Classic Pot Roast

From America's Test Kitchen Season 11: Old-Fashioned Sunday Dinners

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Why this recipe works:

We started our pot roast recipe by choosing well-marbled chuck-eye roast, which is full of collagen and well suited for braising. Opening the pot roast and trimming away the excess interior fat got rid of the pesky globs that refused to render as the pot roast cooked. Leaving the meat in two… read more

We started our pot roast recipe by choosing well-marbled chuck-eye roast, which is full of collagen and well suited for braising. Opening the pot roast and trimming away the excess interior fat got rid of the pesky globs that refused to render as the pot roast cooked. Leaving the meat in two smaller roasts also shaved cooking time from our pot roast recipe and allowed the salt we used to season the lobes to penetrate even further. And finally, roasted vegetables thickened the pot roast’s gravy and glutamate-rich ingredients beefed up its rich flavor.


Classic Pot Roast

These days, pot roasts come in all styles and flavors. But when we went looking for truly beefy taste, a simple 19th-century recipe proved the best guide.

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Serves 6 to 8

Our recommended beef broth is Rachael Ray Stock-in-a-Box Beef Flavored Stock. Chilling the whole cooked pot roast overnight improves its flavor and makes it moister and easier to slice; for instructions, see “Make-Ahead Pot Roast.”


  • 1 (3 1/2- to 4-pound) boneless beef chuck-eye roast, pulled into two pieces at natural seam and trimmed of large knobs of fat
  • Kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 medium onions, halved and sliced thin (about 2 cups)
  • 1 large carrot, chopped medium (about 1 cup)
  • 1 celery rib, chopped medium (about 3/4 cup)
  • 2 medium garlic cloves, minced or pressed through garlic press (about 2 teaspoons)
  • 1 cup beef broth, plus 1 to 2 cups for sauce (see note)
  • 1/2 cup dry red wine, plus 1/4 cup for sauce
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 sprig plus 1/4 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme leaves
  • Ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar


  1. 1. Sprinkle pieces of meat with 1 tablespoon salt (1½ teaspoons if using table salt), place on wire rack set in rimmed baking sheet, and let stand at room temperature 1 hour.

    2. Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and heat oven to 300 degrees. Heat butter in heavy-bottomed Dutch oven over medium heat. When foaming subsides, add onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened and beginning to brown, 8 to 10 minutes. Add carrot and celery; continue to cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes longer. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in 1 cup broth, ½ cup wine, tomato paste, bay leaf, and thyme sprig; bring to simmer.

    3. Pat beef dry with paper towels and season generously with pepper. Using 3 pieces of kitchen twine, tie each piece of meat into loaf shape for even cooking.

    4. Nestle meat on top of vegetables. Cover pot tightly with large piece of foil and cover with lid; transfer pot to oven. Cook beef until fully tender and sharp knife easily slips in and out of meat, 3½ to 4 hours, turning halfway through cooking.

    5. Transfer roasts to cutting board and tent loosely with foil. Strain liquid through mesh strainer into 4-cup liquid measuring cup. Discard bay leaf and thyme sprig. Transfer vegetables to blender jar. Allow liquid to settle 5 minutes, then skim any fat off surface. Add beef broth as necessary to bring liquid amount to 3 cups. Place liquid in blender with vegetables and blend until smooth, about 2 minutes. Transfer sauce to medium saucepan and bring to simmer over medium heat.

    6. While sauce heats, remove twine from roast and slice against grain into ½-inch-thick slices. Transfer meat to large serving platter. Stir chopped thyme, remaining ¼ cup wine, and vinegar into sauce and season to taste with salt and pepper. Spoon half of sauce over meat; pass remaining sauce separately.


Make-Ahead Pot Roast

Our Classic Pot Roast can be made up to 2 days ahead: Follow the recipe through step 4, transferring the cooked roasts to a large bowl. Strain and defat the liquid as directed in step 5 and add beef broth as necessary to bring the liquid amount to 3 cups. Transfer the vegetables and liquid to the bowl with the roasts, cool for 1 hour, cover with plastic wrap, cut vents in the plastic, and refrigerate overnight or up to 48 hours. One hour before serving, adjust the oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 325 degrees. Transfer the cold roasts to a cutting board, slice them against the grain into 1⁄2-inch-thick slices, place them in a 13 by 9-inch baking dish, cover tightly with foil, and bake until heated through, about 45 minutes. While the roast heats, puree the liquid and vegetables as directed in step 5. Bring the sauce to a simmer and finish as directed in step 6 before serving with the meat.


Low-Temperature Browning

When meat is seared at very high temperatures, the Maillard reaction rapidly kicks in, rendering the exterior deeply browned and flavorful. But can browning take place at lower temperatures in the moist, closed environment of a braise, where the temperature can never rise above the boiling point of water, 212 degrees?


We cooked two pot roasts: one that we seared before adding liquid to the pot, and the other we placed directly in the pot without searing.


The dry part of the two roasts that sat above the liquid had a similar level of browning, and the unseared roast tasted nearly as good as the seared one.


In the searing heat of a 500-degree pan, the Maillard reaction quickly produces countless new flavor compounds that improve taste. But given enough time, browning can also occur at temperatures as low as 160 degrees. Our pot roast cooks for a good 3 1⁄2 hours, ample time for lots of new flavor compounds to be created on the dry top part of the meat. Though these compounds won’t be as plentiful or richly flavorful as when browning occurs at higher temperatures, we felt that we could skip the sear.


Keys to Flavorful Pot Roast

1. SALT ROAST: Sprinkling the roast halves with salt and resting them for 1 hour improves meaty flavor.

2. ADD (A LITTLE) LIQUID: Adding just 1 1⁄2 cups of liquid to the pot leads to a more intensely flavored gravy.

3. SEAL POT: Sealing the pot with foil before covering locks in valuable juices and ensures that the roast has enough liquid for braising.

4. BULK UP GRAVY: Pureeing the onions, carrots, and celery cooked with the roast and combining them with the gravy adds body and flavor.

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