The Recipe: Three easy tricks for tender, moist and flavorful pot roast slow-cooked in the oven or in a slow cooker.
The Conversation: The case for using your oven as a slow cooker.
Pot roast is one tasty but unsightly platter of sliced meat.
My easy fix? Before browning the meat, cut it into smaller pieces, about two or three bites big, say. More upside: Smaller pieces means you can serve the pot rost right from the skillet, no slicing, no platter required.
Even with richly marbled cuts of beef, a pot roast can turn out quite dry, drained dry of its internal moisture.
My easy fix? Cook pot roast meat in a tightly covered pan atop a bed of vegetables, the veggies cut small for a refined look or in big chunks for something more rustic. More upside? Dinner's almost done, no need to cook a separate vegetable.
Pot roast is made with less expensive but rougher cuts of beef. Cook it wrong, it will turn out not just dry but worse, dry and tough both.
The easy fix? Cook a pot roast slowly for a few hours, either slow cooking in the oven or in a slow cooker on the counter. (The recipe to the right? It works either way.)
THE CASE FOR SLOW COOKING IN THE OVEN Regular readers know that I’m no fan of slow cookers. Why? Slow cookers are notorious for inconsistent, even erratic temperature control, even the more-expensive ones. Slow cookers tend to run hot and that means that too often, dinner "boils".
Worse? The results are too often flat-tasting, all mushed together, no layers of flavor.
So for the longest while, I felt guilty using the oven as a slow cooker, especially knowing that so-so many cooks are happy with their slow cookers. Why was my experience so different?
Then I heard Andrew Schloss on the NPR program Splendid Table, a great listen while cooking on Saturday afternoons, especially during winter. Schloss is an advocate for slow cooking in the oven and his cookbook “Cooking Slow: Recipes for Slowing Down and Cooking More” granted permission to embrace the oven as a slow cooker.
I l-o-v-e using the oven for slow cooking! That’s the reason why many Kitchen Parade recipes include slow-cooking instructions for the both the oven and a slow cooker – when the recipe actually works out in the slow cooker, that is. (It doesn’t always. This recipe? It works in the oven and in the slow cooker.)
You see, at a low, even and consistent oven temperature of 200F (that's 100C and just below the boiling point of 212F), the meat safely cooks without undercooking, burning, or turning to mush (all of which I’ve experienced with slow cookers). If the dish is going to be in the oven for an extra-long time, ten hours, say, I'd even drop the temperature down to 180F/80C for even slower, gentler cooking.
I would happily put Slow-Cooked Pot Roast into the oven before leaving for work in the morning knowing dinner would be waiting once I got home. The vegetables cook to just-tender too, even after many hours. That’s the beauty of slow cooking in the oven!
MARROW BONE, A TOTAL TREAT! No controversy here, just a great reason to choose a bone-in round steak for pot roast.
Cut the cross-cut round bone out of the meat. But don't toss it! Cook the bone right on top of the meat while it cooks. When the meat is done, use a tiny-tiny spoon to scoop out the luscious marrow from the center of the bone. So good! There's just one, you'll have to share!
SLOW-COOKED or SLOW COOKER POT ROAST
Time to table: 5 – 9 hours
For up to a three to four-pound piece of meat; allow about six ounces uncooked trimmed meat per serving
- Round steak, chuck roast, rump roast or another beef roast, fat trimmed
- Olive oil, for cooking
- Splash water
Flour Mixture (note: per POUND of uncooked trimmed meat, multiply as needed)
- 1 tablespoon flour
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika (pimenton)
- 1/4 teaspoon ground thyme
- 1/8 teaspoon black pepper
- 1 onion, diced small or in large chunks
- 2 carrots, diced small or in large chunks
- 2 ribs celery, diced small or in large chunks
- 1/2 cup good beef stock or red wine or dark beer
- 1/4 cup ketchup
- Salt & pepper – be generous!
- Roma tomatoes or a red bell pepper, sliced in rounds or rings
MISE EN PLACE Before beginning to cook, weigh the meat, put out a bowl of Worcestershire, put olive oil in the skillet (off heat), stir together the flour mixture and chop the vegetables.
BROWN MEAT Heat oil in a heavy skillet until shimmery. Cut meat into large-ish pieces, about three or four inches wide, an inch or more thick. Dip into Worcestershire, then coat with flour mixture and drop into hot skillet. TIPS: Don’t crowd the meat, cook in batches if needed. Once the meat touches the hot pan, don’t move a piece until one side is brown and it’s time to flip to brown the other side. Lift meat pieces out, set aside. Add splash of water to deglaze the pan.
VEGETABLE BED Combine all ingredients in the bottom of the skillet or slow cooker. (If using a slow cooker, include the meat juices from the skillet.) Arrange meat pieces on top in a single layer, tipping pieces on their sides if needed to fit. Arrange tomato or bell pepper slices on top. Cover skillet or slow cooker.
TO SLOW COOK IN THE OVEN Set oven at 200F/100C. Cook for 4 – 8 hours (four hours for cooked but knife-ready meat, 8 hours for fork-tender meat).
FOR SLOW COOKER Cook on Low for 7 – 8 hours or on High for about 4 hours.
TO SERVE Serve with mashed potatoes, my favorite, Microwave Green Chili Cheese Grits.
Let's Talk ... Slow Cooking in the Oven
WHAT ABOUT YOU? Do you use the oven as a "slow cooker"? Or are you happy with a countertop slow cooker? What works in your kitchen, with your cooking style?
I started slow cooking in the oven after switching to a high-BTU gas stove that just won't-can't maintain a slow simmer like an electric stove – so I moved big pots of soups and stews to the oven. The results were amazing! Soon I started putting dinner in the oven, some times in a Dutch oven, some times in a braising pan, some times in a tagine (as picture).
BTW above is another variation of Slow-Cooked or Slow Cooker Pot Roast. Here I used caraway and fennel in the flour mixture; a mix of sauerkraut and diced tomatoes for the vegetable bed; a dark beer for the liquid; and slow-cooked the meat in a tagine (as pictured). A tagine's design cooks the meat slightly quicker (say two hours instead of four) but it was just excellent! And ... it's also obvious, right? why I started adding slices of tomato and red bell pepper on top? Anything to distract from all that brown meat, no matter how delicious!
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