Pot roast has become a staple on the dinner table and for good reason. For the cook, it’s economical, easy to prepare, a one pot dish, and does not require a lot of watching. For the diner, it’s simply delicious and epitome of comfort food. Who doesn’t enjoy the rich flavor of beef slowly cooked in a rich gravy served alongside luscious vegetables? Pot roast is a favorite of everyone. Cooking a pot roast requires a long period of stewing and braising. For this reason, a chuck roast is the best option.
Beef is one of the easiest and most forgiving meats to cook. Because of its intramuscular fat content, beef gives a cook a little more margin of error in cooking that prevents it from being dry and tough. Many cuts of beef like rib eye or strip steaks are great for grilling and other quick cooking methods. Others are more suitable for longer cooking processes. One such cut is the chuck roast. Chuck roasts are inexpensive cuts of beef taken from the shoulder of the cow. Often they come boneless, but sometimes they have a bone that is shaped like the number seven. These cuts are sometimes referred to as 7 bone chuck roasts. Chuck roasts contain a lot of intramuscular fat and connective tissue which help to keep them moist. Because a chuck roast has a lot of connective tissue, in the form of a protein called collagen, it requires many hours of moist cooking to dissolve the collagen. When all the collagen has been melted away, the meat has nothing left to hold it together, resulting in a piece of meat that is tender and moist.
Breaking down collagen requires a moist cooking method. Because of this, braising is the best option for cooking a chuck roast. Braising is a cooking term that describes a method of cooking where a piece of meat is first browned and then cooked in a flavorful liquid until the connective tissue breaks down, leaving a tender and flavorful piece of meat. Braising is a simple and almost foolproof technique that requires very little time after prepping has been completed.
First, choose a cut of chuck roast that has a lot of marbling. Marbling is the internal fat inside the meat. You can tell if a piece is well marbled if you can see streaks of white fat running throughout the chuck roast. Next, heat a Dutch oven on high heat and add a couple of tablespoons of olive oil to the pan. Season the chuck roast liberally with salt and pepper. Now, place the roast into the hot pan and let the meat sear on one side for about 5 minutes. During this time, do not touch the roast. The meat must be allowed to brown properly. Moving the meat around will hinder the browning process and cause sticking. While the meat is browning, prepare the vegetables by finely dicing one onion, a stalk of celery, a clove of garlic and one carrot. After the meat has browned on one side, flip it over and brown the other. Once the second side is browned, remove the chuck roast from the pan and place it on a plate. Add the vegetables to the pan, season with salt and pepper, and cook for 3-5 minutes until the vegetables are softened. Add one tablespoon of tomato paste to the vegetables and stir. Return the roast to the pan and then fill the pan with beef broth or water until the level of the liquid comes 3/4 of the way up the roast. Add a bay leaf and some fresh thyme. Bring to a boil and simmer until the meat is tender. About 30 minutes before the roast is done, you can add additional carrots and peeled potatoes. Before serving, check the sauce for seasoning and adjust to your tastes.