Nearly every cut of meat from the beef round does best when braised. The eye round, top round, bottom round and rump are all more lean than they are fat and contain a lot of gristle, but they make great pot roasts. Bottom roasts are cut from the lower hindquarter, a well-used muscle group that has a bold flavor. But a lot of beefy flavor from a tough cut comes at a small cost: hours of low, slow cooking. Expect a two- to four-pound bottom roast to take about three hours to make, but anticipate fork-tenderness in return.
Marinate the bottom roast for two to three hours, if desired. Braising takes care of most of the toughness, but you can use a marinade to incorporate flavor. Use a ratio of one cup of oil to one tablespoon of acid, which can be a sauce, such as Worcestershire, a tannic red wine or a citrus juice.
Remove the bottom round from the refrigerator about 30 to 45 minutes before cooking and let it warm to room temperature in a dish.
Wipe off excess marinade with paper towels if you used one that contained a lot of sodium. Salt concentrates during a braise as the liquid reduces, so the roast ends up tasting more salty than the marinade.
Season the roast to taste if you didn't marinade it. Spice rubs, spice pastes or simple kosher salt and black pepper all bring out the beefy flavor of a bottom round.
Tie the bottom roast crosswise at one-inch intervals with kitchen twine. Tying the roast makes for a neat presentation and helps the roast cook evenly. Heat the oven to 300 degrees Fahrenheit.
Pour a few tablespoons of oil in a heavy-gauge braising pan or Dutch oven and let it get hot on the stove over medium-high heat for a few minutes.
Sear the bottom round on all sides until golden brown, turning it with tongs and holding the sides to the bottom of the pan when needed.
Remove the bottom roast and set it aside on a plate. Set the burner to medium and add aromatic vegetables -- carrots, celery and onion -- and butter to the pot. A standard mirepoix, or two parts roughly chopped white onions to one part each roughly chopped carrots and celery, is basic for a pot roast. You can add minced garlic and chopped peppers, if desired.
Saute the aromatics in the butter-oil mixture until golden brown and pour cold stock, broth or wine in the pan to deglaze it. Scrape the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon to dislodge the bits of meat and veggies stuck to it.
Return the bottom roast to the pan. Pour enough stock, broth, or a combination of stock and wine in the pan to nearly submerge the bottom round roast.
Add fresh herbs to the braising liquid if desired. Half of a bay leaf, some parsley stems and rosemary or thyme sprigs add layers of flavor to an otherwise basic pot roast.
Place a tight-fitting lid on the Dutch oven or pan and place it in the oven. If you don't have a tight-fitting lid, wrap the pan in heat-safe plastic wrap then wrap it tightly with aluminum foil.
Braise the bottom roast until fork-tender, or about three hours. Flip the bottom round over after about two hours of cooking, and cook it the rest of the way with the lid off.
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- Make a simple gravy after you take the bottom round roast out of the pan, if desired. Add beurre manie, or equal parts butter and flour rolled into a ball, and bring the pan juices and braising liquid to a simmer. Cook until it doesn't taste starchy and season it to taste.
A.J. Andrews' work has appeared in Food and Wine, Fricote and "BBC Good Food." He lives in Europe where he bakes with wild yeast, milks goats for cheese and prepares for the Court of Master Sommeliers level II exam. Andrews received formal training at Le Cordon Bleu.