As soon as fall hits, my mind shifts from sandwiches and salads to buying as many onions, root vegetables, and grass-fed beef cuts to create delicious stew and soup after delicious stew and soup. It’s my favorite time of the year for cooking.
One chilly night staple is the pot roast. Pot roasts are a simple and delicious choice for any weeknight meal or for when you’re hosting a lot of people. They are tough to screw up, but taking a little time to go the extra mile can take your pot roast from good to so-homey-your house-feels-like a-fairy-tale good.
One of the most important choices you have when making pot roast is the beef itself. Choose a cut with too much gristle and cook it too high and you’re stuck with a tough and chewy roast. Opt for something too tender and you can end up with tough pieces from overcooking it — even at low temperatures.
What is pot roast?
Pot roast is a braised beef dish made by cooking a piece of beef slowly in its own juices and broth, typically in a casserole dish or Dutch oven.
There is no one cut for pot roast. Chances are the pot roasts you’ve had over the years have been different cuts prepared in similar ways.
Most recipes include browning the vegetables and beef on a stovetop, deglazing with wine or broth, adding some broth, and then roasting the beef in an oven for a few hours at a low temperature, giving the beef ample time for the collagen and fats to break down and seep into the broth and vegetables.
The best cuts of meat for pot roast
The go-to choice for pot roast is a chuck roast due to its rich and beefy flavor, tough marbling that breaks down beautifully with low-and-slow cooking methods, and cheaper price point.
Besides chuck, your best options are brisket cuts and round roasts, although most cuts from the chuck primal, the brisket primal, or the round primal will do. You could even do bone-in cuts like short ribs if you’re looking for ways to use extra meat around the house.
The trick with pot roast is to stick to tougher cuts of beef. The more the steer uses a muscle during its life, the tougher the meat. This is due to the increased number of protein strands, or collagen, present in the beef.
While these cuts are very tough when cooked quickly at high temperatures, cooking tough cuts of meat for long periods of time at low heat gives that collagen time to break down into a rich and flavorful gelatin, which is what gives pot roast its signature texture and flavor.
Here are a few specific choices:
1. Chuck roasts
Chuck roasts are the #1 choice for pot roasts. If you ever see a package labeled “pot roast”, chances are it’s chuck roast. Chuck roasts are taken from the shoulder portion of the cow and have a fantastic meaty flavor.
When making a pot roast, you can go with a boneless cut for simple preparation, although if you are a particular fan of the flavor of a cut it can be worth removing the bones after cooking to take advantage of the gelatin that seeps out of the bones. Cooking with bones can also thicken up the broth and gravy.
Other cuts from the chuck primal or alternative names of chuck roasts include:
- Shoulder roasts
- 7-bone chuck roast
- Shoulder steak
- Blade roast
Get chuck roasts raised on the best grass in the world delivered straight to your door — 100% grass-fed and grass-finished.
The brisket is the primal located in the lower breast area of the steer. Similar to the chuck primal, the brisket is a tough, sinewy piece of meat rich in beefy flavor and collagen, which is why it’s such a popular choice for smoking and braising.
When choosing a brisket for pot roast, you have two main options: the point cut or the flat cut. You get both when buying a whole brisket, but the point and flat give you slightly different options. The point is a triangular cut from the brisket that is more tender and fatty than the flat and is a favorite of pitmasters (which is why it’s more expensive). For that signature “strand” texture, go with the point. The flat is also delicious and yields a more rectangular shape and texture.
3. Beef rump roast
Rump roasts are from right where you expect them to be from, the rump. All that squeezing and moving around makes them tough and flavorful — perfect for pot roasts.
Rump roasts are taken from the round primal, and you may also see them labeled as the round roast or London broil.
Choosing the best meat for pot roast
Know your beef. Know your farmer. If you’ve made pot roast in the past and always wondered why it hasn’t been up to par with your favorite restaurant, I guarantee it’s because you aren’t investing in good beef. This isn’t always an option if you’re trying to stick to a budget, but buying good beef is better for your body, the environment, and your taste buds.
By getting beef from providers that use 100% grass-fed beef, don’t use hormones or antibiotics, and don’t use pesticides or artificial irrigation, makes a profound difference in the quality of your meal.
Switch to grass-fed and grass-finished beef and never look back — you won’t regret it.
How to make pot roast like a pro
Here are some pro tips on making pot roasts, collected from the US Wellness Meats’ experts and chefs over the years.
Sear before roasting
Searing your meat before braising it in the oven is the key to adding a bit of depth to your roast. Crank up a Dutch oven to medium-high and take advantage of all the flavors browning brings to your cut — just make sure to do the minimum possible to avoid cooking it too much during this stage.
Brown your vegetables
The same goes for your veggies! After you brown and aside your beef, brown the carrots and other veggies you are going to add to unlock some extra flavors.
Use fresh herbs
Fresh rosemary and thyme sprigs tossed in the pot during the roast make an amazing difference in flavor. Dried herbs can’t compete.
Time your vegetables
Throwing in carrots at the top of the roast can mean mushy vegetables that dissolve into the broth. Try adding in your herbs, potatoes, onions, carrots, and other vegetables about halfway through your total roasting time.
6 incredible pot roast recipes
Ready to make your kitchen smell divine? Pick up the perfect chuck roast and use any of these recipes.
This no-frills recipe from SimplyRecipes cuts right to the essentials. Just enough without being too much, if you want the perfect foundation recipe for pot roast, check this one out. Easy and delicious.
This recipe from one of the U.S. Wellness partner chefs shows you how to get the best bang for your buck and time. If you have time, remember to give the roast a good sear before throwing it in a slow cooker, and you can even make this overnight if you’d like!
This recipe from Valerie’s Kitchen has a fantastic spice blend and gets you making a classic-tasting pot roast in under half the time. Pick up some fresh carrots and root vegetables in season for the best results.
Brisket is a bit pricier but makes an incredible pot roast. This amazing recipe from Williams Sonoma makes use of a mushroom demi-glace and cipollini onions for a classier spin on a typical pot roast. It’s perfect for date nights or holidays!
To get outside of the chuck roast mainstay, try this Beef Round Pot Roast from The Daring Gourmet. This one is more complex than the other recipes here but is worth the time and effort!
It sounds a bit strange, but don’t sleep on Robert Sikes’ Instant Pot Coffee Pot Roast. Packed with nutrients and clever keto additions like butter, amino sauce, and coffee, this is the perfect keto meal plan recipe.
The bottom line on the best meat for pot roast
That’s the skinny! To recap: when making pot roast, chuck roast is the typical choice, but brisket, round, and any other cuts from those primals will get you there. Outside of that, stick to any cuts that are tough and meaty since they work best with low and slow cooking methods.
And remember: great meals start with the best ingredients. If you pick up a good cut from a beef provider who follows the most natural and healthiest raising practices and choose from the options we’ve listed above, you’ll be in for an incredible pot roast.
Nathan Phelps is a writer, ethical foodie, and outdoors-aficionado hailing from Nashville, TN. He splits his time between helping sustainable businesses find new customers and managing his ever-increasing list of hobbies, which include playing guitar, baking bread, and creating board games.