From trending Twitter takedowns to our own debates here at ATK, it seems the humble pot roast has earned itself a somewhat controversial reputation. But even among the staunchest pot roast haters, there are many who admit that the quality of the meal simply comes down to the recipe.
For those who want to improve their pot roast, or those willing to give the dish a second chance, we’ve come up with a few tricks over the years to make your pot roast better than expected.
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1. Stir Vinegar into Your Gravy
A good gravy can make or break a pot roast. To ensure the very best flavor for your sauce, Cook’s Illustrated’s recipe for Classic Pot Roast calls for you to stir in a tablespoon of balsamic vinegar to highlight the gravy’s rich flavor.
“Roasted vegetables thickened the pot roast’s gravy and glutamate-rich ingredients beefed up its rich flavor,” the recipe reads.
This also illustrates one of our favorite tips: If your food tastes under-seasoned and you’ve already added salt, adding an acid (like balsamic vinegar) might be the solution.
2. Add Chicken and Beef Broth to the Pot
While it may seem obvious that adding beef broth to your pot roast will amp up the meaty flavor of the dish, ATK’s One-Pot Simple Pot Roast with Root Vegetables uses both chicken (sweetness) and beef broth (savoriness) to deepen the complexity of the flavor and balance out the rich and creamy notes.
3. You Might Not Even Need a Pot . . . or a Roast
While developing the recipe for Sous Vide Short Rib Pot Roast, ATK test cooks discovered a great pot roast could be had — if you have an immersion circulator. By using a higher-temperature water bath and cooking for less than 24 hours, it “(broke) down this tough cut's intramuscular collagen, tenderizing the meat while keeping it moist and preserving a rosy interior from edge to edge.” Cooking the short rib with a simple sauce in the sous vide bag offered a silky, fall-apart texture that those who are left unsatisfied by the roast version might find irresistible.
4. Seek Bold Flavors
If you’ve been cooking your pot roast in the slow cooker, chances are the meat has become flavorless, overcooked and dry thanks to the appliance’s wet environment. To combat this, Cook’s Country test cooks developed a recipe for Slow-Cooker Southwestern Pork Pot Roast in which they went with bold flavors—tomato paste, soy sauce, chipotle peppers—to help the end result sing no matter how long it stayed in the slow-cooker.
5. Use the Right Cut of Meat
According to Cook’s Country test cooks, “buying the right cut of meat can make all the difference in pot roast recipes.” That’s why their Country-Style Pot Roast with Gravy calls for a chuck roast, as less fatty cuts tend to toughen and dry out during cooking. A heart-healthy tip also emerged while developing the recipe: “a way to cut some of the fat: Just make our Country-Style Pot Roast with Gravy recipe a day ahead and refrigerate it. The fat will rise to the top of the gravy and can be easily scooped away with a spoon.”