What Cut Of Beef For Pot Roast

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Sometimes you’ll see pot roast listed in recipes as a cut of beef. The confusion around what cut of beef for pot roast is usually due to the fact that there are several cuts of beef that can be used for pot roast. To help clear up this confusion, I’ve put together an article with pictures and descriptions that should help you figure out if you have a cut of beef that’s right for pot roast.

The Best Cuts Of Meat For Pot Roast
There’s no cold-weather main dish more comforting than pot roast, and if you’ve ever sunk a fork into this tender, braised piece of beef, you’ll agree. Typically stewed inside a covered pot like a Dutch oven, cooks flavor pot roast with hearty winter vegetables such as carrots, potatoes, and onions. According to Kitchn, a good pot roast turns out moist, can be shredded, ready to be eaten in a deep soup bowl, or ladled over buttered egg noodles or mashed potatoes.

Did you know that the name “pot roast” refers more to the cooking method used to prepare this dish instead of any specific cut of meat? As it turns out, you can braise various cuts of beef to make pot roast, and the tougher the meat, the better they’ll take to this low-and-slow cooking method. Want to find out which cuts make the best pot roast? Read on to find out.

Beef chuck makes an excellent pot roast
As mentioned above, tough cuts of meat loaded with lots of connective tissue — the muscle groups animals use for mobility — are the best choices for pot roasts. This is because, during the couple hours it takes for the braising process to complete, this type of meat breaks down and becomes oh-so-tender, notes Kitchn. Additionally, these cuts stay moist over long cooking times, as large amounts of collagen break down into gelatin, bathing the meat and reserving its succulent taste.

ButcherBox says the best beef choice that meets top-quality conditions is beef chuck roast. This tough meat is cut from the shoulder above the short rib and braises into a perfectly tender pot roast. This tender cut is often sold as chuck shoulder pot roast, chuck roast, beef chuck arm, shoulder steak, chuck seven-bone pot roast, beef chuck, or boneless chuck roast, advises Kitchn. Although labeled differently, these meats are all cut from the same part of the cow.

Brisket makes a great pot roast, too
If you’ve ever tried beef brisket dry-rubbed-and-smoked, BBQ style or Jewish-braised, then you know that this cut of beef breaks down into rich, tender strands of meat and is easily shredded apart with a fork. According to ButcherBox, brisket is a wonderful choice for pot roast, as well. Cut from the chest, or the lower, front portion of the animal, brisket has quite a bit of fat.

The fat breaks down in a braise and enriches the sauce the pot roast cooks in, creating a flavor bomb you can soak up with thick-cut bread or buttery mashed potatoes. Brisket is commonly labeled as flat cut (a leaner piece of meat, according to Kitchn), beef brisket flat half, and beef brisket point half (a fattier cut). It’s good to note that this cut is more expensive than the chuck roast mentioned above.

Bottom round roast is another good choice for pot roast
If you’ve ever piled rare roast beef onto a sandwich, you were likely eating bottom round roast, a cut typically used to prepare the slow-roasted meat (via ButcherBox). While roast beef is cooked dry, bottom round roast takes very well to the moist, slow-cooked braising method used to make pot roast. This method cooks meat down into a tender roast. According to Kitchn, bottom round roast is cut from the rear leg area of the cow and is also sometimes called bottom round or rump roast.

As noted by ButcherBox, this is a very lean cut of meat that might require some extra fat to remain tender while braising in order to prevent chewy braised beef. Drizzle some extra olive oil over the pot roast before covering and braising it, or spoon some lard, beef tallow, or butter into the pot before cooking. Whether you’re tucking into a chuck roast, a brisket, or a bottom round roast, you’re sure to end up with a lovely, delicious pot roast.

THE BEST CUT OF MEAT FOR POT ROAST

There’s no easier, more satisfying way to feed a family than a classic pot roast. It’s inexpensive, relatively easy to make, and follows a “set it and forget it” method.

Pot roast has long been the main feature of many Sunday family dinners. It’s easy to see why — pot roast uses tougher, and therefore more affordable cuts of meat. You could purchase a four-to-five pound roast, feed a family and still have leftovers for the week without cutting into your budget.

What is pot roast?

Pot roast isn’t a cut of meat itself. It’s a savory, braised beef dish made by browning the meat before cooking it “low and slow” in a covered casserole dish or Dutch oven. In most recipes, you will brown the roast on the stovetop first, then transfer it to the oven or a slow cooker.

To prevent the roast from drying out, you will add liquid (such as beef stock, broth, or water) to the bottom of the dish holding the roast. To make it a complete meal, many people add chopped-up potatoes or vegetables to the dish, cooking it along with the roast.

Selecting the best pot roast

Here’s something you probably weren’t expecting: The tougher the cut, the better the pot roast.

You may be accustomed to selecting tender, juicy steaks from the meat counter. With pot roast, the exact opposite rules apply. Tougher cuts of meat have lots of tough connective tissue. When you cook the roast at a low temperature for a long period of time, the tissues soften.

Cooking a good pot roast requires a great deal of patience. You can’t rush the process — cooking at a slightly higher temperature for a shorter period of time will result in a tough, dried-out dinner. Allowing the meat to simmer for hours results in the tender, melt-in-your-mouth roast you’ve been craving.

The best cut of meat for pot roast

To select your roast, choose a tough cut with abundant marbling. Here are our top picks:

Beef Chuck Roast

A boneless chuck roast is our first pick for pot roast. It has outstanding marbling, making the roast tender and juicy when braised. Cut from the shoulder just above the short rib, it is a tougher, albeit more affordable cut than those from the front part of the animal, like the sirloin or short loin.

Other cuts that are either the same (under a different name) or come from the same area are the chuck eye, blade roast, shoulder roast, shoulder steak, arm steak, arm roast, cross-rib roast, or seven-bone roast. Some butchers also sell the chuck generically labeled as “pot roast.”

Beef Brisket

While brisket is most known for barbecue recipes and typically cooked in a smoker, it makes an outstanding pot roast. Cut from the chest, or the lower, front portion of the animal, brisket has abundant fat that works well in a roast. If you are feeding a family, keep in mind that compared to the chuck, brisket comes with a premium price tag.

Other similar cuts include the flat cut, beef brisket flat half, and beef brisket point half.

Bottom Round Roast

The bottom round roast is typically used for roast beef but can make an excellent pot roast. This roast comes from the round primal or the rear part of the cow. It is leaner than either the brisket or chuck, so you may need to add some additional fat to prevent your pot roast from drying out.

The cut can also be called bottom round, rump roast, or London broil — when it is cut into steaks.

How to cook a pot roast

The best way to cook a pot roast is through a technique called braising. Here, we explain how to braise in depth.

Brown the edges

First, light a large skillet on the stovetop over medium heat. Drizzle a little olive oil or fat in the saucepan. Once the pan is hot, place your roast in the skillet for 1-2 minutes, or until the bottom starts to brown. Flip your roast and continue the process until all sides are brown.

Cook low and slow

Transfer your roast to a large casserole dish or Dutch oven. Add enough beef broth or water (or combination of the two) to cover half the roast. Place the lid on your dish, and place inside a preheated oven (your oven should be set to 250-300 F, depending upon the recipe).

Make it a complete meal

Halfway through your cooking time (typically two hours, at minimum) add chopped vegetables to dish for a complete meal. We like adding potatoes, celery, onions, parsley, a few sprigs of fresh thyme, and freshly ground black pepper to ours. Once added, place the lid back over your dish and return to the oven.

Other ways to prepare a pot roast

If you lead a busy schedule, a Crock-Pot or slow cooker works just as well as an oven. Simply assemble your dinner as you would in a Dutch oven, layering in the roast, broth, and vegetables. Cook on low for 6-8 hours (some recipes will call for 10 hours — ideal for those who work long days).

Forgot to prep your pot roast this morning? If you own an instant pot, you can make an entire pot roast in just one hour. We’ve included such a recipe at the bottom of this post (see “Instant pot beef pot roast” below).

You can change up your recipe by swapping in different vegetables or adding a dry red wine to the sauce.  Or, pair with mashed potatoes and use the excess liquid at the bottom of the dish to make homemade gravy.

CLASSIC SUNDAY POT ROAST

Classic Sunday Pot Roast is an easy to make comfort food that is hearty, filling, and can easily feed the whole family. This recipe will work for a classic oven braise as well as in a slow cooker or Instant Pot.

Classic Sunday Pot Roast is an easy to make comfort food that is hearty, filling, and can easily feed the whole family. This recipe will work for a classic oven braise as well as in a slow cooker or Instant Pot. 

Overhead view of a large pot roast.

When it comes to a Sunday dinner in America, there’s nothing quite as classic as pot roast. Of course, the day of the week doesn’t really matter, pot roast is a delicious dinner any day of the week. This meal is full of nostalgia, when the only time we ever had pot roast was for a large family dinner or special occasion. We seemed to always get served way too small of portions, leaving us unsatisfied and wanting more. Now, we get to make pot roast as often as we want, and revel in the joy of deciding our own serving size. Once you make this pot roast, everyone will beg for more!

POT ROAST VEGETABLES:

The classic mix of vegetables to add on top of your pot roast include potatoes, onions, and carrots. We recommend using a white or sweet onion, but yellow onions often fair well during the slow braising process as well. Carrots can either be cut into chunks, or you can use baby carrots for easy preparation. We don’t recommend slicing your carrots into thin discs because they tend to turn to mush. We recommend using either red potatoes or Yukon gold. If you choose to use russet potatoes, be sure to peel them first.

BEST ROASTS FOR MAKING CLASSIC SUNDAY POT ROAST:

  • Chuck Roast – tender, falls apart when finished and easily shredded
  • Round Roast (bottom round, top round) – lean and easy to slice
  • Beef Brisket – fattier option that gets super tender, but can still be sliced for serving

SLOW COOKER INSTRUCTIONS: 

Season the roast with salt and pepper as directed in step 2 of the recipe. Searing in oil in a skillet is an optional step. Searing your beef roast helps the fat render and seal in the moisture so it’s worth the extra time and dishes. But we also recognize that one of the benefits of using a slow cooker is a short prep time so that you can throw everything in. Place the seared or un-seared meat directly into a slow cooker. Add in all remaining ingredients and cook on low 8 hours.

Pro Tip: It’s better to cook pot roast on the low setting rather than the high setting. Your meat will be tender and delicious every time.

INSTANT POT INSTRUCTIONS: 

Follow this recipe as directed, but instead of searing and baking the roast in a large pot, you’ll do all of this in your pressure cooker. Sear the roast as directed in step 2 using the sear setting on your electric pressure cooker. Cook the garlic, and deglaze the pan with liquids, and add in vegetables. Cook on high pressure for 60 minutes, followed by a 15 minute natural release. Then, switch the release valve to the venting position. Remove lid once steam has stopped coming out.

Pro Tip: the natural release portion of electric pressure cooking is an important step. We have found that if you release the pressure immediately after cooking, your beef may toughen up. Letting the pressure cooker sit for 15 minutes during the natural release stage produces a more tender result.

Close up view of pot roast in a pot.

STORAGE AND REHEATING INSTRUCTIONS: 

Pot roast is best served fresh. You may store leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. Reheat in an oven preheated to 350 degrees until warmed through. 

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