Pot roast has long been a staple for busy homemakers, and for good reason. Not only is it tender and flavorful, but the long, slow cooking method means you'll have your hands free to do other things. It's a dinner that can take care of itself, while you take care of everything else.
Choosing Your Roast
With pot roast, like any other piece of meat for slow cooking, it's important to buy the right cut. The ideal cuts are tough, chewy and flavorful, with lots of marbling and connective tissue. The fat will cook out during the long cooking time, while the gentle heat leaves the roast tender and richly flavored. Lean, tender cuts are unsuitable for the slow cooker, because a roast that's too lean will dry out and become tough.
Choosing Your Slow Cooker
Conventional wisdom says to use a slow cooker just big enough to accommodate the pot roast, so you don't need to use as much broth in the crock. However, there's a case to be made for using a large enough cooker to fit your vegetables in around the beef. Not only will your vegetables be infused with the flavors of the roast, their water-soluble vitamins remain in the cooking liquid and become part of your sauce rather than going down the drain.
Pot roast is cooked in a small amount of liquid, usually beef broth with a splash of red wine -- the alcohol cooks out -- for flavor. As the beef cooks, its own juices infuse the cooking liquid with additional flavor. Many other flavors work well with the pot roast. Add onions, garlic, celery, carrots, tomatoes, ranch seasoning mix, rosemary, cumin, ginger or soy sauce for varying effects, or to give it an ethnic twist.
An Easy, Healthy Sauce
Many cooks have come to regard gravy as a fatty, starchy calorie fest. It certainly can be, but if you're making pot roast you can use the cooking juices to make a healthy, flavorful sauce. Strain any solids from the juices and let the liquid sit until the fat pools at the surface, then carefully spoon away the fat. What's left is a rich, fat-free liquid that's filled with flavor and nutrients from the meat and vegetables. Simmer it until it's thick enough to be a sauce, and spoon it over the beef.
Fred Decker is a trained chef and prolific freelance writer. In previous careers, he sold insurance and mutual funds, and was a longtime retailer. He was educated at Memorial University of Newfoundland and the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology. His articles have appeared on numerous home and garden sites including GoneOutdoors, TheNest and eHow.