Eating the perfect pot roast is like sitting in front of a crackling fire, wrapped in a fuzzy blanket, sipping hot spiced cider while a snow storm rages quietly outside. It’s pure, unadulterated comfort. It’s home and this Yankee Pot Roast recipe will get you there, wherever home may be.
What is Yankee Pot Roast?
Originating in New England a Yankee Pot Roast is made with a large cut of inexpensive beef (usually a chuck roast) cooked and served with root vegetables like carrots, potatoes, onions, garlic, turnips or parsnips. These vegetables are perfect for long storage after harvest. Using tougher cuts of meat make a somewhat frugal, yet delectable, dish. Seems the easiest, most delicious, and healthiest meals are also the most practical. Practicality, ingenuity, and thrift are words often used in the very definition of Yankee. Add in a good dose of Yankee patience for slow cooking and you get one heck of meal deal.
Get Ready to Cook – Mise en Place
You’re going to need the following to make this dish:
- Dutch Oven or Large, Deep Pot (this entire recipe is made in this one pot)
- Cooking Spatula or Wooden Spoon
- Chef’s Knife
- Paring Knife or Vegetable Peeler
- Cutting Board
- Meat Fork or Kitchen Tongs
- Measuring Spoon
- Fat Separator or Large Spoon
See recipe card for amounts.
- Chuck Roast
- Kosher Salt
- Ground Pepper
- Cooking Fat
- Fresh Garlic
- Dried Thyme
- Dried Rosemary
- Red Wine Vinegar or Red Wine (optional)
- Russet Potatoes
- Corn Starch
Pot Roast Recipe
Chop your vegetables for the mirepoix, one carrot, one celery stalk, and one large onion, and set aside. Mince garlic and set aside, separately.
Browning the Pot Roast
I used to think a quick searing was all that was needed when preparing a roast for braising. They taught us in Home Economics class that searing the meat sealed in its juices. We now know that’s not exactly true, but browning is still a very important, if not the most important step in bringing out the deep, rich flavor of meat. A quick sear won’t do it, though. A deep browning triggers the Maillard reaction in the roast which gives it its beautiful color, beefy flavor, and irresistible aroma. This takes a little time, around 12 to 16 minutes, actually, six to eight undisturbed minutes on each side.
So, the next step to perfect pot roast is melting a little fat on medium to medium-high heat and thoroughly browning your seasoned chuck roast in it. Use a deep pan or Dutch oven and set a timer for, at least, six minutes. Then… leave the meat there. There’s no need to keep checking it. Just leave it. Let the science of heat on meat do its thing. If the fat starts smoking, turn the fire down a bit. Check the roast after six minutes and if it’s not mostly a deep, dark brown leave it for another two minutes or so. Then do the same on the other side. When its done browning, remove the chuck roast from the pan and set it aside. Reduce the fire to low-medium heat.
Build the Flavor and the Gravy with a Mirepoix
Mirepoix is a base of carrots, celery, and onion cooked in a bit of fat until tender and sweet. It’s not sautéed, but softened and it’s the foundation of many stocks, gravies, and sauces. After you’ve browned your chuck roast and set it aside, put your mirepoix and herbs in the pan with the cooking fat and browned bits from the meat. Cook over the low-medium fire until the vegetables are softened and herbs are fragrant. Scrape any browned meat bits from the bottom of the pan. Then add the minced garlic to the other vegetables and cook for one minute longer.
Now’s the time to put the browned chuck roast back in the pot. Just lay it on top of the vegetables and add the chicken stock (homemade or low-sodium canned) and red wine vinegar. The vinegar acts as a flavor enhancer and tenderizer for the meat, but you can leave it out if you choose, or substitute with red wine. Cover with a tight fitting lid and bring to a simmer over low heat for two and a half to three hours or until the meat pulls apart easily with a fork. I used to braise my meat in plain water until I discovered that chicken stock adds a nice richness to the flavor of the meat and gravy that you just can’t get with plain water or beef stock, for that matter.
Add the Veggies
As the pot roast nears the end of its cooking time, about 45 minutes before it’s done, wash and peel the potatoes and carrots. Quarter the potatoes, lengthwise, and cut the carrots into 1 to 1 1/2 inch pieces. Then add the vegetables to the pot with the roast, be sure they are all submerged, and cook them for 30 minutes or until they pierce, without resistance, with a fork. You may need to lift the meat a bit to allow all of the vegetables to be submerged in the cooking liquid.
Make the Gravy
When the vegetables are tender remove them and the roast from the pan. Arrange everything on a serving platter or put the meat on a large plate and the vegetables in a bowl.
To make the gravy, skim the fat off of the cooking liquid with a spoon or use a fat separator. Then, pour the liquid through a stainer to remove the cooked mirepoix and any other bits of vegetables from it. You should have about 2 cups of cooking liquid, more or less. If you have less, you can add a bit more chicken stock or a bit of water to make up the difference. Return the liquid to the pan and bring to a low simmer.
Mix 2 tablespoons of corn starch per cup of cooking liquid in about half a cup of water and stir until no lumps remain in the corn starch mixture. Then, while stirring the cooking liquid on the stove, slowly add the corn starch mixture to it. Cook on a low simmer until the liquid and starch have thickened into a smooth gravy. This should only take a few minutes. Pour the gravy into a bowl or gravy boat and serve with the pot roast and vegetables.
Slow Cooker Variation
This Yankee Pot Roast recipe is perfect cooked on the stove for Sunday dinner, but you can also make it during the work week, or any day, in a slow cooker or crock pot. Simply, brown the meat as directed, cook the mirepoix and the garlic. Then place the meat, mirepoix, garlic, chicken stock, and red wine vinegar in the crock pot along with the quartered potatoes and carrot pieces all at the same time. Put the meat on the bottom and the veggies on the top. Cover and set for 4 to 8 hours. Your house will smell like heaven when you get home and a delicious dinner will be waiting for you. If you want gravy, just defat and strain the liquid and make the gravy the same as in the stove top method.