Pot roast holds a place in Americana. Walking into grandma's house on Sunday to the smell of a pot roast slow cooked all day is a memory many Americans share.
The pot roast – or Yankee pot roast, as it is sometimes called due to its origination in the New England states – is an American dish with European roots. Originally a French dish called boeuf a la mode, it was heavily influenced by German and Jewish immigrants, morphing into the classic that we know today.
The popularity of pot roast rose due to its practicality. The longer cooking time allowed for the use of inexpensive cuts of meat such as chuck, brisket or round. The toughness of the meat is better suited to the longer cooking times. Seasonal vegetables, along with herbs, made for a delicious meal that was easy to prepare and budget-friendly, allowing grandma to feed the family inexpensively.
What makes a pot roast a pot roast is the method of cooking. Before baking, the meat is seared, allowing for improved flavor, and then cooking in one piece. The roast is cooked in a covered pot and then served with gravy prepared from the juices.
The traditional cookware for making a pot roast is a Dutch oven, which is a heavy cooking pot with a lid. This versatile cookware allows for cooking the meat on the stove top and then moving it to the oven, all in the same pot. If a Dutch oven isn't available, any covered baking pan or slow cooker will do. Ensuring the roast is covered during baking is critical for its tenderness.
Here's one version of the iconic pot roast to try.
Grandma's Pot Roast
• Salt and Pepper
• 3 to 5-pound chuck roast
• 3 tablespoons olive oil
• 2 onions, peeled and quartered
• 6 – 8 carrots cut into 2-inch pieces
• 1 cup red wine or beef broth
• 3 cups beef broth
• 2 – 3 sprigs fresh rosemary
• 2 – 3 spring fresh thyme
Preheat oven to 275 degrees F or turn a slow cooker on to medium heat.
Salt and pepper the roast.
In a large pot, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. When the olive oil is shimmering, add the halved onions to the pot, browning on both sides. Remove and set aside.
Add carrots to the pot until slightly browned, stirring so they do not burn. Remove and set aside.
Once the onions and carrots have finished browning, add more olive oil to the pot. When the oil is shimmering, add meat and sear for about a minute on every side. Remove the roast and add 1 cup of red wine or beef broth to the pot and whisk, scraping the remnants of the browned meat and vegetables to create a reduction.
In a large, oven-safe pan or slow cooker, add the reduction, beef, carrots, onions and fresh herbs. Add enough broth to cover the meat halfway. Cover the meat and cook for approximately three hours for a 3-pound roast or four hours for a 4- to 5-pound roast.
Reserve the liquid and add some flour to thicken into a gravy.
Serve the roast with vegetables and gravy.