Perfect Pot Roast

Making a good pot roast is a infinitely rewarding experience; how else can you take a relatively cheap and tough piece of meat, leave it alone for a few hours, and have a rich and delicious meal waiting for you at the end? Sunday roasts are a tradition here in the Western world, and we don’t make this dish often enough. I have two simple rules when it comes to judging a successful pot roast: 1) it should never require a knife to cut, and 2) gravy should be minimal and complementary, and not used as a quick fix for a dry roast. Many cuts of beef can be used for pot roast, but I have found that a chuck roast has the perfect blend of affordability and marbling.

Let’s talk about how I approach this dish, and most other roasts. The term “to roast” actually means to cook in a dry heat, which can often result in a dry dish. Roasting in its most effective form is over an open flame or a rotisserie, which is definitely not what we’re going for with this dish. Most of the “roasting” I do is actually “braising” – roasting it in liquid – which is also commonly called “pot roasting” (you can see the ambiguity, right?). Braising a piece of meat is important because it allows the meat’s connective tissue to melt, resulting in a tastier and more tender dish. With a dry roast, you are likely to have a dry meat with hardened connective tissue.

I should also mention that this roast, and many of my other dishes, wouldn’t be possible without my incredible Le Creuset French Oven. What makes this oven ideal is its heavy cover which keeps moisture locked in. Its $275 price point might seem steep, but you can use it in hundreds of ways and has a 101-year warranty. If you’re going to have only one dish for the rest of your life, I say that you’d be safe with this one.

You’ll need:
3-6 lb chuck roast
1 cup beef stock
1 cup chicken stock
1/2 cup red wine
1 onion, 2 carrots, 2 stalks of celery (chopped into large pieces)
1 tbsp coconut oil
1 sprig thyme
salt/pepper to taste

Preheat your oven to 300 degrees. In a french/dutch oven heat up the oil on med/high heat for 5 mins and brown each side of the roast, 2-3 minutes on each side, adding some salt and pepper on each side.

Remove the roast and set it to the side.

Reduce the heat to medium and add the onion, celery, and carrots. Saute for about 8 minutes, scraping up any browned bits from the roast. Return the chuck roast to the pot and add the beef and chicken stocks (using both types of stocks makes a tasty meal without an overbearing “beefy” taste). Next add enough water to make the chuck roast submerged halfway, about 1/2 cup. Place the lid on the french oven and put it in the oven (middle rack) and roast on 300 degrees for about three hours.

After an hour and a half, flip the roast. Starting at the two-hour mark check it for doneness. You should be able to easily tear it apart with a fork. Given the fact that the meat is safely nestled in a bunch of liquid, you can cook it as long as you’d like without fear of it drying out – in fact, the longer the better (although anything longer than four hours is probably too long).

Carefully remove the roast and cover it with tinfoil. While it rests, let’s make your pan sauce.

Strain the veggies (they will be all kinds of mushy now) and preserve the liquid (should be about 1 1/2 cups). Pour the liquid back into the french oven and turn the heat up to med/high. Reduce the liquid to about one cup, which will take about 5 minutes. Next, add the red wine and further reduce the liquid to about 1 cup, which should take another 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Once the sauce is ready, return to the roast, and cut it into meal-sized portions using a sharp knife. Spoon some of the gravy over the beef and serve.

So there you have it. A foolproof way to make a jaw-dropping roast, perfect for any Sunday dinner.

36 thoughts on “Perfect Pot Roast

  1. Lovely recipe. Thank you! You could think of lowering the heat (to, say, 250 ℉ or even less) and extend the cooking time (to overall 4-5 hours). By doing so, you further reduce the risk of “overdoing” the meat – and the whole roast will be even more tender than yours already looks. Anyway: this way of roasting/braising is a wonderful way of handling real meat…


    1. Hi Ullrich, thanks for the tip. I had read before that 250 is also a good temperature for chuck roast but had opted for 300 (which I had also read about) to reduce the cooking time. I’ll try it at 250 next time!


    1. Sharon, funny you should mention that – I am publishing an eye of round roast recipe on Tuesday! I’ll email you the directions right now so as to not spoil the surprise for the rest of my readers. Eye of round roast would not do very well with the recipe above; it’s a very tough cut of meat (taken from the hind leg portion of the cow, which gets a lot of exercise) and would likely not be as fall-apart delicious as with a chuck roast.


  2. This is really, really, really good. Seriously. It’s melt in my mouth delicious. My other favorite recipe of yours is the shepherd’s pie. I’ve made it nearly every week this winter because my husband and I can’t get enough. Thanks for sharing your amazing recipes!


  3. could i use a roasting pan and cover with tin foil, or perhaps a pyrex dish covered with tin foil. i would love to try the recipe but i don’t hav a french or dutch oven


  4. I purchased a “mock tender roast”. would this recipe be in line or does this fall into the anything but tender category? by the way great site looking forward to the book


  5. Cooked a 3.5# boneless chuck roast for a little over 2 hrs. at 300. It was done through by that time, not quite as tender as I’d hoped…though very good. Think I’d try 250 next time around for a longer stretch and perhaps add the vegetables in halfway through to avoid them getting quite so mushy? Great tasting recipe…easy enough. Just need to get it down. Thanks so much!


    1. Marie, if you’re looking to make a full-on gravy, you’ll want to make a roux to thicken it. To do so, melt 2 tbsp of butter on med/low heat, then add 2 tbsp flour (I use rice flour) and mix them together; toast the roux until nutty smelling, about 2 minutes, then add it to the sauce. Bring it to a simmer and it’ll thicken.


  6. I made this pot roast tonight for dinner and it was delicious! I used the stock I made this week from some delicious marrow bones and then used it to make a roux-based gravy using the recipe from The Ancestral Table. It was absolutely the best gravy I have ever made! Keep the great recipes coming!


  7. Just found this site and this delicious recipe — best fall-apart & tender pot roast I’ve ever made. Thanks also to a much-longed-for-gift of a Le Creuset oven, I didn’t have to change a thing — served with whole grain rotini to swirl up the sauce and a lovely, light salad with crusty bread. Perfectly cozy meal for family and friends to share — thank you!


  8. I have made this many times and it always turns out wonderful! Making it today as it is raining and kind of chilly. Perfect Sunday meal!


  9. I have made this at least 7-8 times and it turns out delicious every time. My go to recipe for the perfect pot roast. Thank you!


  10. Russ, I have a veal cross-rib roast defrosted. How would this best be prepared — roasted or braised — and any of your online or Ancestral Table recipes that would work best? Also, with the French recipe or pot roast recipe online, could these be done and taste as good in Instant Pot vs oven? It’s so hot here that I’d rather avoid the oven as long as I’m not sacrificing outcome. My Instant Pot just arrived, so I’ve never used it. Thanks!


    1. Susan, a cross-rib roast, especially veal, will be lean and tender. Adding liquid to it, pressure cooking it, or turning it into a pot roast would do a disservice to the flavor and tenderness of the roast! I would suggest blasting it at a high heat (500F) to form a crust (5 mins per pound), then reduce temp to low (200F) until it reaches a medium internal temp (130F, check with a meat thermometer). Definitely rub the roast all over with olive oil, salt, pepper, and thyme beforehand, and let the roast sit out at room temp for 30 mins before you roast it. Good luck!


      1. Russ, you saved the day! Thank you! I saw a recipe like you’re suggesting on the Left Coast Beef website (they say 450 then 250) but then everything else I’d read said low and slow, and I didn’t want to make a mistake with this beautiful cut of meat. I couldn’t even find mention of a cross-rib cut of beef or veal in the Meat book by Cooks Illustrated either. So I’m roasting it tonight per your instructions! Again, many thanks!


        1. BTW this is the only roasting recipe I’d seen online, the source being Bruce Aidell’s The Complete Mest Cookbook. Left Coast Beef’s website directed me to it and said for veal to drop to 250 instead of 350. But I like the idea of 200 instead as I like my meat rare and don’t want to chance overcooking it. The balsamic is an interesting idea, not sure what you think. I just worry about it leaving a bitterness in a roasting app, although with 62 5 star ratings I guess it’s well liked.


          1. Russ, it was outstanding, so glad that I asked for your advice!
            Since their recipe was so similar to yours, I tried the balsamic pre-coatcoat as an experiment and also added the rosemary and garlic to the rub/paste. I also subbed Chosen Foods avocado oil for the olive because it’s safe up to 500. I used your temps of 500 and 200, but when I dropped to 200 I switched to convection roast. It was 2.8 lbs so I started checked at 40 mins and gave it about 10 more mins and it was 129 in the center, so I tented it. Perfect doneness and tenderness and extremely juicy! Next time I’ll omit the garlic because the outside does get well seared and the garlic was ever so slightly bitter. That said, my husband loved it and “especially the flavorful crust” so maybe not!
            Thanks again for steering me!


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