cooker -  Newer slow cookers run a bit hotter than older models so do consider that.  In general it will take 4 to 6 hours cooking a pot roast in a slow cooker depending on the setting.  In this case, you do want to start with a thawed roast.  Essentially and unlike other pot roast cooking methods, everything except the slurry and tender vegetables are added at the same time then allowed to cook together for the entire period.  For best results, the roast should be browned before adding to the slow cooker for both colour and flavour.  

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